Need some long, boring relationship advice

I’m really not one to post this sort of thing, you know? Blah blah why don’t supermodels fall in love with me and move into my mom’s basement, should I call her, why doesn’t she call me, is it creepy to sacrifice animals for her, that sort of thing. And I’m fully aware that there’s absolutely no answer for this one - it’s a legitimate huge difference in worldview. But, you know, some advice maybe?

Himself and I have been together for almost three years. He lives with me, generally speaking - he’s turned his apartment into an office for his business. I’ve recently built a garage, and I’m “renting” out the apartment above to him for his private getaway, but frankly the way we live would be no different if we were married. (Although I’d hope if we were married he’d do something about his Coke cans. But I digress.)

I think it may matter that I’m four years older than he is - I just turned 28, he’ll be 24 this week. Actually, he’ll be 6, as he’s a leap day baby. So I’m aware that those ages mean completely different things with men and women, and that four years at this point in our lives can be a huge deal. I’m working on moving up in my career, I have a house, mortgage, etc, while he’s still in the first few years of starting a business. There are plenty of other things that divide us that, in other, less healthy relationships, might be a problem - my family has a lot more money than his does, my parents were much, much older than his and so I’ve been to Europe six times, while he’s been west of Tennessee, like, once. He has entirely different attitudes towards money than me (I wish I could just turn all my finances over to him - he really doesn’t understand how you can spend money you don’t have!), we’re both utter slobs, which is stressful, he’s starting his own business which can be a 24/7 kind of thing while I get off at 5:30 most days, etc.

The thing is, none of these things is a problem at all, really.

What is a problem is that he believes in God and I don’t. To clarify, he doesn’t go to church, but he’s a believer (and he’s a Freemason, where it’s kind of a big deal.) I’m an agnostic who doesn’t see the whole thing as having really much bearing on my life.

This still doesn’t really have an effect on our daily lives, except that it’s why he won’t get married. And the older I get, the more I’m feeling I want to marry this guy. But he doesn’t want to have children with a non-believer. He doesn’t think “Well, some people think…” or “What do you think?” is at all an acceptable answer to “Where is Grandpa now?” He doesn’t want to raise kids that don’t believe in God, and he doesn’t want to confuse them because Mommy doesn’t and Daddy does. Really, this isn’t a marriage issue as much as it’s a kids issue, but obviously he doesn’t want to marry anybody he doesn’t want to have kids with.

And I’m all, well, what the hell are you planning to do? Dump me when a church secretary comes around? Which is where we both admit that we’re waiting for the other one to come around to our point of view. And I’ll admit, I’ve always kind of assumed that when he got older, he’d come around. (For his part, he says, "Well, you might have a near-death experience. Why did you think I got you a scooter for Christmas? :slight_smile: )

I mean, I just kind of assume that when you have kids, you work that stuff out. I don’t see it being a huge deal, but then of course I wouldn’t, would I? Because the whole point is that it isn’t important to me. I asked him if he wanted us to maybe see a pastor about it or something - my parents’ church just got this really nice pair of married pastors, I like them a lot, I could see talking to one of them. He doesn’t want to, because he says he’s hardly going to change his mind, and obviously this is an issue that’s really important to him. As it should be, if he’s really a believer.

So, I dunno, advice?

Not to be too blunt, but cut your losses. He’s made it clear that non belief in God is a deal breaker. If you want marriage/kids, it seems plain that it won’t be with him. And I assume that at some point he will want marriage/kids, and he will choose someone else.

The amateur psychologist in me wonders why you listed all the differences between him and you before you got around presenting what is ostensibly the raison d’etre of this thread. If those things don’t really matter, as you say they don’t, then why are they on your mind?

But anyway, this looks like one of those questions of major compromise that I have no direct experience with. Are you willing to cede to his views on how to raise the kids? It doesn’t look like he is willing to budge from his position, so something is gonna have to give and it’s like it will be you, if you want to get married to this guy.

But to be honest, and I know it may be hard to hear, it sounds like this guy doesn’t have marriage on his mind, period. The kid and religion thing sounds like an excuse to keep the status quo going, like something to shut you up when you bring up the marriage question. If he really really wanted to marry you, I think he would be willing to compromise or at least he’d be taking a more active role in trying to convert you to his view, instead of passively hoping that entropy will change you.

