I recently came out (for the 2nd time) to my Catholic husband. It did not go well at all. He wants me to file for divorce if I choose to keep being atheist (as if I can just - poof! - start believing in God again). And if I try to make this marriage work by pretending to be Christian, he wants me to erase the atheism out of our oldest son (really? like our kid's a mindless programmable toy?) and teach the younger two all about the "wholesomeness and truth" of Christianity. Teaching about other beliefs is not an option, either. Living a lie is one thing, but having to teach my kids to believe this religious dogma is heart-wrenching.

Something that's bothering me greatly is that he says God is keeping him from going crazy. I care deeply about my husband even if it's not reciprocated back to me and don't want to cause him mental suffering. He's a good man, just a product of childhood religious indoctrination.

I am leaning toward staying in the marriage to keep our family intact, even if it means pretending to be Christian and promoting it to our kids (the bare minimum, though - just enough to please the husband). Has anyone made this choice? Any words of wisdom, pro or con?

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We got married in a church 18 years ago, so I am at fault for changing my religious view. He says that a belief in God is central to our marriage and our marital vows are only valid because we included God. And if I choose to be atheist, then that means our marriage has been based on a lie and divorce is the only appropriate action for him.

His view certainly stings in my eyes because I based our marriage on love and respect for each other, and he's saying that without God there is no love between us. I can only hope he softens this stance and his love will be unconditional for our kids if and when they disagree with any of his views on life. As for the message to my son about hiding atheism, it is a troubling thing. I want to believe that keeping the family intact will outweigh the negatives.

Blue Skies I'm sad to hear of your situation. I am the lone Atheist in my family -- so I can see where you are coming from. Do you and your hubby still love each other? Have you considered marital counseling? Are you unhappy and just staying in the relationship for the sake of the family? These are important questions to consider before making the important decision to end the marriage. I hope things work out for you. We are here for you!

I tried to get him to go to marital counseling, but that's a no-go. He thinks it'd be a waste of his time when the problem lies with me, not him. I definitely still love him. He says he doesn't know if he love me anymore and he certainly doesn't trust me now. He's been cordial for the most part. I just can't believe that a person's love for someone could so suddenly die because of a lack of faith in a supernatural god for which there's no evidence. I thought our 20+ of being in a relationship would survive my atheism. It's not like I'm an activist for the cause and raising a ruckus. I'm the same person as always, minus a belief in God.

Steph, was there anything you did to make coming out easier? I keep searching for that "perfect" speech to get my husband to understand, but it seems hopeless. I already talked to him about the existence of suffering, pointed out plenty of Bible inconsistencies, and tried to reason with him that morality doesn't depend on belief in God, but those got me nowhere.

Ok - looks like we have similar backgrounds. I'll explain in an email to you. Maybe I can be of some help to you.

"I am leaning toward staying in the marriage to keep our family intact, even if it means pretending to be Christian and promoting it to our kids (the bare minimum, though - just enough to please the husband). Has anyone made this choice? Any words of wisdom, pro or con?"

Con: Living a lie for the sake of keeping somebody that can't accept you, and should have known in the first place.

Pickin' bones: "Teaching about other beliefs is not an option, either." 

Con: (I'll explain) Of course I'm an atheist, my ex wife is agnostic, and my 11 year old boy is creeped out by the thought of invisible men in the sky, but we both want him to be educated in why. In his school in Tennessee, they teach bible class for an hour a day. Instead of jumping out of our skin, we took advantage and encouraged him to learn so his teacher can educate him in more detail about the bible (at least) is. Its easier to let him see how they shoot themselves in their own feet.

That's what got my oldest to become atheist. He saw me reading the Bible and started reading it too. He couldn't believe those stories are what so many people cling to as truth.

Your problem raised such a base response in me I had to think about it for a few days before replying. oy!

You're out of the closet, there's no going back. I think the question now is how to address your husband's concerns and keep the kids from too much yelling and carrying-on (they will know something is going on).

