Ask Richard: Will My Christian Boyfriend Ever Marry Me?

Note: Letter writers’ names are changed to protect their privacy.

Dear Richard,

I am sure you have probably heard this question before, but I’m new to your advice column and hope you could help me. For over six years I have been dating a wonderful man who I love with all my heart. He is everything I’ve wanted in a potential husband, and I know he loves me deeply. We’ve both been through previous marriages and both understand the importance of making sure that a relationship is solid before committing to marriage. We’re at the point now where I would love to marry this man. I cannot even begin to express how compatible we are. We agree on our overall views of marriage, relationships, child rearing, and employment and most importantly, we love each others’ company. There’s only one problem: I am an atheist, and he is a devout Christian. I take no issue with his Christianity except that I am not willing to compromise my beliefs and become a Christian myself. That apparently is a show-stopper.

He is more than willing to continue our relationship and has never had an issue dating me, but he says he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.” Strangely, this has never stopped him from seeing me, dating me, or…well…otherwise enjoying my company. He talks about having kids together, about building a house together, and other such things that lead me to believe the he is contemplating marriage, but every time the issue actually comes up, the question of religion quickly follows and the entire conversation devolves into tears and frustration (on both sides). I am reaching the age where the time for me to have children is rapidly diminishing. I am at my wits end and am starting to think the situation is hopeless. Can theists and non-theists ever have a successful marriage? Raise kids? (I have previously offered to allow them to be raised in the church, so long as any time they ask why I don’t attend I can simply say “mom and dad believe different things, and that is why I don’t go to your dad’s church” or something to that effect). Is he just stringing me along and using religion as an excuse not to get married (I can’t help but think of the free milk and cow story)? I’d like for us to talk to someone together, but I’m afraid if we go see his spiritual adviser I’ll simply get ganged-up on and I don’t know if a traditional counselor can adequately address spiritual issues (or that he would even go).

Please tell me your thoughts. Is it time to move on?

Thank you,
Natalie

Dear Natalie,

Yes, it’s time to move on, one way or the other.

The most compassionate thing I can do for you is to encourage you to somehow get unstuck. Helping someone to see things clearly is a deeper compassion than offering a pleasant but fuzzy vision.

I’m sure that he’s a wonderful man. I’m sure that you love him very much. And I’m also sure that you’re in a lot of pain.

Many people have told me that they are in a “decision-making process,” a long period of time during which they wrestle with a tough decision. After talking with them for a while, I often find that they actually made their decision a long time ago, but they just don’t want to execute their decision because it will be painful. So they tell themselves that they’re still trying to make up their minds, but in reality they’re just putting off making the change that they know they must make.

Eventually, the pain that comes from inaction gradually builds until it’s worse than the pain that comes from taking the action, but over that long time they have gotten into the habits of avoiding thinking about it, procrastinating discussing it, and rationalizing the way things are. So they’re stuck in limbo, in worse pain than they would be if they just got it done.

In the over six years that you have been together, the two of you have neither arrived at a workable solution to this impediment, nor have you acknowledged that you have reached an impasse. Despite all the ways that you are compatible, this one difference keeps preventing a deeper level of commitment. You are very compatible as long as both of you want to keep things just the way they are. That was fine for the last few years, but people’s needs change, and your needs and his needs are diverging. Your biological clock is ticking louder, and it expresses a legitimate need.

“Can theists and non-theists ever have a successful marriage? Raise kids?” Yes, and it’s rare because it’s extra challenging. They have to be able to make important concessions on both sides, and keep their communications honest, frank, and focused on what is best for both people. All relationships are always complex and at times are difficult. Adding more potential for conflict is just riskier. With a religious conflict, the most divisive thing ever known, that potential does not go away.

You have made theoretical concessions to him such as allowing potential children to be raised in the church, while what you would get is to be open to them about how you don’t believe it. That seems like a lopsided deal. Also, keep in mind that agreements about hypothetical kids can suddenly evaporate once they’re smiling up at you from the rug. People have all sorts of idealistic philosophies about child rearing before the children are born. Either of you might very well realize that you’re not as willing to give in as you had previously thought.

