Dating Advice #122 - Full Disclosure
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Dating Advice #122 - Full Disclosure
Dating Advice 122

Dating Advice #122 - Full Disclosure

Two letters regarding the best time and place to discuss a sensitive medical condition.

by

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am 27-year-old Jewish male working in a good job as a manager at a large corporation. I am tall, smart, funny and caring. I recently found out that I contracted a disease which has a stigma associated with it. I am skeptical whether a woman would be receptive to me if she knew I had it.

This leaves me in a difficult position. I want to meet a nice Jewish woman and settle down, but my playing field is extremely limited. What advice can you offer me in finding that special someone.

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am intelligent, attractive, and well liked by friends and co-workers. I have a psychiatric history -- in my case, bipolar disorder. I've been stable for years. The main difference between me and other people is that I have to take medication on a regular basis (even though that is not so unusual -- people with diabetes, thyroid problems, and other conditions do so, too).

I don't have a lot of baggage about the condition itself, but the situation changes drastically when dating comes up. Stigma, misinformation and stereotypes still abound. When I'm up-front about it, it's a non-starter. After all, who wants to meet someone "crazy," no less marry them?!

If I wait till later, I'm accused of "withholding information" and "practicing deceit," because, after all, would they have gone out with me had they known? If my condition comes out, I'm a leper.

So... are the legions of us with psychiatric disorders doomed to a life of singleness?

ROSIE & SHERRY REPLY:

It is a terrible mistake for anyone to classify someone with a mental or physical illness as being crazy, unable to cope, unable to have a normal life, etc.

Some people with diseases or disorders have severe symptoms and do not respond well to medication, others can never really accept the fact that they have a lifelong condition and don't discipline themselves to take medication, while others manage their condition well and can even have good marriages. All of these are extremes on a long continuum.

If you have been able to manage your condition over a number of years, and know when to seek medical intervention, there's no "technical" reason why you cannot lead a normal, albeit challenged, life, marry and raise a family.

We can suggest how to go about dating when you have a chronic condition, as we have to men and women who suffer from illness such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, mental illness and other conditions.

The first is to become as well-educated about your illness as possible, and to manage it to the best of your ability. Maintain a good relationship with your doctor, both to acquire the information about how to manage your illness and maximize your health, and because in the future someone you care about may want to discuss your condition with your physician.

We recommend that you join a support group of people with a similar condition who also would like to find a nice person with whom they can settle down and raise a family, as well as people with the condition who have already married and are dealing with their condition in the context of a marriage. This will give you the encouragement to know there are many other personable, "normal" men and women who are successfully facing the same challenge as you.

As for what point in a courtship to reveal your condition, we recommend that you consult with a rabbi or other advisor who specializes in difficult questions such as yours. That way, when the time comes to make the disclosure, you can introduce the subject by explaining that you've got a medical condition that has been under control for many years, and that you have received guidance about when to disclose it to someone you are dating. If you adopt a sincere, straightforward and informative approach, you have a much better likelihood that your date will decide to continue the courtship.

We suggest explaining to your date that you have a condition that you are able to manage, and does not stop you from enjoying a fulfilling life, but it has a stigma attached to it and that is why you did not discuss it until now, since s/he is a person you would like to keep dating.

We suggest you also explain that you are dating with the goal of getting married and having a Jewish home, and that your doctor assures you that you will be able to accomplish this, and that your condition will only minimally interfere with marital life.

Be prepared to answer a number of questions. You can also let your date know that your doctor is happy to talk to him/her about your situation and your prognosis, either now or at some time in the future.

A disclosure at this time allows the two of you to begin to develop an emotional connection, so that when your date evaluates how she feels about it s/he will be able to balance this with the fact that s/he thinks you are a nice person and would like to continue to date you. It also saves you the embarrassment of letting someone know about your condition before you decide whether or not you would like to keep dating them. On the other hand, if you wait until much later along to disclose, s/he may believe that you betrayed trust by waiting until the two of you are more emotionally involved.

In general, after dating a number of times (usually four, five or six dates), and the man and woman have decided that they like each other well enough to continue and see what develops, the disclosure has to be made.

Of course, it is difficult to know how any date will react to news of a serious condition, particularly one that carries a certain amount of stigma. And it will certainly be painful if your date decides against continuing after you have explained your situation, but s/he is entitled to this. It will be much easier on you both if a break-up occurs after a small number of dates, than after the two of you had developed a stronger emotional attachment.

We know that these days, dating is not easy for most people, and anyone with a medical condition faces more challenges. Fortunately, many of them lead fulfilling lives and have good marriages. We hope that you will soon find yourself in this group of people.

