In response to a recent post of mine entitled When You Love Someone Who Doesn’t Love Christ, a woman wrote me the following heartbreaking letter:
I don’t believe that I happened across your blog by accident. I’m fairly new to the Christian journey, being a “recovering Catholic.” When my husband and I got married eight years ago, Christ was not a strong presence in either of our lives. Things have changed for me, but not my husband. We have two sons now, and I have found a wonderful church home, where the boys and I go every week. My husband has made it clear that he doesn’t want go to church, and every week makes jokes about me “praying for the sinners.” My heart is so torn. My older son LOVES going to church, and begs to stay for both services every week. My toddler loves the attention he receives in the nursery. Lately, our pastor has been preaching that if we are not really considering and confronting our own hearts and lives, we are just living on the surface, gasping for breath. This is exactly how I feel–and it means that I tend to pull back and guard my heart very carefully. I want so much to be able to fully live in Christ in every part of my life, but am at a loss. I’m open to any thoughts or suggestions.
I answered her the following—which I present here in the hope that it might help any woman who finds herself facing the same dilemma:
What a difficult situation. I am of course almost loathe to give any advice at all, being as far removed as I am from the principal and necessarily complex dynamics at work here.
That your husband doesn’t share your faith isn’t necessarily a problem; that he’s being disrespectful of your faith is. That needs to stop happening. For whatever it’s worth, my opinion is that you should sit your husband down, make sure you’ve got his full, undivided attention, and say to him (something like) this:
“It really hurts me that you belittle the faith that means so much to both me and the kids. I don’t mind if you don’t want to come to church with us, but it’s like a knife in my heart when you make disparaging comments about the fact that we do go to church. My religion means a lot to me—more than I could possibly say. It’s vital to my heart: it keeps me feeling positive, and well, and up to the tasks of life. It makes me a better, more loving, more thoughtful, stronger person all around. And it’s fantastic for the kids. You know how the world is out there; Christianity and the church is probably saving the lives of our sons.
“You’re my husband; I love you with all my heart. I just don’t want your support; I need your support. You don’t have to come to church with me (though of course I’d love you to—and it does hurt my feelings a little that you won’t at all), but you do need to stop being so blatantly disrespectful of the fact that I and the boys do go to church. I wouldn’t do that to you if our roles were reversed; I consider it fundamental to our relationship that I support you in the things that you do–especially in the good, healthy things that you do. You need to do the same for me. You need to take seriously the things that I take seriously. It’s not fair of you to make fun of something just because it doesn’t work for you. It does work for me, and I need you to at the very least be grateful that it does.”
Say something like that. Be open, honest, strong and loving. Again, I hesitate to really have any thought at all about two people I don’t know––but, going in, I’d venture to say that if you say something like the above to your husband, and he doesn’t immediately quit with the obnoxious comments, you’ve got a real problem on your hands. Because that means you’re married to a boy, instead of a man.
I’ll bet he hears you, though. Men have a different take on humor than women, sometimes. We men tend to be … crude, in that way: We use humor and sarcasm so often—so almost instinctively––that we sometimes forget how our words can at times truly sting. Certainly too often I think I’m “just” being funny—when in fact I’m hurting my wife’s feelings. So I monitor that. I’m sure your husband will, too, once he realizes the pain his words are causing you.