For the last two weeks I have shared your responses, suggestions and experiences about marrying into a family wherein there is a parent who has a chronic illness. This was prompted by a letter I received from a woman who wrote that her daughter is having difficulty getting dates because her father has Multiple Sclerosis. Below are more letters from readers who wanted to share their experience and offer help.
I read your two articles about shidduchim. I want to share with you my experiences and I hope I am being helpful. My middle daughter was diagnosed with a non-hereditary, non-life threatening health problem when she was 10. When it was her turn to seek a shidduch, we had a difficult time of it. At first we told people, because we didn’t want her getting hurt. We soon found out that we couldn’t get her any dates.
After consulting our rabbi, he told us to let her go out first and tell after two dates. Well, she went out with a boy and he even took her to meet his grandmother. When she told him (about the health concern) that was the last time she saw him. Reflecting back, I can still remember what her doctor had told her. Her doctor said she needed to marry a very caring young man. At the age of 26 she still was not married. The turning point in her life was the last date she had. It turned out to be miserable. Her friend told her to go on Saw You at Sinai. Well, Hashem had rachmanus on her, and on the first try she met her husband. Today, Boruch Hashem they have two adorable children. She did not tell him at first. After several dates she told him about her health concern. He didn’t mind. However, his parents didn’t find out until about six months after they were married. His mother was only upset because he hadn’t confided in her. As far as my husband’s Parkinson’s, he did not come out to meet the boys until after about four dates.
My daughter found out after they were engaged that the only aunt he has was mildly retarded. Let me tell you that when my daughter met her, my daughter was able to be extremely caring because of all she had gone through.
My other daughter got engaged when she was 30. That was also a nightmare. She had plenty of dates but just couldn’t find the right caring person. My husband’s illness did not show that much those years she was dating. My husband even warned her to get married already, because once his illness shows it would be much harder for her. She met her husband on Saw You at Sinai. She went on that web site regularly and had a shadchan who dealt with older singles. Her shadchan herself had gotten married older. He himself had a father who died of ALS. He told my daughter from the start. He’s totally caring about my husband because of his own experiences.
Well, I hope I helped you a little.
I cannot endorse or disapprove of computer dating, as I am just too unfamiliar with it. I know as many people who met their spouses through the Internet and are happily married as I do people who have had a bad experience. As with anything you are unfamiliar with, one must be very careful. Realize that you are being set up with someone you cannot see and someone no one close to you can vouch for. It is also important to remember that each web site is unique. You cannot judge them all by a negative or positive experience on one. Having said that, I think it is important to communicate the ideas that have worked for others and I thank all those that have shared their experience.
It is difficult to know when and how in the dating process to share that you have a sick parent or an illness yourself. It is important to discuss this with your rabbi. There is no one rule for everyone. Da’as Torah is needed and should be adhered to.
Because of chronic illness, we were not able to have children. We chose to have an adopted family. When we were considering adoption, people in my family who knew advised us against it. They felt adopted children would have a hard time with a shidduch. This was many years ago, before there was even talk of a shidduch crisis, or heightened concern about every aspect of a person’s history.
We thought long and hard about what to do. We decided that we had a good home to share with children, which we desperately wanted. We decided to go ahead and adopt despite our families reservations and have bitachon in Hashem to deal with the rest. B”H all our children are happily married for many years already. My ravtold us that because we adopted our children at birth, it was not even necessary to say that they were adopted. The illness information about their parent should wait till after a few dates. My children disagreed and told about both the adoption and illness right away. All their shidduchim went easily. Neither the adoption nor the illness seemed to bother their bashert or our machatonim.
I realize times have changed but I wonder if our total emunah in Hashem, to deal positively with our children and take care of them, helped in how relatively easily their shidduchim went. I do understand the fear and pain a parent feels when children have a hard time in anything, especially something as important in their life as their children’s future. All I can say to these families is have bitachon. Hashem will only do what is in our best interest.
If anyone reading this knows of organizations or shadchanim who deal with making matches for children where parental illness exists, I would so appreciate hearing from you. If you want to contact the woman who wrote the original letter, I can forward your information to her.
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.