Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Interfaith Marriage: Stepping Beyond Just The Two of Us

Once more the uncertainty of my husband's spiritual journey is coming front and centre for me. It's that time of year when community groups and Bible studies and activities that we haven't had since he came out to me this summer resume. I want to support him. For him to know he has the freedom to choose what is right for where he is at and require him to hide his de-conversion.

Selfishly I hate that this is going to be one more thing that I do alone now. In reading some of the experiences of other spouses whose partners have de-converted, they often express that it gave them the freedom to explore their own faith in ways they hadn't previously. I love that for them. I'm the opposite. I was already exploring. I was the one who started, who gave him permission. While my journey has led me closer to my own spirituality, his has led him further away. I feel lonely in my faith. I'm still searching for what community could look like for me in my own walk and doing it alone is both liberating and terrifying.

As we walk out into this more public season of sharing what has changed over the summer, I'm afraid of the responses that we'll get. I'm afraid people will tell me that they are praying for him. Which, hey I'm all for prayer, but if that's the only support you are willing to give him or I, the only response that you have, then please keep it to yourself. Too often it feels like a dismissal of him as a person and my very real struggle. Ask how you can pray for us, listen to our feelings, or do non-religious things with us as couples.

I worry about the pressure, all the what if people say this or that. And yeah I'll deal with it, but I wish I could give people a primer on what not to say. Most Christians I know don't like to talk about what happens when someone's faith beliefs change. There's a lot of fear there. I get it. I grew up being terrified of hell with this angry Deity who killed people for making the wrong choices. There's much of this that I don't have answers for myself, so please don't feed my fear. Don't prey on it or pressure me to make him come back to church or God or faith. Don't ask me to explain his choices. Go talk to him. But when you do, please see him as a person, not a lost sheep that must be herded back into the fold. Or a child who's throwing a fit and needs to be tolerated, or punished depending on your parenting style.

In the same way, please don't be shocked when you hear that my prayer request is not for his salvation or his return to faith. I am not responsible to spend the next 20 years praying him back into the "family of God". I'm responsible to live my faith for myself. I need support and I need people willing to connect with my faith journey, because that's no longer built into my marriage. Sure we can talk about it, but he and I are reading from two completely different books these days, so common ground when it comes to faith is not something we have. I've said it before  and I'm going to keep saying it. This is lonely for me. It breaks my heart to show up by myself in faith circles where he used to attend with me. I have my own journey through this - and for right now, it doesn't involve re-converting him.

What it does involve is learning to be authentic with myself and with others. It means messy posts like this one and tears over coffee. It means ranting in my therapist's office. I have a tonne of questions. Don't we have enough challenges to overcome in this marriage without also navigating this? I don't expect people to have answers. I'm not even sure that I need answers as much as I need people who are willing to sit with me in the middle of the questions.

Up until now this has been easier. I've had time and space to begin to adjust to not sharing faith beliefs with my husband, to being on separate pages, to no longer assuming that we are approaching spirituality from the same relative starting point. Now it's time to wade out a little deeper, to share this journey with my community. I'm nervous. I'm counting down the weeks until we start up again. I figure knowing what I don't want is a stepping stone to being able to articulate what I do want.

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