Date a Person, Not a Diagnosis

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Q: Why should I even consider dating someone who has a medical condition? Shouldn’t I date someone with a perfectly clean bill of health?

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
ccc@cmresource.org

CF Society (cystic fibrosis)
718-866-9000
www.cfsociety.org

Center for Rare Jewish Genetic Disorders
Chaim Jalas – Division of Bonei Olam
718-301-9774
medical@boneiolam.org
http://www.boneiolam.org

Child Life (Genetics, Cystic Fibrosis)
718-853-7123
http://www.childlifesociety.org

Crohn’s Disease network (Crohn’s Disease, Colitis)
347-668-4402

Friends With Diabetes
Rabbi Hershel Meisels
845-352-7532
RabbiMeisels@FriendsWithDiabetes.org
http://www.friendswithdiabetes.org

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

Yameitz Libechu (congenital heart defects)
718-501-7537 / 718-486-2895
info@ylhearts.org
http://www.ylhearts.org

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There are no rules in Shiduchim. Part 9

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

When to get back to the shadchan?

Perhaps, the most important part of the discussion with the shadchan is about how you will work together on the shiduch.  This would include how to share about yourself/ your single, how quickly you would call back after doing your ‘research’, after the dates, etc.

While the word on the street is that you must get back to the shadchan with 3 days of hearing of a shiduch suggestion, for some that simply isn’t possible.  Let your shadchan know that upfront.  “I will get back to you in 8 days.”  You might share your reasoning, but you really don’t have to.  “I have a simmcha out of town.” “I have a huge deadline at work.” “My single is out of the country and we will not be able to have a conversation about this shiduch.”

Similarly, many shadchanim expect to hear back from both ‘sides’ the morning after the date.  Sometimes, that is not possible.  Time zones, unaligned work schedules, the single needs some ‘awake’ time to process.  If you know before the dates that it will be impossible to update the shadchan until the day after, let her know upfront.  “My single comes home too late for me to have a conversation at night, and mornings are too rushed. The first time I can have a few minutes for a real conversation is later that evening. I will let you know by the next morning.”

If your single needs time to reflect, you can let the shadchan know that there will be a slight delay.  “My single needs some more time to think things through. He works all day and can’t really give much time and headspace during the day.”

The shadchan should not have to chase either of you down.  Be a mench to the shadchan and to the other side. Keep everyone updated about when they should expect to hear from your side.

One experienced shadchan says that “if neither contacts me I assume they both need time to contemplate – and I want to be generous and give them that time to think. I don’t push anyone.”

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Dear parents, you mean well, but …

please stop

as shared with Adai Ad


To my dear loving parents –

I know you want to see me settled in a happy marriage, and that is why you are working so diligently for a shiduch for me.  I too want to get married. Very much so.  But here’s the thing- I am getting so tired and dragged down by all the judgment that comes from this shidduch dating.

Really, I am not so picky. I am obviously dating bochurim who are not quite right for me. One has a shlichus lined up for him in a third-world country; and I’m not ready for that type of move. Another one was entirely too reserved for me to have a proper conversation with him. Yet another was a chauvinist who loved to share racist and sexist jokes.

All this dating is emotionally draining on its own, but what is even more draining and painful are the judgments and well meaning comments I get from my family, friends, and ‘wise’ fellow  community members.

“Why are you so picky?” “Why don’t you give it one more chance?” “Height isn’t everything.” “Wouldn’t you rather live in Timbuktu than stay single forever?”

No, I actually wouldn’t. (gasp).

I know everyone is coming from a place of love and concern, they just care to see me happy. But what they don’t realize is that such comments are not conducive to such happiness. They just make me more anxious.

Just recently, you set me up with someone, because, as you say it, “I can’t figure out what you are looking for, so what’s the big deal to just meet. You never know.”  So I met him-  because you thought it is a good idea- and even though after meeting with him I am positive that he is not for me, you prodded and urged me to meet him again and again. Is my judgment not good enough?

I also figured out that you created a situation where I would be at the same Shabbos table as someone I told you I did not want to meet – because you still thought it was a worthwhile shiduch idea.

These little anecdotes make me feel belittled, like my opinion is really not important.  It is straining our relationship, something I desperately don’t want, especially at this delicate stage of life. A stage where I so desperately need to be supported, encouraged, entrusted. Not questioned, judged, and reprimanded.

