Is a Religious Conversion Like an Affair?

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.

Anyhoo…

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.

 

$3.99 Kindle: Do These Pants Make My Ass Look Fat?

I just dropped the price on the Pants Book to $3.99 on Kindle and Amazon has the price on the print version currently at $11.69.

It’s kind of ironic to me that that I much prefer reading the Pants Book myself over the Primer. I totally get why the Primer is more popular, but…. well I personally like this one better. It’s really funny to read the old material again when you’ve halfway forgotten it.

Also in a move of brazen profit seeking…

…all the posts that went into the making of the Pants Book have been cut off at around the 100 word mark and have a link ad to the Amazon page. 101 posts, $3.99 makes it about 4 cents a post. That’s 101 of the best posts I’ve done in the first half of the blog. I’m really proud of the book. So if you want to read them… you gotta buy the book. I know, that’s so evil removing free content and asking for money. If you cry, know that your tears nourish me.

Anyway… the ad is below. Seriously though. I love this book.

Oh! And I forgot… I make about as much money from the book as you buying it on Kindle, as you do if you LEND it to people on Kindle. I’m serious. It’s pretty good.

 

Buy Me!

If You Wannabe My Lover

To my surprise I ended up watching a Spice Girls video on YouTube today. It’s quite amazing to look back 17 odd years and see an old video again as if for the first time. So some random thoughts.

(1)  Holy crap. Height and weight proportional women. Five of them. In one place. I’m serious. LOOK. There’s FIVE of them.

(2)  One rolling camera shot. Awesome. I can’t remember the last time I saw that. Compared to the endless fancy cutting, and effects this is all so remarkably simple.

(3)  LOL Posh Spice doesn’t get a single line.

(4)  Simply having red hair creates a personality. I’ve always been a blond lover, but one of my daughters dropped brunette for red and it’s definitely a “I’m a personality” statement. I’m almost kinda sorta wondering what Jennifer would look like as a redhead, but she’s been doing the blond thing religiously to please me… so I don’t want to upset that lol.

(5) Casual back handspring. I don’t know anyone that can do that. That’s awesome.

(6) The camisole top with the nipples is Athol approved.

(7)  “Really really wanna zigazig ah.”  Okay so they said that for 1996 radio airplay… seems like a request for orgasm though.

(8)  “Slam your body down and wind it all around”  translation…. fuck me hard and find the clitoris.

(9)  “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends”  translation…  if my friends think you’re unattractive, I do too.

(10)  The entire song is a Fitness Test It’s basically stating “If you want to be with me, I’m going to set the frame and you need to comply to it.”  But it just so gosh darn adorably peppy you almost want to fold up and say “okay”.

But what it really really is…

…it’s about as good a Girl Game instructional video as you’ll ever see.

 

This is the Dinner

This is the dinner

You can eat the dinner, or not eat the dinner

The choice is yours

You may stare at the plate and wish for a different dinner

But no other dinner will come

The kitchen is closed

Married Game and Diminishing Returns

LongTimeReader: Do diminishing returns set in? Because after all, you’re supposed to be “mixing it up”: So just being fit and staying fit, while a necessary, will over time lose some of its previous attraction as it becomes the “new normal”.

Athol:  Adaptation is a problem. I’ve worked with some rather severely limited patients in the 25-40 IQ range and they all learn routines and get used to them quickly. I also have a cat that seems to have learned to meow loudly at 615am on week days for treats, and at 930am on weekends. So just imagine how quickly regular adults learn routines.

The good news is that things like fitness are structural in nature. They are “always on” and will always have a net positive effect. Having a good job/income is always a net positive too. There’s nothing you can do for them other than keep them up to speed.

What you can change… and should change up once in a while… is the other stuff. Don’t have sex in the same position every night. Don’t go to the same restaurant every night. Don’t vacation in the same place every year. Don’t bring home the same flowers every time. Don’t have one favorite shirt.

Variety is the spice of wife.

If you’re working out in the gym, doing the same thing over and over and over does result in diminishing returns. But switching your exercise to something new gets you results. Then later you can head back and do the first thing again. The idea is that you confuse your muscles and avoid them adapting to your exercise. So there is sort of an emotional equivalent of muscle confusion that gets you emotional gains in your relationship too.

Things like your job, fitness, health, house etc, are all structural in nature and yeah some of it is boring as hell to do, but you gotta. This is the “chicken” part of “everything tastes like chicken”.

But the things like playful teasing, surprises, Sexy Moves yada yada yada, are all temporary in nature and are like different spices. Those you should mix up once in a while, because you can and it’s more interesting that way. You can serve chicken a hundred different ways and it’s better for it. Just mix it up (Chicken Monkey Duck)

Though you can’t spice up a rotting chicken so it’s tasty.

The Mutual Breakup

A mutual breakup announcement helps everyone save face.

Plight of the Suburban Housewife

From the forum…

Female Reader:  Do you find yourself doing the same thing. Every.  Single.  Day.

