Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review August 28, 2002/ 20 Elul 5762


Revealing sworn secret will impact many lives;
misplaced friendship?


By Wendy Belzberg

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: If I know something about my mother's medical history that has implications for all of her children, and about which my mother has sworn me to secrecy, is my obligation to protect my mother's (bizarre) sense of privacy, or to discreetly tell my siblings what they surely ought to know for their own future health?.

A: No dilemma here: Your siblings must be made aware of any medical dangers they may face. With a minimal amount of deceit, you could protect both your mother's privacy and your siblings' future health. Pretend that the problem was yours. Or simply ask your mother how she would feel if one of her children inherited her medical history-with a disease that could have been diagnosed with early detection-about which she had failed to apprise all of her children. Surely her dignity as a medical specimen takes second seat to her children's well-being. If you are at all uncertain as to your responsibilities, ask yourself the same question.

An equally heady question is why your mother chose to share this information with you alone. Rather than wonder about your mother's bizarre sense of privacy, I would question her bizarre decision to place you in such an impossible situation. You may want to ask her in the future to be so kind as to share such confidences with the family at large--or to keep them entirely to herself. (This does not apply to cosmetic surgeries.)

Q: My spouse and I are fortunate to have a beautiful home and a great weekend place. We have a close friend who regularly comes for dinner at our home in the city, and who spends every long weekend with us at our beach house. At one time he would bring us a bottle of wine. Then he began taking the bottle of wine home with him if we didn't drink it. In the past, he would also take us out to dinner once during the summer but he has not done that for years. He follows us around like a puppy all weekend leaving us no time to ourselves. We are afraid that speaking frankly with him would be injurious to the relationship, but we are at our wit's end.

A: Trust me, you are not dealing with a sensitive individual or you wouldn't be in this mess. Speak away. Frankly. Another summer like this one and there will be no relationship left anyway. If your friend were attuned to your feelings he would have long ago stopped taking advantage of your generosity. (Which does not address why you have allowed him to take advantage of you-and why you have been protecting his feelings at the expense of your own -- for as long as you have.)

Relationships consist of give and take. What does your friend contribute to your relationship that makes it worth preserving in its current state? Friendship is about speaking honestly and openly about your feelings and needs. What you have described is not a friend but a boarder whose rent is long -overdue.



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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg