Date: July 10, 2018 04:18PM
Q. Changing religions: After some traumatic events, I’ve chosen to distance myself from my religion. However, my husband is very religious, and when we got married he expected us to always share a faith tradition. I don’t blame him, I did too—but after my experiences, I’ve changed.
I have no idea how to talk to him about it without it turning into him accusing me of being misleading and heading down a bad path. I also feel like no matter how I try to tell him that I totally support him continuing to be religious, and whether or not I continue to attend services, he’ll still feel like I’m insulting him and his faith. Our relationship is so great—until we discuss religion. Now I’m kind of stuck pretending I’m a believer. It feels dishonest, but I feel trapped.
A: I can understand your trepidation, but I think even painful disagreement will be an improvement over keeping silent and feeling trapped. Yes, when the two of you married you shared a religious faith, but we don’t commit ourselves to never changing for the rest of our lives based on who we were on our wedding day. You haven’t betrayed your vows by following the dictates of your own conscience, so even if your husband is personally hurt over your convictions—don’t feel like you’ve wronged him in any way by being honest with yourself and with him.
Maybe he will lob baseless accusations at you, maybe he’ll decide you’re insulting his faith no matter how supportive you remain of his religious observance, maybe he’ll surprise you and rise to the occasion, but you can’t forestall this confrontation indefinitely by forcing yourself to pretend something you no longer believe. If you don’t already have someone you can talk to about this, preferably someone who is not a member of your former religious faith, I hope you’ll seek out a secular counselor or non-religious friend who can offer support and counsel as you try to share this with your husband.
You and your husband don’t have to hammer out every single detail of the differences between your respective worldviews tomorrow—you can certainly set limits on how often and in what fashion you discuss religion—but I think you’ll feel enormous relief, even if the first conversation goes quite badly, once you’ve been honest with him. You say you don’t know how to talk to him about it, and I think you should lead with all the reasons you’ve been afraid to speak to him. Share your fears that he’d accuse you of misleading him, that you’re worried he won’t think your support of his faith is genuine, and that you don’t want this to get between the two of you. I can’t promise that everything is going to work out, but I sincerely believe that you’re doing the right thing and deserve the chance to be honest about your beliefs with your husband. Pretending sounds exhausting.