Religion can be a touchy subject in a marriage—at least it is in mine. Our views differ quite considerably in regard to religion. Church refreshes my spirit and renews my faith, not only in God but in the world; my husband struggles with faith and views church as a chore.
Theoretically, my husband thinks church is beneficial for our kids, and supports my commitment to going every week. In practice, however, church is not a place where he wants to spend his Sunday mornings. While his lack of genuine faith certainly bothers me, I realize I can’t force it on him. Forcing him to come to church isn’t necessarily going to strengthen his belief in God, which is half the reason I want him there in the first place.
We briefly discussed attending church during the first few years of our marriage, but with our busy work schedules and social lives it was brushed off. When our daughter was born, we started having more frequent conversations about it.
Our daughter’s baptism was when our divergent views on church really came to a head. Earlier that week I’d met with the minister of our new church, and felt overjoyed that it was such a great match for us. I was excited to meet this wonderful community of people, several of whom the minister promised were young families just like us. I couldn’t wait to tell Dan all about the church and my meeting.
My excitement was met with a big, heavy silence, and a few not-so-subtle sighs. I immediately got defensive. The multitude of sports games and work events I had attended—and feigned enthusiasm about—with Dan over the years flashed through my head. The resentment built as I created a mental list of all of the reasons I was the better, more supportive spouse—never, by the way, a good or productive idea.
Clearly, this argument was going nowhere. My next approach was to ask him why he was so opposed to church. He surprised me by having a whole arsenal of reasons for dreading it. Growing up, church was miserable for him. Instead of being a place of comfort and inspiration, it was just a ritual he derived little meaning from. Religion was presented in a way that he never connected to. It was the same boring message week after week, with no practical application or significance. Just the mention of church gave him anxiety.
As I listened to him speak, I felt sorry for him. I also felt sorry for not simply asking him sooner, and just making assumptions.
My experience with church was completely different and entirely positive, especially as I got older. In my chaotic world of extra-curricular activities, homework, teenage social dramas, and stressing over which colleges I’d get into, church brought me back down to Earth and reminded me what really mattered in life.
Talking through our respective experiences helped us to appreciate where each other was coming from. Explaining why religion was so important in my daily life helped add some color to Dan’s very black-and-white view of church.
We ended the conversation with the understanding that I would be attending church every week, and it would up to Dan to decide if he would come or not. He promised to try his best to keep an open mind and have a positive attitude.
Trust and communication are what make our marriage strong. Our disagreements don’t jeopardize our relationship because we trust each other and communicate our feelings, even when we can’t come to a solution. This is easier said than done, and we often need reminders. Just as I need to trust Dan’s judgment on the Sundays he stays home, he needs to trust that I make church a priority because I think it’s really important for us and our kids.
I’m hopeful that on the majority of Sundays my husband will decide on his own to come to church with me. I’m hopeful that as time passes he won’t see it as such a chore. I’m hopeful that someday, through attending services to be a supportive spouse and father, he will realize that church is a place he actually enjoys too.
It’s a work in progress, but each honest conversation brings us one step closer to meeting each other in the middle.