My husband and I have been married for about seven years. A year and a half ago he told me that for several years he had quit believing in God and our church. He told me there was no way to know the truth of anything. It shocked me. I felt like an earthquake had torn down everything that was stable.
It felt like most of what I’d believed about my husband was fake. We had enjoyed a very loving and faith-focused life, mutual trust and respect and kindness. We’ve always loved being together and talking.
I asked him at one point early in our marriage if he was leaving our church and he said he wasn’t and that everything was fine. I now feel lied to and betrayed, though he doesn’t see it like this. He’s asked that I not tell anybody about it. I talked to his parents and a few very close friends because I felt like I could not deal with this alone. My parents still do not know.
This has been a period of intense pain. I’m a pretty mellow person but I can’t handle it anymore. It’s breaking me.
We used to have such a sweet and happy marriage. But it seems like all of that disappears now when we talk about religion or politics. I suggested we not talk about those hot topics anymore, but he thinks we can keep discussing and be fine.
Last night we had another talk and I was so upset and angry, I wanted to scream and throw something (I didn’t, I just cried and was snarky). This is not me. I want to run away.
We have three beautiful children and I don’t want to divorce, but I now wonder why we married when he’s changed so much and I feel like I hardly know him. I know I need to stay and figure this out. I think we can be happy again but we need some help. In my head I know I need more love and acceptance of who he is, but I have a hard time showing it.
He really is an exceptional husband and father, except for this one thing.
I can see how confusing and difficult this must be not only for you, but also for your husband. My guess is that your husband suspected that his private beliefs would be difficult for you to hear. As his beliefs began to drift from your shared beliefs, I’m sure he didn’t know how to tell you that things were changing for him.
Even though you’re in the middle of a difficult discovery, I’m glad that he’s speaking honestly so you can both know how to move forward in your relationship.
I agree that you can both be happy again. I don’t believe these kinds of situations need to break up families. There are some difficult conversations and decisions to make as you decide how to teach your children, how to spend your time, and how to rework the way you converse one with the other around personal topics such as religion and politics.
I also agree with you that getting some professional help is a good idea. A good marriage counselor can help you both slow down the reactive conversations so you can hear one another.
You feel betrayed and he wants to be understood. You both have legitimate hurts and needs that need time and support to properly heal. Regardless of where his beliefs take him, you both need to learn to converse without losing your connection.
This isn’t a time for either of you to work to convince the other that your side is correct. That will only create more acrimony and will lead to more distance between the two of you. Instead, I encourage you to spend more time working to create more understanding. He is revealing a new belief system that is foreign to you and will take time for you to understand.
Remember that acceptance is not the same as agreement. You don’t have to agree with him, as he doesn’t have to agree with you. You can still find areas where you have common ground. Take time to find these common areas of agreement and build on those. You already noted that he is an exceptional husband and father. I think this is a great place to start as you begin looking for ways to relate to him.
You can find ways to respect one another’s beliefs and still have a thriving marriage. Couples don’t fall apart because they believe different things. Couples fall apart because they aren’t able to care about how the other feels. When you partner has a deep sense that they are seen, heard, and understood, your relationship will feel more peaceful and connected.
Even though you may not have chosen to marry him had you known that his beliefs would be different than yours, dwelling on that scenario only leaves you feeling powerless in your current situation. You didn’t marry him only because his religious political beliefs matched yours. Your decision to marry him was much more complex than that.
Please recognize that even though beliefs about God and religion influence many areas of family life, there are plenty of ways you can both build a loving and supportive home for each other and your children.
Marriage is full of surprises and successful couples know how to navigate these unexpected discoveries with grace and respect. I have no doubt you and your husband can continue to find ways to hear each other’s beliefs, pain, fears, hopes, and desires as you work to build a loving marriage and family.
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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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