I’m puzzled that your boyfriend doesn’t seem to know you very well. If after all this time he actually thinks that you are “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” and “have no moral foundation,” just because you’re an atheist, then he’s not paying any attention to the real person in front of him. From your letter, you certainly don’t sound like your conduct defines you that way. Does he see you, or does he see a category? If he doesn’t judge your character from your actual behavior by now, will he ever?

He paints a very attractive picture of family life together, but then he postures that it’s the religion that objects, not him, implying that it’s not his fault that he is never willing to actually commit. You have asked the question yourself: Is he stringing you along? I cannot know his mind; he may or may not have that conscious intention, but the effect is the same. Things stay stuck.

A couple of kids playing in front of a picket-fenced house is a tempting vision dangled in front of you, and it could all be yours if only you’d toss your principles and convictions into the trash and adopt his beliefs, or at least pretend to. He may be hoping that you’ll convert, but if not, he seems content with things remaining as they presently are. In the meantime, your hesitance still benefits him. He has little to lose by the delay while he continues to, as you say, “…well…otherwise enjoy my company.”

You have the sense that time is fleeting, and your natural desire for children is becoming more imperative. So I think it’s time that you get out of limbo one way or the other. So far, your talks with him have ended in tears and frustration, but with no resolution. I think you need a referee. I think it’s a good idea of yours to talk to someone together.

A traditional family counselor should be able to guide the two of you through clarifying and negotiating your needs, and help you come to a decision. I don’t think that the “spiritual issues” involved would be beyond a secular counselor’s ability to understand. If your boyfriend insists that the two of you see his spiritual advisor, then you should insist that the two of you also see the counselor of your choice. If he refuses to reciprocate, that gives you some insight about what this marriage would be like.

Remember that any decision that arises from counseling sessions are not the counselor’s decision. The counselor’s proper role is to help clarify what each of you need in order to make your decisions. If your decisions match, you move forward together. If they don’t match, you move forward your separate ways. In either event, the pain of seeing your possibilities steadily diminishing will finally come to an end, and you will have a life filled with possibilities once again.

I wish you both the very best.

Richard

You may send your questions for Richard to AskRichard. Please keep your letters concise. They may be edited. All will eventually be answered, but not all can be published. There is a very large number of letters; please be patient.

About Richard Wade

Richard Wade is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist living in California.

  • Edman

    I’ve been down a similar path, and we were even married for a while. While some Christians could be OK with being married to an unbeliever, when they start using phrases like “unequally yoked”, you know where it’s going. Sadly, they will not be satisfied until you are a believer.

  • Aaron

    Sounds like the beginning of some verbal abuse to me. Get out.

  • http://secularshawshank.wordpress.com Andy

    I agree that this couple would be “unevenly yoked”: He’s an idiot, and she’s not. (And, no, I don’t think he’s an idiot because he’s religious, rather, he’s an idiot because of his idiotic behavior toward his partner. Why would you want to date someone with “no moral foundation”? Really, F him.)

  • Trace

    If he is telling youe that you are “closed-hearted” you may have a problem and be less compatible than you think. My advice to you, reevaluate priorities. You don’t “need” him to have kids. If kids is what you want get them. You don’t need a spouse to have a great family.

    Good luck to you.

  • The Other Tom

    If after 6 years with you this guy tells you you’re “closed-hearted”, “selfish”, and “going to hell”, it’s pretty obvious to the outside observer that you do not have a future with him, because he values his religion more than he values you. If this guy was prepared to be a good husband, he would value you more than anything else. So, whether or not he will eventually marry you, I don’t think it would be a good idea to marry him.

    My advice: Go find yourself a better man. One who values a very real you over a very imaginary deity.

  • eruvande

    I suppose he conveniently ignores what the Bible says about “enjoying a lady’s company” before marriage. Or is that okay, since she “has no moral foundation” and is destined for hell anyway?

    This sounds like an all-around bad situation. It will hurt, but: SEVER.

  • Ashley

    Run, run as fast as you can, he doesn’t respect you and he believes in an invisible man!

  • Ron in Houston

    This letter almost sounds like a setup.

    “he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.”

    Seriously, and this person still wants to marry this guy? This just sounds too trite to be true. Add to that the old “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” and color me skeptical on the legitimacy of this one.