I was also wondering if it’s an excuse on his part. If you really don’t care, would you be willing to keep your beliefs to yourself, and raise your children as believers? How would he feel about that? I think that might get you closer to knowing how much this issue bothers him.

I used to post on a board for non-believers, and can’t even count the number of people in your situation, but further along in the game (the kids were already there) came looking for advice. It seems that a lot of people become more religious after their children are born, and even the compromises made before-hand get thrown out the window. So definitely don’t assume that it’ll work itself out.

I think that this is a deal breaker. From what you’ve told us, he won’t be willing to compromise on this and from what you’ve said, you won’t be able to compromise on this.

In my experience, this isn’t something that is easy to compromise on. Both of you need to ask yourselves what you want out of this relationship and where do you see it going. If you want to get married and have kids and he doesn’t want to do these things with you, then you have a big problem.

Plenty of families I know have one parent more into religion than the other. My husband doesn’t believe in God and I do sometimes and I don’t sometimes. Plenty of people I know who go to church don’t really believe.

Our children went to Sunday school because even though he doesn’t believe and I sometimes don’t, we both agree that belonging to a group like a church makes our lives better. We also agree that it doesn’t hurt to have faith in something that could turn out to be imaginary. The kids don’t know that we don’t have faith. I would actually rather have it then not. My life was easier when I had faith.

I can see your situation working if you agree that you won’t talk to the kids about your non-belief and the children can receive religious education. Because even if you’re right and God doesn’t exist does it really hurt your family to have church as an activity to do together? It’s hard enough to find time to be together as they get older. Will it hurt or benefit your children to be involved with other kids in the church as they become teens?

Most families I know compromise towards the spouse with the strongest beliefs.

It sounds to me like she’s answered this. She sounds like she’s completely willing to do whatever he wants, but he’s totally unwilling to have a non-believer in the equation. It’s not his beliefs that are getting in the way, it’s his unwillingness to compromise. End it.

These hypothetical conversations that **Zsofia ** could see herself having with her hypothetical young child sound to me like she wants him/her to be open to the idea that Dad’s beliefs are false. Or, at least that they’re not the only beliefs out there, instead of flat out telling the child what to believe, which is what her SO wants to do.

Well, I’m not going to end it. We’re very happy. I honestly can’t imagine being with anybody else, at this point - I mean, we’re each other’s best friend. But when you think about kids, and I think he kind of thinks the only real reason to get married is if we’re planning on kids, well, it does change things.

Also, I brought up the other things in which we’re different to explain the relationship - these things are differences we have where there is sometimes a bit of friction, but they aren’t important. This thing is the dealbreaker.

ETA - it doesn’t help that there’s a stupid amount of pressure from other people - I have coworkers who leave bridal magazines in my box with the dresses they think most becoming post-it-ed. I mean, not that that’s a reason to get married, but it does start to get to you after awhile when every time there’s a holiday your coworkers check your fingers.

Hey, did you call into Savage Love recently? There was a podcast just like this a few weeks ago. One interesting thing Mr. Savage pointed out-- you’ve already got the guy living in sin, right? Or are you two in a sexless relationship? I realize plenty of religious people somehow manage to conveniently slip up when it comes to premarital sex, but really, he sounds like he’s not that religious in his day-to-day activites (plus he sounds sort of funny).

Still… bringing kids into the equation is probably a bad idea. A follow-up caller to Savage Love talked about ‘giving in’ to her religious husband to the point where she was attending Bible study and homeschooling her kid. When she snapped out of it and realized she was fooling herself, her husband thought she must be possessed by demons. Not a great environment for a kid.

(On a personal note, I used to think I’d be okay being in a relationship with a mildly religious person. But then I asked my SO point blank if he was an atheist and he paused just a bit too long – on purpose, he was trying to freak me out – and I realized I’m just not that tolerant).

Zsofia, I am in your (almost) exact situation. I am an atheist while my girlfriend is definitely not, and I am the one who doesn’t feel like he could raise kids with an active Christian. We’ve talked about the issue a few times, and basically I don’t know how I could raise kids, be honest about my beliefs while still showing respect for my wife’s beliefs. (Daddy, why don’t you go to church with us/mommy? Well, because I don’t think that God exists.)

