Since You Asked…

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Dear Caroline,

My wife and I have been married for almost 10 years. A few months ago, she started going to church activities with a close friend. Not too long after that, she stopped trying to look good. Last week she told me she was going to convert. This church forbids a lot of things we enjoy, including dancing, drinking alcohol and celebrating most holidays. We have a daughter and a son who are still in elementary school. I don’t want them going to this church or having these scary, restrictive beliefs forced on them.

What can I do?


Dear Bob,

You didn’t mention your own religious beliefs, so I don’t know how far apart you and your wife are. If she had been a member of this church when you met, you might not have dated, let alone married, and started a family. That said, there are countless ways in which a person can change over the course of a lifetime; and eventually all married couples have to cope with some change-related challenges.

I think the first step is for you two is to sit down and thoroughly discuss her new beliefs in detail to see if, and where, your views and values align and intersect. You might find you’re not as far apart as you thought you were. If you have contradicting views, they may leave room for compromise, provided you’re both willing and able to keep your spiritual lives in reasonable balance with other aspects of your lives and put ongoing thoughtful effort into respectfully presenting both religions to your children. Successful inter-faith marriages are common, as are marriages where the husband and wife go to the polls and cancel each others’ votes with each election. When different viewpoints are presented and communicated respectfully and properly, children can grow up with a broader perspective on the world.

Contradicting values are another matter. Children can’t grow into secure, confident adults in a home where contradicting values are modeled and instilled. This is why it’s very important for the two of you to establish open communication and lay all your cards on the table before this conflict trickles down to your kids. A marriage counselor who isn’t affiliated with either church may be essential to this process.

The other key aspect you’ll need to work on is companionship in your marriage. If drinking and dancing are out, for example, what can you do together to make up for taking those shared activities off the table?

Your wife’s decision to convert seems to be a relatively quick one, so it’s possible she’ll live in this new faith for a season of her life and then change her mind again. It’s also possible she’ll gradually pass through the highly charged “true believer” phase and into a more moderate interpretation of her new doctrine. If not, you’ll have to jointly set up ground rules for everyone’s sanity and adhere to them.

Here’s to the two of you saving your marriage through lots of love, coordinated effort and wise counsel.


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