  • http://twitter.com/MikeFunIce Mike

    I agree Richard above.
    As an experienced cad, I think this “religion clause” is a convenient excuse not to marry. He believes you’ll never compromise.
    I suggest you call his bluff. Tell him that you want to get married so are willing to procedd with whatever the necessary steps are to ahve you “authenticated”. Like any bluff, you’ll have to be committed to carrying through.
    But I’ll wager he’ll come up with another reason why you can’t get hitched.

    My guess is that he’s willing to do a lot of activities that would be wholly inappropriate under classic Christian dogma.

  • Rich Wilson

    I think you know the answer as well as anyone. That you even ask it means you do. So now the question is “when”. Well, how much more of your biological clock do you want to waste?

    Tough tough tough. But all our collective online sympathy and empathy isn’t going to make it any easier.

  • William in LA

    Hi Natalie,

    I suggest you simply ask him to marry you, and ask that he responds with a simple yes or no… no more talking, no more arguing, no more “from my perspective”. A simple yes or no. If he says yes, then the religion issue is secondary to his love for you. If he says no, then you can move on knowing you at least were willing to risk it, even if he wasn’t.

  • Deiloh

    If his opinions of you are really that low, he’s using you. He is the selfish one. Move on.

    There is the possibility that he parrots what he’s been taught without giving it much thought. My husband insists that I have a hole in my heart that needs filling and that atheists are cynical mopes. More than a little confirmation bias helps with that opinion. For the most part I’m able to ignore it because it rarely comes up and his words do not transfer into any noticeable action. Sounds like your friend is more than talk.

    Regardless, demand respect for yourself. You are worth taking the time to find someone who supports you. Time is never so short that you should settle for someone who tears you down.

  • schnauzermom

    Why in the world would you even consider wanting to marry someone who characterizes you as “closed-hearted, selfish, and without a moral foundation??!!!” Oh, honey, RUN, don’t walk, out of this dude’s life.

  • staceyjw

    I also think you are not as compatible as YOU think you are. If my husband had ever said to me that I was closed hearted /selfish/no moral foundation it would have been a major deal breaker. How can someone love you and think those things? Would you say these things to him?

    The problem with marrying someone so stubborn about religion is that once you ARE permanently committed through marriage the more compromising partner (you) is more likely to bend even more in order to keep the relationship going. If you have kids, multiply this feeling by 100. This is how people get caught in religiously abusive relationships- the religious nut demands, the partner hopes, and the partner then compromises.

    It’s that slow compromise to a partner that values their ideology more than you that causes problems that cannot be fixed.

    Even though you are an atheist and not likely to convert (or buy into the extreme fundie nonsense), it never hurts to see how it happens. The following links show abusive relationships based on religion happen.

    http://nolongerquivering.com/2009/11/30/its-complicated-why-it-wasnt-as-obvious-as-it-seems-like-it-should-have-been/

    http://nolongerquivering.com/2010/03/16/nlq-faq-how-did-you-get-yourself-into-this-mess/

    I know its sad to give up a 6 year relationship, but its in your best interest.

  • Matto the Hun

    “he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.”

    Even if you did get married, keep in mind this is the kind of disrespectful, condescending garbage he will indoctrinate your children with. I guarantee it.

    It’s a wicked and immoral belief/thought.

    As long as he believes and clings to that, he doesn’t respect or understand you. He may want to, or appear to, or appear to be trying to. However, so long as that’s his stance, then at his core he doesn’t really respect or care for you.

    As Richard said, he’s hoping you will convert and he’s strung you along all this time. In my opinion, for as much as a nice guy as he might otherwise be, he’s the one who is selfish for doing that.

    And he has the gall to say you are selfish simply because you don’t believe what he believes.

    Seems like Richard and everyone who’s chimed in is right, let him go. I’m so sorry, because I know it will suck and hurt and all that… but there really are other fish in the sea. A fish that won’t string you along and condescend or put an evil belief on a pedestal over you.

  • Robert

    As a Christian I would agree that you should evaluate this relationship. It is a good indication of his character that he would spend six years with a lady and take part in the “benefits” knowing that he would never marry you. Not only is he disregarding his faith when he does that, he is using you and being disrespectful and selfish. Not the character traits of a true Christian. As a Christian father of a son, I agree with the equally yoked idea and that is why I suggest that he date Christian women. It is not fair to him or her and extremely disrespectful for that issue to come up later in the relationship.

