Should I say anything about a guy’s SSA issues to his Kallah?
A Woman asked:
After being married for 2 years, I found gay hookup apps on my husband's phone. This was tremendously shocking and heartbreaking. We are dealing with it well but I feel totally tricked (into marriage) and betrayed. Also, my brother had known this whole time, as well as another guy-friend, that my husband had this issue, and they did not tell me and now I hate them. Anyways, this other guy-friend, who knew, is also SSA and, in fact, had hooked up with my husband. He is now engaged, and my husband asked him if he is planning to tell his wife, he said, 'no way, never, don't ever mention it again.'
I feel so bad for this girl, for what she is getting into, but on the other hand, I really do not want to ruin this guy's life or butt in. However, one day she is going to find out and be verrry verrry angry and her life will be ruined like mine is. Do you think I should say something?
Rabbi Abraham Twerski responds:
This requires a major posek. My reading of the Chafetz Chaim is that one is obligated to tell, because of 'Lo taamod al dam reacha,' but it takes a major posek to make that psak.
Rabbi Dovid Morgenstern (a major posek) responds:
I agree with Dr. Twerski that she is obligated to say, however, she should do so not out of hate but rather out of her concern and caring about the other girl. She just needs to say enough that the girl will know to ask more questions if she wants.
She should try to do it in such a way that will not have repercussions on her other relationships. If she walks over to the girl and blasts her with the whole truth, it is likely that she will break up the relationship (which is probably the wise thing for her to do). (We are assuming that she is certain that the fellow's problem will have an effect on his relationship with his wife). This will cause the husband's friend to become ballistic and it will get back to her husband etc.
I do not know the players. If she knows the girl (or could get to know her), she could have a conversation concerning the difficulties of the world we live in, such as American society that legitimizes SS marriages. She could discuss how hard it could be for a woman who discovers her husband's problems, and she had no idea before they got married. She can add that although she is not sure, since the problem is so rampant, maybe it should be openly discussed when going out and wonder out-loud what might this other girl's chosson say about such a conversation?
Just a suggestion. The idea is to get talking about it, raise the level of the girl's sensitivity, perhaps make her wary (in short, find a way that she should discover "by herself" that there is a problem).
Dov (clean in SA since 1997) responds:
Lo sa'amod al dam reyacho is a serious point that Rabbi Twerski is bringing up.
I cannot comment on it as a ben Torah so I will just comment on it as a Jew, addict, and man:
If my own daughter were the kalla in question, I'd see telling the secret as the obvious priority here, and wouldn't you? I like to sit with that for a bit, before searching out da'as Torah. Spend 10 actual seconds 'wearing' the scenario like a shirt, as we do with steps.
But more relevant, I think, is the following:
If the engaged fellow were my own brother, now... would I see it as my duty to 'defend' and lie for him - or would I say to myself, "Oh, how will I face my future sister-in-law, nephews, and nieces for the rest of my life after they find out one day that my brother is acting out homosexually?"
I feel pretty sure I'd see the latter, long-term picture, as the greater truth because I know there is no escape from it and I know that it's pain is forever.
Either way, this situation is ugly because lying is involved. Not because sin is involved. That's my takeaway. Dishonesty, not sexuality, is the true problem here. It's a horrible situation to be in and I do not envy any of the parties. Had each step along the way been accompanied by honesty, how different things would be... and maybe this fellow would have gotten help years ago when he really needed it, instead of playing normal all this time. And still, I cannot blame him because I tried to do the same, myself.
An expert on SSA issues responds:
Tough question. I'd like to make a few points for you to consider, but my intention is to only raise important issues and not be used as instructions.
In general, answering questions over the internet is fraught with dangers. It lacks subtleties, details and most importantly context. Even as I communicate these thoughts, the 80% of my communication that happens non verbally, is lacking.
So I will respond to this purely theoretically.
First, listen to the questioner: Where is she coming from?, what does she see? There is a lot of her own pain projected onto the situation. She is sharing more about herself than about the dilemma before her. she is asking for someone to look out for her, protect her. She feels her own life is ruined. That is a pretty heavy judgment. May she find the guidance and strength to rebuild the trust in her own relationship.
You can also hear in the chatan’s response how resistant he is. He is scared and protective. I hope he has or can find someone he trusts to consult with and help him through his struggle.
In response to her practical question:
The question is presented in a single paragraph, making it extremely difficult to include much of the context and relevant details, but rarely would it be appropriate to ‘but in’, especially, once a couple is engaged (this is true for many reasons).
Here are a couple of points to consider:
It mostly depends on what the chatan’s own relationship to his SSA is. Is he acting out on his SSA? Does she know this for a fact? Is he working on it?
[Note: many, if not most people get married not knowing many of the deepest struggles of their spouse. We can’t save or fix the world. People have to live their own lives, and intrusions rarely have the results originally intended. If I heard that someone struggled with depression, had anger issues, was seriously insecure and ADHD, was addicted to porn, etc... would I tell their kallah, who I do not know personally, never asked me, and is not relying on me as a family member or teacher? Yes, there may be additional challenges beyond your average marriage that may lay ahead of them, but is it going to damage her? [If she had reasons to believe that there would be physical abuse or be mentally unsafe, that he is planning to act out on his SSA on the side, or was secretly not interested in Torah observance, then we are talking about something else.]
Many men with SSA can have beautiful relationships with their wives, even without ever telling their spouse about their SSA. I know men who have never shared their struggle with their wives and they have beautiful families. Often it is more of a burden on the husband than on the wife. Although more often than not, honesty and integrity are healthier for the relationship, but not everyone has the tools and strength to stand in that. [Again, depending on where he stands with his SSA, I may have advised him not to get married at this stage. Although in this story he is presented as not open to any consulting, but that is only through one person’s short description of the situation].
In general there are many subtleties to be considered as to when it is important for a man to share his struggle with SSA with his spouse.
As an aside, there are definitely particular challenges that wives of SSA husbands struggle with. There are processes and even simple understandings that can assist them, in their own healing and growth.
These are some thoughts to consider, but please consult a Rav you deeply trust.
May hashem give them all strength and clarity.