Should we break up because of my girlfriend's health issues?

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Scott Croft

Should we break up because of my girlfriend's health issues?

Jun 23, 2015 |Scott Croft
Question

I'm in my late-20s, have been dating my girlfriend for eight months, and have never been married. As we get closer to possibly getting engaged, a couple health conditions of hers have given me pause, and I don't know how they should weigh into my decision to propose.

In short, my girlfriend has never had a period, and doctors can't explain why. She was on hormone therapy until a couple years ago when it was discovered that she has a genetically increased chance of developing blood clots. As such, any doctors she has already seen will not place her on hormone therapy because it increases the chance of clotting.

The ramifications are twofold: (1) Modern medicine probably won't intervene to help her get pregnant. Short of a miracle, she probably can't bear natural children. We are both open to adoption. (2) Probably the one bothering me more right now is such hormone imbalances can result in decreased sex drives.

While she doesn't think this is the case for her now, she just doesn't know, nor can we predict the future. She is a believer in spouses giving to one another intimately, even when they don't necessarily feel like it.

Our relationship has been based on friendship, pursuing God together in increasing degrees, and good (sometimes courageous) communication. She's a great woman, on a steady positive trajectory in her faith, and she is what I asked God for: a grace giver. She has been quick to forgive my past sins and forbear in my present weaknesses. It is perhaps ironic that I am now struggling with her physical limitations.

I don't know if her health factors should give me pause or if I am called to love her as I would want to be loved if the shoe were on the other foot. Most couples find out this kind of thing after getting married, and I kind of wish that was the case here.

Answer

Let me offer some encouragement right off the bat. This is a tough question to ask, and you seem to be taking a hard, open look at your own heart in asking it and presenting it in the way that you have. Praise God for your maturity and faithfulness in that. Now it's probably time to take an even deeper dive into mature biblical manhood.

I'll assume from your question that attraction, affection and the quality of your relationship generally don't present a barrier to marriage for you. Bottom line, this is ultimately an issue of conscience, and no one can say you must marry this woman or that you are necessarily in sin if you don't. With all that said — and based on the information you've provided in your question — it doesn't seem to me that the health issues you describe, in and of themselves, provide a solid biblical reason to end the relationship. In fact, I think several practical factors and biblical principles suggest you should not end the relationship solely over these health concerns.

Your girlfriend seems to meet biblical criteria for what you should seek in a wife.

You seem to have found a really good woman as God defines it. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3 that what God esteems in a woman (and therefore what we as men should value as well) is not primarily based on physical or external attributes but on character, "the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…" (1 Peter 3:4). Proverbs 31:30 makes the same point, after discussing the attributes of an exemplary godly woman, that "[c]harm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

By your own description, my friend, you have found a woman who is a good friend, who wants to pursue God with you, with whom you can communicate well, who is mature in her faith and growing steadily, and who has herself already shown a willingness to forgive your past sins and to choose the "sacrifice" of forbearing with your present weaknesses (which, I'm sure you both know, will not magically disappear if you get married).

For good measure, you describe her as having the mature understanding that husbands and wives are to care unselfishly for one another sexually rather than continually prioritizing their own preferences or desires. There are plenty of people — already married and without any particular physical issues — who lack that perspective.

In short, she sounds like a "great woman" (to quote your question), as both the Bible and a wise single man would define that term.

The "sacrifices" you're contemplating are part of your calling as a biblical husband anyway.

Your advance knowledge of some of the particular difficulties (or, more accurately, possible difficulties) that marriage to this woman might involve doesn't make you much different from other men pursuing a godly marriage. Every husband is called expressly by God to "love your wi[f]e, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:25-27, emphasis added). We are all called to give up ourselves for the spiritual, emotional and physical good of our wives. By the very nature of the decision to undertake marriage, every husband "chooses" in advance to make sacrifices for the good of his wife.

As you said in your question, no one can predict the future. It's actually both worse and better than you think. In addition to the difficulties you think you already know (assuming one or both actually comes to fruition), there will be other things that you discover about this woman and your relationship with her if you marry her that will be hard and that are not easy fixes. But, there will also be many amazing things, in addition to the several attributes you've described about your girlfriend, that you discover about her and your relationship only in the context of marriage. Welcome to the wonderful mystery of marriage!

Your decision makes a statement about the Gospel.

Remember as well, that, as the above passage from Ephesians makes clear, marriage is a picture of the Gospel, and your decision about how to approach marriage and even who to marry says something about your understanding both of marriage and the Gospel itself. Jesus saved us not because of what we could bring to the table to meet His needs, but because of His own sacrificial love for us.

I would encourage you to consider how you would explain a decision not to marry this woman — to her, to your own Christian friends, to others. What statement about the Gospel, and about what it means to be a husband, would that explanation make?

I know this is a lot to think through, and I will pray for you to have wisdom. The last paragraph of your question actually presents an interesting summary of marriage, but it presents a false choice. Because each of us is a sinner, there are things about our husband or wife that give each of us "pause" from the standpoint of our own self-interest. Should we love each other as we would want to be loved anyway? That question answers itself.

Blessings,
SCOTT CROFT

Copyright 2015 Scott Croft. All rights reserved.

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