I was raised by parents who taught me the importance of remaining chaste until marriage. Even after I left home for college and eventually got my own apartment and began dating, I’ve been committed to this choice I made for myself.

Six months ago I met a wonderful man who happened to share my beliefs, and we fell in love. He proposed just last month, and I accepted. We are engaged to be married later this summer, but earlier this week he told me that, due to health conditions, he is unable to have sex or father children.

I have always looked forward to the day I would become a mother, and I was gutted by this news. I am upset and discouraged. In fact, I’m pretty angry. I had already told my friends and family about the wedding and begun planning the ceremony.

He says he thought it wouldn’t matter to me because we share the same views on sex, but it’s not the same. I made a commitment to myself to only be intimate with the man I chose to marry, but I have always planned on marrying, becoming intimate, and having children.

I do love him, but I really wish he had told me this before I agreed to marry him. But I did accept his proposal, and although it isn’t too late to back out, I feel like doing so is somehow wrong. What if I never love anyone else the way I love him? Are intimacy and children really worth giving up on a person I already love? I don’t want to share his secret, so I’m ashamed to ask anyone I know. Please help! —Now or Never

Dear Now or Never,

There is so much emotion here—love, anger, shame, sadness, disappointment, and likely much more. You’ve been blindsided with this news, and because you want to respect his privacy, it sounds like you are also feeling very alone in dealing with this. It is a tremendous amount of material to unpack, and you have the added pressure of a deadline since the wedding is scheduled for later this summer.

First of all, I have to say that I agree with you—it’s not the same. He is unable to have sex or have children inside or outside of marriage, and it seems like your desire was only to wait for these things until you were married. While I certainly can’t know what kind of conversations you two had about this or what each of your understandings were of those conversations, it seems clear now that you have two different points of view.

To me, it is not an either/or decision but rather the beginning of a series of conversations where you can each explore these issues together.

The question is, where do you go from here?

I could be mistaken, but it sounds like you believe that you have to either marry this man, accepting a life with no sex and no children, or not marry this man in the hopes of finding love again with someone who can give you these things. To me, it is not an either/or decision but rather the beginning of a series of conversations where you can each explore these issues together.

For example, is it possible for him to have some kind of treatment? Is he willing to do this? Are you willing to consider other ways of becoming a mother—perhaps in vitro fertilization or adoption? Is he willing to be a father if a child comes into your lives in one of these ways?

You can try to tackle these conversations on your own or you can partner with a therapist to help you two engage with each other in healthy and productive ways. If he is unwilling to participate in this kind of exploration and/or therapy with you, I would suggest you consider working with a therapist on your own. You don’t need to be alone in figuring out such a big issue.

Best wishes,

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