Q&A with Geoff: How do I talk about religion with my husband who has different beliefs?May 04, 2022
My husband keeps refining his religious beliefs. He has not believed in our church for decades, although we were married in a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple over 40 years ago. We don’t discuss religion too often.
The other day, he said he doesn’t believe in eternal marriage due to a scripture in Matthew that says there will no marriage or given in marriage in the hereafter. I told him I was sorry he didn’t believe in that. He only believes we will just be good friends. I just feel like I was relegated to a second-class citizen.
I have been struggling with how to separate my beliefs and feelings from his beliefs and trying to get my arms around a relationship with this big void. Sundays have been more difficult. I come home with all my beliefs fresh in my mind. He wants to ignore it all and go for a walk or be together. I want distance to try and sort things out.
He is a good man, and I don’t wish to throw out the baby with the bathwater! But how do I continue? I feel like there is a big void between us. We used to not discuss religion because I would get upset (I am doing much better at remaining calm) and he would start jabbing at all the “wrong” things with the church.
He has said he would love to discuss religion; however, I can’t bring to the table any beliefs, authors, etc. How do I open the communication?
Sharing different spiritual and religious beliefs can certainly create a divide in an otherwise healthy relationship. These things are so central to how we see ourselves, others and our most cherished relationships. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
It sounds like both of you want connection in the relationship. It’s entirely possible for you guys to have that despite your different viewpoints. Every couple has differences that may never be reconciled, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find closeness with each other.
If your goal is to hold your ground until he comes over to your viewpoint, you will waste a lot of precious time and energy that could be used in more productive ways. Recognize that you may be working hard to get compliance out of him instead of learning to sit with the natural tension that arises when he has a completely different view.
It might seem strange, but this tension can be used as a positive in your relationship. Relational tension is an invitation to truly see another person as a unique individual. If you spend all your time trying to reduce the tension by pushing for compliance, you’ll miss a beautiful opportunity to deepen your intimacy with your husband.
Even though you may know a lot about each other after years of marriage, these types of conversations have the potential to invite each of you to truly see each other.
We often avoid talking about hot-button issues such as religion, politics and money because they can become deeply personal and emotional. This is precisely why I’m inviting you to not shy away from the topic of religion with your husband. If you have a secure and loving relationship, then you’ll have a stable foundation to carefully listen to each other’s perspectives.
Again, if you believe you’re right and he’s wrong, then this won’t be a good experience for either of you. On the other hand, if you both make this more about learning more about each other’s souls, thoughts, feelings, backgrounds, dreams and fears, then you’ll have endless opportunities to support each other.
It’s human nature to feel self-assured and decide that we see things clearly and others around us are in denial. This is a more comfortable position than opening up to the challenging reality that we don’t see everything clearly.
Spencer Fluhman shared the following reminder:
Human experience is limited, broken, and always changing. Even at our most committed, our most spiritually aware, a vast gulf separates us from complete wholeness. At no point in this life will we fully see ‘eye to eye’ or through the ‘glass’ clearly. That perfect vision of ourselves and all other ultimate realities awaits in other realms. Every one of us is a work in progress, in other words. We all wander, to one degree or another, from what we yearn to be.
You’re more likely to find and maintain connection with your husband when you embrace what you know, invite him to share what he knows and leave plenty of room for curiosity. Instead of fixating only on the content of your discussions, see if you can zoom out and appreciate the fact that you guys are sharing your lives with each other.
Again, if these conversations stay respectful, open and compassionate, you can literally talk about anything with each other.
While you can’t control his beliefs or know exactly what will happen in the afterlife to your marriage, you can work hard to stay connected to this good man. You love and respect him and see many redeeming qualities that motivate you to stay close with him. You don’t need to save your husband. Your job is to love each other and stay connected to each other while building a loving home.
Ask him if you can both change the way you talk about religion and spirituality. Instead of focusing on proving the other wrong or defending your position, try sharing what inspires you. Talk about the similar teachings that help you live better lives, serve your family and bless those around you.
Invite a different spirit of sharing that isn’t antagonistic or contentious. Use these differences to value and appreciate each other’s perspectives. While this isn’t easy or natural for most people, it can be learned.
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