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Are relationships between believers and non believers difficult?

(86 Posts)
FritzDonovan Fri 17-Mar-17 07:25:29

I have never believed in God, my Dh didn't when I met him (both science graduates), although has always been interested in the philosophy of religions. He has been attending church on and off for a number of years, which I have never prevented. Recently he has said he now believes in God and finds it hurtful that I don't want to go to church with him. I feel we are growing apart fundamentally because of this new belief of his, and do worry how it will impact on us/family in the future.
Anyone got any words of wisdom beyond accompanying him to church? (we have limited free time together, I find church v boring and preachy, it isn't for me at all. No offence to anyone intended)

Oblomov17 Fri 17-Mar-17 07:51:34

Yes, I think it can change a lot. When someone 'finds religion' later, or starts to believe in God later in life. I have seen many relationships just drift apart. And it makes sense to me why that happens.

msrisotto Fri 17-Mar-17 07:54:52

Oh dear. It can work when people learn to compromise and don't force their religion/non beliefs on each other which it sounds like he is starting to do by being 'hurt'(??) that you're not going to church. Good communication is key at this point. Is he hoping that you'll change? Does he feel it is his duty to 'save' you? Because if so, there's not much hope.

originalbiglymavis Fri 17-Mar-17 07:55:12

I'm sure if it's a 'normal' church (is not all hell and damnation or happy clappy) then the Minister would tell him not to be so judgy and blinkered.

I worked for the church for a while and definably found born agains and converts the most judgemental, extetme and preachy. Ministers and bishops were all fine.

MillieMoodle Fri 17-Mar-17 08:13:37

I can see how it can ruin relationships if one party is less tolerant of the other. I'm Catholic and although I don't go to church very often, I still have my beliefs. I don't discuss them with anyone and I certainly don't expect DH to accompany me to church when I do go. DH is atheist and very anti-religion. He does try to push his views onto me and sometimes makes comments which I find extremely disrespectful but I don't engage any more. We didn't get married in church, because he didn't want to, but the compromise was that our children would be baptised RC. DS1 was baptised and although DH came along, he was bloody miserable all day. DS2 is now 6 months and I want him to be baptised as well, but DH is trying to be as difficult as possible and won't discuss it at all. It's definitely a sticking point in our relationship but he's never been able to see anything from anyone else's point of view. As far as he is concerned, he's always right.

vaginasuprise Fri 17-Mar-17 08:49:02

It'd be a deal breaker for me.

Oblomov17 Fri 17-Mar-17 09:32:11

I disagree and I'm not even sure it can be put down to a inability to compromise.

The 3 or 4 people to whom this has happened, (so yes limited number!! ) that I know of, it happen later in life and so they were already married. their views etc were compatible. but then when they became religious, kind of everything about them changed. God actually became very important to them, central to them, it then governed almost everything they did. They were actually quite a different person.

In a good way. But that's actually not the point.

If you come to something new later in life, whatever it is, feel very strongly about a certain thing, be it vegetarianism or supporting the Conservative party, or wanting every female to have FGM, joining ISIS, or whatever it is : if you're if it's so important to you and its not as important to the other person, then that can only cause drifting apart.

I'm just can't see how you can get over that. I don't know how you can reconcile that.

specialsubject Fri 17-Mar-17 10:08:42

If he finds it hurtful that you don't share his belief, he needs to take a hard look at his intolerant selfish personality.

Freedom of belief also means freedom not to believe - or you get the countries where apostasy means execution. Would he prefer that?

Why does he not allow you the freedom not to waste time indoors mouthing platitudes, which is what church is to you? Where is his Christian tolerance?

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 17-Mar-17 10:21:12

Why does he find your non attendance at his church "hurtful" OP?

Eolian Fri 17-Mar-17 10:26:22

I'd be pretty horrified if dh became religious, even if he didn't expect me to be part of it. If he did start trying to make me go to church, I think that would bd a deal breaker.

Reow Fri 17-Mar-17 10:33:38

Complete deal breaker for me. I would find it extremely hard to have a relationship with a believer.