There are times when we talk about shiduchim, I feel a knot in my stomach, my shoulders stiffen and I feel pounding in my head. I feel anxious about our relationship, and about what you will say this time. Will you minimize my concerns and dismiss by reservations? And worse, will you blame me for being so picky?  Will you make me doubt myself?  Will you try to convince me that something that bothers me isn’t all that important in the scheme of life?

I dread these conversations, because they all go the same way. You getting frustrated at me, and I feeling more confused than before.  I need to feel that we are in this together.  Both of us working in tandem, in sync – as friends.  I want to feel supported and empowered during this trying stage of my life. Actually, I need that. I need you to validate my concerns, trust my gut, and build my self esteem. All done in the way that I feel supported, not in the way that you think I ought to feel that you are supporting me (ala ‘Five Love Languages’).

 

Let’s remember that I didn’t put myself in this situation. It’s the cards Hashem dealt me, and I’m now left with the decision on how to play them. Let’s play them with happiness. Let’s recognize Who’s really making my shidduch.

And please recognize that I can be happily single, until Hashem decides to make me happily married.

We both want what’s best for me.  We’re in this together. But sometimes I feel that we are on opposite sides.

I love you, I truly appreciate your intent, but the way you are going about it isn’t working for me. Please, please let’s have a conversation about how to move forward from here.

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There are NO RULES in Shiduchim.

shiduchim no rules

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

“This whole shiduchim part of my life is so frustrating and stressful, I wish there was a manual of how to navigate through it.” “Indeed, what are the protocols; wouldn’t it be great if those were written and shared with all?”

Though it may be easier to have a clear set of guidelines, there really are no rules when it comes to shiduchim. OK, there are just a few which I’ll mention soon. Every potential shiduch is unique – in so many ways that it would be difficult to state explicitly the way they should be done.

Some questions and answers.
You can send your questions to info@adaiad.org or you can use the ‘Ask Anonymous question’ form.  We will try to answer your questions and add them here.

 

  1. OK, some rules
  2. If you have an idea for a shiduch, who should you approach first – the family or advocate of the young man or woman? It depends.  There are some points to consider.
  3. How to tell the shadchan that you do not want to pursue the suggestion?  Again, there are several things to consider.
  4. What to do when you receive a “it’s not shayach”?
  5. What to do when you consistently get “it’s not shayach”?   There are several things that might be happening.
  6. How much time might one take to do research?
  7. How might you describe your single? 
  8. The shadchen never calls me or follows through with suggestions. How often can I call the shadchen without being a nudnik?
  9. When should I call the shadchan?

 


 

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There are no rules in Shiduchim. Part 8

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

The shadchen never calls me or follows through with suggestions. How often can I call the shadchen without being a nudnik?

  • Firstly, do not rely too heavily on any one shadchan. Network, network, network.  More shiduchim are made through friends, family and acquaintances than an official shadchan.
  • If you do not like the approach that particular shadchan is using, reach out to someone else, to many other people.
  • It is human nature for people to work harder for those who show appreciation or compensation for their efforts.  You might send a gift card or a box of chocolate, or even a note of sincere appreciation for their efforts and concern.
  • When you start working with any shadchan, ask about her process.  You can also ask if it would be OK for you to text every few weeks or so, just to bring your name to the fore of their mind.
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There are no rules in Shiduchim. Part 7

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

How might you describe your single?   Often people try to categorize singles into different labels – chasidish, but chilled; working and also learning; frum the way we were back in the 80s, etc.  These labels are only somewhat helpful, but really they are subjective; people have different understandings as to what these labels might mean.

  • It is much better to give concrete examples to illustrate what you are talking about. “He works from 9-5 and has a consistent chavrusa 3 nights a week, and on Friday nights.” “She davens shachris every day, on most days, she doesn’t get to davening mincha.”

 

  • You might describe the type of home and family life they envision for their future. “She envisions a home where the husband is working and invites ‘not yet frum’ co-workers for Shabbos and yom tov and the family is involved in mivtzaim on chol hamoed.”
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There are no rules in Shiduchim. Part 6

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

How much time might one take to do research?

  • However much time you think it will be, be upfront with the shadchan. “This is a very busy week for me. It might take me 10 days to get back to you.  I will get back to you by Monday the Xth the latest.”  If you do not specify how long you think it might take, most will assume one week is sufficient time.

 

  • And get back to them by that time. Even if you determine that it is not shayach, don’t leave them hanging. It’s simply not menchlich.
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