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Dating Advice # 127 - Chronic Decision
Dating Advice 12

Dating Advice # 127 - Chronic Decision

She met a great guy, but his medical history has her worried. How should she weigh her emotions against the practicalities?

by

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I thought I met the perfect person, but as I got to know him, I found out he is not so perfect... medically. Obviously a partner's illness would impact my life, and the lives of my future children. Some illnesses bring pain, inability to work, untimely death and more.

Of course, anything can happen to anyone in life, and in this case it’s just that I was informed earlier of what challenges are to come in the future.

My question: How should a partner's illness affect the courtship, and ultimately my decision to be or not to be with that person?

Sondra

Dear Sondra,

This is a very personal issue and we certainly cannot tell you what to decide if you are dating someone who has a mental or physical illness or a family predisposition to one. However, we do have suggestions about what to do before you decide whether to marry (or even to continue dating) someone with an actual or potential medical condition.

The keywords here are "knowledge" and "honesty."

Become as well-informed as you can about the illness or condition, including whether or not a condition that is "in the family" may be inherited (many illnesses that you may believe can be passed on to descendants are in fact not hereditary), the manner in which the condition manifests itself over the course of time, the individual prognosis for the person you’re dating, available treatments, the actual treatment the person you’re dating is undergoing, medical recommendations for lifestyles that can minimize difficulties, the costs of treatment, the availability of medical insurance and private and government funding for treatment, the affects an illness or condition may have on fertility and ability to bear children, how the condition will affect the patient's ability to have an emotionally healthy marriage and be a good parent, if and how it will affect the person’s ability to work, and how it will affect lifespan and overall quality of life.

You can find out much of this information by speaking with the physician and other medical professionals who are treating the person you’re dating. (Though you may need the patient’s permission due to confidentiality issues.) You can also contact the boards of the medical specialties to ask for information, and of course there is lots of material at the library and on the Internet.

Just one word of caution about sources such as libraries and the Internet: Most of the information you will read will be accurate, but since anyone can post something on the Internet or write a book, there is some amount of misinformation out there and it is a good idea to confirm the “results of your research” with a medical professional.

We also recommend that you speak to other people who have coped with the disease, and with their family members, to learn the challenges they have faced and how they have dealt with them. There are many support groups that can put you in touch with people who will be willing to share their experience.

We also believe it is extremely important for you and the person you are dating to have some honest discussions about the disease and how it will affect your lives together. How do they feel about their current treatment? Is it difficult to follow? What is the extent to which they expect to continue the treatment, or seek new alternatives? What do they feel about medical recommendations that affect their lifestyle? If it is possible they may become physically dependent on someone else in the future, how do they feel about this? If you marry, how much do they expect you to be involved in their medical decision-making, treatment, rehabilitation, and physical care? What do each of you feel about these expectations? Finally, are their any negative aspects of the situation -- that your partner as an individual and you as a couple -- are able to turn into something positive?

A final step is to speak to a learned rabbi, focusing primarily on learning the implications Jewish law has on your decision to continue to date and get married. You or a medical professional may have to provide factual information to the rabbi before he can make a well-informed decision, and he may refer the case to a rabbi who specializes in medical issues.

Unless there is a Jewish legal issue that has to be resolved, ultimately, you are the one who will have to decide if the degree to which you care for the other person, and the quality of the relationship between you, counterbalances any negatives. We know that such a decision may not be easy, and we hope that the Almighty blesses you with the insight to make the best choice possible.

Rosie & Sherry

Published: May 10, 2003


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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) Z, December 15, 2003 12:00 AM

thanks for the honesty

this was a very thorough response. I am also falling in love with a wonderful person and am growing concerned about his illness and how it may impact our lives. I plan to have a sit down conversation and gain knowledge about his condition and ask him some of the questions you suggested. Ultimately, i will decide if he is the right person by his attitude and actions, not by his illness, but by learning more about him, i care enough to learn more about his ilness as well... because it affects him, it may affect me someday as well and such knowledge is power in the event of an emergency...

(6) Anonymous, June 5, 2003 12:00 AM

what about faith?

I found your article a thorough cost benefit analysis of the issues associated with dating someone with an illness. But what about faith? What about miracles? What about the fact that even after you weigh up "the cost of medical treatment", as you suggest, Jews still believe in the power of prayer and healing.

Everyday in our tefillot we ask Hashem "Refaenu Hashem ve'nerafeh", Heal us God and let us be healed. For an article on the Aish website I would have expected more of a focus on the role that God, rather than the doctor, can play when dealing with such a serious issue.

(5) Lisa, May 21, 2003 12:00 AM

Disgusting

I am a 19 year old woman with cerebral palsy, and I was disturbed by this article.

While ailments, physical, or otherwise may be hard to cope with, or overcome, that does not mean that individuals with disabilities are any less dateable or worthy of marriage than a "normal" person. Unless a person is so hideously self saturated that they would prefer the easy way out. Marriage is about love, the determination to suceed dispite trials, and commitment, not a care free or easy experience.

Sondra sounds as though she needs to seriously adjust her priorities, and shift the focus from herself to the one she cares about.

(4) Anonymous, May 15, 2003 12:00 AM

real medicine vs imaginary

Excellent, thorough response to the question. If there turns out to be after checking and digging a true medical issue - physical or mental - then by all means one should break it off.

However, some people take this to extremes - people stigmatize potential mates based on physical or cosmetic issues that while they may in fact be genetic, are not diseases and are not harmful. Be aware and open minded about this and don't break a relationship for a pseudo-medical reason.

(3) Anonymous, May 12, 2003 12:00 AM

always check and then check your heart

I speak from experience. I survived a crippling childhood illness which di cripple me but I was able to overcome it, I thought. Everyone was in such a mood to normalize me that no one, doctors included, gave me a realistic view of my future UNTIL I met with a gynecologist prior to my wedding who advised me not to have children due to my extent of hip and back deformity (not outwardly very noticeable and concealed by modest clothing) I talked to my husband-to be and we decided to go ahead with the marriage. My first pregnancy resulted in enforced bed rest (and a wonderful son) and it was years before I could manage a second pregnancy which I was advised to terminate but resulted in a wonderful daughter. However, I am in rather poor health now and cannot contribute financially to our family although I have been able to raise our children and I think they have actually profited in many ways. And I have a devoted husband who has stayed with and supported me. But we do not get the accolades from the community or our synagogue for being big donors (although we try to volunteer in the ways that we can) nor do we inspire envy in showing off flashy jewelry or romantic destinations. Decide what is important to you and realize that life is uncertain.

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