RiverdaleJughead Fri 17-Mar-17 10:59:19

Depends on what you believe in. I was raised Protestant but was Atheist when i met DP and so was he. I had some realisations and found myself going down a much more spiritual route - it irritates him a little but he gets it. But i dont make him go to church or do ceremonies or anything, i keep it private.

Niminy Fri 17-Mar-17 11:14:01

When DH and I met we were both atheists, but then over the years I became first interested in Christianity and finally a believer and was baptised. The story didn't end there as I discovered a vocation to ordination and am now a vicar. And DH - well, he's not a Christian, certainly, but he's not an anti-religion atheist either.

Being a Christian has indeed changed me a great deal, but I hope mostly in good ways. I am content for him to follow his own path and he supports me in my vocation. He comes to church from time to time and gives me unvarnished feedback on my sermons to support me.

I don't think we are that unusual. I know of quite a few vicars who are married to non-believers. The secret, I think, is to recognise that the person you love is on their own journey and you can't make them follow yours. If being a Christian really does change you for the better then they will respond to that. If you try and make them believe it won't work.

But in that first flush of new belief, when you have discovered for yourself how life-giving a relationship with God is, it can be hard to have your nearest and dearest not share it with you. You've found something extraordinary and precious and true. Of course you want others to have it too, and it can feel 'hurtful' when they don't - it's as if they are rejecting something that feels incredibly important to you. In this period it can be important for both of you to give and take a bit: for the new Christian to realise that their partner can't suddenly convert to please you, and for the partner to see that something profound has happened and that this can be something that will enrich both your lives, even if you don't both share it.

vaginasuprise Fri 17-Mar-17 16:37:50

But in that first flush of new belief, when you have discovered for yourself how life-giving a relationship with God is, it can be hard to have your nearest and dearest not share it with you. You've found something extraordinary and precious and true.

I respect a persons right to believe whatever they like BUT that doesn't mean I have to respect them as a person for believing it.

If DP came home one day and said he'd found any god I'd think he'd been at the shrooms. It would completely change the way I thought about him. If I thought for one minute he would be swayed by a work of fiction, written by men as a form of control and for the oppression of women I would run for the hills.

Niminy Fri 17-Mar-17 18:38:33

All I can say, vaginasurprise, is that I'm glad that DH and I, and the other faith/non-faith couples I know, were able to find that the love between us was strong and generous enough to accommodate even quite significant differences.

vaginasuprise Fri 17-Mar-17 18:45:37

I'm glad for you toowink

vaginasuprise Fri 17-Mar-17 18:50:20

And as you said, your DH isn't an anti religion atheist so obviously doesn't feel as strongly as we do. If we didn't share the same views it wouldn't work.

Niminy Fri 17-Mar-17 20:43:23

I didn't say we don't feel strongly. We do. We hold our beliefs with integrity. We are able to allow the space for each other's beliefs to be held sincerely and with integrity - but without dogmatism.

It seems to me dogmatic to say 'if we thought differently our relationship would have to end.'

FritzDonovan Fri 17-Mar-17 21:36:06

Thanks for your replies, though I'm still no closer to processing it in my head. Niminy something you said resonated, in that the believer can feel hurt that their partner is rejecting something they feel is incredibly important to them. This is in some way what I feel - we were both non believers and now he rejects that. On further discussion he doesn't believe everything in the bible, just selected parts, as he says belief is personal. He also takes a stance against all the rejection of LGBT etc issues he encounters in the church. I know some people he knew in his previous church and when we saw them last they were telling us about the vicar who was having an affair. To me, it seems that this indicates a certain amount of picking and choosing from the belief system of a religion to suit yourself, which surely isn't the point? I have said this, he appeared quite offended, and I can't see how this will not affect our relationship. Yet we started from the same place regarding belief, he is the one who has changed, so how is it acceptable for him to have an issue with my thoughts if I am not supposed to have an issue with his? Do you just not discuss it to keep the peace?