Rosie & Sherry

Published: February 15, 2003


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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Robin, December 10, 2009 3:54 PM

Honesty is the best policy

I think this article is great and right on target. Fourteen years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on lithium carbonate. I was hospitalized and treated with Electro Convulsive Therapy. Needless to say, when I started dating I was terrified of telling a guy I liked about my condition. I went out on shidduch dates for 7 years and had two broken engagements. Finally I met a sincere, honest, wonderful guy on an internet dating site. Since we were only able to perceive each other through writing , we had insight into each other's real deepest soul. Therefore when we finally met, we were already at least intellectually involved. On the third date, with the advice of my Rav, I told my husband to be, my medical history. Turns out, he was on medication too, but was also afraid to say something !!!!!!.His gut response to my "revelation" was ,"Do you see me going anywhere?" Thank G-d, almost six years later, and many joint visits to psychiatrists and rabbis, we are happily married with two adorable children that we love very much. They are growing up in a great home with sincere, deep, true Torah values and a strong foundation. I hope my story can help many people out there who are anxious about dating and revealing their story. May Hashem blless you all with the courage to prevail and marry well. And like a previous letter said, the courage, almost chutzpah, I had to reveal my story, is what my husband still finds most attractive about me!!!!!!!!

(5) Anonymous, August 18, 2004 12:00 AM

be up-front

I am in a similar situation and recently asked a Rabbi when it was appropriate to reveal my particular medical issue to someone I was dating. He told me to do it by the end of the 3rd date. My gut instinct was that I couldn't do it so soon, but I took his advice anyway & I couldn't be more happy that I did. My date was impressed by my strength and grateful for my honesty. It also deepened our connection, because she realized I wouldn't have gone through the difficulty of telling her this if I didn't think our relationship had real potential. This was almost 2 months ago and we are still together. I would recommend being up front as soon as possible with someone you are dating- you run the risk of getting rejected, but if you don't, you know you have found someone really special.

(4) Rebecca, March 13, 2003 12:00 AM

Being honest from the get-go...

Almost from the beginning I tell a person I am diabetic. This goes for dates as well as meeting new friends. It depends on the situation as to how early on, but I weigh it in my mind before I speak. For starters, I like people to get to know me for me FIRST and NOT as a person WITH diabetes! However, I also feel more relaxed if another person knows about the disease early on, because then I can be more myself. I don't like to hide my disease with anyone. In addition, I figure if a person can "handle" my being diabetic now, then they can certainly "handle" being my friend in the future (or in the case of the man--my friend and eventually my lover and husband). I need strong people to be in life!!! Somewhere along the way I also introduce my other "handicaps"---the hard of hearing, a slight speech impediment, blind in one eye, and a heart murmur. Since diabetes and hard of hearing are the only two which affect me the most I introduce these first. The other three I sometimes wait until a little later knowing the full story of how I became this way (multi handicapped) will be told. (German Measles while my Mother was pregnant with me in the third week.) Needless to say I have had many dates and I have many friends, as well as one marriage, so there are strong people out there who have had the courage of staying my friend and learning all they can about my "handicaps" (what's a better word for this?). Most of the time it is my responsibility to deal with my disease, etc. and I am happy to explain them to others. On the occasions when I need help, my kind friends have been there for me. The greatest knowledge I have now is that I understand everything myself and show great confidence about it all. The confidence is what attracts the others to respect and love me...

(3) ruthi, March 2, 2003 12:00 AM

Living with rejection

It helped to read the article, but the visitor comments about how someone is "selfish" or "hiding something" really hurt. This is exactly the problem we're up against in the first place. I've been on the other side of that fence, and to have someone who thought I was a good person suddenly pull away because I was just trying to get an even break and let them get to know me... I try to tell myself that if he was that kind of a judgemental person I would be better off alone, but somehow that doesn't make me feel better.

I keep on checking back to see if anyone else speaks up - thank you, Anonymous.

(2) Anonymous, February 24, 2003 12:00 AM

I disagree

The purpose of withholding the medical condition for a longer stretch of time is to ensure some emotional attachement prior to revealing the truth. Unfortunately, giving adivce with the notion that 5 or 6 dates is time to tell all is misguided. These peo. will have great difficulty marrying. I suggest you speak w/ peo. that do have medical conditions and the way they deal with them. You would be surprised how many have suffered bec. of the stigma these peo. are referring to. They shoud tell the person close to the engagement. There is a larger probability they will get married to that person!!!!

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