I’m an older single girl who endures the daily hardship of having a medical issue. In our circles, when anyone has a medical issue, it’s considered a stigma, and therefore I’ve kept it a secret all my life.
I was recently thinking that maybe I should disclose my secret, as perhaps it will be
easier for me to find my basherte, yet, at the same time, I know it’s a stigma. Would you suggest that I reveal it or keep it a secret?
To clarify, it’s not a serious medical issue. It’s been kept a secret between me and my parents. I don’t suggest that I am not going to disclose it at the right time during dating. I’m just thinking about disclosing it more generally if that would make it easier for me to find my basherte. Perhaps there’s a possibility that if I’d let it be known, my shidduch might come about through someone who thinks of someone who also has an issue.
Any chizuk you can provide for those in shidduchim dealing with the stigma of a medical issue would be appreciated.
Thank you to the panelists for this wonderful column, which provides me with great insight each week.
As you have so succinctly noted, indeed, there are potentially extensive and unfortunate aftereffects for those with medical issues when it comes to shidduchim. With that actuality in mind, your willingness to openly address this intimate topic is no small deed. Reaching out for chizuk to uplift yourself, and all others facing similar hindrances, in order to garner the encouragement needed, is both admirable and wise.
While it is certainly understandable why there would be substantial concern surrounding one’s resolution to proceed in a shidduch with someone suffering from a critical and chronic physical, emotional, or mental illness, this stigma has been extended so far as to produce an ersatz apprehension of minor, non-congenital medical issues that are easily treated with maintenance medication, and provide no cause for one to believe that the issue would be passed on to future generations.
With regard to the stigma itself, there are many things that I wish I could tell you. I wish I could tell you that I could ease the pain it causes you in shidduchim. I wish I could tell you that instead of a shidduch system that facilely shudders at the thought of any medical abnormality, people would take a more panoptic view and recognize that your condition is manageable, that countless people take daily maintenance medications, and that it should nary be viewed as such a major issue. Regrettably, I cannot assure you of any of these things.
Nonetheless, what I can tell you, is that you are far from alone. There are numerous people who have similar types of conditions, and they get married, have children, and build beautiful Jewish homes.
As far as disclosing your condition from the get-go, in an effort to garner greater dating opportunities – specifically, shidduchim with those who also have some sort of medical issue – I am somewhat torn as to the ultimate efficacy of such a strategy.
On the one hand, there is something to be said for shidduchim between two people who share a mutual struggle. It allows for the couple to better understand and relate to one another, and offer each other a degree of care and support that may not be feasible when one of the two is not personally familiar with the reality of what it means to live with such an obstacle.
However, on the other hand, there is no shortage of married couples where one spouse is quite healthy and the other is battling a grave and severe medical issue, and the ties between them remain immeasurably robust. There are many who can profoundly relate to, and understand the needs of another, and who do provide that necessary care and support in ways that are unfathomable – despite the fact they have not experienced that particular hurdle on a personal level.
This is something I have witnessed not only when an ailment springs up long after the bonds of a close marriage have been forged, but even in seeing individuals continue to date, and then marry, entirely of their own volition, someone who discloses a medical condition during the dating – when done at the appropriate time and in a proper fashion.
Furthermore, I have observed such shidduchim both in respect to those with minor medical issues, and even those with debilitating disorders or injuries. Meaning, not having a medical issue oneself does not preclude one from being an outstanding husband or wife to someone who does bear such an issue.
Moreover, I am quite wary that the intent of some when setting up like-with-like when it comes to any issue – be it medical or familial – has absolutely nothing to do with a kind concern that commonality between two people may lead to a deeper connection between them.
Rather, such like-with-like pairings are often born out of underpinnings of classism and elitism. That is to say, a principle that any issue is an inherent flaw, and one that translates into the devaluing of the person. In such a construct, a like-with-like union is conceptualized under the notion that “less-than” must be paired with “less-than” – because why would someone of a higher caliber have to, or even want to, “settle” with dating someone beneath their stature.
Whether it be a child of divorce, someone with a medical issue, a family that has in its history or lineage any lapse in shmiras Torah u’mitzvos, such are often seen as degradations or humiliations, regardless of their relative meaning to the individual themselves.
It is one thing to redd a shidduch between two individuals sharing a common issue with hopes of creating enhanced appreciation. It is another thing entirely when such a shidduch is redd based on an ideology that we mustn’t mingle the mighty with the meek.
Ultimately, making publicly known matters that may affect how one is perceived in shidduchim is a personal decision, and these are but a few of many factors that should be considered before doing so.
All that said, it is clear to me that you are a brave and strong woman, and there will come a time when you meet someone who will fully value that. When that happens, not only will he harbor no misgivings about your condition, but he will feel compelled to do everything in his power to make sure that you are always well-cared for, and as sound and healthy as possible.
May the Melech Roifei Ne’eman help you to find the strength you need to continue dating with confidence and positivity, and may He ensure that you soon find that person whose acceptance, appreciation, and love for you, will be enriched by your condition, and not despite of it.