Love and Marriage… and two individuals

This isn’t my day!! But I thought I would post anyway because due to an internet fault (or some fault of mine) I am sorry my last Sunday post didn’t seem to come up – and now it is lost because I didn’t save it! Sorry about that :-)

My close friend is just about to get married – it is very exciting! Her boyfriend recently became Catholic after much study, prayer and daily mass. It is really quite a personal miracle and their wedding will be beautiful. Weddings are always very special to me, especially when the couple have truly sought out the meaning of marriage and seek to live it – they have not lived together before so it will be a real change and commitment for both of them. It is so much easier that they are both on the same page now too..

There is always vigorous debate on this site between Christians and non-Christians, Catholics and other denominations- we can be so divided on issues and it is sometimes impossible to achieve any sort of consensus. Which in a way is good – who wants to behave like members of a mindless cult – we should seek to understand and make our faith real.

But what level of dissent between you and a potential boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife is ok? Obviously it is a question which needs context but should you go out with a non-Christian? Should you go out with a non-Catholic? What if you fall in love with someone who is neither? Is it ok to think you will try to convert them, but otherwise just agree not to agree on God? Lots of people seem to complain of a lack of potential candidates in their churches!

In my experience finding a partner is a focus in a lot of people’s lives. I would say that people even sometimes change churches to find potential Christian / Catholic partners.

For me a Christian partner is imperative. Not to have God in a relationship would be really hard – because it would mean my partner wouldn’t understand what marriage means to me. I wouldn’t be able to share a whole chunk of myself with my husband. My marriage vows would just not be meaning the same thing to my partner. Added to that, I would feel 100% more secure in a Christian relationship – knowing that my husband had made his vows before God for better or for worse. But as has been shown there is lots of room for different opinions beyond that.

It’s great having discussions with someone who is not a carbon copy of you. You challenge each other and are forced to back your opinions and beliefs up by learning more and exploring your faith further. But it does beg the question what should you be agreeing on? In general, I would say a level of discussion and dissent is actually healthy. But how far is too far?

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    Comments: 13

    1. JoyfulPapist January 5, 2010 at 3:30 pm

      Difference is good – lots to talk about and heaps to learn. My husband of 38 years and I came from very different families of origin – and our faith heritages (I was Anglican, he Catholic) were only part of the difference. But we recognised that we had a challenge, and worked together to find solutions.

      I know people from far more compatible backgrounds who’ve found the differences that eventually surfaced impossible to get over.

      Awareness that there are always differences is a good start. Then, with mutual respect and mutual commitment, anything can be worked through and can make you stronger as a couple.

      So I’d say sufficient similarity that ‘respect’ and ‘commitment’ can be mutual. Otherwise, viva la difference!

    2. kiwiatheist January 6, 2010 at 8:33 am

      No, I agree with eW, I couldn’t possibly marry anyone who held anything more than an agnostic position on the existence of God.

      KA

    3. Andy68 January 6, 2010 at 9:35 am

      It depends on what kind of “belief” they hold for me. I wouldn’t have an issue with my Partner believing in spirituality. – I’ve dated people before who could probably best be described as “Pantheist”; which in itself is fine in my books. But I couldn’t be with a Christian who believed in the virgin birth or the resurrection. I think ultimately the distance would be too great.

      My Partner and I are unmarried but we live together – as far as we are concerned we are married we’re just waiting until we can afford to “do it properly” before we actually tie the knot. One of the most important things for both of us is an agreement that we won’t have children. I read this article the other day which kind of summarised our feelings.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/sep/18/children-philosophy-childless

    4. Rosjier January 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

      That article was so sad, especially:

      “Most people have difficult relationships with at least one parent, and I don’t think I know anyone who visits either or both as often as they could, if they really wanted to. Many parents are haunted by the fact that they are not as close to their children as they hoped or imagined they would be.”

      Firstly it seems to presuppose that children exist merely to have a relationship with their parents and make them happy.

      Secondly it almost presumes ones parents have split up by the time the child leaves home.

      Also, a fear that your expectations may not be met shouldn’t be a part of your decision on having children, any more than it does on your decision to marry.

      I’m happily approaching my 1st wedding anniversary (Feb) and my wife is 5months pregnant.
      Both mine and her parent are still happily married and we visit both mine and her parents as regularly as they and us like.