I don’t have a good answer, but I think we’re both kind of waiting until one person changes his/her mind (not going to happen) or the issue becomes pressing enough that we actually have to make a choice. Not really looking forward to that, to be honest.

Ok, if you’re not going to end it be prepared for a lot of strife when/if the Kids issue comes up.

If you decide to get married and/or have kids with such a fundamental issue unresolved, you’re really setting yourself up for misery. You have a lot more control over this issue (and your life) now than you will once you legalize things and bring kids into the picture. Just my $.02.

And I’m kind of confused–you say that despite all this, you’re not going to end it, yet you’re calling it a dealbreaker, which implies you’re willing to end it. :confused:

What? You’re not tolerant of a mildly religious person? What am I missing here?

As for the OP, believe me, you will rarely find another person on this earth with whom you share all opinions and beliefs. Find common ground, learn to compromise and learn when to speak up and when not to. If two reasonable adults can’t learn to respect one another’s differences then that’s a completely different issue.

I’m an atheist: my wife’s Catholic. The kids are being raised Catholic, in the Catholic school system. This is the least of our concerns: trust me.

Yep. I’d previously theorized that, despite my beliefs (or lack thereof), if my SO wasn’t orthodox I could look past it for love (aww). But I’d never tested those beliefs, and even confronting the slight chance that he might harbor some religiosity made me nervous. So I’m obviously not as open-minded as I’d previously supposed. It’s a deal-breaker, I guess. Don’t get me started on abortion.

He’s not religious like that. I guess you might just call him more of a Deist. He’s not a churchgoer or a religious moralist or any of that - you’d really never know, unless you asked him outright, what his beliefs are. It’s quite important to him, though, although easy to underestimate because he’s not at all a God-botherer.

It’s not a dealbreaker for me, but obviously it is for him. Or a deal-not-maker.

I’m confused. If you’re not willing to break up with him, and he’s not willing to conjoin himself to a non-believer, and even though you appear willing to compromise on the kid thing, that willingness doesn’t seem to be changing his mind on the whole not getting married to a non-believer thing, what are your options?

From where I sit, it seems like you only have 3 options: 1) make yourself believe in God (not likely), 2) lie and tell him that you believe in God (not ethical or healthy), or 3) resign yourself to a marriageless relationship. Which one of these paths are you willing to accept?

My sister-in-law is deeply religious; my brother isn’t.

Zsofia, do you want your children raised with Christian morality? Do you yourself follow the teachings of Jesus (or Mohammed or Buddha or whoever) without believing that person to have been the incarnation (or messenger or …) of God? Because if you do, then surely you can put up with a church service once a week.

In relationships, there are things you can compromise on (like how to load the dishwasher, how often you need to vaccuum the stairs, which shows you should watch on TV, whether or not it’s okay to drink straight out of the milk carton, etc…).

Then there’s the stuff you can’t compromise on. Things like marriage and babies, because there aren’t really shades of grey in there. Either you do or you don’t.

I agree with what’s been said. If these are things that matter to you, then you need to cut your losses and find yourself a nice atheist boy who wants to make babies with an atheist girl, and let your guy find himself a nice Freemason girl who wants to make Freemason babies. If either of you was going to change your mind on these issues, you’d have done it by now.

Dude, it is totally not that simple. I mean, we both grew up in church-going households. The question is, when your little moppet comes and says, “Mommy, is there really a God?” do you lie? Which is somewhat bigger than giving up an hour of your Sunday. If that’s all there was to it we’d do the Unitarian thing.

I guess I know these are my options, and obviously I’ve chosen the “stick around, maybe he’ll change his mind, and anyway we’re happy the way we are” path. But, you know, it sucks.

Do you respect his belief in god or do you think it’s a sign of immaturity and something he’ll grow out of?

If you do respect those beliefs, you can fake agnositicism: Daddy believes in god, Mommy’s not sure, if they have questions send them to dad. That was you aren’t contradicting him and you are more or less leaving the kids free to make up their own mind.

If, on the other hand, you think of believing in god like believing in Santa Claus–something intelligent people outgrow, and those that don’t are a bit intellectually immature–then this isn’t going to work.

Lastly, make sure he doesn’t assume that married + kids = start going to church. This is pretty common. Common enough that he may have thought it too obvious to mention.