We all are very diligent in trying to help our children choose the right spouse. If we are arranging a shidduch for our child, we investigate very carefully, questioning the shadchan, calling whoever might be able to provide information, and trying to decide if it’s worth meeting the person. If they do meet, we try to get as many details as possible about how the meeting went and look out for potential problems. We also are looking out for hidden signs, trying to discover if the family has any significant issues they keep buried, or, indeed, if the potential date has anything in their personal history that might create difficulties such as emotional or personal problems, medical issues, or suggestions of addiction or gambling.
I remember a number of years ago, being contacted by a family that had an urgent issue to discuss with me. Their daughter was getting married in three weeks and they had discovered something very worrisome. They had talked to everyone they could think of about the young man. Everything seemed fine. But they began hearing rumors that the chassan had molested boys when he was a student in the yeshiva. They immediately called the Rosh Yeshiva who was very angry at them. “How could they even think about that? He has done tshuvah, and he won’t ever do it again. It is absolutely assur to even mention it.”
I told them, of course, to call off the wedding immediately. Those are the kinds of things we have to be very very careful to ferret out. After we’ve done everything we can, we celebrate, but continue hoping and praying that the young couple will have a good life.
There is one additional thing that we don’t often think about, something that is at least as important as all the investigating that we do. In fact, in some ways, it might be more important. You see, we are worried about problems in the shidduch and do whatever we can to search the potential mate’s background, and even his family background. But marriage involves two people. What about our child’s issues? We generally play down or overlook anything but the most serious problems. But will the partner? Will our child’s anxiety or occasional depression, or past sexual mistakes, or stubbornness or hidden anger, etc., create a building storm that will threaten to explode? And what can/should we do about it anyway? Should we share it with the potential spouse? We almost certainly will not, but are we not standing by, hoping and praying that the spouse will be understanding and accepting? Whatever the answers to those questions, there is something that we can and must do.
Parents, particularly today, are very concerned with caring for their children in the best way they can. When our first child was born, we said we would never say “no” to her unless there was a very strong reason for doing so—and even then, in the most loving way possible. I am not sure how much we observed that resolution, but at least we made it and, at the time, very much meant it. Most parents are sure that they will be the best that they can be. But, looking back, were we? What about those overly obsessive things that we saw in our own parents? What about their drinking or angry rages or passive aggressive behavior, or any other crazy making behavior that we vowed to avoid? Or what about the fact that one or both of our parents were always rushing and running, and never seemed to find time for us? And on and on. How many of us fret about the fear that we are turning into our parents, despite our resolution to avoid it at all costs?
There are many things that we do that we shouldn’t, or don’t do that we should. And problems continue despite our strongest determination that they won’t. But there is one area that we don’t even see, let alone decide that we will change. The number one rule to live by is that if you really want your children to succeed in life, then you need to focus on your spouse! Your children’s needs come after those of your spouse. In a very real sense, you need to focus on building the very best relationship possible with your partner, the needs of your child coming only after that. Of course, a child needs what they need now. And sometimes we need to respond to his/her needs quickly. But in general, those of our spouse take preference. How many of us are slightly aware that our spouse (often the husband) wants very much to take a private vacation with us, sans children, but we don’t even consider it, because “I can’t and won’t leave my child or children with a babysitter”? How many of us can’t and won’t find the time for a date because our child might or will scream when we leave? Indeed, how many of us are aware of doing the most important thing we can, to model the best marital behavior possible, by making our spouse and our marriage take preference over almost all else!
Please feel free to contact me regarding this (or any) topic. You can do so anonymously by writing to mordechaiglick_gmail.com. Dr. Glick was a clinical psychologist in private practice for 35 years as well as a rabbi of Congregation Ahavat Yisroel. If you would like to submit a question, or contact him for an appointment, he can be reached at mordechaiglick_gmail.com or by calling him at 201-983-1532.
By Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Glick