I am currently engaged to a wonderful man who has some pretty significant health issues. We are living together and are planning on getting married in about a month. I am divorced with a 6-year-old son. I also work full time. My previous marriage was with someone who was emotionally abusive and created a lot of debt in our marriage. I have been with my fiancée’ for 1 1/2 years and he is a great guy and we love each other very much. He is also wonderful to my son, and they have a great relationship.
Currently, my fiancée is diabetic and in kidney failure. He is on the list to get a new kidney. He is also on dialysis. He frequently has low blood sugars, which need to be treated, and I have had to call 911 for him several times. He was laid off from his job about a year ago, through no fault of his own, just the company downsized. He became self-employed, and was able to find some work, but it has not been consistent. Right now, due to him being on dialysis and all of his appointments, I am concerned as to whether or not he is able to work a full time job. He has not applied for disability yet. He may also lose the ability to drive in the near future, due to his health issues.
My concern is not how he treats me or if we should be together, it’s more of a financial concern. After my divorce, I worked very hard to get out of the financial situation I was placed in. I have gotten out of it, and although I am not rich, my son and I are okay.I am afraid of his health issues causing a great deal of debt, especially with him being unable to work. Once we got married, he would go on my insurance, and probably, Medicare as well. I am afraid that if we got married, I would also be responsible for his debts.
Thank you for your advice and help.
Dr. Dan’s response:
A: We are glad you are asking this important question. Each of us has viewed it in a way that is different with different highlights. Hopefully you will be able to sort through the two views and find a decision that makes sense to you.
My take on this is functional.
“The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
We live in a world where love is not enough to bank our emotional wellbeing. The fact that you have developed such a wonderful relationship with each other is great. Now it gets down to the hard work of each of you taking care of each other’s future in the sanest way possible, without the potential downside. Considering your past the fact that you are asking these questions up front is a clear sign of improvement.
There are six things I would do before actually tying the knot. Here they are in order of importance:
- I would advocate for a legal consult first and foremost protecting your assets and his care, as well as the care of your 6-year-old. There are many needs to be considered and legal consultation will help you determine your rights, his needs, and your son’s.
- I would find a disability lawyer who specialized in SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) who can help your fiancé navigate the often murky waters of the system. This tends to be a specialized law practice and finding someone knowledgeable would be a great help. Here is a list of lawyers to review and find one with this specialty. I believe this is essential because this is often a process that takes time, and he may need to get this started while he is not yet married.
- I would consult with a medical social worker where your fiancé is having his dialysis. He or she may be able to direct you to resources within the community for transportation, rehabilitation programs, and mental health services available to him for little or no fee.
- I am not familiar with the laws in your state, but if you were divorced and receiving alimony and child support you will want to check with a knowledgeable attorney to find out if your settlement from your divorce changes once you get married. You may be able to get a free consult from lawyers associated with the women’s center in your county, or from legal aid if you qualify.
- I would pursue couples counseling through the hospital where he is receiving dialysis. Often the outpatient department of treating hospitals has therapists knowledgeable of the stressors encumbered by the conditions treated. If they do not have couples therapy you may be able to find a couples therapist through the find help link at the top of this page.
- You may also want to check with you insurer about the coverage of pre-existing conditions if you get married and he joins your plan. I know there are many big changes coming in the health care system, but they are not fully realized as of yet and you will want to know if there is any sort of restriction they could place on him.
The confluence of psychological, legal and financial needs and information often creates complex decisions requiring thoughtful consultation with professionals. In your instance you will want to make sure the precious resources you have accumulated, as well as resources available from the government and supporting facilities, will be used in a way that benefit all three of you.
I would postpone your wedding until you have some definitive information that it will be an advantage for you all.
Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Marie’s turn:
I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special. — Shelby in “Steel Magnolias”
AND –once you two have done the responsible thing and gotten the legal/financial/practical issues out of the way — by all means do something to celebrate your love.
I do believe in romance. I love the quote from the movie “Steel Magnolias.” There are far too many lonely, unhappy, unloved people in the world. If you’ve been lucky enough to win the prize of a loving relationship with a man who cherishes you and who embraces your son as his own – I say “Go for it!” I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that marriage is the best way to lay the foundation for a life together. However, I also believe that a mother’s first obligation is to protect herself and her child in a circumstance where life together may be far too short. If the worst happens and your partner becomes totally incapacitated or dies, you need to be prepared to take care of your son. That means good credit and little to no debt.
For that reason, I want to remind you that in most states there are really two “marriages,” one for yourselves (and perhaps your church) and one for the state. It’s possible, and sometimes advisable, to have one without the other. If being married in the eyes of the state puts you at financial risk that is unacceptable to the two of you, maybe you want to stick with a ceremony and celebration for yourselves and those who love you but that does not include making it legal. I suggest you talk to an attorney to find out what your options are in your state and how your state regards living together over the long run.
Please do follow Dan’s advice about the practical matters. Protect your love by doing all you can to prevent unpleasant financial surprises. You don’t want to end up feeling resentful and he doesn’t ever want to feel that he is a burden. Neither feeling is good for a relationship. Once you are clearer about all the facts, you’ll be able to decide which kind of marriage makes the most sense for all of you.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Aug 2010
Daniel J. Tomasulo, D. (2010). Should I postpone the wedding?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 3, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/10/should-i-postpone-the-wedding/