      “The issue for me is rather one about the possible forms of the good life”

      right.
      Getting married and having a family.
      Living a single life.
      Having a religious vocation. (Understandably this one might not be on your list)

      I wouldn’t add a childless marriage to my list of “forms of a good life”
      I mean no offence Andy68.
      Don’t get me wrong, all life is essentially good, of value, and should be prtotected.
      Also if a couple are unable to conceive then it’s a different story.
      In my opinion openness to life is a necessary component of marriage.

      Openness to life is openness to goodness and openness to love.
      I believe being closed to life in marriage is being closed to; fruitfulness, goodness and love.

      Again no offence I simply believe that marriage is a reality outside of our selves which we can discover, not something which we can create, re-create or form ourselves.

      Sincerely,

      Rosjier

    5. Rosjier January 6, 2010 at 10:29 am

      In regards to the post,

      If my christian friend wanted to marry a non-Catholic or even an agnostic I wouldn’t stop them.

      But if they were trying to marry an Athiest, Hindu, Muslim, Budhist, JW, or Mormon (etc.)
      I would try and talk them out of it.

    6. Andy68 January 6, 2010 at 10:54 am

      I would agree with that list but I would take Atheist off and replace it with Catholic ;).

      “In my opinion openness to life is a necessary component of marriage” –> within a religious context yes.

      I’m very much looking forward to our childless life together, no offence.

    7. Rosjier January 6, 2010 at 11:01 am

      none taken :) All the best

    8. fishe January 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      I don’t think I could seriously be with anyone who seriously held supernatural beliefs.

    9. JB January 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Rosjier,

      Congratulations on the pregnancy, hope all goes well. My wife has just given birth to our first child and it is an amazing feeling being a parent, a feeling that is so beyond all expectations!!

      Great post EW!

      I think one of the best things we did as an engaged couple was FOCCUS, where you individually do a questionnaire, that has all the questions about you as an individual you could possibly think of, and then you through it with another married couple and discuss differences, similarities and try and work out what you need to work on or discuss more.

      Anyone getting married, I highly recommend it!!

    10. JB January 6, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      Here is the FOCCUS website and some sample questions…

      http://www.foccusinc.com/sections/foccus_content.asp?PKID=9

    11. JoyfulPapist January 6, 2010 at 3:16 pm

      FOCCUS is great – I echo JB’s recommendation. The questions allow you to explore the assumptions you each bring to the marriage. Often, it isn’t the big things that cause friction, but the small things that you assume are ‘normal’ because they’re what you grew up with.

      For example, it’s your turn to do the laundry: you assume your spouse’ll put anything that needs washing into the laundry basket. Your spouse assumes that you’ll collect the washing from the bedroom. Next thing you know, he/she is upset because the clean clothes have run out, and you’re upset because you are being blamed…

      FOCCUS helps to explore this family of origin stuff so that you can bypass all these false assumption fights.

    12. John Jensen January 7, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      fishe:

      I don’t think I could seriously be with anyone who seriously held supernatural beliefs

      You don’t happen to be from the Wairarapa, do you? :-)

      My daughter lived with a guy down there for two and a half years. He was what I call an ‘evangelical atheist’ – intent on converting the world to his unfaith. When she finally got up the courage to tell him that she wanted to go back to Church and get right with God, he was horrified – acted as though he had touched something unclean. He said that he would be terribly embarrassed for his friends to find out that his girlfriend was a Christian.

      Eventually she got up the courage to leave. Sad, really. He was a good guy, other than this quirk. She wanted them to get married and was willing to live with his atheism – but he couldn’t hack her Christianity.

      Odd, it seems to me.

    13. fishe January 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm

      John,

      Nope not me sorry :)

      But that example with your daughter is sad. His reaction says more about him personally than anything else.

      My thinking is more along the lines of I would find it hard to truly be close to someone who had such beliefs. But it would depend highly on the individual, and the practicalities. And I am talking about getting seriously involved. At the early stages it would probably make things interesting :)

      And personally, since I have a personal interest in issues of supernatural belief, it is something that, especially at the moment, is “on the top” of my mind.

      I can also understand a bit how she could hack his atheism and he couldn’t handle her christiainity. To be atheist is essentially a neutral position, contrary to the philosophical argument against that that many readers here will hold :) To be Christian however is certainly not and brings with it all sorts of added beliefs, issues, codes of conduct etc.