mixed marriage

As I think I mentioned, I hosted a Meetup for people in my atheist group who are in an atheist-Christian relationship, as well as other people who are struggling with the results of coming out as an atheist to their family.  About an hour early, I checked the RSVP and discovered that the Meetup leaders — both atheists — were coming, and this was a little frustrating since, well, they weren’t invited.  I am sure that they were coming to show support, but I don’t think they realized that their being there could be a point of discomfort.  And sure enough, my husband was not happy.

So I was starting to get stressed out before anyone even showed up.  Off to a great start.  My husband can be a control freak about social situations (I didn’t quite realize that before now), and he felt like he was being ambushed.  I kept telling him that everyone was coming to discuss their relationships and support each other, but I don’t think he could get past the idea that he was about to be “outnumbered.”

Also, he called my group an atheist church.  I would have loved to talk about that, but was too busy trying to stay calm.  So the two cups of coffee were probably a mistake  🙂

The meeting itself went fine.  There was a point where people were starting to discuss why “the other side” felt and believed a certain way, which can be dangerous, but it went fine.  My husband was very open to sharing, and then asked me later why people were asking him so many questions.  “It’s because you talk a lot, honey.” 

Then he asks me, later, “Why did everyone give me advice?”  Because you shared your problems, dear. 

Needless to say, he was on the extreme defense.  So much so that despite the devout Catholic, the Seventh-Day Adventist, and the woman who “wants to believe but can’t anymore,” he later said he was the only believer in the room.  It’s almost as though anyone who expresses doubt or frustration is not a good enough Christian.

And I also learned that my husband is still upset that I won’t tithe my income (yes, it’s our money, but it’s my income, and I’m not giving it to a god I don’t believe in) (I don’t see him tithing his income, either) (we never have tithed regularly).  Also, the way he tells the story of my coming out to him, you’d think we had a raging fight and threatened divorce.  I remember being rather quiet and matter-of-fact, trying to be honest, and I remember him yelling.  Not sure what I would have had to be upset about.  Of course he was mad, but what would I have yelled back?  “How dare you be the same person I married!  How dare you?!”

Well, I ought to quit thinking about this, for now at least.  I am getting upset.  I took a muscle relaxer that night, and went to Sunday School the next morning.  And I usually enjoy irony, but I was not amused at the fact that I go into the lion’s den (hehe) twice a week where I am the only atheist in a room of Christians, and my husband gets freaked out thinking that the atheists are coming into his house and he is unprepared.

If he gets one thing out of that night, I hope he remembers that we didn’t choose this, our unbelief.  We are at peace with it, we might even embrace it, but we did not choose it.

That reminds me of a story.  After the Hitchens debate last month, I was telling an acquaintance at Sunday School about it, and I said that we had gone with an atheist group I hang out with.  She didn’t even blink when I said it, and at first I was impressed.  Then she said, “Did you convert any of the atheists?”  And I realised she didn’t get it.  I looked at her for a moment and just said, “No, we didn’t convert any atheists.”  She seemed sorry.  I wasn’t sure if I should add, “You know I am an atheist, right?”  But the moment passed.



20 Responses to “mixed marriage”

  1. makarios Says:

    Ugh, making a marriage work can take sooo much effort to begin with. Adding a major change like that, well . . . it certainly adds another area in which to learn what it means to treat someone with love.

    So how long have you been married and how long into the marriage did you realise that you couldn’t play the role of Christian any more?

    • notreallyalice Says:

      It’s going on ten years of marriage now. I was a Christian until October 2007, and I told my husband the same week I stopped believing in a god. Never did “play the role”, as you put it.

  2. makarios Says:

    I didn’t mean anything by “play the role.” It’s just the way the words came out.

    We’ve been together for 40 years and married 35. So, is this issue one that can be resolved? I mean, are you finding some type of middle ground or is it deteriorating? Wendy and I, every so often say to each other how grateful we are that we’ve pretty much progressed or developed at roughly the same rate in our spiritual walk. Our Christian faith is such a huge part of who we are that to us, it would seem an almost insurmountable hurdle if one of us didn’t believe the same. Or worse, if one of us thought that what the other one believed was groundless, pointless and stupid. I don’t know how I’d get past that.

