Should They Tell?

Letter to Rebbetzin Yungreis this past week in the Jewish Press: A woman writes in that her son developed/showed signs of bipolar when he was 19. The parents kept it so hushed up that even his siblings don’t know. They got him medicated, and now nobody would guess he wasn’t 100% healthy. Question: are they required to release the information for shidduch purposes? The letter writer says yes, it’s only right. Her husband says absolutely not: it will shoot holes in their son’s chances of  ever getting married. They don’t know what to do.

Seeing myself as a potential date of such a young man – after all, how do I know what my date is hiding? – how do I feel about the subject? Well personally, I wouldn’t consider bipolar disorder to be a huge strike against someone. It’s not like it’s chronic depression or diabetes or a family history of cardiac arrest by age 35. However, it is something I’d appreciate knowing before the engagement. Not necessarily before the first date, but certainly by around the 4th or 5th.

There was a recent incident of a local woman whose husband never told her that he was on medication for depression. Even after they were married, he kept it secret. (How he expected a marriage with such a huge lie in the foundation to last, I have no idea.) Anyway, after a year, he suddenly decided that he didn’t need to take his meds anymore. And he relapses and became terribly depressed and the marriage ended in divorce, with her in custody of an infant.

That is a very messy end, but it’s hard to see how it could be otherwise. When someone hides such a fundamental piece of information from you, how do you know that you can ever trust them again?

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14 thoughts on “Should They Tell?

  1. There are many issues that it may be wise to cover over, but bipolar is extremely serious, primarily because of their tendency to resist taking their medication exactly when they need it most. This is a risk that will always be present.

    It’s a very sad diagnosis, because honestly speaking the person is normal and functional (like, not emotionally handicapped enough not to realize that everyone else is getting married and he also wants a little love!) but who will want to marry them? I hate to say this, it sounds so unfair, but I think they’ll have to marry someone with a different compromising issue. Hopefully they will like each other enough not to feel like they are settling for less than they wanted. Especially because each one can understand the feeling of feeling normal and wanting a normal life while having to manage this serious disorder. They each understant what it means that it’s under control, yet no one else can relate enough to come near them with a ten-yard pole. So their similar (but not the same — I don’t think it would work at all for two people with bipolar to marry!) situations can really make them very compatible and as long as they keep up consistent contact with their therapists it can be a successful and fulfilling relationship.

  2. Well controlled anything is better than uncontrolled anything else. But diabetes is also deadly, while bipolar is not.

  3. So why is chronic depression worse than bipolar? It’s something that is often treatable, provided the depressed person doesn’t do something stupid such as stop taking their medicine. (I feel like most depressed people are smarter than that, and will defer to the opinion of their psychiatrist.)

    Of course, I’m probably biased, having suffered from depression and being on medication for it. But it’s definitely something I would tell a person I date about early on. But I live in a world where people are more open about such things and it isn’t an automatic strike against you.

  4. (hee hee, I just remembered this, and HAD to respond to your comment)
    Diabetes is deadly? I think you are referring to diabetes as it was treated 50 years ago. Nowadays, diabetes treatment has advanced to a point that a person with diabetes can live like any other person, they just need to do a few things. I mean, yes, I am on an insulin pump and I need to insert a new set every few days, but other than that controlling diabetes is simply a matter of a tiny finger prick and pressing a few buttons. Yes, a person looking into a shidduch with a diabetic needs to find out what kind of control they are in, but someone like me, who has good control of their diabetes, takes responsibility for myself, takes care of myself…is not suffering from a deadly disease. For me to die from diabetes would take some kind of freak accident, in which case I am no different than other people, except maybe that I have more possibilities of the ways I can go… 😀
    Again, diabetes is NOT deadly, and I am NOT sick, and if someone redts you to a boy with diabetes I urge you to consider it. It is NOT a big deal, seriously.

  5. One more thing (before I overstay my welcome) I do know a young woman with diabetes who got married without telling her husband about it. (I actually know more than one, and each case like it makes me sick). And the marriage never had a chance. She told her husband soon after the wedding, and he was never able to trust her, as the entire relationship was built on one big lie. They were divorced very quickly, and being a divorced woman who has diabetes is a lot harder in shidduchim than being just a woman with diabetes.
    So I agree with you, not telling at all is really bad, but with the case of diabetes, all rabbonim that I have heard from on this issue, including gedolim, agree that it is best if they go out first, and then you tell the other side. The idea is that they should go out first, so the other person could form an opinion on you, and then they can decide if they are ok with diabetes.

  6. Ok, I am pretty sure you had enough of me, but I wanted to try to make a shidduch here. I got an email from a boy who has type 1 diabetes saying he wants to marry me. I am obviously not a candidate, as two people with type 1 diabetes are strongly discouraged from getting married, as it puts their children at a high risk for it, but I thought you might be interested. Email me justablob@gmail.com and I will forward you his proposal. (Pretty good for a not-yet-in-shidduchim-gal like me to have gotten a marriage proposal already, huh?)

    If I hear from any bipolar boys I will let you know….

  7. Just out of curiosity, what makes you think he’s for me, aside from an obvious urge to foist the world’s undesired upon me?

  8. The first question is why the guy thought he would be for me? He emailed me that I seem funny, and so do you. Since I can’t marry him, I thought you might like to. 🙂

    [loud fake cough]
    the world’s undesirables? Oh my goodness. I didn’t realize diabetes brings you down to such a low level. Good thing I have been developing a thick hide and these things don’t get to me. 😀

  9. Just yanking your chain, since you seemed upset.
    Somehow, “you seem funny” doesn’t strike me as an awesome criteria, so I’ll pass, but thanks.

  10. Oh, thanks…I am sure that is an admirable trait to add to your “resume” (Lol, can I rub it in that I am not in shidduchim?)

    Actually, he said I sound mature too. (:-p) And his exact words were “very funny”
    Are you sure? I could really use the shadchanus gelt…. 😀

  11. wow, i love watching my friends fight 🙂 this is getting to be really fun! shall i mention that i think someone without any “issues” just might be more “undesirable” due to lack of life experience?

  12. LS, if this is called a fight then what is…….? I think like that, you may think like that, but most of the world doesn’t think like that. But tis ok. I won’t be undesirable to the guy I marry, and if I am undersirable to the rest of the world, so be it. Will spare me lots of awful dating experiences.

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