Blossomdeary Fri 17-Mar-17 21:39:50

"Recently he has said he now believes in God and finds it hurtful that I don't want to go to church with him."

He is allowed to believe in god and you are allowed not to - he should not expect that you should share his new belief and nor should he pile on the emotional blackmail by saying he finds it "hurtful."

My dearest friend is a vicar; her husband is an atheist. It works fine as they respect each other.

FritzDonovan Fri 17-Mar-17 22:10:43

That's what I think blossom, so why does he think I am 'distainful' about his belief, when I am expressing my opinions. He is the one who is changing, not me, and so far it appears to make him more dismissive of me when I expressed the belief I have had all along...he is changing the goalposts and it makes me uneasy.

LunaLambBhuna Sat 18-Mar-17 07:51:08

I think it can work as long as he's not constantly trying to convert you and likewise you are not derogatory about his beliefs.

I know many couples where one person is a regular church goer and the other is a non believer. All perfectly happy in their respective marriages.

I am soon to be Catholic and my husband doesn't believe in anything. He lets me do my thing and I leave him alone.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sat 18-Mar-17 09:55:30

As with some other posters, the use of the word 'hurtful' by your DH leapt out at me. I would have been equally startled if you had been two Christians living harmoniously, then he became a passionate atheist and was 'hurt' that you didn’t want to join him on the Richard Dawkins atheist battle bus!

Your DH’s response seems to suggest a lack of empathy - his thinking is almost solipsistic.

His actions and views may not be of the sort to destabilise other marriages but they have destabilised yours and, if he sincerely wants to make your relationship work, the onus is on him to reassure you that he doesn’t want to change you, that he loves you as you are and isn’t going to pressurise you into doing things that make you feel uncomfortable.

worry how it will impact on us/family in the future

I'm not sure if you are talking about children here but your words reminded me of an interesting – and to my mind somewhat counter-intuitive - snippet of information that I came across a while ago.

Studies show that it is the father rather than the mother who has the greater influence over the religious habits developed by the offspring. (Individual cases can buck the trend of course but this is the more likely scenario.)

One particular study showed that:

www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-05-024-v#ixzz4bew4ik3I

if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular).
…A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church.

It would seem that a woman desirous of passing on her religious/non-religious stance to her children ought to choose a partner with a similar stance to her own, whilst a man wishing to do the same can cast his net wider because his views are likely to prevail anyway.

I have to say the feminist in me finds this a rather difficult conclusion to accept!

Just to add, though, I do actually think that relationships between believers and non-believers can work but I would not deny that there are potential difficulties.

Lessstressedhemum Sat 18-Mar-17 11:26:44

It can be very difficult. I am a church elder (Presbyterian CoS) and my dh is an aggressive atheist. I have always had a faith, DH has never believed, but he has become much more entrenched as he has aged.

My faith is central to who I am, it guides everything I do. DH can't or won't understand this, he uses Christian as an insult, is always shouting and bawling about the church being an evil institution that should be banned, that religion shouldn't be tolerated, that believe has no place in society and that only weak, stupid, mindless people believe in God and other such niceties. It is very, very difficult and getting more so. If I ever do anything wrong, I get it cast up to me "this is what Christianity is about, being evil/abusive/whatever". He doesn't understand any of my motivations and I find it difficult to understand his complete animosity.

He even blames the church being evil for the parents in my BB company not being supportive of fundraising efforts. Apparently, parents won't come to cheese and wine evenings etc. because they are in the church hall and they don't want to be involved with the church, despite their sons being in boys' Brigade!
Looking at it objectively, I would never advise anyone with faith to have a relationship with someone without it, but that is only speaking from personal experience.

SafeToCross Sat 18-Mar-17 11:33:44

My dh thought a lot about this before we married, as he is christian and I am not. In the earlier days, I went to church quite a bit for special occasions. He quite liked that, but I felt increasingly uncomfortable (church community assuming I shared their beliefs). I rarely go now, though one of our dc is a very active member of the church now. I respect his/their beliefs.

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