He May Die Young
Q: When is it appropriate to tell my serious girlfriend that I am predisposed to ALS, a serious illness that I may die from early in life? I love her desperately and imagine the family we could have together. It has only been five months, though, and I fear springing my family's cursed medical history on her now might scare her away (as it has with two other women in my life). I don't feel like I am hiding anything since none of my longtime friends know. And while she would be entitled to that sort of information before making a decision about kids/marriage, we aren't there yet. I'm kind of hoping to get her to fall hopelessly in love with me before I tell her so she'll just have to accept me. — Ben, 32
Dr. Susan: You don't feel like you're hiding something? You've spent five months with a woman you love without telling her about what most worries you? Instead, you're trying to trick her into getting so deeply involved that she can't back out. I see your situation as somewhat similar to that of people who have any serious condition, such as herpes or a positive HIV status. My opinion is that after a few dates and a sense of mutually increasing intimacy, it's time to open up.
I suggest getting all the facts you can and then sitting her down and sharing your fears. If your predisposition to ALS is due to family genetics, genetic testing may or may not be useful in your case. Consider genetic counseling so that you can be honest about your odds. This is something a mate needs to know before deciding to commit to you and have your kids. Knowledge in your case can be scary, but you owe it to any woman who may love you to include her in decisions that may affect her so much.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.