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Thoughts On Shidduchim From The Families Of The Chronically Ill: – Responses

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Last week I shared a letter from a concerned well spouse whose daughter is having problems getting dates because of her husband’s illness (Multiple Sclerosis). She indicated that there is an assumption that her house is depressed because of the illness. I asked for comments and suggestions from those who have experience with this situation. Below are responses that every shadchan and parent without experience with chronic illness should read.


 


Dear Ann,


I just wanted to share some thoughts on living with illness and the far reaching consequences or as I see it, benefits especially when it relates to children of a parent with a chronic illness.

 

            Many years ago, when I was holding by the shidduchim phase of my life, I was a successful bachur, who learned in the finest yeshivos. I came from a wonderful, healthy family. Needless to say, I had a long list of girls to choose from. One particular girl stood out of the crowd, (ok, she was extremely beautiful and intelligent) except that her father had MS and had been a paraplegic for almost her entire life. His disability caused the family a myriad of inconveniences.  For example, his having to sleep in a separate bedroom, needing a special van, ramps in the house – plain and simple he just wasn’t what I had in mind for a shver (father-in-law).   

 

These details were particularly disturbing to me, as I worried about genetics, and at that point in my life it really bothered me just because it wasn’t normal in my world.  More importantly, how would it look at the chassanah with a wheelchair going down the aisle?  What would people say about us?

 

            My rosh yeshiva really helped me envision the hidden beauty, chinuch, and rare middos that grew from my wife’s (now of 11 years) upbringing. He told me she had seen and experienced firsthand, the unconditional devotion, unending care, and superhuman emotional strength, which were the utter necessities of coping and living with a paralyzed spouse. This devotion and chesed were embodied by her mother and had been successfully inculcated in this girl’s very being.

 

            Coincidentally, (or not so, as Hashem has his ways) as a very newly married couple, we went through a prolonged and extremely devastating situation (that had nothing to do with illness) which tested the limits of our sanity and ultimately our future together.  For a time our viability as a couple was highly doubtful.  In fact, some of my “friends” encouraged her to ask for a divorce. Baruch Hashem she never considered their suggestions.

 

            I can only imagine where I or our growing family, ka”h, would be now if I had just married “a normal girl with a normal family “

 

            The intense need to measure up to others, takes away life’s greatest gifts and opportunities. Those missed chances are reserved for the select and special few who have the sense and vision to look beyond outward appearances.

 

Don’t chazal implore us not to “judge a book” or “look at a barrel “?  They are not misleading us. They were making sure that, among other things, the tza’ar anyone experienced, and grew from does not go to waste. Rather it is gifted and passed onward to those that are “zocheh” to see, appreciate and flourish from it.

 

            So to any parent whose child is having difficulty finding a marriage partner because of a sick parent, I say the following: Your children have a gift. It took many years of patience for them to learn from you as a well spouse, and that gift can’t be shared with just anyone. It may take more patience until he or she finds that special person, but Hashem has already made sure you have the virtue of patience. He always supplies the answer before the question is asked. Hatzlocha.

A very lucky husband


 


  


Dear Ann,

 

My son married a girl with a chronically ill mother. When theshidduch was proposed I am proud to say it was never even an issue for us. It didn’t bother us one drop. In fact we have tremendous admiration for her parents.  Clearly her father had to be a very special person to marry a woman who was ill, knowing her condition would only worsen as the years passed.  The sensitivity and lack of selfishness it builds in a person is truly admirable. 

 

That being said, I have to be honest – we did know that the mother did not have a genetic illness. If it was genetic…I don’t know.  But now, there’s genetic testing for some diseases. If the young man or woman does not have the gene there is no chance of it being passed on.

 

However, I think if it had been genetic, we still would have gone through with it, as my daughter-in-law is a great person.  


A mother


 


I would appreciate hearing from shadchanim dealing with this issue.

 

More responses next week.


 


You can reach me at Annnovick@hotmail.com.

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When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.

Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.

Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.

Dear Ann,

I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.

Dear Ann,

Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.

Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.

Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.

Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.

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