  • Clay

    Ask yourself just one question (Can I live with this) if the answer is no, you need to leave and never look back. The truth is, neither of y are ever going to change to suit the others beliefs. And he obviously can not accept yours.

  • Meg

    You disagree on something very central to marriage, relationships, and child rearing — your virtue. You believe you can be an atheist and still be a good wife, mother, friend, person. He does not, or claims not to. In either case, he doesn’t want to marry you.

    He doesn’t want to marry you.

    There are so many people in the world. I’m not sure what “compatibility” means to you, but it seems likely you’d find more of it elsewhere. If you want to be married and have a family, you must walk away from this relationship, and be happy for what you’ve learned.

  • stephanie

    If you stay with someone who goes so far as to announce regularly that you are not equals in the relationship, then you are already well on your way to codependency.

    Take a good look at this relationship from the outside and think about whether you would let a friend, someone you deeply care about, remain in similar circumstances. I’m willing to bet you already know the answer.

  • plutosdad

    I don’t think a lot of the judgement is really warranted, in these situations the not being 100% honest often goes both ways. As Richard said, she probably made the decision long ago, yet still hasn’t acted on it, keeping him from dating as well.

    Who knows what was said in every conversation, if those things were said, if she ever said anything offensive back to him. I’m not saying I do, I’m just saying wow everyone is all over the man and pinning blame on one party, this is pretty much the same as every other thread on subjects like this. Why blame anybody? It doesn’t change the advice or what needs to be done.

    But since I’m in a similar situation, I can see how both of us contribute.

  • ladylordenwych

    I have been contemplating a similar situation lately. I met a guy who is perfect in almost every way for me. The only problem is that he is Christian and I am not. He is homophobic and prolife, as well, and I have serious issues with that. You have to figure what are the “dealbreakers” in your relationship.
    It sounds like your boyfriend is willing to “live in sin” but not willing to open his mind enough to let you fully into his heart. It seems like a one-sided relationship, and that is not healthy for either of you.
    Best of luck to you both. =)

  • Jeff Dale

    @Richard Wade: Awesome response. Perfect in every way that I can see. Keep up the good work.

  • Parse

    After six years of seeing you, dating you, and everything else, the facts are that he is willing to call you “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and “eventually going to hell.”

    That screams one thing to me – he’s trying to get you to dump him. He wants out of the relationship, but he’s not courageous enough to actually do that – instead, he’s just going to continue stringing you along until you do something about it. That way he’ll get to play the victim, how he was dumped and is heartbroken. If you recognize that as the guilt trip it is, it’ll lose most of its sting.

    Natalie, you aren’t the bad guy here. Mr. Devout Christian simply needs to mature.

  • L. Vellenga

    So, so sorry. It will hurt a lot to get out of this relationship, but it’s not going anywhere good. I’m a Christian (love the blog!) and I think he’s being a complete jerk (for so many of the reasons mentioned above).

  • Aj

    If he acts that way towards a woman he’s in a relationship with, what’s he going to do to children?

  • ash

    Hurts like anything to be in a relationship where you deeply love but know you will never be more than ms-right-now, doesn’t it? My one is also brutally honest – we will never be together long term because we want very different things from life and our relationships.

    You know what tho? Both my man and yours have been honest, perhaps hurtfully so, but it leaves us in an unenviable position of power – it is up to US whether we (knowingly) put up with this rubbish or not. I am not done yet; although I know I will be at some point. I have no ‘biological clock’ (BTW, kinda offensive phrase) by which to measure my actions or lack of. This guy is being as honest as he can be to someone he probably cares a lot about – but does not love, certainly not as an equal.

    This is your decision whether to be treated like chattel or as a person who is just as much a person and human as he; a person who wants to have children and an ever-decreasing window in which to have them at that. Choose wisely, with all focus on you, your needs, and your happiness, because as he is being honest as he can be with you – it’s up to you, and your responsibility for your life and mistakes, to decide what you can and can’t tolerate.

    Best wishes x.

  • mike

    I am appalled at his remarks toward you of being “close hearted” etc. How can anyone say that to someone standing right in front of them?

    I deconverted while married. My wife was very confused at first as she didn’t fully understand what an atheist was. But she NEVER made such accusations. Anyone who truly loves another has great difficulty imagining evil in that person.

