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Do I have to tell my date about my "past" addiction?

Dear Rabbi Twerski,

We have a girl on our "women's forum" who was addicted to self-pleasuring and looking at inappropriate things on the internet. She never went farther than that B"H, and was a spiritual girl and top of her class in everything else. But she had this dark secret (I wonder how many "good" girls have these secrets today r"l)... Anyway, since she found our network almost a month ago, she has been clean and guarding her eyes very well. She doesn't even watch movies anymore at all. She's been very inspiring to us all, and to the other girls and women on the forum. Recently, she started going out with a good boy from a top Yeshiva, and she is afraid of telling him about her past "addiction". She sent me the following letter, and asked me if she has to tell her date - at the risk of not only losing a great Shidduch, but the word could even spread... I did not want to take responsibility for answering this question, and so I am passing it on to the Rav. I hope the Rav can guide us on this, because it is an issue that comes up often on our forum. Some of the guys on our forum are dating, at the same time as they are making a strong push for purity. What guidelines can we use for deciding if they have to tell their dates or not? What level of addiction is considered a "disease" (and should be told), and what level could be considered normal "teen-age" struggles that most - or many - guys have? Here is her letter to me:

Ok before I ask you this i wanna say that I'm scared out of my wits to even type it. I was just gonna ignore the whole thing, honestly but i can't cuz that might even be worse.

but first i want you to know my story:

I've had this addiction since forever. I'm not at all exaggerating. This has been going on since kindergarten! I even remember which boy on my bus i fantasized about at 5 years old!  Life was such a mystery and i was curious. (I went to the frummest bais yaakov in ******* and was one of the best in my class. i was even chosen to speak by graduation! And i really am a good girl in mostly all aspects! i dont know how the addicted me connects with the other me!) When my 7th grade teacher told me that Zimri "married someone else" i knew she wasn't saying something completely truthful. Kids can always tell when you lie to them. I also didn't know what "gilui arayos" was in the sheva mitzvos binai noach that we learned in a song in 2nd grade. I have no clue how i knew it was related. In 9th grade my teacher randomly translated gilui arayos. Well that was revealing. A different time my sister asked me if i knew how babies were made. I said that when hashem wanted a lady to have a baby He made a nais and a baby would grow inside of her (Ah, those innocent, pure days). She said "Yes of course it's a nais but don't you think that scientists have some sort of explanation?" I said "no, what is it?" she giggled in an embarrassed way like she thought i'd already known and said "Ask Abba". Well since i saw that she was embarrassed the last thing i was gonna do was ask abba.

Then the yetzer hara stepped in. Since first grade i loved to read. I read cerial boxes, street signs and gobbled up books as fast as i could. My father took us to the library every week. Well one week i ran out of books in 9th grade. So i took a book from my fathers room. Innocent enough- a science fiction/fantasy Lord of the Rings type of book. Well that's when i discovered what i had always been curious about. Now i knew what gilui arayos was. And i wanted more and more. I read all my fathers books- each one with one or 2 "juicy" chapters. I stole them and then read them late at night and returned them when he wasn't home. So easy. Then- how low can you go- i found a web site on short stories to satisfy me. the funny thing is that when the pop up came up that says "Only members ages 17+ can read this story. click yes if you are 17+" i couldn't lie to myself. so i waited till 17... i was in way over my head. In sem i decided to come clean. i worked on it slowly. i was clean for a year and 4 month then i fell. i remember thinking to myself "Stop! This is not the real me! I don't do this! " but i liked it and i completely reverted. I have complete internet access and my own locked office at work. I watched and read whenever i could. B"H with videos i never went all the way down, though i was pretty much there, like 99%. I lived in fear that somehow i'd get discovered even though i meticulously erased my browser history every day. I can't take living double anymore so i won't. i've been clean before- albeit without such access to triggers- and i'm determined to be clean again.

My most recent history is that after i fell with masturbation after sem, i've been reading short stories and watching inappropriate videos on youtube, google, and yahoo (but never anything that they don't permit, b''H). I haven't fallen since I found GuardYourEyes, which is close to a month, and with this guidance i really hope i can make it through tough times. i really think this is behind me. i wanted to stop so badly and i needed and extra push and some accountability.  i've stopped visiting youtube, googlevideo, and yahoo. After i get married i plan to either not have a computer at all or if needed, then a white-list filter. I'm going to continue getting the Chizuk emails and communicating with “trYiNg”, my partner. Even before GuardYourEyes, i stopped reading adult secular books and strictly only read kid's books that aren't jewish! 