I am in a situation where our lives are very, very busy – doing the same things over and over.  I can go weeks without having to go beyond a 5 mile radius of my house.  We do the same things.  In the same places. With all the same people.  Even my work, which I love, is starting to feel stale.

Now granted it is not literally the same thing.  But I find my brain is often on auto pilot…

(Athol: I removed about 1000 words here…)

…Not sure what I am looking for here.  I guess I just wanted to see if anyone can relate.

RedPillWifey: I think it’s possible to be a little bored with being a SAHM without it being a huge 911 issue. Some days it’s just a monotonous grind of diapers, baby food, and tears. It’s just something you have to muck through for a while… The feeling comes and goes. Never have I had the thought to go to a bar to get picked up (unless it was my husband). I’m a tad jealous that he basically has his Dream Job right now, and loves going to work, but he does his best to keep my life interesting. I try to speak up when I need something.

Nothing wrong with feeling a little bored, IMO.

Athol:  Reducing Female Reader’s entire comment to a single thought it’s something like, ”This is all a bit boring and I want some Alpha in my life”.  While RedPillWifey sums to, “This is all a bit boring, but I have some Alpha in my life.”

The key phrases to trigger a red flag vs. green flag response are, “Not sure what I am looking for here.  I guess I just wanted to see if anyone can relate.” vs. “he does his best to keep my life interesting. I try to speak up when I need something.”

I think what most men don’t understand is that being at home is often vastly understimulating to a normal adult. I mean really, it’s nothing like the effort needed in 1913 to keep house in 2013. So when he comes home, the lower stress environment is experienced by him as relaxing, and he wonders what is so unenjoyable about it all to his wife.

Meanwhile, she’s bored senseless. It never starts off as bars and Girls Night Out shenanigans though. Facebook and flirting is where it’s at. It can creep up on you so slowly though. No one plans to have an affair, or get disgusted with their husband and fall out of love. It just slowly drifts away….

That’s why I keep coming back to needing to be a SAHM plus something. I don’t care what the something is, just something. Any kind of additional productive stimulation beats sitting on the couch watching TV.

But it’s also why husbands need to be the Captain. SAHM’s eat up a Firm, Fair and Frisky husband with a spoon. If a SAHM has been sufficiently bored to the point where the mailman arriving is an event, the arrival of her husband is a much bigger event to look forward too. If he can fight the natural inclination to walk through the door and go completely off-duty, there’s a lot to be said for allowing her ten minutes of undivided attention to disgorge her daily report.

After that, do whatever… just remember to play with her during the evening. Light teasing, a little groping… anything is better than ignoring each other.

Jennifer:  No matter what you’re doing, if it’s the same old thing every day you look to your partner for a little stimulation…and hopefully they provide it.  (And yes, I’m looking over my shoulder to see Athol with his “I’ll stimulate you, baby…” face on.)

 

Three Years of MMSL

Three years is a long time.

When I started the blog, I thought I knew exactly what I was doing… but now I realize I didn’t really have much of a clue. I just plowed ahead with this intense need to write and learn and do something. I’d stumbled onto a set of interesting ideas and and had an answer that I simply had to say.

Since then I’ve had several hundred people write to me and tell me that their life was significantly better for having read the blog and the book. I’ve seen the photos of weddings and “thanks to MMSL” babies. I’ve seen affairs headed off at the pass, and some mopped up a little too late. Some people simply move on to better and brighter relationships. Some people are still walking a hard path.

I do look back though and see some major changes in how I wrote. 2010 is perky and bouncy… then dad died and 2011 is more reserved. 2012 is a little more tired. I’ve been so tired. I’ve said nearly everything that I think I need to say on the blog. There’s only so much energy I have and near daily posting has become a drain.

I’ve also had over the last few weeks a whole second wave of of ideas and fine tuning to the overall MMSL approach. I’m not saying the old stuff is wrong, just that the new stuff is easier to understand, stronger in practice, less offensive and answers all those “but what about?” questions. But it’s going to take some time to write it all out properly so don’t be surprised if the blog posting starts tapering down a lot and is little less about me and more about the content.

Anyway, say tuned. Know where your wallets are.

Or Were You Looking At The Woman In The Red Dress?

Arthur Dent: “You know, it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

Ford Prefect: “Why, what did she tell you?”

Arthur: “I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

A couple interesting comments on Girl Thinking About Having Coffee With Plate Spinning Ex-Boyfriend. Obviously everyone was rolling their eyes at the Bride having an ex(?) Friend With Benefits as a groomsman. To her credit, Sparrow did try and warn the groom…

Sparrow:   This is the indirect warning.
Boy, “So, can you tell me anything about the guys my girlfriend was going out with?”
Me, “Well, you’re the first one I haven’t tried to warn her about.”
Please note: if you are the one bright moment in a dating history filled with sleazeballs, tread very, very carefully.

