By Baila Sebrow
I have a daughter who just returned from seminary and will be entering the “dating scene” very shortly. My daughter is a pretty girl with a great personality and middos, and she has a lot to offer. But as we all know, it’s primarily mazal that one needs.
My daughter has ADHD. She was diagnosed at age 8 and has been on medication and in therapy throughout. It wasn’t an easy road, but I have to say she’s doing great and is in a good place, baruch Hashem!
Here are my questions. Do we have to share this information with shadchanim that we are going to meet? If she gets set up with a boy through a friend of hers or a friend of ours, do we have to say something beforehand? This is not something that we’ve publicized, but we also don’t want to trick people and have a mess on our hands later.
All we hear is how hard it is for the girls to get dates. We are afraid that if someone hears “medication” or “therapy,” he will run and not even give her a chance.
I feel one way. My husband feels another. My parents say one thing. My in-laws say another. We have not discussed this with my daughter, as we don’t want to treat her like a person with an illness—because it’s not. And like I said, she’s doing great. She just needs the medication to keep her life in balance. And she’s OK with that.
How much information has to be shared with the people who set her up? Please advise, as we would like an opinion from someone who does not know us and can look at the picture with fresh eyes.
Almost every day, I receive e‑mails and phone calls with questions about whether to reveal one’s personal situation, and when. And as you can imagine, just from the various answers you are receiving in your own family, there is no one answer that will satisfy all parties.
Whatever you end up doing, you need to glimpse the situation from an observer’s perspective. Because the way others will react, and the final result, must always be in favor of your child. So let’s take a trip into the mind of a boy (and his parents) being redd to your daughter as a prospective shidduch.
When a boy enters the parashah of shidduchim, it is assumed by his parents that he will have a long list of names to choose from. Whether such a scenario actualizes for him or not, his parents want what they consider the finest girl, with zero challenges. That mindset is sometimes in place even where the boy may be dealing with his own challenges.
So, yes, if it becomes known that your daughter is functioning well as a result of medication and therapy, she will likely get rejected even by those dealing with similar issues. That’s a sad fact of life in our frum circles that cannot be denied.
It is admirable that you don’t want to trick people into assuming that everything is really mainstream, only to discover later on that it is not so. And you are correct: once the truth comes out after being concealed, you will have a mess on your hands. Many divorces happen because it was only after marriage that the pills came into plain view on the dresser or nightstand, and things then became a nightmare for both sides.
But can there be a happy medium? The answer, in my opinion, is yes.
You ask if this is something for you share with shadchanim you meet. So, let’s understand the essence of a shadchan. Many years ago, back in the days of the shtetels in Europe, each village had its appointed shadchan. These shadchanim were usually under the kehillah’s employ, and they were sworn to secrecy regarding whatever information was shared with them, or their job was at stake. And that was not a complete guarantee of confidentiality, either, but at least one knew that the shadchan would be careful in choosing a compatible shidduch based on what she privately knows.
And even until not too long ago, there were not that many practicing shadchanim. Additionally, most shadchanim perform shadchanus as a chesed. It used to be very tedious work, with back-and-forth conversations and correspondence, and not too many people wanted to put themselves out there in such a selfless and dedicated way.
Nowadays, there is no such thing as the town or village shadchan, nor is shadchanus as difficult as in previous years. With the advent of shidduch résumés, which have made it easier to do shadchanus, it became trendy for many people to call themselves shadchanim. These shadchanim are often no longer worried about a professional responsibility to keep matters confidential, so not only is everything you say possibly shared with others, but nowadays there is so much networking (WhatsApp, Facebook, etc.) in shidduchim that your private information has the potential to end up on social-media groups.
So it is my advice that you should not share your daughter’s history with any shadchan. If your daughter gets set up by a trusted friend who is aware of her dependency on medication and therapy, then hopefully she will use her discretion and perhaps introduce her to someone that either has a similar condition himself or has a close family member who does.
What is foreign to us can feel scary. For those who have not experienced ADHD, hearing of medication, therapy, or any diagnosis will typically build imaginary monsters in their head. But when experienced firsthand, and seeing how normal and successful such people are in society, one tends to be much more open-minded. But you cannot rely entirely on her friends or yours to suggest shidduchim.
That leaves the other options. The first is dealing with shadchanim. And as I said, you will never be sure that what you say will remain confidential. Or, even worse, it might be exaggerated. Unless you have a shadchan whom you fully trust, there is no reason to share any personal information with him or her. There are shadchanim who are known to deal with special cases, but you may not be comfortable with the boys they will suggest to you, as someone else’s issue may not be something your daughter will be equipped to handle.
It sounds like your daughter functions like any mainstream young lady, despite her manageable issue. So she may not be happy marrying an unconventional boy. Therefore, if your daughter dates a boy who is not in a similar situation, it is best that she be the one to share that information with him. Because when he meets her, he will see all her wonderful qualities for himself. And if it appears that he likes her, it is at that point that she should reveal the truth to him.
I would recommend that she confide in him on the first date, or by phone if he wants a second date. Do not let it go to a second or third date without saying anything, as some authorities suggest. Not only will the other party feel that his time was stolen should he refuse to date her after hearing the facts, but your daughter may develop feelings of fondness for the boy, and she will in all likelihood get hurt in the process. So, yes, in my opinion, it is in everyone’s best interest to tell him on or immediately after the first date.
As another option, there are also rabbis who involve themselves with shidduchim. It might be a good idea to seek them out, and being that they are privy to other people’s stories and issues, they might be a good resource to help your daughter find someone compatible who will appreciate her.
Finally, neither you nor I have any idea how your daughter feels about all this. You have not discussed it with her, because you don’t want to treat her as a person with an illness. And you are right; she is not ill. She is a strong and admirable girl who has dealt with challenges and overcome them, and that is meritorious. So you and your husband need to sit down with her for a heart-to-heart talk. Praise her for her accomplishments and stress how proud you are of her. Express that you feel blessed that Hashem has gifted you with such an amazing daughter.
I am sure she is aware of how shidduchim are conducted these days, especially if she was in seminary and heard the other girls talking. Tell her what was discussed in this article, as well as how you and her father and grandparents feel. Then ask her how she would feel most comfortable going about this chapter of her life. She may have an entirely different idea. Respect her wishes, and make it known that her happiness will always come first. Be sure that she understands that you will always support her decisions and choices in life.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.