Over at Rabbi Fink’s blog, there’s an excellent discussion going on in regards to the recent article in AMI Magazine. You should definitely read the article and definitely read Rabbi Fink’s post and the comments (including this erudite comment from a very good-looking commenter).
One thing that’s being discussed is whether the author of the article was somehow “duped” or “tricked” because his wife didn’t tell him about her student loan debt before they got married.
There’s a very tricky, very slippery slope that we’re on here when we start discussing what needs to be told to a date/shidduch and what doesn’t. I don’t think student loans need to be part of the “disclosure statement.”
I actually think there are very few things that a person needs to “disclose” while dating. Most things about a person you can tell by interacting with them, and therefore aren’t really issues. Should a guy who’s acting nice be forced to tell his date “listen, I’m acting nice now, but come football season, I am most likely going to ignore you for a bunch of hours every Sunday.”? To me, that falls under the “know the person you’re marrying,” and “ask the right questions” headings.
Less clear are the things you can’t tell. A person who is terminally ill should probably tell the person they are dating, because health and a life together are reasonable expectations for a person (with no reason to think otherwise).
And I suppose that’s as good as any a place to start: what are the reasonable expectations a person has? I don’t think (to take the example of the guy in the article) you can see a person who has an “ivy league” education and reasonably assume that person has no debt. He/she/you might be lucky. But especially in today’s educational economy, where the cost of higher education is so high (sorry), I actually think student loan debt should be assumed. But even so, it’s not a terminal condition that needs to be “disclosed.” I don’t think it’s fair to make any assumptions about a person’s financial condition that they should have to “set you straight.” If it’s an issue, and you don’t mind being uncouth, ask: “whoa, college and law school; tuition must have really set you back.” If he/she doesn’t take the cue and say “well, I’ll be paying it off for the next 20 years!” and you really want to know, ask for a 1040. How deep do you go?
If a boy shows up to date wearing a nice suit, does he have to disclose “hey, listen, I know you might like this suit; FYI, it cost $600 in Brooks Brothers and I used a credit card”? I say no.
Which brings me back to the AMI article and student loan debt: the reason this became a problem is exactly because the assumptions the author made were unreasonable and unwarranted.