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here’s no bigger simchah for me than hearing that one of my patients is getting married. Beyond the sincere pleasure of knowing that two neshamos have found their zivug and are reuniting together as one, there is the unique happiness in knowing that my patient reached a point of stability to successfully navigate the shidduch process.

I’m grateful to note that the vast majority of my patients — like most people in the world — end up getting married. The monumental changes of marriage often require extra navigation, but with siyata d’Shmaya, most pull through.

I generally encourage my patients to wait until they’ve reached a stable place for a significant period of time before starting shidduchim. For many, this is about a year — and studies have shown that most people who have been stable for a year are likely to be successful moving forward, but that the initial 12 months of treatment are likely to be fraught with the greatest risk of relapse. That being said, there are plenty of exceptions, and perhaps the most important thing is for an individual to show stability, treatment-compliance, and an ability to handle the natural ups and downs of each season before embarking on the lifelong journey of marriage.

In addition to my own patients, I often see new consultations— young men and women interested in beginning shidduchim. The story is usually standard: I’ll receive a phone call from Mom, Dad, the rabbi or the rebbetzin who will tell me, “Moishe wants to start shidduchim but we want to make sure he’s fine before we make it happen.”

I encourage them to bring records of treatments and medications from previous doctors and therapists. I also usually ask Mom and Dad as well as some other relevant party to write me the young person’s story and tell me how everything is going nowadays. Then I’ll meet the patient and parents, review the information, and if everything seems stable, I’ll wish them hatzlachah and tell them to send me an invitation. If not, I’ll often encourage other treatment options that will hopefully help to facilitate a better recovery and allow the young person to move on with life.

Shuli seemed like a pretty straightforward consultation, according to her mother who had scheduled the visit. She had been learning in seminary for the past two years and was now ready to get married.

Shuli came to the appointment on time, was dressed immaculately, and was respectfully sitting with her mother in the waiting room.

“Hi Shuli, it’s nice to meet you,” I said as we sat down and she handed me letters from her psychiatrist back home and her current therapist here in Jerusalem.

I reviewed the letters, which described a young woman who had a history of OCD as a teenager. With high-quality psychotherapy and medication, her symptoms had improved significantly and now she was considered stable. The nightly hand-washing rituals that had kept her awake throughout high school were gone, and with a good response to cognitive behavioral therapy, she was able to taper off of her medication over the past year. 

“Shuli,” I said, “it looks like you’re doing great — you’ve made some amazing progress.”

Shuli blushed. Her mother breathed a big sigh of relief.

“You know, Dr. Freedman,” Shuli’s mother began, “we are so proud of our daughter’s hard work. She’s really a changed person, baruch Hashem.”

We went through a number of additional questions as I made sure to do my due diligence. In the end, it was clear that Shuli had done solid work and had received appropriate, high-quality care. With this in mind, I prepared one of my standard speeches about how exciting beginning shidduchim was and how I wished her mazel tov. á

“I’m just so glad this is behind me,” Shuli exclaimed. “It’s been tough but baruch Hashem I’m cured, and this will be my little secret.”

“What do you mean?” I questioned as I began to realize where we were headed.

Shuli’s mother jumped in. “It means that she’s fine and cured and we don’t need to talk about this at all during shidduchim because it’s not like she was suicidal or dangerous or anything like that.”

True, Shuli had received good care, but I wasn’t sure that “cured” was an appropriate word — and was therefore a bit nervous as to where this was going.

“Look, I don’t want to be a party pooper, but I think we need to have this conversation,” I said. “Baruch Hashem you’re doing great, but OCD, like many mental illnesses, has a significant risk of relapse. Mom, you’re right that Shuli doesn’t have an atrocious history of psychiatric hospitalizations or other serious challenges, but I think the idea of totally hiding what she went through isn’t such an honest one.”

Shuli began to speak but her mother put up her hand to shush her. “Dr. Freedman, with all due respect, you’re not here to pasken halachah for us. Our rav already told us that if everything is stable and she’s not taking medications or in therapy, we don’t need to say a word.”

“You’re right — I’m not a rebbe and not your rav. But I’ve had the opportunity to discuss this specific issue with a number of gedolim and the answer is pretty consistent: Honesty in shidduchim is the best policy.”

“Who would ever date someone who’d seen a shrink? Now you’re the crazy one, Dr. Freedman,” Shuli’s mother said defensively.

“I’m not saying you should open with it. I’m just saying that you need to be honest. My understanding is that you need to discuss this kind of information when things are serious or at least before you get engaged.”

Shuli’s mother was clear. “I disagree.”

“Okay, let’s put your psak aside for a moment: Don’t you think at some stage it’s important for the bochur to be aware of this? Not only is there a reasonable chance that the OCD could reoccur, but it’s the honest thing to do.”

We were at an impasse. On one hand, Shuli’s mother was completely correct: She had asked a question to her rav and had received a psak. It might not be the same psak I’d heard from gedolim, but it was the answer that they were given. My heart went out to this woman who was clearly hoping that she’d receive a stamp of approval, praying she’d never have to think ever again about her daughter’s mental illness — and certainly not during shidduchim.

On the other hand, I thought about all of the young couples who’d come to my office within the first few months of marriage. Whether the wife had found her husband’s prescription antidepressants, or the husband had realized that his wife’s panic attacks didn’t just happen when she was on an airplane, it was never pretty. Did she have any idea how many divorces came as a result of trying to hide such information during shidduchim?

At this point, my job was to make sure that Shuli and her mother understood the gravity of the decision they were making and its potential ramifications — both during shidduchim and beyond.

“Shuli,” I asked her directly, “would you be happy if a bochur did the same thing to you?”

Shuli answered this one on her own. “No.”

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 734. Jacob L. Freedman is a psychiatrist and business consultant based in Israel. When he’s not busy with his patients, Dr. Freedman can be found learning Torah in the Old City or hiking the hills outside of Jerusalem. Dr. Freedman can be reached most easily through his website www.drjacoblfreedman.com.