    Every atheist or freethinker and even converts to other religions have family that remain in their original faiths. And many of those families have decent relations. The other families (with bad relations) are not characterized by love or other good qualities.

    I would leave. But, if you stay, he must decide to accept you. At the very least, pack a suitcase, or kick him to the couch, or do something so that he must decide. This relationship must end in its present form. He can either sign up or ship out.

    And don’t concede a damn thing in compromise that you do not want to. He has taken a hard line that clearly created an impasse, and he must know this. He has to accept (and concede to) you, not the other way around.

    For maximum effect, have a nice night on the town where you treat him well and have the time of your lives together (spare no expense / go wild). Then, deliver your ultimatum the next day. Let him know how good his future could be, or that that was his last night with you.

    Good luck.

    P.S. Please tell us all what happens. Yours is a fascinating story.

  • http://whatshallwechoose.blogspot.com marisateika

    he says he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.”

    DUMP HIS ASS. If he tells you that you’re all these things he is NOT a “nice guy”–he is a flaming asshole.

    Run. Run fast in the other direction. Do not look back.

  • http://nssphoenix.wordpress.com drdave

    Having been happily married to a radical catholic lady for 42 years, I can confirm it is possible to for an atheist and a believer to succeed. But note: she really dislikes the church and the rich, power hungry men that seem to gravitate to its core. And she has not much sympathy with a lot of its mythological baggage. However, she is content with the social community that supports her, and we agree on the social and political activities we support. We have each applauded what we like in the other. That is a prime requirement for any marriage: applaud each other.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    You’ve got to admire the gall of a man who would disrespect his girlfriend AND still accuse her of being immoral. He wants to eat his cake and still have it. I guess he’s one who is “saved by grace” rather than works, eh.

    Don’t leave. Kick him out and keep his good CDs.

  • Miki

    hoverfrog wrote: “Don’t leave. Kick him out and keep his good CDs.”

    LOL. Along with his favorite t-shirt you always sleep in.

    Seriously, that guy is SO full of it; pulling the Christian card while engaging in premarital sex. He’s a disingenuous jerk AND hypocrite.

  • Hybrid

    as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.”

    Unequally yoked… what an understatement. Right now you’re like a Saturn V with a bottle rocket strapped to its side. Time to find someone who had the mental capacity to be in touch with reality.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Others have said things on this theme, but I feel compelled to chime in:

    If your boyfriend thinks you’re “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and are “eventually going to hell”? He doesn’t really love you. He loves some version of you he’s made up in his head. The person you really are is a person that he not only doesn’t love, but doesn’t even like very much, and certainly doesn’t respect or value. (It scares the crap out of me to think of the two of you having kids: do you want your kids raised by a father who thinks those things of their mother?)

    In fact, I’m going to go further, and harsher. Richard says “I’m sure that he’s a wonderful man.” I’m not sure of anything of the kind. There is no definition of “wonderful” I can think of that includes telling your supposedly beloved partner of many years that they are closed-hearted, selfish, have no moral foundation, and are eventually going to hell.

    You could try counseling, if it would make you feel better to know that you’d tried everything to save this relationship (or every reasonable thing). But honestly? I’m going to echo Dan Savage. DTMFA. (Google it.)

  • Claudia

    Soo, to be blunt, after 6 years in a relationship he finds it within himself to call you “selfish”, “closed-minded” and reminding you that his god will delight in your screams of pain for eternity. Ohh its not him judging of course! It’s the Bible!

    Of course the Bible sure has some things to say about him fucking you before marrying you, but that part doesn’t count as much as the part about you going to hell, does it?

    You want to marry this man? Listen to his words. What kind of a man in love would call you “selfish” and tell you you’re going to burn? You’re sure you want to have kids with this man? Tell me, what does he think the role of the woman is in the household? How do you think he’d treat a son of his who was born gay? If he has the biblical answers to these questions you should break now. If he doesn’t, you have to wonder why all the biblical stuff about you being a nasty dirty atheist is applicable but not all the other things.

  • muggle

    I have to wonder if Ron has a point here. I mean who talks like this is real life. Not even fundies.

