Date a Person, Not a Diagnosis
All marriages have a certain amount of ups and downs. No matter how healthy the spouses were when they got married. In your life, it is going to be something; no one can predict the future. It’s about how you deal with whatever life (Hashem) dishes out to you.
Health is a very important issue. However, it is only one of many important issues married couples have to deal with. As you move through the ups and downs of life, you’ll want a strong, supportive person at your side.
Most people who have dealt with illness in the past or live with chronic conditions are incredibly tough (in the good way) and caring. They appreciate the people around them and everything in their lives. Most live life more fully and richly, and have strong priorities in life. (Unless, they don’t. But that is what dating is all about, to find out about each other.)
It is also important to keep this in mind: Health issues can come to anyone at any point in life. You can discover a latent health condition after you get married.
We can’t possibly predict what will come down the road, but the things that usually never change are the middos, level of kindness and compassion, and intelligence.
Before dismissing a possible shiduch, listen to all the qualities of the person. Does that person seem compatible to you? Do you share life values and goals? Will s/he be a supportive and caring life partner? And then become educated about this particular health concern and the way s/he is dealing with it. You might speak with your own physician, a Rofeh Yedid; however, some general practitioners do not know much about how some of the more nuanced conditions impact the patient. You can also reach out to one of the many (Jewish) organizations that can be contacted for real life education/ knowledge/ information on various conditions and how they pertain to Shiduchim. Additionally, it would be worthwhile to have a conversation with someone who has and/ or lives with someone who has the condition, to gain a real life insight about day to day reality.
Should I date someone with a chronic medical condition?
Many conditions are easily managed, and do not impact daily life. They take a pill in the morning, maybe another at night. Some might have to watch what they eat, or carry an insulin kit and measure their food. Or go to the bathroom more often. Small things. Really. (Some conditions are indeed more complex.)
Such a relationship is really not much different from many others. A few minor tweaks and everything is just fine.
That said, getting back to your question about dating someone with chronic medical condition. It depends on several factors. Most importantly – YOU. Relationships in general are really about weighing what you can live with and what’s a deal breaker.
Some are concerned about passing on that medical condition to their children. Indeed, some conditions might be hereditary, many are not. Become educated. At the same time, some personality traits are difficult to live with and those seem to be passed down through the generations. Also, know that most children inherit some issue from their parents.
Some people are worried about how much care and support they will have to give to the one with the condition? That again depends on so many factors. Become educated, and ask. At the same time, there are many other aspects of marriage where you have to support each other. A spouse who travels for work. A spouse who has to care for ailing parents. A spouse who is going through work changes.
Another legitimate concern is fertility and pregnancy. Again, become educated. Many conditions do not impact having children.
This is a whole person; not a diagnosis. Do not miss out on a wonderful person, possibly your bashert – based on your lay person misinformation, ignorance or biases.
Some may ask: “Life is indeed hard, why should I walk in to a situation that is already hard?” If that person loves you, supports you, cares for you – as you are…. If you can laugh together as you work through the hard times … If you can enjoy each other’s company … If you can help each other accomplish dreams and goals…. Then you’ll have a happy and successful marriage. Even if you do spend more time at the doctor than others.
Should I date someone with a mental disorder?
Just because someone is diagnosed with a mental disorder does not mean they can’t be in a normal, happy and very functional relationship. Many accomplished people have some level of mental disorder, and you wouldn’t know it. You may miss a chance to be with an amazing person in an amazing relationship because of the stigma of mental illness.
Is it the diagnosis, the label of the condition that is disturbing to you? Or how the person conducts their lives? Firstly, be aware that there are many people without a diagnosis of mental disorder – but actually do have diagnosable psychiatric issues; they have just never submitted themselves to a psychiatric evaluation. Many people.
Additionally, there are some personality traits that are more annoying or intolerable than a mental disorder. It really depends on the individual and the specific issues.
That said, getting back to your question about dating someone with mental disorder. It depends on several factors. Most importantly YOU. Relationships in general are really about weighing what you can live with and what’s a deal breaker. What are your thoughts around mental disorders? There will be triggers that will make it worse or better as you experience life’s ups and downs; are you prepared to deal with the lows? Are you flexible and adaptable?
As far as the other person: It depends on the specific condition and level of severity and frequency. Probably the most important thing to consider is whether s/he admits that s/he has this condition and is committed to sticking to a path of treatment and can manage the condition well with medications, diet, therapy and the like. There are others who don’t. (Some people with mental illnesses are in denial or refuse to persist with treatment. Which makes for a nightmare for those close to them.) This is a whole person; not a diagnosis.
Their coping skills can also be a factor. If they neglect their illness, or cope by taking drugs or alcohol, or take their feelings out on others, then it’s not ok. But those problems are not exclusive to people with mental illnesses anyway; anyone can fall into bad habits like that.
Some people may have a more mild mental disorder, which emerges every now and again, the frequency of which is only once or twice a year. The rest of the time, all is normal. Others can be more severe and can impact daily life. Find out more about the severity of the disorder of this particular person. This is a whole person; not a diagnosis.
It’s not about the condition, it is about the person who happens to have a condition.
P.S. If you have a medical condition, it is best to share about it relatively early. It displays a sense of confidence and that you have a handle of the situation. It is much more concerning and not fair to present this huge thing after the relationship has really developed. No matter what advice you get, don’t delay in sharing!
There are many (Jewish) organizations that can be contacted for real life education/knowledge/ information on various conditions and how they pertain to Shiduchim.
Jewish organizations that can be contacted for shiduchim questions related to medical questions. from: http://www.chesed.org/Orgs
Crohns Colitis Coalition (CCC) Chaim Medical Resource 845-492-8700 #2 firstname.lastname@example.org
CF Society (cystic fibrosis) 718-866-9000 www.cfsociety.org
Child Life (Genetics, Cystic Fibrosis) 718-853-7123 http://www.childlifesociety.org
Crohn’s Disease network (Crohn’s Disease, Colitis) 347-668-4402
Jewish Diabetes Association 718-303-5955 http://www.jewishdiabetes.org
Magen Avrohom (Eating Disorders) 718-222-4321 / 877-HELP-EAT
Somech Noiflim (Epilepsy) 845-537-1039