Should I marry my pregnant girlfriend? Our relationship has always been fine, but I've never really thought we'd be together for the rest of our lives. This changes everything. She will be keeping and raising the baby, and I'd like to do my fair share, as well. My girlfriend has some major issues in life, and I'm certain that we'd face huge obstacles if we were to marry right now. In spite of this, I'm thinking about proposing. Many of my Christian friends have encouraged me to do this. What advice do you have?
Before saying anything else, we want to applaud your intentions to take responsibility for your actions and choices. As you seem to realize, your first concern is to accept and embrace the real-life consequences of the choice you've made. This is something you need to do in any case, whether marriage is part of the equation or not. Having fathered a child, it's important that you assume and take seriously the duties of a father. You need to get a job (if you don't already have one) and dedicate a substantial portion of your earnings to the financial support of mother and baby. You should also make a strong commitment to staying engaged as a dad. Obviously, this piece of the puzzle will have to be re-evaluated if your girlfriend chooses to move away and raise your child elsewhere.
Meanwhile, if you look at your situation realistically, we think you'll realize that it has resulted in a very real loss for everyone concerned-you, your girlfriend, and both sets of parents. All of you need to be prepared to accept that loss for what it is and spend some time grieving over it. On your parents' side, this may mean letting go. They need to relinquish control and recognize that they aren't necessarily in a position to influence the destiny of their grandchild or mold your future relationship with your girlfriend. (Be aware that they may be strongly tempted to try.) For you, it will probably involve setting aside some of your most cherished hopes and dreams for the time being, and giving up much of the personal freedom that comes with adolescence and young adulthood.
To a certain extent, these losses are irrecoverable. Some of the things you've forfeited can never be regained no matter what you do. This is why you need to be very careful about the advice you've received from some of your friends. Marriage is not a "quick fix" for your dilemma. Quick fixes rarely work. They're never a substitute for genuine redemption of a bad situation. That takes grace, courage, and creativity. It may even require a certain amount of redemptive suffering.
If you want to start moving in this direction, we suggest you begin by getting some professional counseling. If possible, you, your girlfriend, and both sets of parents should participate. Don't rush the process. Take as much time as you need. Face the situation squarely and come up with some workable solutions. You may also want to talk to the staff of a local Pregnancy Resource Center to find out what kind of support is available to your girlfriend and your child.
As circumstances permit, sit down together and sift through all of the practical implications of this pregnancy. Where will mom and baby live? How will expenses be paid? Who will cover them? What about balancing jobs and financial responsibilities with educational requirements? How will you establish appropriate roles and suitable boundaries for parents and grandparents? Are you, your girlfriend, and your parents prepared to face the social pressures that are likely to arise as you travel this road together? Don't underestimate the power of peer-group opinion. It can place formidable obstacles in the way of righteous, responsible action.
Once you've talked all this out it might be appropriate to broach the subject of marriage. Naturally, there's a long list of important considerations you'll want to include in this discussion. Do you and your girlfriend genuinely love one another? Are you ready to commit yourselves to the task of building and maintaining a solid marriage and a stable home? Are your families capable of mentoring you and supplying practical assistance along the way? Are you both believers, or do you have spiritual differences that need to be worked out before moving ahead? No marriage can be expected to go the distance unless it's firmly grounded, both spiritually and in terms of practical resources. It goes without saying that an unintended pregnancy doesn't qualify as a reliable foundation for a life-long relationship.
If your girlfriend is not a Christian, or if the "issues" you've mentioned would make it hard for you to live together, we'd urge you to put all thoughts of marriage aside for the time being. Don't assume that these problems will go away by themselves once you say "I do." Remember that when you marry someone, you are actually saying, "I love you and accept you just the way you are." It's a serious mistake to jump into a lifelong commitment on the presumption that, given time, your partner will change. That could happen, but then again it may not.
If, on the other hand, the building blocks of a strong Christian marriage are in place, there's no reason why you and your girlfriend shouldn't take a closer look at matrimony (we realize that this may be a very big "if"). But first make sure that this what both of you really want. And be prepared to face some struggles along the way and to seek outside help when the road gets rough.
One last thought. A hasty marriage isn't necessarily the only way to provide for the future of this child. You and your girlfriend may want to consider making an adoption plan for the baby. As you probably know, there are many Christian families who are in a good position to adopt. In lots of cases they are more than willing to cooperate and communicate with the birth families. We think it would be a good idea to pray about this option and explore the possibilities as the Lord leads.
If either of you feel you need professional assistance, our staff would be happy to provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists practicing in your area who would can help you sort out your options. Our counselors would also consider it a privilege to discuss your situation with you over the phone. Contact us for a free consultation.
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