    But in case it is genuine:

    Run! Run like the wind. Run fast; run far. But, in case I haven’t emphasized it enough: RUN!!!

    I don’t say this because he’s Christian; I say this because he’s a verbally abusive asshole who’s using you and thinks of you as a four letter word that starts with a c.

    I don’t mean to be harsh but he’s all but said there’s two kinds of girls: the kind you marry and the kind you don’t and you ain’t the former in his eyes, hon.

    Prince Charming, he ain’t. So wake up to this reality and RUN

  • Karmakin

    Yup. I agree with everybody who says run like the wind. This guy is proto-abusive. He might not be right now, but one day, he will be.

  • sailor

    “Can theists and non-theists ever have a successful marriage? Raise kids?”

    Of course they can. When I was young it was thought that not only was this not possible but it was not possible for Catholics to marry protestants, or for Jews to marry anyone else. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth happened when these rules were broke. Many did break them and now they are not even considered rules by many.

    In your case however, I concur with most of the commentators here. Anyone using that pompous dumb language seriously needs the boot.

  • Dan W

    So this man still believes all sorts of stereotypes about atheists despite his long-term relationship with an atheist woman? And he talks about marriage and kids, but when the issue comes up he says he can’t because of his religion. This doesn’t sound like a good situation for you, Natalie. It sounds like he’s actually being abusive, verbally in particular. If he can’t get around to marrying you because you’re not a Christian, the relationship isn’t going to go anywhere- it’ll just stagnate.

    My advice: get out of the relationship with this man and find one who will learn to respect you better, knowing you’re an atheist. It sounds to me like he doesn’t respect you, Natalie, and he’s stringing you along. I suggest you break up with him and find a man who would be willing to marry you, knowing you are an atheist.

  • fritzy

    Great advice as always, Richard. But for some goddamned reason, I feel compelled to add my unsolicited 2 cents:

    he says he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.”

    Sounds like you have your answer. He does not want to be married to YOU. He wants to marry someone who doesn’t exist. Time to move on and find someone who wants to be with YOU.

  • Claudia

    I feel compelled to add to my previous comment. I think a fair number of us here would agree that the problem isn’t actually that he’s a Christian as much as he’s an asshole who is hiding behind his religion to justify his actions. I can’t believe that the majority of Christian men who could be with an atheist for over half a decade would find it within themselves to remind their lady that she’s going to hell. I can’t know for sure, never having dated a Christian, but I have to believe that this is douche behavior for all but the most wild-eyed fundamentalists. So the options are Christian fundamentalist, in which case I refer you to muggle’s post above, or Christian abusive hypocrite, in which case….well in which case the same advice applies.

  • Lifer

    “He is more than willing to continue our relationship and has never had an issue dating me, but he says he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.” Strangely, this has never stopped him from seeing me, dating me, or…well…otherwise enjoying my company.”

    If you think he is strange for saying this and still continuing to date you, I’d argue that you are far stranger for having heard it and still chose to remain in the relationship.

  • Jantien

    Who does this guy think he is???

    I dated a man studying to become a (protestant) pastor for 2 jrs.
    He didn’t know if he would go to heaven but he was sure as hell that I was!

    Even after we broke up.

    If your man doesn’t think that way about you he doesn’t deserve you.

    Get out!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Be wary of anyone who loves an idea more than you… whether that idea is a religious or political construct. He is probably views you as an empty vessel that has the potential to be made whole if you would become a believer. As long as he maintains this attitude, there is probably little hope for a fulfilling marriage. The question is how strongly he holds this view. Can he change? How strong has his religious conditioning been?

  • Steven

    As always, I am mystified by anyone who stays in these long-term relationships that don’t actually go anywhere. Not that marriage is a prerequisite for starting a family (there are a couple of unwed couples with children in my family) but marriage does represent a commitment that Natalie’s gentleman (and I use the term loosely) is unwilling to make. I’d feel more than a little used if I was deemed good enough to “enjoy my company” for six years but not good enough to marry or start a family. I think Mr. Good Christian has had enough free calcium in his diet and as painful as it may be the time is long past to move forward. I hope that things will work out for the best for both parties. A man who is truly in love should not be stopped by faith as his true faith should be in his partner.

