Focus on the Family: Marriage is about loving spouse for who she is

Jim Daly

Q: Should I ask my fiancee to be tested for infertility before weíre married? Iíve always wanted my own kids and Iím determined to be intentional about that. If I canít do this with my fiancee, Iím not sure I want to pursue marrying her.

Jim: Iím sorry to put this so bluntly, but you sound like someone who has no clue what marriage is really all about. Your question betrays a self-centered motive that isnít conducive to true marriage on any level. To marry a woman is to promise to love her for who she is -- not for what you think she can do for you. Itís about committing yourself to her ďin sickness and in healthĒ and ďfor better or for worse.Ē Genuine, sacrificial love doesnít ask someone to jump through hoops or pass tests before sealing the deal. Instead, it gives itself away unconditionally and unreservedly.

Once you understand this, youíll be one step closer to laying the foundation for a strong and lasting marriage. At that point, you can sit down with your fiancee and have a deep and serious conversation about your goals and priorities. Among other things, make sure that youíre both on the same page about your desire for children. If you donít pin this down now, it could lead to misunderstandings and big problems down the road. Lay everything out on the table as honestly as you can, with a humble, open heart.

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But whatever you do, donít insist that she submit to infertility testing. Thatís just a way of saying, ďI will love you if ...Ē No woman wants to hear this from the man she plans to spend the rest of her life with.

Q: My mother-in-law is starting to struggle living on her own. My husband feels he needs to honor her and take her in. She lived previously with his brother and caused all kinds of problems, and even tried to break up his marriage. Should I give into my husbandís wishes, even though I think itís risky for us?

Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Rather than ďgive in,Ē which implies someone ďlosing,Ē Iíd encourage the two of you to approach this situation as teammates and find a solution you both feel good about. Once youíve joined forces, identify and talk through your respective concerns. As you do, resist the urge to dismiss or ďtrumpĒ the otherís feelings. As a team, youíll win only when both of your needs are heard and addressed.

In this case, you both have important objectives. You value your marriage and want to protect it. Your husband loves his mom and wants to guard her dignity and ensure that sheís cared for. Your challenge is to find an agreeable solution that satisfies both.

Although the health of your marriage should be your priority, it doesnít necessarily mean that taking your mother-in-law in will destroy your relationship. Ask yourselves, ďGiven what we know, how can we protect our marriage if Mom moves in with us?Ē It may mean a trial run and establishing clear boundaries, which she must respect if sheís to remain under your roof. If she doesnít, it should be understood and acknowledged that ďhonoringĒ and ďproviding forĒ oneís parents doesnít rule out other living arrangements.

Admittedly, not all couples can reach a resolution on their own, and you shouldnít be ashamed to look for help from an objective third party -- perhaps your pastor or a counselor. Our Focus on the Family staff of licensed therapists would be happy to take your call and be of assistance.

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.

Focus on the Family counselors are available Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). Focus on the Familyís website is at www.focusonthefamily.com.

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