I care for my disabled parent. Is it unrealistic to hope for marriage?

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I care for my disabled parent. Is it unrealistic to hope for marriage?

May 31, 2011 |Candice Watters
Question

I am a single, 28-year-old female who has been taking care of a disabled parent since I was 19 years old.

Is it unrealistic to hope for marriage, given my circumstances? I would love to have a husband and children. I would also want a partner in life with whom I could share this responsibility. People often tell me that I'm so lucky I'm still single, since single people supposedly have no responsibilities. In my case, that's not true at all! I feel as though I have all the responsibilities of marriage and none of the benefits. I often long for the emotional support a husband might offer.

Nevertheless, my hope is often crushed when I contemplate that most men aren't going to want to sign up for caring for a disabled parent. Most people don't want to take care of their own parents as they age, let alone someone else's.

Am I being unrealistic to hope for marriage? Has anyone heard of anyone else ever marrying someone with a disabled parent? Am I giving up hope too soon?

Answer

Thanks for writing. You’ve asked a particularly intriguing question, especially given our American tendency to put ailing parents in nursing homes. Your sacrificial care for a loved one with a long-term disability is commendable. If you are allowing God to sanctify you through this service, embracing the hardship of it to mature your character, I suspect you’ll be a desirable candidate for wife.

Of course you’ve noticed that the circumstances that have the potential to make you more marriageable are also the circumstances that make it harder to get out and meet godly men, go on dates and develop a romantic relationship. But that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. Far from it. You are still young, and God is mighty. If marriage is part of His plan for your life, He will show you the way, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

That’s the overarching spiritual truth of your situation. But you still have a role to play in the practical details of getting to marriage.

It’s one thing to care for a parent in addition to living the life God created you to live. It’s quite another if caring for your parent has become your life. Even if it made sense to pour all of your energy into that role at 19, it may not be your duty to do so till one of you dies.

What is your plan for the next decade? What if you never marry? Do you have siblings who are able to help share the load? Is your Mom or Dad a member of a church body where other believers could help you? Is part-time, in-home nursing care a possibility? It’s hard for me to say what other help you should be pursuing because I don’t know the specifics of your situation. But I do wonder if you have help (and think you should, whether you marry or not).

At a minimum, I would encourage you to join a church (if you’re not already a member) (see Why We Love the Church and Stop Dating the Church). Every believer needs the fellowship, nurture and accountability unique to church membership. It’s not possible to get that stuff in casual spiritual relationships. And you need the refreshment that comes from weekly corporate worship.

You also need times away from your duties as caregiver (the same way I need times away from my duties as Mom). Everyone needs a few hours of down time where they can think and pray and not be “on call.”

It may be that God will bring a man into your life during one of these times away from home. Another likely route to meeting a husband is through a mentor who knows of your desire to marry. Meeting someone through a mutual friend is still one of the best ways to find a spouse.

You’ve said you hope to marry so that you will have the emotional support a husband would offer. If you go into marriage looking for what you’ll get from it, rather than what you’ll give, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. As difficult as this may sound, I do believe you’re going to have to separate your search for a mate from your role as caregiver.

What I mean is that if you fall in love and marry a godly man, your primary role will be as his wife, as his helper. If the two of you together decide that you should continue caring for your disabled parent, and that is certainly a possibility, you would still need to approach it differently once you’re a wife.

If you were to become a mom, your list of primary responsibilities would grow to include your children. That’s not to say that you would neglect your parent, but that you would need to bring in others to help.

The primary reason to marry can’t be to have someone with whom to share your care-giving responsibilities. (Again, if your responsibilities in that realm are overwhelming, why not look for help now?)

I would encourage you to take your desire to the Lord in prayer. He knows what we need before we ask; still He tells us to pray. He wants us to ask. Ask Him for wisdom about the best way to care for your Mom (or Dad); ask for help in providing that care; and ask Him to give you a vision for your life going forward, including a biblical perspective of marriage.

Throughout Scripture, new babies are the balm of old age. That’s no less true today and certainly not less applicable when the one who is aging is disabled. I pray that God will make a way for you to marry for your good and His glory, to have children and raise up the next generation of your family for the kingdom, even as you continue to honor your father and mother (Exodus 20, Ephesians 6).

Sincerely,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2011 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

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