Hiding mental illness for purposes of shidduchim

I have copied an excerpt of a letter to Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. See the link for the entire question; she doesn’t seem to have responded yet.

. . . Now, here is our dilemma: Are we obligated to tell the shadchan, the girl and her family? My husband and I are conflicted. I say “yes”, but he argues “no”. According to him, the moment we say the words “Bi-Polar’ we terminate all his chances of a decent shidduch. Moreover, my husband feels that since he has been totally well since he started on medication (and that has been five years now) there is no reason to announce a problem which is no longer present. He also argues that if the girl and her family find out about this and as a consequence she refuses to see my son, it will devastate him and he will regress. On the other hand, I am not comfortable leaving the situation as it is. To me, it borders on deception. My husband and I have been literally fighting about this. The conflict has destroyed our shalom bayis and I really don’t know what to do. I was thinking that we should consult his Rosh Yeshiva, but my husband pointed out that the Rosh Yeshiva is the first person people turn to when they seek shidduch information, and if he is made aware of this problem, he will have to reveal it – and the same holds true of the Rov of our shul, so as you can see, we are in a terrible bind.

I have a few comments. First of all, it’s sad that no one thinks that the son has any say in the matter. How does he feel about deceiving his future wife?

The boy’s father is also being naive about the illness. Medications cease to work or need to be adjusted, and patients often decide to stop taking them.

On the one hand it’s sad that the parents are so sure the shidduch will be broken once they tell. It would be nice if the girl’s parents would be willing to overlook this, although one could certainly understand some reluctance on their part.

The parents posing the question need to ask themselves two questions: 1) Do they want mechutanim whom they believe would refuse a shidduch for their own daughter because of a treated mental illness and 2) How would they feel if the shoe were on the other foot? Would they want parents of a potential shidduch for one of their younger, healthy children to hide such information?

See Brooklyn Wolf for further comments on the letter.

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Comments

  1. Ari Kinsberg says:

    “I asked a rav a shaila”
    i really don’t understand the role that a rav plays in this scenario. exactly what halakhot were involved in this shaila and the rav’s specific decision?

  2. mominisrael says:

    Anon, I have heard about couples who hide such information from their parents. In some cases the idea is to prevent the inlaws from “blaming” their child for marrying the one with the diagnosis. Of course, as you learned, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep such a secret.
    I know of parents whose daughter and son-in-law successfully hid the daughter’s breast cancer from them until after her death.

  3. I am married (35 years) to a man who didn’t tell me he was bi-polar. It was not a shidduch. Although we are still together and have raised 6 children, it has made for a bumpy ride. I am not sure whether I would have married him anyway or not, but I do feel that I should have been able to decide.
    Even after I found out (the hard way) about this condition I kept it a secret including from my parents. They then found out about it too (the hard way).
    One of our (6) children suffers from bi-polar disorder. When this began one of the other children was dating. The dating child and the fiance did not tell the fiance’s family and to my knowledge have still, many years later not told them.
    Since that time, we have come a long way. The entire family now knows about the child’s disorder. That includes uncles and aunts, grandparents and those cousins whith whom we are in close contact.
    This has resulted in a supportive environment for that child and honesty among the rest of us. Three siblings are now married and a fourth will be married this month. All told their fiances by the fourth or fifth date.
    B’ezrat hashem the affected child has come a long way and we all hope that we will dance at another two weddings.
    I believe that in the long run it is better for a family to face difficulties head on than to add deceit and mistrust to an already difficult problem.

  4. mominisrael says:

    It wasn’t someone I know well, but from what I understand it made the whole thing even more traumatic than it already was (loss of a mother of small children).

  5. Because we live so far from our families it is easy to deceive each other. After my mother called to tell me that a cousin had died of breast cancer (and I had been told that she was in hospital with a broken leg because the cousin didn’t want me to worry)I made her and everyone else promise that that would never happen again.
    Was it easier for your friend’s mother to deal with her daughter’s death not having known about it? What did anyone gain?

  6. I posted this on the Shalom Bayit Blog:
    One way or another, the girl/boy MUST be told.
    I was talking long-distance with a girl from out-of-town, had her references checked and was going to meet her. We exchanged emails and spoke on the phone many times.
    A few days before I was due to fly, she called me and told me that she is bi-polar. I was thankful that she did tell me. I would have maybe dated her anyways but someone in my family has something like already so the chances of our children being bi-polar were increased dramatically.
    Baruch HaShem that this girl had the honesty and care to inform me and not sweep it under the rug.
    Added the Shalom Bayit to blogroll too.

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