Thanks a gazillion! i wish i could erase the past, especially since this started so young. i'm really doing teshuva.

So the question is that i'm going out seriously with an amazing guy from a great yeshiva. He's so special and it's really going well. we've gone out 3 times, spoke twice while i was here and he even bought me nosh for the plane ride and a mini tefilas haderech. when we spoke on the phone i spoke about my difficulty on the plane and he was very understanding. i never said anything about being addicted to ---- though. I'm still scared - even now when i match every symptom - to call myself an addict. I like to think that I've done bad but I'm not inherently bad and this is something i can overcome b'ezras Hashem. It won't be here forever. I wish i could believe that, but i know it isn't true. 

So do i have to tell him? Should I?

I'm getting sick just typing this! i have such a good feeling towards him and i'm so scared of being disappointed. Plus, if he knows and dumps me, the info's out... 

Maybe I should/need to say something like this?

ME: I just read such an interesting article/ Heard such an interesting shiur!

Date: Really? What was it about?

ME: The rav was talking all about overcoming nisyonos. He was explaining that the yetzer hara (Here i'm gonna give an example from shiur that i posted in the forum) speaks to a person and makes them believe that they really want to do something. He was saying all the different kinds of "lines" that the yetzer hara uses to convince us. Like "Oy, you have it so hard, you deserve a little pleasure in life" and "Come on, you're so good, you can do one tiny thing. Plus do you even know how many people do this- if So many people do it- it's not so bad". It even started to sound funny that we believe the yetzer hara. If we're aware of his one liners it's so much easier to face a nisayon.

Date: That's really true. I have a friend that went off the derech, r"l. We really have to daven that Hashem should guide us on the right path.

ME: Yeah, last year they had a huge asifah in B.Y. of Boro Park in Brooklyn about not having internet access. They expected it to be much more well attended than it ended up being. People don't realize how dangerous the internet is. (Take a deep breath and think "Hashem, PLEASE HELP ME NOW!") I used to have such problems going on the internet. The bad web sites are such a trap. You never know what you're clicking on and by then it's too late- you saw it. It's addictive. I really had to work hard to overcome my yetzer harah in that area. It really wasn't easy.

Thank you so much for your guidance.

Rabbi Twerski Responds:

There is an adage, "You're only as sick as your secrets." Revealing information that may ruin a shidduch is understandably very difficult, but keeping it secret creates a constant anxiety and a barrier to mutual trust and sincere communication. Marriages have enough problems without adding secrets.

In the case of alcohol or drug addiction, we generally tell people to avoid even getting into a relationship before one year of solid recovery and with the approval of one's sponsor. One month sobriety is hardly a beginning.

There are many variables. How long was the addiction? Does the person still have urges?

Whenever one decides to tell, one should say, "I must tell you something about myself, but it is with "Bal Tomar." You must promise not to tell it to anyone else.



I passed Rabbi Twerski's answer on to her and she replied:

I guess I'll have to tell him then somehow. I know I'm doing the right thing and acting according to daas torah. Hashem will give the boy the right feelings depending on what's best for both of us. But that's the logical me. The non rational emotional dating 21 year old is shaking in her boots, not eating, not sleeping, and davening on the verge of tears the entire day/s. this is the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my entire life. I have to admit to my prospective chassan, who I really like and admire, that i have this addiction! I mean, Hashem gave this to me when I was 4 years old! IT'S NOT MY FAULT! but I still have to deal with it. Please can you daven for me? I need all the help I can get. I'm so scared!

A few days later she writes as follows:


Wow! I can not even believe that last night happened!

From the beginning: he picked me up at 6:45. we went to a park- it was gorgeous. I felt like cinderella- willow trees and little bridges over lakes. We were having a great time and then he started discussing tachlis. deep and heavy hashkafa and life views. Everything was fine in that area. we sat down on a bench near the lake under the moonlight and with a black old fashioned lamp next to us. All of a sudden, HE starts discussing the internet and how bad it is. i knew that he didn't have any issues with it cuz he told me last time that he gave chizuk to another bochur about it and he felt so bad for him.

so i started thinking that i really trust him and that I'm never gonna have a better opportunity to bring it up. It was the right atmosphere, we were already discussing it, and I don't know- Hashem just gave me this feeling like it was a good time. so i took a deep breath, thought of all you GYEers and you and Habib davening for me and i said:

Me: so now i have something i want to discuss with you (he'd been bringing up the topics)

He: (smiles) yeah?

Me: ok, before I tell you I need you to promise me that you won't tell anyone, no matter what happens between us, ok?

