Hereditary Defects and Marriage

Should I go ahead with my plans to get married after learning that I'm a carrier of a serious genetic disease? The doctor just told me about this, and my husband-to-be is still unaware. Is this something we need to take into consideration before going forward? If so, what's the best way to raise the subject?

Yes, this is a situation that requires a great deal of careful thought and discussion. If you’re going to practice openness and honesty throughout your marriage, the last thing you want to do is to conceal this information from your intended spouse. In fact, the sooner it’s out in the open, the better.

We’d advise you to find a setting where you can speak comfortably and privately with your fiancé. Break the news to him as calmly, as honestly, and as straightforwardly as possible. Don’t drop hints or beat around the bush. Lay out the facts just as you heard them from the doctor.

You might say something like this: “My physician just told me ______ (describe your condition in medically accurate terms). Among other things, this has possible implications for our plans to have children. I know this must come as a shock to you – it hit me like a ton of bricks – but I think we need to face the question head-on. We’ve made some wonderful plans, but it would probably be a good idea to re-evaluate and review our options. We don’t have to decide anything right away. Let’s take some time to think, pray, and talk things over. This isn’t something to be glossed over lightly.”

Your fiancé’s response to your revelation may tell you a great deal about his character, the quality of his love for you, and the strength of your relationship. But having said this, we should add that both of you need to be very careful about jumping to conclusions on the basis of initial emotional reactions.

When you’re young and in love, it’s easy to say, “Medical conditions and genetic defects don’t matter. Love will conquer all.” We understand that sentiment. But we still think you’d be well advised to examine the facts before making any commitments. It’s important to confront this issue honestly in light of both of your feelings about having children if you want to avoid dashed expectations – and associated marital stress – in the future. So take as much time as you need to deal with the implications of your physical condition on the front end. You won’t regret it.

This process could include going together to discuss the details of your case with the doctor who made the initial diagnosis. You might also want to meet with a physician who specializes in medical genetics, preferably one who is associated with a major medical university. New discoveries are being reported in this field on a regular basis, so we’d strongly recommend that you consult with the most highly qualified authorities you can find. Ask lots of questions and gather all the information you can possibly lay your hands on. Be sure that any decisions you make are based solidly on the most up-to-date medical findings.

There are a couple of very specific questions you should ask before making any final decisions. First, is this disease likely to shorten your life or impair your ability to function as a parent in any way? And second, is there any possibility that your fiancé is also a carrier of the disease? Remember, if you are simply a carrier and don’t actually have the disease yourself, this indicates that you have inherited the condition as a recessive trait. In that case, your children might be carriers too, but they can only have the disease if your spouse is also a carrier. The chance of this happening depends on the frequency at which the gene appears in the general population. One of the best things you can do, then, is to have your fiancé tested for the gene. The results of that test may have significant implications for your future plans.

For the purpose of clarification, we need to mention that Focus on the Family is unswervingly committed to the biblical teaching that all human life is sacred and precious, regardless of age, development, appearance, or ability. Nothing that we have suggested should be taken to imply that our ministry would place a lesser value on any child born with a genetic disease or defect of any kind.

Remember, too, that there are alternatives to having children of your own. Adoption and foster parenting are two possibilities that deserve serious consideration-our ministry offers plenty of useful information on this subject through the Adoption area of our Wait No More® website. You may also be interested in looking over our
Adoption & Foster Care resource list.

Bottom line: you and your fiancé are free to marry or to call off your engagement as the Lord leads. But ultimately you will want to have the assurance that your decision has been made with generous amounts of prayer and by means of a thorough examination of the relevant facts. If you choose to go ahead with your plans, you should do so with your eyes wide open. There’s no underestimating the strength your relationship will derive from knowing that you’ve done your “homework” before tying the knot.

If you’d like to discuss your situation with a member of our staff, Focus on the Family has a team of professional counselors available who would be happy to speak with you over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified premarital and marriage therapists practicing in your area. If this option appeals to you, contact our Counseling department for a free consultation.


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Adoption & Foster Care (resource list)

Marriage Alive


The Adoption Journey

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