Q: Should I marry my pregnant girlfriend? Our relationship has always been one of convenience, and neither of us considered it permanent. She intends to raise the baby, and I want to do my part. But my girlfriend has some significant life issues, and we'd face huge obstacles if we married.
Jim: First, let me commend you for accepting responsibility for the choices you've made -- including life for your baby. However, marriage shouldn't be seen as a "quick fix." There are many things that need to occur and questions that need to be answered.
First, sit down together and work though the practical implications of pregnancy. Once you've talked this out, it might be appropriate to broach the subject of marriage. There's a long list of things you should consider, such as emotional maturity and stability, shared values and spiritual commitment, the support of your families and adequate financial resources.
If these issues would make it difficult for either of you to commit to a lifelong relationship, I'd suggest you put aside thoughts of marriage for the time being and think about how you can financially support your child and stay engaged as a dad. On the other hand, if the building blocks for a strong marriage are in place, I'd encourage you to consider premarital counseling with a qualified marriage counselor.
Keep in mind, too, that marriage isn't the only way to provide for your child's future. A plan for adoption may be in everyone's best interest. You might want to talk to a local pregnancy resource center about this option.
Responsibility doesn't come without sacrifice -- whichever path you both believe to be wisest going forward. But it's important that you consider how your decisions will affect this new life. If Focus on the Family can help you through the process, please call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
Q: My mother-in-law is a lifelong hypochondriac. The doctors have told her she's fine, and most refuse to see her anymore. She's driven my husband's family crazy for years, and now it's affecting our relationship. My husband says we should just ignore her behavior, but when we do, she gets upset and calls continuously. I feel like my husband needs to confront her, but he's afraid to rock the boat. What should we do?
Dr. Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: This isn't an easy situation. The frustrations and challenges you're facing are very real. Unfortunately, hypochondriasis is more than just an annoying behavior. It's a legitimate anxiety disorder that requires professional treatment. If this course hasn't yet been pursued, I'd encourage your husband and his family to explore this option.
While you can't guarantee changes in your mother-in-law's behavior, you do need to address the challenges it presents to your marriage. It's critical that you and your husband approach this as a team and not just something he needs to fix. Begin by determining what you both really need and want. For you, it's a limit on unhealthy communication with your mother-in-law. Your husband probably has the same desire, but also wants to preserve the relationship with his mom. He may fear that imposing any restriction on interactions with her will threaten that -- especially since his mother may have instilled feelings of guilt at a young age about him "not being supportive."
Once you've both identified your core needs, devise and implement a solution that accommodates them. As difficult as it might be, establishing some firm boundaries with her should be a part of your plan. For direction on how to navigate this road, I recommend getting a copy of "Boundaries," by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Our licensed counselors would also be happy to help.
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.