He: ok (listening seriously)

Me: I'm really nervous to tell you this. i had very big problems with the internet. i read things that i shouldn't have and watched things that were definitely inappropriate for me.

He: at home?

Me: yeah... not only... I don't want to go into details about it. Boruch Hashem, I got in touch with a big gadol (that's you Guard- this is not the time for anivus) who really helped me out. This is a part of my past that i am not proud of and it was the darkest part of my life. This gadol helped me get over it and even set me up with another frum girl who's also dealing with this issue and we speak every day as sort of accountability partners. we tell each other what's going on, give each other chizuk, and make sure that we don't slip up or act out. Baruch hashem, it's a part of the past and funnily enough, this whole nisayon made me closer to Hashem. i davened so hard to get out of the situation and Hashem sent me help. I never told anyone this and i'm shaking that i'm telling you now.

He: you never told your parents?

Me: no way! They have no clue. but I trust you. I wanted to tell you and I didn't want to have any secrets between us.

He: you know, this is just like I was telling you the other night about that boy. doing a bad thing doesn't make you a bad person. even if you lose a battle, it's ok! we're fighting to win the war and we're up against such a powerful enemy. it's like a regular strong person fighting a world champion boxer! You should know that boys have this much harder.

Me: yeah, so I've heard

He: I'm happy that you told me and you shouldn't think for even one second that i think less of you for it. just the opposite! i'm really happy that you told me. Don't worry about it at all! ok? you are not lowered in my eyes even a drop! ok?

Me: I can't believe this. Thank you so much for being so understanding! it means so much to me! I'm smiling from ear to ear. (and i was also on the verge of tears of happiness!)
The rest of the night is a happy blur...

Thank you Hashem! I felt you holding my hand the entire time and sitting next to me and hugging me tight like a little child in her parent's arms.

Reb Guard, how can i ever thank you enough? no words can suffice to express my heartfelt gratitude. I'm crying with thanks and my heart is bursting with joy as the tears run down my cheeks. The sechar that you will get for this is not describable in mere human terms. I owe you my life, my happiness, and my relationship with this boy and Hashem!

May we share simchos together very soon!

Thank you!

Your humble student.

I passed her letter to Rabbi Twerski and he replied:

I think this is a significant triumph. Do you have her initial request? I would like to have it together with this response to show people how being truthful and not concealing secrets can succeed.



After this, the boy felt that he should still consult with “da’as Torah” and he told his Rav everything and asked if and how to proceed. The Rav suggested that they see a therapist and hear what he has to say. The Rav promised to speak to the therapist afterwards and give the boy his advice at that point.


Here is her letter to us, after the meeting with the therapist:


The therapist was so nice and normal! I felt like a total retard for going but, hey! I had to do it and I'm really proud that I admitted that I need help! I told him my whole situation, from start to finish, with every tiny minute detail- it was very painful. I admitted to stuff in person that I'd never said to anyone in the whole wide world. But, to my shock, he thought it was the most normal thing in the world. He didn't think I was this, like, mutilated teenager or something. He was so logical and normal about it.


When I told him that I'm an active member of GYE, I wish you could've seen the smile on his face! He was so happy and he encouraged me to keep posting and to keep reading the emails- (he reads them too!). I told him not to worry - I'm hooked!


(The Rav still has to discuss with him if I should see a therapist during the engagement and/or right when we get married for a few months).


When I came out, I actually FELT CLEAN for the first time in my life. it was an indescribably happy feeling. I felt free- like I was walking on clouds- and guaranteed of Hashem's loving guiding hand. we were both discussing it and we were laughing out loud with sheer joy!


Although it was incredibly difficult, this has been such a constructive and helpful experience. I feel so lucky that:

A. I have no doubts about him being the right one

B. I know with complete certainty that he is trustworthy, caring, sensitive to my feelings and others, and he can handle difficulties so admirably!

C. we have such open communication. I know that I can talk to him about anything and I never need to hesitate to do that!

D. we both learned how to grow up, not depend on our parents and handle a huge issue the right way- by being guided by daas torah and not being afraid to ask for help


We spoke to the Rav afterward and he spoke to the therapist – and then my unofficial "chassan" asked the rav, "so can we get married?" and the rav said YES and laughed out loud! I can't stop smiling!!!!!!!!!! hodu la'hashem ki tov! and hodu GUARD!!!!!!!!


The words thank you will never be enough to tell describe how grateful I am. May you be zoche to see all the members of GuardUrEyes have such happiness because of you. 




My smile can't possibly get bigger! my chassan was saying that if any chassan and kallah ever felt happier they would simply faint!!!!!!!