    If people were open and honest I can see how a support group, like the one you describe might be a real benefit. If someone’s agenda however was to push their point of veiw, well, that would be worse than ever, I imagine.

    Can I ask something that may sound like a challenge, but is really just a question? For how long before you decided “no God” did you struggle with the whole issue? How long were you unsure? How long did you think, like, “Mmm, no. This whole God thing just can’t be right.”

    I know how busy life can be. We’re both retired, so if you don’t have time to do this just say and I’ll go away.

  3. notreallyalice Says:

    I never did struggle with the issue. I mean, I had to work out the repurcussions and decide what I was going to do about it, but once I realized Christianity was impossible, belief in that god was gone. I like metaphors, so… it’s like if you plant zuchini seeds in your backyard, and you are sure they are zuchini, just totally confident that in ~90 days you’ll get zuchini, but then you go out there and you see pumpkins. How long would you struggle with the idea of pumpkin when you planted zuchini? Not very long. You’d just go back and relabel the seed packet or try to get a refund. That’s how it was with me when I realized there is probably no god.

    And yeah, it can be rough on the relationship, but we deal with it.

  4. makarios Says:

    But how? How do you deal with it. Do you just agree to disagree? Do you have children and if so, what do you do when it comes to teaching what’s important to you?

    I’m sorry. I’m getting way too intrusive. It’s just that it interests me. And what did you see that were pumpkins when you were expecting zuchini – a lot of zuchini I presume.

  5. makarios Says:

    Ok, so now I’m confused. I just read “Who’s Alice.” Maybe I read to quickly, but what was it about your beliefs, thoughts, motives that led you to call yourself a Christian?

    • notreallyalice Says:

      The fact that I believed Jesus was the son of the God of Abraham, sent to earth as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind, you know, the Nicean creed. Believed it all. Loved Jesus and believed he had a plan for my life. What’s so confusing?

  6. Temaskian Says:

    I am a control freak myself, even in social situations, so I can understand how your husband felt. I think I would have felt the same.

    Some people say the best way is to just keep quiet about the whole situation, i.e. forget about the differences and just work on common ground. You might want to try that if what you’re trying now doesn’t work out in the long run.

    BTW, have you watched Hitchen’s latest debat with De Souza?

    P.S. I find it pretty cool that you get to continue attending church even after becoming an atheist.

    • notreallyalice Says:

      I don’t! I don’t find it cool at all! It’s getting worse. I’m tired of hearing about a god I don’t believe in, and how all these people love him, and amen and hallelulia. I sit there in Sunday School and feel like a faker.

      • Temaskian Says:

        It’s all fake anyway, so even if they’re not faking it, they’re still participating in fakeness.

        But if it’s getting to you, I guess you had better take your leave.

  7. makarios Says:

    What’s confusing? Well, I thought I’d read about you studying Judaism, and I got the impression you were considering it as an option, which is an odd thing for a Christian to be doing. But like I said, maybe I was just reading too carelessly.

    No doubt it’s getting harder. I can’t imagine making a marriage work under those conditions. Hey? If you knew then what you know now, would you have still gotten married?

    What do you think it means when God said to Abraham, “All nations will be blessed through your offspring”?

    Jesus said that verse was pointing to Himself, i.e., His forgiveness would be made available to all nations, even to you and I and not just to the Jews. Yes? No?

    • notreallyalice Says:

      No, I wasn’t considering converting to Judaism. I just wanted to know what Jews believed, how the religion worked.

      It wouldn’t be so hard to be married to a religious person if I had known what I was getting into from the start– same for him. The hard part is dealing with such an extreme change. Having been married for almost ten years now, there are a lot of things I don’t like about it. But that’s a different question. He probably wouldn’t have dated me if I wasn’t a Christian, and I might not have cared so much, but we probably would not have gotten married. But we are an awesome couple, no denying that.

