From the forum…
Sleepy: I was reading Athol’s blog yesterday “Quirky Gifts and Flair” and read this line… she starts checking out of the relationship because she’s unhaaaaaappppppy and about to Eat, Pray, Love an exit.
So, my wife of 20+ years and 4 kids who has always been anti religion started to convert to Catholicism in secret. When I figured it out, I felt like she was cheating on me (about 6 months of individual and couples therapy and I still feel this way) as this was done in secret and her reason for needing god was that we were no longer good as a couple and she needed “love”. I flipped and basically took a position of no contact as if this was an affair, which she has done with just enough complaint that I know she still wants too.
Without going into all the details here (if there is a lot of interest I could add a thread in the 911 Relationship ER section) I guess my question is how evil am I and are there others out there who have felt this way?
Athol: Well Eat, Pray, Love refers to a book, but the answer to your questions is yes / no / kinda / sorta / it depends.
It’s usually a critical junction when one half of a couple changes their religious status, either becoming more religious, less religious, or changing religions. They can be a wide variety of changes in personal interests and personality from benign to quite alarming as someone changes from one religious viewpoint to another. It’s always hopeful that an inter-faith marriage will stay stable, but the more divergent the expressions of belief are, the greater the stress is on the marriage.
This is largely the same effect at work as shared beliefs of any sort. Two democrats or two republicans are likely going to be more comfortable married to each other than a democrat and a republican are. It’s all about being able to relax with each other at the end of the day instead of wanting to disagree about something. Same deal if someone suddenly becomes crazy about a diet while the other isn’t. It’s a relationship stress to have one of you wanting to eat Paleo and the other being a Vegetarian… though the old joke stands that if you really want to piss off a Vegetarian give them vegetables to eat… most of them just want to eat pasta all day.
The more fundamentalist (Wikipedia) the conversion the greater the stress on the relationship is. Note that Wikipedia link to fundamentalist covers Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu and even Non-Religious fundamentalism. As soon as one half of the couple digs in their heels and states they are right and their partner is not merely in misguided disagreement, but utterly wrong… or even literally damned and/or evil for whatever reason… the relationship is heading for seriously choppy waters.
If you’ve ever had your partner educated as to your total failure of morality by their near entire social group, you’ll know just how hopeless your situation is. You could be a tax-paying, law abiding, full and complete stop on red, look both ways before you cross the street, girl scout cookie buying sweetheart, but having 20-30 people tell your spouse that failure to believe in [religious belief] turns you into a horrible fallen person hell bent on destroying everything precious and good… well, it has an effect. Speaking as a good evangelical Christian back in the day my first serious girlfriend was Catholic… it doesn’t take many people giving you “Godly frowns of concern” to make you feel uneasy about your relationship. That was a Catholic girl too, not even a clutch-the-pearls Non-Christian… that would have had people directly saying things to me like, “I’d like to encourage you to seek the Lord’s guidance”, which is how evangelicals tell you you’re retarded.
And yes I get that there are a wide variety of expressions of belief from rather insipid, to rather psychotic in intensity, even within each faith or even denomination. I’m painting with a wide brush here.
Anyway… back to the question at hand…
My knee jerk reaction to your situation is that you have two issues rather than one issue.
(1) The state of the marriage.
(2) Her interest in Catholicism.
What she’s saying is essentially, “Because of (1) I’m (2)” which is trying to turn it into one issue. This is a poor solution because the marriage issues aren’t going to be fixed by going to church and it is obviously driving a bigger wedge between you.
My advice would be to figure out the marriage issues as marriage issues, and allow the religious issue to be handled as a religious issue. So grab the free forum booklet and answer the nine triage questions in a 911 thread on the forum and people can help you get to the bottom of things.
Or put another way, if the marriage is chugging along just great, everyone getting along well, lots of sex and laughter… would it matter very much at all if she was a standard issue Catholic?
I will say this much though, I’m not convinced she’s been hiding it from you as a way of hurting you, more as a way of trying not to lose you in the process. When I became an atheist, I kept that a secret a looooooong time. I thought I was risking my marriage coming out about it, which because my faith was part and parcel of my attractiveness to Jennifer, I think it really was. When I finally told Jennifer she bawled her eyes out with me feeling like the worst husband ever. Even after that, it took fourteen years before I felt comfortable publicly identifying as an atheist.
As official MMSL policy, I personally don’t care what you believe or disbelieve in. I obviously self-identify as atheist because I don’t believe in a deity, but I’m not trying to actively convert anyone to that point of view on MMSL. I only try and get involved in religious issues on MMSL when it seems to be clearly screwing with the marriage. At this point the entire fabric of western civilization is sufficiently screwed up that individual marriages are like sandbags keeping back the flood-waters. I don’t care what type of sand you have in your bag, just that you have a sandbag that isn’t going to fall apart.