If you are told that a potential shidduch has a medical condition, it is reasonable for you to be apprehensive. You realize that life may have all kinds of surprises in store for you, but why start off with problems?
Or you start dating someone and they tell you about a medical issue they live with, and you ask yourself whether it makes sense to continue. “Shouldn’t I date someone with a perfectly clean bill of health?” you think to yourself.
You need to come to this question free of all judgement. Your choice of marriage partner has got to be based on what will give you happiness. Your decision should not be based on guilt or pressure, and should not be motivated by a desire to make someone else happy.
Having said that, there is a wild assumption often made that a medical condition will automatically put a dent in your marital happiness. There is simply no truth to that.
Health is a very important issue. However, it is only one of many important issues married couples have to deal with. All marriages have a certain amount of struggles; it’s just how life is. Health issues will inevitably arise, no matter how healthy the spouses were when they got married. No one can predict the future, but one can be fairly certain that health challenges will play a part somewhere. It is important not to view health issues as some alien intrusion in your life. It is a normal part of living that we all have to deal with.
There are three sets of questions that you should ask to help you decide whether someone’s health condition should be an obstacle to dating and marriage:
1. What is the condition?
Medical conditions come in all different shapes and sizes. It is important that you educate yourself about the facts, and not jump to conclusions. Some conditions are severe and impact on the person in dramatic ways. You need to ask yourself whether you are able to cope with its effects.
However, 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. Relatively small things.
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. Don’t assume; ask. Bear in mind that providing support for a spouse is a natural part of marriage. It is purely a matter of degree.
Thankfully, most medical conditions are not genetic and will not pass on to one’s children. But some medical conditions are indeed hereditary. If this is of concern to you, it is relatively easy to find out which is which. Nowadays, there are a variety of ways of screening to avoid passing on such genes. Even such information is not hard to find.
Another legitimate concern is fertility and pregnancy. While most conditions will have no impact on the possibility of having children, some may affect the potential for raising a family.
You might take advice from your own physician, a Rofeh Yedid. Bear in mind, however, that some general practitioners do not know much about how some conditions impact a patient.
You can also reach out to one of the many Jewish organizations, as well as organizations more generally, that provide education/ knowledge/ information on various conditions and how they pertain to shidduchim.
Additionally, you may find it 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.
How you will feel about the information you acquire is entirely up to you. All we ask is that you take the time to find out, rather than saying, “why should I bother? I might as well look for someone else.”
2. How are they handling it?
As important as the condition is the way each person deals with it. Some people are defined by their illness. They feel held back and weighed down. However, many people adopt a true “can-do attitude.” They make a point of working around their challenges in a great spirit.
While some people who live with a medical condition are beaten down by their challenges, in reality most become exceedingly resilient and tough. Exactly the kind of inner strength that we all seek to have in a spouse, to accompany us as we go through the ups and downs of life.
People who live with a medical condition or disability can be unusually caring. They appreciate the people around them and everything in their lives. Many live very full and rich lives, and have good values and strong priorities.
How does this person handle themselves? Of course, one can find out from references. But the best way to find out is to meet them and decide for yourself.
3. What about the person overall?
Health issues can come to anyone at any point in life. You can discover a latent health condition after you get married. You can’t possibly predict what will come down the road, but the things that usually never change are the person’s character, middos, and intelligence.
Therefore, when considering the shidduch, take note of 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?
It is common for people to give excessive focus to the one thing that bothers them, to the extent that it has the potential to cloud over the many positives. When evaluating the suitability of a shidduch, put everything in the mix. Take a holistic view of the person. If there are many features that are highly attractive, be careful not to allow one aspect to dominate over everything else.
Remember, this is a whole person; not a diagnosis. It makes no sense to miss out on a wonderful person based on misinformation, ignorance or biases.
Whether the medical problems will pass to the next generation is a matter for discussion (see above), but personality traits are most likely to be passed down through the generations. There is a much greater chance that a person’s personal qualities will shape their children than any medical condition.
Some may ask: “Life is hard enough; why should I walk into a situation that is already difficult?” If that person loves you, supports you, cares for you – as you are…. If you can laugh together as you work through life’s ups and downs … 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.