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Switch to Forum Live View Sleeping with the "enemy"
7 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2008 - 8:11PM #1
Tamayo
Posts: 236
So I'm not sure if this post is in the right place here on Bnet. I'm a new user, though I've been considering joining the community for a while now... I guess you could say I've been lurking for about 3-4 months now, off and on.

As I stated previously, this post might not be in the right place. It is an interfaith relationship issue, but at this point I mostly am interested in what the atheist/nonbeliever point of view is. Plus... I don't know about anyone else, but I hate getting bibled. You know, when people spew random verses at you like they actually matter and that you'll accept them as fact and therefore believe every word they say just because they quoted scripture.

Anyway, so I'm a university student, nonbeliever (I shift between atheism and agnosticism depending on the day/week), and in a strange relationship. My boyfriend of over 2 years is a devoted Catholic, with a very strong Catholic background. I too was raised in the Catholic church, though it was never a huge part of my life and I've doubted existence of a god since the age of 12 or so. Despite this, I'm a fully confirmed adult in the Church and am "allowed" to participate in Mass because of this, although I absolutely abhor going to any sort of church service since let's face it, I don't believe in it!

For a long time my boyfriend has expressed concern over our relationship due to our difference in religious convictions. On a daily basis, religion has never really seemed to be much of an issue. He's not one of these Christians who quotes verses, attends church retreats, or mentions God more than once a day. As a result I never perceived any real issue with the fact that we have religious differences. I have no problem with him going to church every week and singing in the choir there, as long as he has no problem with me opting not to go to church with him. He's allowed to have his own worldview as long as he realizes that I have a different one, and that's fine with me. Although I refuse to talk seriously about marriage, I've made it clear that I intend on having only a couple children (He has 5 siblings, and almost 20 uncles and aunts... one of which is a priest, and another is a nun in training. That's how religiously based we're talking), and using birth control to plan my family. I've told him that I would not mind my children having a similar religious education as what I did, meaning a public school with an hour of religious education a week. Just so long as I was able to be open about my beliefs with my children, and be free to guide them along their own spiritual journeys, wherever that may take them.

Beyond dealing with kids, I don't see our beliefs conflicting a whole lot. They're beliefs, but beyond the churchgoing and social attitudes, they don't seem to have much bearing on daily life, for either of us. However, he still feels that "the relationship won't survive after college," and that there's nothing we can really do about it. I've always ascribed to the idea that if you want something to work out enough, and you try hard enough, you can keep a relationship together by working at it. I'm willing to do that. The sad thing is that we're compatible and happy in every other aspect of our relationship beyond this religion issue. It's the only stumbling block, although a major one.

So I guess my real question/discussion here is... Does anyone have thoughts on this issue? Has anyone here had to deal with this sort of interfaith situation, what did you do and would you recommend anything?

Thank you so much for your thoughts and have a good week,
Tamayo
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2008 - 9:08PM #2
MoulinRouge
Posts: 20
Is  he adamant  that your relationship won't survive, or is he afraid it won't survive?  There's a difference.  My advice is communicate, communicate, communicate, and then communicate some more.  Don't yell or make demands or frame the conversation in the context of what you WON'T DO.  Also tell him what you are willing to do because you care about him. 

Talk to him.  Tell him how you feel, and if he isn't adamant about ending the relationship, just relax and see how it goes.  You're young.  You don't have to make a decision tomorrow, but don't make a decision out of fear of the unknown either.  That you affirm his faith's importance to him and not put it down is important.  Catholics are a funny lot--I used to be one.  They can be adept about disregarding those parts of their faith that they don't care for.  My father was a commited Catholic.  So was my mother until she had 2 babies 11 months apart and she'd been married less than two years.  She told my father that he'd have to sleep on the roof until their second baby was five years old if he wanted to continue to follow all the tenets of the Catholic faith.

