Atheist reader Steve is hoping he can make it work with his Christian partner. He writes this in an email:
I am a 36-year-old male who has been an atheist for six years. I am in love with a 37-year-old female Christian. We have talked many times of marriage and have just recently moved in together. This marriage would be the 2nd for both of us. Her family is what I would call extreme right wing… very anti-gay anything, very opposed to us living together, pray in restaurants, etc. To make matters worse, her brother is a preacher.
They don’t know of my belief (or lack thereof) and I’m sure it would not go over well. They want us to be married by her brother (I haven’t even proposed but plan to over the holidays). We do love and care for each other very much and she assures me that it will all be fine, but I have my doubts. I won’t give in on the religious wedding and have suggested going to Vegas or Hawaii and then returning home to have a reception with our families. This entire situation has become a huge source of stress for me and, although she doesn’t say it, I believe its troubling her, too.
I honestly don’t know where to proceed from here.
Part of me thinks she and I should make her parents aware of my position on religion (she’s scared to death of that) and tell them to like it or not — that’s just the way things are — and then proceed to handle our future with or without them. But she is close to her family and I would hate to be the one to divide them. Anyway, I think she would always resent me for that. My father thinks that I should just go along with whatever she and her family want to do because once it’s over it really doesn’t matter. He may have a point, but in the last year I have become very “militant” about my atheism making it known to anyone and everyone (except her parents) and almost daring anyone to say anything to me about it, so I don’t feel like I should have to compromise my position to have some sort of “hokey” ceremony.
What do you and you readers think we should do?
I also would like to ask other atheists out there: How do you make a relationship/marriage work when the core beliefs are so different?
To this point, my girlfriend and I just never discuss religion, but it bleeds over into so many other areas like politics and holidays. Anytime we have broached the subject, two people who never argue get in a massive fight. She is the best companion I have ever had and I love her dearly, but I can’t seem to get over the fact that I think her beliefs make her delusional. Harsh, but true.
- You need to respect the other person even if you don’t respect the other’s beliefs. Talk about religion. Argue about religion. But ultimately, you need to find a way to live with those differences. If you can’t, then maybe marriage shouldn’t be in the picture.
- Figure out if kids are going to be a part of this relationship. If you plan on having them, how you plan to raise them (with a religion? Without? With a mixture?) will be a point of contention that needs to be worked out beforehand.
- The families will always be there whether they like you or not. Ideally, they’ll find a way to make it work, but they probably won’t. After all, they think you’re going to Hell and dragging their daughter with you. You need your girlfriend to stand up for you. And you need to constantly show them that you’re a kind, decent guy who wants the best for their daughter. Whether they think any differently of you, I don’t know. But if they don’t, they don’t need to play a major role in your life.
As for the wedding ceremony, why not create your own, a mix of her culture and your beliefs? Would your girlfriend be ok with that? If she’s planning it, she can do it with your non-theism in mind and everyone else would have to go along with it. Easier said than done, I know, but if her family ends up planning your wedding with both of you not taken into consideration, then you might need to go elsewhere and just get eloped.
Does her family need to know of your beliefs? Perhaps, if you want a non-Christian wedding. Unless you can offer them a better explanation of why you don’t want something traditional. If you can get beyond the wedding, maybe they don’t need to know at all.
Am I wrong on any of these?
What else would you suggest to Steve?