[Minor editing to obscure the exact organ disorder per reader request]
Reader: Athol, I’ve been a big fan of your book and blog since the beginning – I congratulate you on your success. It has helped me get through a very difficult part of my life, and gave me direction and answers to questions I didn’t even know I had. (Knowing alpha vs. beta = huge difference!)
I have a question for you that I haven’t yet seen anyone else address on your blog, but one that I think would greatly benefit your readers.
I’m in my early 30’s and I’ve been dating a wonderful woman for a year now, someone I consider marrying in the future. She’s a great partner in life. By that I mean, she’s very pleasing to be around, fun, has good values (so far), fantastic in bed, and due to her having been born and raised in a different country, isn’t tainted by the typical American feminist entitled views – she actually wants to contribute to the relationship and seeks out ways to make it stronger.
Nobody’s perfect – I accept her for who she is – and vice versa. However, she has a hereditary genetic disorder [that will cause organ failure in about 30 years] unless we’ll be able to grow her a new one from her stem cells, which is a very real possibility, but just that – a possibility. She does her best to manage it long term with diet, exercise, low stress, which extends her life but doesn’t cure the disease.
The worst part is that it’s hereditary – our offspring have a 50/50 chance of getting it, unless we decide on genetic testing and in-vitro fertilization (~$30k+), with no guarantee that it’ll work.
From a male body agenda perspective, it’s a huge negative, since a) my potential wife may just pass away in 30 years and I’d have to spend retirement by myself w/o my life partner, b) our offspring will have a high chance of getting this disease and they will lose their mother when they’re also in their young 30’s.
On the flipside, it’s in my best interest to find a wife, who has the qualities I deem vital for a viable and very happy future. In her I see all the things that I always looked for and haven’t seen or found in anyone else – she makes me very happy (dedicated to family as much as I, spectacular in bed, giving and caring, loves adoring her strong husband, among a million other things). As I said, she’s a life partner, a true catch – and I say that from as rational, level headed point of view (as opposed to an emotional one) as I can. Not to sound like I have one-itis, I doubt there’ll be another one like her. And that’s the huge plus – or in other words, a trade-off.
On one hand, I can attempt to find someone who fits the profile (i.e. healthy, smart, sexy, etc) but I will find out something else about them that’ll be a turnoff (as it’s inevitable) – or take my chances with her. Which is what I’ve decided to do.
I’m very curious as to what you think, Athol? I love her and see great things down the line, but the thought of potentially losing her in some time scared the crap out of me. I came to terms with it, though. With most people, you really don’t have much of a clue what they’ll die of (and most of the time, you don’t even think about it), but with her, you’re pretty certain. I didn’t think facing her mortality at this point would happen – but it makes me appreciate every moment w/ her, and saddens at the same time.
I’d really appreciate a response from you. Look forward to your continued success.
Athol: I think your mind is made up and there’s nothing I can say to persuade you otherwise. Which is not to say that I think you are wrong. If this is her only defect, it’s a judgment call.
She does sound good in every way but this. I think you just have to hope like hell that medical science advances in the next twenty years and [a new organ] can be grown from her stem cells and thus can be replaced.
Kids are amazingly expensive to raise. The $30,000 may only amount to 10% of the cost to raise the kid over it’s lifetime. So if you’re in for $300,000, does being in for $330,000 really make that much difference?
How much would the extra health care cost over the child’s life if you get unlucky on the 50/50? $50,000? $200,000? I think you might want to see the cost of in-vitro fertilization as almost like an insurance premium.
I would however make sure this something that is discussed and agreed upon before getting married. These are big decisions and you need to be able to move into the future together with a agreed upon plan. Perhaps instead of a big wedding, you have a small event explaining why, and put all the wedding budget and giftage toward the genetic testing and in-vitro. It’s a romantic tear-jerker of a story to tell and I suspect you’ll get a lot of helping hands. Besides that, shopping for wedding presents is a pain in the ass and the option to just write a check is great.
Passing the disorder onto your children would be a heavy burden to carry through life, both for you and for them. I can very much assure you that genetic matching and evaluation will play a role in dating and match making in the nearish future. If they have a hereditary genetic disorder, their life may be very lonely indeed twenty or thirty years from now. Take a peek at Genepartner and 23andme for example. These are fairly crude now, but not crazy expensive. In a few decades they will be routine and quite accurate.
Personally I passed on pursuing an ill young woman as a potential wife. I wanted her so badly, but I could see the long struggles ahead so pulled back from her. A little while later I meet Jennifer and moved heaven and earth to be with her. Both were excellent decisions and I have no regrets. My life has been amazing with Jennifer.
Life can be random too. I knew a guy who married a perfectly healthy 22-year-old and breast cancer took her within two years. I had a 25-year-old friend killed when she was rear-ended at a red light by a drunk going over 60mph. I also know a guy who was given three months to live when he was born, and one year to live when he was twenty and still made it to age thirty-three before his luck ran out. When Jennifer was twenty-eight and our daughters were still just a baby and a toddler, her mammogram results were sent to our house instead of our doctor and the results bluntly and clearly stated “malignancy.” Jennifer sobbed herself to sleep in my arms every night while I had unstoppable daydreams about her withering away over the next year in pain and despair, leaving me alone with the girls. The biopsy results came back negative. Then much the same shit happened again eight years later.
All you can do is influence the odds in your favor as best you can, but there are no guarantees of anything. You have a difficult road ahead, but maybe the right road too.
And yes you do have Oneitis for her…
…but as long as she also has Oneitis for you, that’s not a bad thing. If you’re getting married, you’re both meant to be in love.