I was their third child, born seven years later, so it seems daddy was willing to adapt.   I don't know your boyfriend, but he sounds nice.  You do need to have an honest conversation about where things are going and ask him how he'd like to raise any children you might have eventually.   

If I may make a suggestion, a Unitarian Universalist church might work for the both of you.  They're very accepting of interfaith couples, and you can be anything and be a member, from atheist to Christian to Pagan to Jew.   Some folks even attend a UU church and still attend services at a more traditional church.  It's just a thought.  Good luck with this.
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 12, 2008 - 10:38PM #3
golfdad9
Posts: 41
Hi Tamayo:

I'm an atheist. When I was in my mid 30's, I had a relationship with a woman named Joan, who was a fairly religious Bahai and a New Age zealot (LOL). The relationship was wonderful in so many ways, but that "spiritual" difference was quite difficult to manage. We broke up after two and a half years for other reasons, but I think the religious issue probably would have done us in, anyway, eventually.  [Important caveat: That was us, not you.]

I, as did the previous poster, do urge you to COMMUNICATE, specifically about this issue. It may not seem terribly important right now (it didn't for Joan and me initially), but over time it can grow -- and grow between you. Perhaps it would be useful for you to consider how important your atheism/agnosticism is to you and how important his belief/faith is to him.  I think many couples find the religious difference between them far less important than the areas of agreement and mutual respect.  I hope you and your friend will, as well.  But do, please, talk about it, explicitly.  It could turn out to be awfully important, in my opinion. 
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 13, 2008 - 1:09PM #4
DotNotInOz
Posts: 6,833
Something that people often don't consider...you're not just marrying the person, you're also marrying their entire family.

I have a feeling that were the two of you to marry, you would end up becoming a "closet atheist" to keep the peace in his family. This family sounds waaaay too "Super-Catholic" ever to accept that you're willing to go through the motions but disbelieve.

I see something else in what you said that indicates to me that the more significant problem is a notable difference in values between the two of you.

However, he still feels that "the relationship won't survive after college," and that there's nothing we can really do about it. I've always ascribed to the idea that if you want something to work out enough, and you try hard enough, you can keep a relationship together by working at it.



This may be his gentle way of indicating to you that his religion is more important to him in the long run than your relationship and that he really doesn't want to marry you for that reason.

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7 years ago  ::  Feb 13, 2008 - 5:59PM #5
Jcarlinbn
Posts: 7,037

Tamayo wrote:

Does anyone have thoughts on this issue?

I think your rejection of the Catholic Church is getting in your way.  I think there is a lot of good in the Catholic tradition that does not depend on their theology, or the Pope's idea of what sexual sin is on his hot list this week. 

I will attend a Mass any time I can get a Catholic friend to invite me.  They know I don't buy the theology, and out of respect I skip communion, but it works for both of us to share their service. 

I see nothing wrong with being a Catholic atheist, as long as you and your SO know what you are doing.  This is not to say that your SO or his family will be OK with it.  That is not your problem.  But I see no harm in going to church, and being a full participant in church activities as long as you don't proselytize your atheism.  I would see no hypocrisy on your part, although others from the other side would, but again that is not your problem. 

As an amusing side note, many years ago a friend in your situation decided to become "Catholic" for the sake of love and marriage, confessed atheism to the priest, and was invited to join a group of Catholic theologians who were trying to come to grips with the existence of God. Oh, by the way, although she did not practice abstinence, for some reason they only had three reasonably spaced children.  Maybe she had some sort of a medical problem.   ;)

Jcarlinbn, community moderator
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 13, 2008 - 11:57PM #6
Tamayo
Posts: 236
Great comments, all! Thank you for your time and thoughtfulness.

To answer a few things... As both MoulinRouge & golfdad mentioned, communication is key, and I totally agree with you guys. At this point I think I've "communicated out" my boyfriend! I try not to press the issue every day, but this semester I'm taking a sociology class on religion in America just because I can... Maybe I have masochistic tendencies? ;) I come home on a daily basis with all sorts of new ideas and concepts. I like discussing different aspects of religion, and how our relationship incorporates it is something I try to get him to talk about on a regular basis. I'm ready to discuss it all the time!

