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August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
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Should Newlyweds Hold Off Having Children?


Kupfer-Cheryl

I know that just the title of this article is going to cause an uproar in some circles, and I know that some people might be aghast at how I can even ask that question. To some it is obviously halachically unacceptable to postpone starting a family. After all, the Jewish people are exhorted to pru urevu – to be fruitful and multiply. So, let me say at the onset, this is something every engaged couple should discuss with their rav. Getting a heter – even for a few months- just might be a lifesaver.

What do I mean by a lifesaver? A friend of mine who dabbles in making shidduchim told me how she went to pick up a prescription for her ailing father. The pharmacist, knowing that she is involved in setting people up, mentioned, after taking a phone call, how he gets so many inquiries from parents wanting to know whether the person being redd to their child was on any type of medication. “Of course I can’t tell them,” he said, “it’s illegal for me to divulge any information, but you would be surprised at how many young people are taking medication.”

For me, that ironically, was a positive statement. It means that these young men and women (and their families) recognize that they have a problem and are taking anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, or anti psychotic drugs to help stabilize themselves.

But I wondered how many people in the “shidduch parsha” aren’t taking medication, but desperately need to. How many are able to “put on a good act” and fool members of the community and those setting them up? How many have very serious mental health or even physical issues, but are able to hide them? How many teachers, rebbes, neighbors, etc. actually know that the girl or boy has personal issues, but are not honest with the “out of towners” seeking information?

I think we all know of situations where a decision was made NOT to “shter” the shidduch and be honest about certain issues the other party or his/her family may have – in the hope that marriage would straighten them out. How many young lives have been ruined because people deliberately held off giving important information? Parents can do all the “checking” in the world but if everyone who knows the “truth” is tight-lipped, especially those whose opinions would be considered reliable – like teachers or rebbeim, then it is all for naught, and their child will “arein fahllen” [a Yiddish term that means will fall in over her/his head, kind of like tumbling into quicksand.]

Let me clarify that obviously there are halachos of lashon hara to consider when it comes to giving information regarding a potential shidduch. But I wonder how many people take the time to study the halachos or speak to a rav to understand what they can or should say, so the innocent party doesn’t fall into a situation that could have been avoided.

Nobody really knows what the person they are marrying is like until after the fact. Even if both parties are nice, “normal” people they might come to the conclusion after several months together that they made a huge mistake. A 19-year-old girl with very little life experience marrying an equally “clueless” 22-year-old boy may realize too late that they are very wrong for each other.

In either situation, whether the person realizes he/she married a person who is not mentally well, or just someone not suited to them, getting divorced might be an unfortunate but necessary option – one however that can get very complicated if there are babies in the picture.

I have met many divorced men and women, and I am always taken aback when I hear they were married for 20 or 30 + years before they ended their marriage. I usually ask them if the marriage was good but somehow soured after many years. Many tell me they realized early on that they made a huge mistake, but since the wife had gotten pregnant right away they stayed miserably married until their youngest was grown.

I couldn’t help but think how tragic that was for the couple involved – trapped for decades with a spouse they couldn’t stand. Even worse, their children had grown up in a dysfunctional home and now had a skewed view of what marriage was, or had emotional issues from growing up in a home lacking shalom bayis where the parents fought or openly disliked each other. How unfair to these children, innocent casualties of their parents’ inability to get out of a bad marriage when they could have. They are the collateral damage.

The situation is much more horrific for those hapless young men and women who are married to a toxic person – someone physically or verbally abusive, who constantly makes their spouse feel inadequate or mercilessly lays a guilt trip on him/her no matter what they do; someone very controlling, inflexible, socially inept, or with addictions like gambling, drugs etc. Getting free from these monsters is usually very difficult – but if there are children in the picture – then severing ties can be very difficult. The two bad options available can be very costly in every sense of the word- emotionally, financially, and physically: a nasty divorce or remaining trapped in a nightmarish “union.”

I truly feel that the first year of marriage is a time to “test the matrimonial waters,” when a young couple can really get to know each other and assess if they are compatible or not; if they can -with a mutual effort – work out their “differences” (which are inevitable since no two people are identical in the way they think and do things) or if they made an honest mistake and amicably go their separate ways – no strings attached.

If, as the case may be, a newlywed ended up with someone who is “impossible” to live with due to some kind of insurmountable emotional or mental dysfunction – then they can emancipate themselves from this untenable marriage and get on with their lives.

Until both parties are confident that their true zivug was next to them under the chuppah, waiting a year, or even six months, before trying to conceive, might be the best things they can do for themselves and their future family.

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