  • JB Tait

    This sounds like a lesser version of the woman who stays with the man who beats her, who does not take his disrespect as a warning, and who puts up with his behavior until he kills her. The woman nearly always says she stays ” . . . because I love him.”

    Since he has expressed derogatory judgments contrary to what he can observe about you, it sounds like he is holding out for something better. He can string you along, get his needs met, and have a comfortable relationship at no cost to him, but as soon as what he really wants comes along, he will ditch you in a heartbeat. And he will make it look like it is all your fault.

    Get out. Get out promptly. Don’t waste your life with a selfish person who is clearly taking advantage of your generosity with no intention of reciprocating and then look back with regret that you never had the children and family you wanted.

    You deserve better but you won’t have the agility to find it while you are still dragging this failure.

  • JB Tait

    I agree with Parse that it sounds like he wants out but he wants you to dump him so he will be blameless. He can blame you for being rigid, or blame his religion, but he can walk away believing he did his best.

    Another ploy is to cheat, arrange to get caught, then when the first relationship is at an end, leave both women. You should see the escalation in bad behavior if the wife doesn’t care that he has a mistress.

  • John H.

    I’m not sure I have anything (useful) to add except that it seems he (the guy) has been given “spiritual” advice how to blackmail Natalie into joining the church. They don’t care how, and they don’t care why; they just care for “results.” What a crock!

    Otherwise, she’s just pretending that things are all right. Richard nails it: she should pull the scales from her eyes and move on.

  • http://whatshallwechoose.blogspot.com marisateika

    Look, I’m going to have to quote Maya Angelou here: “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

    There is no “I’m sure he’s a wonderful guy.” He’s not. He’s an asshole. Stop trying to find reasons that he’s not an asshole–if you have to go looking for them, they’re not there.

    That’s not the kind of person anyone should try and spend their life with. You deserve better.

  • Ann

    I have to say, I agree with Ron above–some of her quotes sound too trite and they are possibly taken out of context. If her boyfriend really said those things to her, she would have cut and run a long time ago.

    So I wonder, is the fact that she stayed with this guy after being told she was going to hell a sign that she is not being truthful? When we’re giving people a reality check and removing the “pleasant but fuzzy vision,” we should also be sure that they are not rubbing vasoline in our lens too, so that we can really help them.

    Maybe she did hear her boyfriend saying those things, but not about her. Maybe she’s also the kind of person who edits other people’s words a lot when painting a picture of someone’s character (I know because it takes one to know one, and I have been guilty of taking liberties with other people’s speech and it has hurt my relationships and I have caused major suffering as a result of my behavior).

    In any case, she has answered her own question. She has painted a terrible and unattractive picture of her boyfriend’s character and it is my opinion that she actually is not in love with him anymore and hasn’t been for a while. She just needed somebody’s blog and fifty people’s comments to reinforce to her what she already believed.

    My only advice to her is that she try not to quote her boyfriend out of context when she’s in the counselor’s office. It’s a sure way to alienate the other person and to cause additional, unneeded suffering. Just stick to the facts and the issues. Let him speak for himself and be honest with yourself about your feelings about him. Are you really in love with him or are you in love with the idea of being married to him and raising kids? Are you in love with the individual and all his flaws or are you in love with the idea of the person he could be on his very best day? What are your real reasons for marrying? These are the important questions you should ask yourself.

    Conquer your own mind first. Then worry about deciding what to do about your boyfriend.

  • Angie

    … he says he doesn’t think we could be married because the bible says he should not be “unequally yoked” and because, as an atheist, I am “closed-hearted,” “selfish,” “have no moral foundation,” and of course am “eventually going to hell.”

    That’s verbal abuse. He has no right to speak to you in such a disrespectful manner, and if you stay with him, his behavior will only get worse. It sounds as if he’s using his faith as a tool to try to guilt-trip and manipulate you.

    Get out now. You have no future with this bigoted, disrespectful man. Please, if you have any love for yourself or hopes for future happiness, leave this guy now.

  • Robin F

    I have been married for almost 17 years to an atheist. 14 of those years I was a member of a very conservative church. I have moved out the church but not completely away from my beliefs. We have a great relationship. Sure there were challenges along the way but we worked through them with love and respect. Your boyfriend’s comments about your moral fiber and being “closed-hearted” do not bode well for a life-long commitment.

