This is an issue that most people probably believe will not arise, but it can crop up in any marriage—what happens when one spouse’s beliefs change? This kind of problem is not as black-and-white as one of two Christians losing faith, or when one of two atheists becomes religious.
But, well, first of all, this article in the Huffington Post discusses one spouse in Mormon marriages losing faith and what results. It’s an interesting read.
It also barely scratches the surface on ways that this can happen.
People of different religious backgrounds and beliefs date all of the time. Sometimes that can create problems (the “different worlds” relationship problem, or different ideas about extramarital interactions and what reproductive health choices* both parties might make), most of the time it might mean that you make different dietary choices or have different schedules occasionally (Partner A: “Hey, I can’t go to that late party on Saturday night, I have church in the morning.” Partner B: “That’s okay—I’ve got that Imbolc thing Saturday night, so I can’t go either. Smooches.”).
That’s basically the case, whether the couple are high school sweethearts or living together as adults. If you really have a problem with the other person’s beliefs or that person not sharing yours, you probably won’t stay together for too long. For the most part, though, you can keep that part of your lives separate.
When you get married, it becomes a bigger deal. You’re uniting families, and if his family is Greek Orthodox and your family is Hindu, you (and your respective families) might have some disagreements over a lot of things. Starting with the wedding. And then there is the issue of children.
(And, for the record, children should not be “raised as” anything other than intelligent young people who are learning about the world. Educate them about your beliefs. Educate them about the beliefs of others. Adherence to a particular religion doesn’t count if you just don’t know any other way to be. And, more importantly than this, don’t commit your infant children to your faith—that’s kind of a creepy spiritual violation. Most importantly, let’s not circumcise them without medical need. Circumcision doesn’t ruin a boy’s life, but there’s no need for it and it’s his choice to make when he’s old enough to make it)
Those are the big things that people think about. And then there are concerns over changing beliefs. “What if my wife stops being a Christian—how will that impact our marriage and our family?” “My husband’s an atheist like I am, but his family is super religious—what if one day he gets ‘born again’ and becomes a different person?”
There are also the less dramatic changes, which I think that people overlook. “Neither of us are religious, but my wife has become more ‘spiritual’ lately and I’m not sure what that means—or if it will lead to her being religious.” “My husband and I are both Jewish, but his beliefs are becoming increasingly Orthodox and I do not know what that means for us.” “My girlfriend says that she’s still a Christian, but she no longer goes to Church regularly, and seems less interested in socializing with our church friends.”
These issues are talked about less because they are less obvious problems. And they don’t have easy answers (there are not a lot of easy answers within marriages—I mean, unless someone’s hitting someone, because then it’s time for a mur . . . a divorce). A lot of these can be addressed by talking to your spouse. It might be an uncomfortable subject to bring up (especially if you are allergic to confrontation like I am), but it will help you both to get a clear idea of where you stand as partners.
*Obviously, what reproductive health choices that they make are each their own business. So long as no one fakes getting a vasectomy or lies about being on the pill (if you’re trying to have a baby, be honest if you aren’t into it, and it is even more important that, if you are not trying to have a baby, neither of you sabotages the efforts—that can ruin lives, including any child who might come of it). No one needs to coerce anyone into anything, whether you’re in your teens or thirties.