Reader: I’m sure you’re busy so I’ll try to make this brief. Girlfriend, mutually in love, happy relationship (not quite 1.5 years), talking about marriage and eventual children. Nearly all points in your Chapter 28 are met beautifully. Important differences: 1) I’m strongly libertarian, she’s stubbornly liberal; 2) I’m agnostic leaning toward Christianity, she’s Jewish and, well, Jews don’t do Christianity (so she says). Neither one of us are severely politically active. We prefer to keep our beliefs to ourselves, so these differences have been minimally problematic in our commitment-free, children-free pre-marriage state. But when it comes time to raise children and lead a household, I intend to inculcate my children with my values. On fundamental issues, I don’t see where I can bend and I don’t care to. However, encouragingly and impressively, she is beginning to come out of that reflexively liberal mindset in which she was raised.
But what to do? Shall we accept that maybe not everyone in our hypothetical future family will be on the same political and spiritual boats? Should we give it more time and see whether we come to see more eye to eye on things?
From your own experience and your nearly limitless opportunities for observation of others’ relationships, how divisive do you think such differences could be in the long run? I’m sure the right course varies greatly from case to case, but what questions would you consider? What are some specific points she and I could examine together to figure it out?
Thanks for any help. Of course, your contributions to a sane perspective on relationships have already been valuable help.
Athol: Well you also have to understand that you will both change too. When I met Jennifer I was the guest speaker for a Christian retreat weekend. Now I’m an atheist. Jennifer has softened her religious views over time too. For all you know you’re going to going to turn into a Zen Buddhist Republican fifteen years from now. Then what?
If you can agree together to educate your children in knowledge of both faiths – Jew and Christian aren’t that oppositional in terms of content – and then allow them to choose, then that’s the solution. The kids are going to choose what they want to do anyway. Your job as parents is to educate, not to “win”. Nothing like forcing it down their throats to make them rebel against it.
You’re actually going to find the basic behavioral approach to parenting the most effective anyway. “When the mess is cleaned up… then we can go to the park.” “If you throw a tantrum, you don’t get rewarded for it.” “Sometimes when you’re good, we’ll randomly reward you.” That isn’t a religious or political thing. Works for everyone too. Works for cats, dogs and killer whales as well.
You’ll find as the kids get older they will make their own choices. My youngest is mildly interested in church, mostly because she likes being part of a group of nice people. My oldest actually has a highly negative reaction to religious services, believing everyone around her is having a mass psychotic episode and is genuinely made anxious by it all. Which considering it was a Lutheran service was pretty funny. I can’t say we’ve done anything differently for either one of them either.
Hope that helps.
Oh… seems like she’s a go to more seriously consider marrying if this is the worst issue you can dream up.
Oh yeah… trust me on this one too. By the time they are teens, the only moral / religious / political issue you’ll really care about in relation to your kids is that they don’t start having babies in high school.