It is common to have a dater disclose a medical issue to the other dater on the third, fourth or fifth date. I do not like to date a few times only to find out this information. I heard that some people ask about medical issues up front in a way that halachically the reference has to answer. This way is more convenient for me, as I can avoid the first few dates. I know that the panelists are not poskim, but I want to know your feelings on the issue as far as procedure or how things are done.
Before directly addressing the inquiry presented, I would like to take a moment to dispel a common myth about the nature of shidduchim. In short, every minute spent dating is not meant to be convenient, and daters are not entitled to avoid any and all encounters that are not to their liking. Provided one is exerting proper hishtadlus, everything that happens is ultimately an integral avenue on the road to discovering one’s zivug hagon. It may not be eminently obvious then and there, or ever, and certain occurrences may appear to have been for naught, but that is merely a consequence of our inability to grasp the unknowable ways of the Ribbono Shel Olam.
Everyone’s journey is different, and while the list of potential hurdles is endless, by and large, each person has to confront difficulty and struggle at some point in the dating process. Indeed, these are fundamental features of almost every major life achievement, and to paraphrase the words of President Teddy Roosevelt, “nothing worth having comes easy.” As such, to all those in shidduchim who are frustrated, dejected, burnt out, or otherwhile dissatisfied and disenchanted, I profoundly recognize your collective pain and strife, and I am mispallel that it hastily come to a close. And at the same time, I humbly ask that we always bear in mind that each experience we have, whether overtly positive or seemingly miserable, truly is HaKadosh Boruch Hu bringing us one step closer to the attainment of our most treasured aspirations and goals.
That said, regarding the question at hand, there are likely many thousands of single men and women who possess something they know must be disclosed before they can ever get married. It may be a medical or psychological issue, a past indiscretion, a matter about one’s immediate family, or something related to their extended family history. Whatever the topic, each dater who finds themselves in this position is acutely aware of the need to clear the air, and is even more conscious of the harsh reality that every time they approach a new shidduch, it may fall apart the moment they shed on light on the subject. It is an immensely heavy load to carry, and one that can take a great toll on a dater as they become accustomed to repeated rejection and suffer the dashing of their hopes again and again.
Of course, each of these people has the same inalienable right as anyone else does to be married, and it would be absurd to suggest that any such dater effectively be adorned with a badge that unmistakably notates their situation, thus nearly creating a secondary dating pool for them to all marry each other. First and foremost, this would be a communal disgrace, plain and simple. And secondly, it would be to deprive countless people who may not have anything to unveil from ever meeting their future spouse, as no one can entirely comprehend what they are willing to take upon themselves until that precise opportunity arrives. Our preconceived apprehensions often become utterly null and void when we risk losing something that is newly dear to us.
With the above in mind, in speaking with rabbonim, the hadracha I am consistently given is that when a revelation of import must be made, it should be delivered after a pleasant rapport has been established, but before engagement is even remotely relevant. The basic premise being that it would be unfair to force a dater into disclosure before any connection has been made, and it would be equally unfair to their counterpart to receive this news after they are virtually ready to commit to marriage. The most equitable option is to let the couple get to know one another a bit – enough that the person who will be in receipt of this information can make an honest assessment of how meaningful such a disclosure is when weighed against all the other outstanding aspects they have seen in the person they are dating, but before they are even contemplating proposal – and then divulge any necessary material at exactly that juncture.
Accordingly, to anyone who has just been handed an unexpected and challenging data point, my recommendation is threefold. First, step back and sincerely consider how the human being across the table is feeling and how hard this is for them, and afford them the corresponding care and concern. Second, make a genuine evaluation and decide whether or not this wonderful person is someone that one would like to continue dating, knowing what has now been learned. And third, be cognizant of the fact that Hashem wanted this experience to transpire, and that for some reason it was decreed as a critical component to one’s path in shidduchim and in life.
May the Oseh Niflaous Livado ensure that all who are in shidduchim have the capacity to fully appreciate any obstacles that come their way, and emerge all the better for it.