He actually doesn't like me talking about it a whole lot, I think he feels like I'm judging him negatively for believing in God. I've tried to tell him many times that I'm not judging him, and that he's free to believe what he wants, it's just not what I believe. However, I still get the feeling he "censors himself" because he's afraid I'll criticize God/religion in general if he talks about God. I have in the past, but I've been getting better. Maybe this treatment is something I deserve. But I've been making a conscious effort to improve the situtation.

Other replies... Dot, you are right, I would be marrying his family. I honestly don't know how comfortable _I_ am with that, but I've asked him if the perceived future difficulties in our relationship have to do with his family disapproving. He assures me that's not it. But I'm pretty much already a closet atheist anyway, and since I don't intend on living near either my family or his, the atheism shouldn't be a huge issue. I've actually honestly considered going to a Unitarian church, I just haven't had the time to go check the local congregation out. I'm pretty sure my boyfriend would never lower himself to that because he wouldn't consider it a "real" church, but I don't have a problem going alone.

I do, however, have a problem going to Mass. I just... I don't know why I dislike it so much, but I do. I do have a great amount of respect for the traditions associated with Mass, I just hate going. I'll go when I have no choice (being home with the family on holidays, special occasions for relatives, etc etc) but on a regular weekly basis, I simply cannot bring myself to go. I've had to live with all those traditions for most of my young life, and I never saw the significance in them other than "that's just what we do." Ever since I was a kid, the most engaging part of Mass was usually the stained glass windows and other architecture when I could get a good view of them.

Maybe my relationship is doomed, I don't know. I'd like to hope not... everything else is so great, I can't get over it! For me, religion isn't a vital part of my everyday existence, just an intriguing philosopical discussion. I'd be really depressed if something I didn't even value much ended up destroying a perfectly great relationship. Sigh.
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 14, 2008 - 9:54AM #7
DotNotInOz
Posts: 6,833
Yeah, I hear ya, it would really suck if religion is what dooms your relationship.

I don't know, but from what you say here, I really think your boyfriend has bought into the Catholic trip to such an extent that marrying him wouldn't be good for YOU. That he wouldn't consider a UU church a "real" church is a red flag, I think, that deep down he will never consider your lack of belief good enough.

So, is what you have right now enough? Are you wanting just a temporary "feel good" relationship for as long as it lasts, since he's clearly indicating that it's temporary as far as he's concerned?

I think it comes down to whether or not you're at a point in your life that you're seriously looking for a potential marriage partner. If not, have fun. However, if you are looking to get married, then this guy ain't it, I'd say.
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 15, 2008 - 5:25PM #8
golfdad9
Posts: 41
"...religion isn't a vital part of my everyday existence, just an intriguing philosopical discussion. I'd be really depressed if something I didn't even value much ended up destroying a perfectly great relationship. Sigh."

Tamaya, I see something in that sentence and a couple of other references in the same post. I am intuiting that what is not a "vital part" of your life is belief, dogma, ritual -- the trappings of religious practice.  What IS important is the "intriguing philosophical discussion," the passion for ideas, even "Great" ones -- the meaning of life and all that. 

Maybe, the difference between you and your boyfriend is not so much actually a religious or ideological one as it is one of intellectual curiosity, inquiry, and passion.  The sexist adage that men do not talk much is not actually true.  We talk endlessly about what excites us, about our passion, whether that be baseball, politics, sex (a perennial favorite amongst us), or ideas.  You love the life of the mind.  Perhaps, he's not as keen on that.  That difference is a big one, and it's not likely to diminish over time. 

I feel so much compassion for you, Tamayo.  I want for you so much good and happiness.  I wish I could "solve your problem," but I've lived long enough to know only you can make the choices of your life and that some of them will be quite difficult.
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