      I don’t believe there was such an event as a god telling Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his offspring (plural, I presume). As the story goes, though, I guess it means that the nations would be blessed because the Jews would be such awesome people and everyone would convert to Judaism. I guess we can see how that turned out. =/ But the Jews did give us the Sabbath, so I guess you could call that a blessing. And then there have been some really clever Jews, Einstein and Maimondes and such, who contributed to the world’s knowledge. Where did Jesus say that verse was talking about himself?

  8. makarios Says:

    “Where did Jesus say this?”

    My bad. Looks like I mistook myself for Jesus – delusions of grandeur and all that.

    However, when Luke is quoting Peter who says, “And you are heirs of the . . . covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed,’ the term OFFSPRING is singular, ultimately signifying Christ. As well, Paul, in Galatians 3 says, “”The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his SEED. The Scripture does not say, “and to seeds,” mean many people but, “and to your seed,” meaning one person who is Christ.

    I appreciate your need to not accept this interpretation. Nevertheless, to say that all the people of the world would have the opportunity to come to Judaism and thereby reap some sort of benefit is a bit of a stretch 🙂

    • notreallyalice Says:

      But all the people of the world coming to Jesus is not a stretch? Why is that?

      And it is interesting that you say I need to not accept your interpretation. One could just as easily say that you need to not accept the Jewish interpretations of their own texts, or that you need to accept the Christian ideas. It would more accurate to say, however, that I see no particular need to interpret scripture at all, much less cling to one particular interpretation as the correct one.

  9. makarios Says:

    Well, I doubt that anyone would interpret that verse as meaning that every single person in the world would come to Judaism or to Jesus for salvation. As well, I don’t see any benefit for anyone converting to Judaism whereas if what Jesus taught is true, then there is nothing more important in life than accepting our need for Him as Lord and Saviour.

    I’m not even sure how we got to this point in our conversation. This was not my intention and I’m not out to change your mind about Jesus. You’re a big girl and you’re free to make your own decisions. It’s just that the area that I specialised in, when I was still working, was Marriage Counselling. So, of course it caught my attention when something as huge as changing significant beliefs was being talked about. That’s why I came snooping around.

    Perhaps you’ve notice there have been a couple other posts about the same thing since your post. Suggestions to just not talk about it might be fine if neither of you care much about what you believe. However, if you feel strongly that what your husband believes is idiotic, then it’s not such a huge step to start seeing your husband as an idiot. And if he’s thinking of you in the same way, well, that’s not so good for any marriage.

    Of course you already know that – hence the post. I’m just sorry that you two have to go through this. It feels tragic to me – very sad. As I said earlier, if one of your goals is to learn what it means to love someone, this is sure going to be an area where you’ll get lots of practise.

    • notreallyalice Says:

      I do appreciate that advice; not talking about it has been the best course of action thus far. I suspect that it won’t be as effective in the future. And yeah, it is sad.

      • Temaskian Says:

        I think it’s better to talk about it later than sooner, when everyone would have accepted the situation more as a norm, then it’s easier to talk about it without flaring up.

        Humans are supposed to be adaptable creatures, given time. The main thing is getting over the shock of the whole situation.

  10. teambaby Says:

    Wow, that’s a tough spot. Hopefully, if there is enough of a base of mutual love and respect between you to get through his anger, he’ll be able to respect your choice and not feel defensive after a while.

    My brother-in-law went through the opposite situation; a few years after he and my sister married, she got religion all of a sudden. I love my sister and I think she does Christianity right–she serves those less fortunate, she shows tolerance and love to my freaky threesome marriage–but it must have been a huge change. I mean, Christianity is her whole life now, and she never even went to church before.

    I don’t know much about it, but I do know their marriage went through an extended rocky patch. They seem OK now, but I wonder if they had to accept a certain loss of closeness in order to keep going.

    Not sure where I’m going with this, but I hope you guys make it through, if that’s what seems like the best outcome.


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