I have been going out with a medical student for a while, and he just recently told me that he was diagnosed with ADD when in high school. He also told me that he takes medication before an exam, but otherwise he says he doesn’t need it.

My parents are very worried about this relationship and would be happier if I broke up with this guy. They talk about young couples who got divorced because the guy was on medication, and they are scared that this can happen to me.

I spoke to my friends about it and they think my parents are making a big deal out of it. They also say that almost everyone takes meds these days.

In the meantime, my parents are speaking to shadchanim to find me someone else to go out with.

I really like this guy. He is exactly what I am looking for. Do you think my parents are overreacting?


By Baila Sebrow

With the divorce rate amongst young couples on the rise, it is normal for their parents to feel apprehensive. Furthermore, we are hearing more stories of how emotional disorders–in men and women–have been a primary factor in many of these divorces.

But these divorces are caused not so much by the fact that the husbands or wives are on medication. Rather, there are two related problems.

First, there are those who decide, after they get married, to take themselves off their medical protocol without their doctor’s approval. Some do so because they feel healthy and have convinced themselves that they are cured. Others say that being on medication makes them feel like a zombie.

And then there are those who have withheld their condition from the people they were dating–sometimes not revealing it even after the wedding–because they were afraid of being rejected or were embarrassed of the stigma. Compared with physical problems, there is often greater shame regarding emotional conditions, as when it comes to shidduchim, our frum society does not take kindly to those who are afflicted. But of course the spouse eventually finds out, one way or another. Anyone who suffers from a malady cannot hide it for too long from the person he is living with. When a spouse was deceived and not told while dating that there is a medical condition, that is usually the major factor in any resulting divorce.

Such problems can still be avoided in your case, but it is problematic in its own way. Although the guy you are dating is commendable for revealing to you that he has a diagnosed condition and that he needs medication at certain times, I still believe there was some deception. You indicate that you have been dating this guy for a while, and only recently has he revealed “by the way, I have ADD.” Forgive my sarcasm, but I have a problem with the timing. Why did he wait until the relationship progressed before telling you what he should have told you earlier? It might have been a decision he made on his own, or he might subscribe to the recent ideology of waiting until late in the dating stage to disclose a medical circumstance.

Many authorities support and advocate this belief. The logic behind it is that people are looking to marry someone seemingly in perfect health, so making a condition known from the get-go will possibly result in immediate rejection. And it has happened in years past that when a prospective shidduch was suggested along with an issue he or she might be dealing with, it almost always guaranteed a “no.”

And so these authorities came up with the resolution of holding off the disclosure for a while, the theory being that after the couple dates for a while and feelings have developed, saying no will not be easy, and the shidduch will usually take place even in light of a serious matter. However, that in itself is advocating deception in not being upfront from the beginning.

And that is my issue with your current shidduch. I would have been a lot more comfortable had you been informed early on. Furthermore, I believe that if your parents had known sooner, they would not be objecting as they are now. I have a feeling that they would have looked into this boy’s life, and seeing that he is successful in his studies and other areas would have made them feel more at ease. Additionally, it would have empowered them–and you–to make an educated and fair decision.

But we cannot go back to how it should have been handled; we have to deal with the situation as it stands now. I understand that your parents feel that being on medication might be a cause for divorce. But in actuality, the problem is usually that the person takes himself off medication, and the condition deteriorates to the point where he is not easy to live with.

In this case, I believe that the guy you are dating will not be taking himself off medication, for one simple reason: he is pursuing a career in medicine, where his studies will not end with the grant of a diploma. Practicing medicine involves career-long study. Moreover, as a doctor, he would be more familiar with the repercussions of self-diagnosing and stopping medication based on a personal hunch. Chances are that even if he reaches a point where he might start believing that he can function without any intervention, he will consult with a medical professional.

It sounds like you are determined to proceed with this relationship, as you do not seem to have any qualms about what this guy has revealed. It would, however, be to your benefit to familiarize yourself with his condition. Although it may not be serious, and in fact many people suffer from the same condition but have yet to be diagnosed, you still need to know more about it.

People with attention-deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD) manifest certain behavioral patterns. You need to find out whether it would be good for him to be on medication even when not taking an exam. Also very important to understand is that some people with ADD need to be in therapy. Is he in therapy? If not, would therapy be helpful for him? What would it be like for him if he forgets to take his medication? These are some questions that need to be answered, and there are many more.

It would not be considered nosy for you to ask this guy any and every question that comes to your mind, and my advice is that you should do so. It could be that his condition is mild, but it might also be that he has other issues not yet revealed. In cases like yours, I usually recommend suggesting to the guy that he allow you to speak to his clinician. If he does not agree, then I would reevaluate this relationship.

I want to make clear that there are many successful people out there who have been diagnosed with ADD who lead happy and productive lives. As long as you have all the information and feel comfortable that this guy is someone whom you can marry and be proud to have as the father of your children, G‑d willing, you should definitely proceed with the relationship.

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 Ï–

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