More directly?
A little while later, after all hanging out at an activity, girl is off flirting with this guy. (The guy works there). I mention to her boyfriend, “Um, don’t want to be the one to tell you this, but about your girlfriend – ”
Him, “I don’t want to hear it about my girlfriend.”
I gave up.

Anna:  Another example of a direct, last-ditch effort warning:
“Your fiance propositioned my husband last time he saw her, and flashed your best friend on Skype. She claims to be a sex addict on her blog. You’re a strong Christian and I know you don’t want to end up divorced. Hubs and I think she’ll have trouble staying faithful. She needs a lot more counseling if you still intend to marry her.”

Him, “She’s in a good church and has a great mentor. Does Hubs want to be a groomsman?”

Me: *facepalm*

Athol:  So that got me thinking.

(1) Have you ever warned someone not to get married? If so, why?

(2)  Did someone warn you not to get married… and turned out they were right?

Love to hear your answers in the comments.

When You Come From Different Countries

Reader: After reading your post about religious and political differences and raising children, I was wondering what you thought about cultural differences and being from different countries. How did you and Jennifer decide where to live and have children? Would you ever go back to New Zealand?

Athol:  Well we did have a plan at the time we got married. Being structural thinkers even then, we realized that the exchange rate between New Zealand and America was very much in America’s favor. So we figured if we ever had to switch countries it was going to be much easier to move from America to New Zealand, rather than from New Zealand to America. As things have turned out, the exchange rates have stabilized somewhat and housing in New Zealand is more expensive than America and any advantage we imagined is gone. Oh well, it was a best guess anyway.

We also figured Jennifer was going to struggle a great deal without her family around, while I’m fairly resilient in that aspect. If we moved now, she’d be fine though. We’re family now. Overall, it’s worked out very well for us. We moved to a middle sized town in Connecticut and then have moved twice within that town since then. So I’ve lived in New Zealand until I was 24, then in America for 18 years .

The good points are that people are the same where ever you go. New Zealand and America are English speaking, Western, democratic, capitalist countries, and there are more differences inside the countries, than between them. If you have money and a job you’re okay, if you’re broke and uneducated you’re not having a good time. So moving here was fairly easy for me.

There’s always a nice little edge to things between you when you’re from different countries. You’re always just a little bit unknown to each other, though the longer we’re married the less those little moments happen. We don’t hear each others accents anymore. It’s kinda fun to be from different countries.

Both kids love New Zealand… though they’ve only been on vacation, so it’s not a true understanding of the culture. They like that they have a mixed heritage. Also they have both been very healthy kids. Cross breeding for the win. I’m totally serious on that point. I think the separate countries deal plays a role in still being attracted to each other.

It also makes for a great destination for a major family trip. There’s a natural drama and excitement to see the other half of the family and you get an insider’s vacation experience rather than a touristy one. The kids get to play with their cousins and meet aunts and uncles and whatnot. It’s a BIG trip. Very memorable. Photos and albums and whatnot. I think it rounds the kids out more.

The bad things creep up on you slowly. We only have one set of grandparents close by for babysitting and visiting. When something bad happens in New Zealand… I can’t really do anything but know about it. I basically lost contact with everyone I knew there for ages upon ages until finding people on Facebook a couple years back. I didn’t realize how losing my entire social network was going to affect me. Looking back I realized dad could have probably made a few phone calls and seriously helped get me a pretty decent starting position somewhere. For a long time I was behind Jennifer in earnings and that was just weird to me.

The most important thing you can do is make a decision to be in one country or the other and just stick with it. There’s good and bad in every country, you’re just picking your poison. If you try and ping-pong between the two places it’s hugely expensive and unless you’re moving for a juicy promotion, you’re hurting your career advancement. Plus moving really screws with the kids.

The separate country marriage is a double or nothing gambit. If it’s good, it’s really good. If it’s bad, it’s really bad.

In-laws are critical. We both have understanding and good parents. I think if either set was nutty it would be vastly harder.

Being similar to each other is important. Aside from the differences in country, Jennifer and I are quite similar. It’s not good to be exactly the same as each other, but some differences are fun and create a little friction that keeps things fresh. But too much different and you run out of common ground and stop relating to each other.

In terms of going back to New Zealand… maybe. I’ve been back three times now and it’s always a really good, but slightly odd experience for me. Like I stumbled into Narnia by accident or something. We might retire there or something. We’ll see. We’re actually looking at a potential move to Dallas in about 2018 when the girls are in college.

Anyway… as long as we go together… we’ll always be home.  (Jennifer: happy mushy sigh…)

 

Jennifer:  The girls are minor celebrities at school every time they go on a trip to New Zealand.  They have a wider appreciation for the world, and understand that not everyone lives the same way.  It’s the little things that they pick up on too…like loving being somewhere where they could walk to town to go to a restaurant or shopping (the whole cafe culture thing…love it!), and the fact that their cousins could go to school with no shoes on and not get in trouble for it!