My thought is NOT to go back into the closet, but also not to become the harpy of dissent when it's not required. Kids can weather their parents having differing opinions and will make their own minds up anyway when you least expect it. If you DH is making demands of you, make some back. You are 1/2 of the relationship, you have the right to be happy with yourself. Both of you have the responsibility to keep the kids clothed, fed and schooled; somewhere in there they'll see parents who care and stay happy.

My parents split when I was 3-1/2, and it was a bad time for all. There were other things besides religion, but that was in the equation. Staying together is preferred, but not law.

Go ahead and make some reasoned demands of him. Most men appeal to logic when it concerns their happiness. But you know him better than others here; contact a professional if in doubt.

OH here's an idea: talk to the head of the congregation (priest?) about it. He's interested in intact families and will attempt to bring you back into the fold, but he's got a devoted man in his grasp right now. He may try to convince your DH to (woo woo) and accept you in spite of your (solid thoughts). If your husband listens to Church Fathers at all he should be open to input from "that higher source".

I'm a husband who's violently opposed to change, but I recognize there's time I have to just shut up and deal with the things going on. We keep moving every 2-3 years; it's hard on the kids and my esteem. It's her career, my decision to follow and keep her happy, that's my job. Everytime I have the chance I rant and carry on about not wanting to move anymore, to stay put, but I do it anyway. I really do love her!

We went through pre-marital counseling sponsored by our employer (who was interested in keeping happy sailors[Navy]) and have stayed together through some serious hard times. Interestingly, it was given my a Baptist Chaplain secularly at our request. good luck!

"...the right to be happy with yourself." That strikes a chord with me. Ever since agreeing to hide my atheism, my happiness has been at an all-time low.

I thought about us seeing a priest, but then got to thinking about the kids. The priest would most certainly encourage that our kids take religious classes, get confirmed, and all that jazz. Right now, dh seems content with my wishes for the kids to not have to take classes (he disliked his catechism classes as a kid). If a priest got into his ear, I'm afraid of the consequences for our kids.

Before you read, know that I'm a naive college student.  Take what you will out of my reply.

Instead of conceding to him as the stronger person, you may have to accept that this situation is not going to end well and be the stronger person yourself.  Personally, I can't imagine being forced to not only pretend to be religious, but to teach religion to my own kids, even to the point of converting one who is already atheist.  It would be one of the most demeaning punishments I could receive.  It would definitely cause me mental suffering, and no partner of mine will ever successfully force that on me and get away with it.

You may favor your husband over your kids, but I think the opposite would be true for me.  What would you want your kids to do in this situation?  How do you want them to see their mother behave?

I agree with this. He may be a good man, but right now he is being highly controlling in an unhealthy manner. These expectations he has are going to make you and your children miserable. The younger ones might be fine, but the oldest is being forcibly dragged and Mom's pretending just to keep the family together. Your children will also see Mom as being overly sacrificing and depressed, which will affect the kind of family they look for when they look to settle. You're not just hurting yourself in the long run, but hurting your children as well.

I am dealing with depression from this situation, but a divorce would bring more depression. To be the cause of my kids having a broken family and having to make sacrifices is a very scary thought. I don't want to make life any harder on them than it needs to be.

First, my wife and I divorced in Arizona, where the law said that if either party requests counseling, the court will  stop the divorce until after several counseling sessions. My wife and I met one-on-one with a counselor several times and then together. It greatly eased our going ahead with the divorce. Does your state have a similar law? It might require your husband to see the counselor too.

Second, divorce does not guarantee depression. It can bring a happiness you've never known. There is one danger: if you get involved with someone else too soon, he will probably be much like your ex. 

Third, my wife and I chose to not have children, so you have issues we didn't have.

Fourth, I quit Catholicism while in college. Your husband's rigidity, put in place by Catholicism, is protecting a frail self. Do you want to spend a lifetime protecting it from the world, when its being wounded might be the best thing that can happen to him?




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