    @muggle: for him to use the phrase “unequally yoked” is entirely probable. My former pastor did a sermon and two weeks of bible study on it. Although that specific phrase is only used once in the bible and only in the King James version (II Cor. 6:14-18), churches that use other versions of the Bible bring it out all the time to warn young Christians to not marry unbelievers.

  • Natalie

    First, I would like to thank everyone for taking the time to consider and comment on my situation. I would particularly like to thank Richard for his honest advice, which I am taking to heart. However, I do feel like no situation can be adequatly conveyed in words, and perhaps in some aspects I did a poor job in my letter. To answer some questions, yes – all of those words have been spoken to me by my boyfriend. They are all quotes. However, in defense of my man, they were never spoken in anger (perhaps it would be an easier decision for me if they were). Rather, they were stated as a matter of fact, almost like saying the grass is green or the sun is hot. They were never a direct attack on me personally, but more in the vein of “because you cannot accept god you are closed-hearted, and I don’t think I can be married to someone who is eventually going to hell because I want to be together with my wife in this life and the next.” It is like talking to a completely different person whenever the issue of religion arises – my kind, caring, loving man suddently checks out, and his indoctrinated Christian alterego steps in. It’s almost as if he’s channeling the books he’s read or the shows he’s watched, rather than speaking from his own knowlege or understanding. I would love to be able to educate him on the fact that Atheists and Christians can marry, that they can be happy, and that they can live in a state of mutual respect and understanding. However examples of this (particularly in my community) are exceedingly rare (thank you Richard, for providing a link to the story of a very inspiring couple). As Richard has accuratly noted, I have been complacent far too long – hoping that my patience would pay off. What my man and I have together is a wonderful thing – with this one, very notable, unavoidable exception. I know Richard is correct that a decision has to be made – one way or another. But sometimes it just takes a neutral third-party to give you that shove you need to actually take action. Thank you Richard for that push. And thanks again for eveyone’s comments and thoughts.

  • puckishone

    Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

    Natalie, as you said, sometimes it’s just a fresh set of eyes that helps to see what’s what. I said, thought and dealt with this exact issue about a year ago, with my ultimate decision being to end the relationship. For those who said the quotes from your boyfriend sounded “trite” or false, I couldn’t disagree more – this is dogma in verbal form, and of course it sounds like the baloney it is. Everything my ex-boyfriend said to me sounded like it was scripted by the love child of Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter…and those were some of the better ones.

    I wish you all the best of luck with your decision.

  • http://waters.me/ Simon

    There are two ways to equalise the yoke.

  • Beijingrrl

    I’m sorry, Natalie, but I doubt he’s ever going to marry you.

    I know it hurts to let go of the dream of a future together you’ve created. But you’re engaged in your own magical thinking if you believe that after 6 years of him telling you you’re not marriage material, it’s really a possibility.

    You need to stop having faith in your imagined compatibility and look realistically at your prospects.

    It’s going to hurt and I really am sorry for that, but it’s the only way to move on to a happy future.

    We’ll all be wishing you the best.

  • Adin

    @Aaron, Verbal abuse? Seriously? When did people become so weak that everything is some type of assault?

    What “unevenly yoked” means is pretty simple actually. You say you’re compatible in every way but its not true. He’s probably thinking that everything will be fine until you have kids.
    If he’s religious and you’re not, this will lead to a bad situation when he wants those kids to be instructed in some type of theology and you don’t. I actually find it strange that you even care about marriage considering your opposition to religion or sacrament which is really what marriage is.

  • Startraveler1960

    I have been in a similar relationship . . . atheist woman dating a Christian man. I lasted six months, not six years. He said the exact same things to me about being unequally yoked, that I had no moral compass, that the only good thing about the relationship was the sex he was getting, and was condescending and arrogant to the extreme. I tolerated the verbal abuse for a while because I hoped to change his mind and prove that atheists can actually be thoughful caring people. Shortly after he announced one evening that I had a ‘God-sized hole in my soul.’ I told him that I’d had enough.  He was completely indifferent and really didn’t care at all that I had broken up with him–as an atheist woman, I was meaningless to him, something just to be used for sex until he tired of it. Personally I think that men like him are sociopaths.

    My advice is to cut your losses and move on. Trust me, there are men out there who will really care about you and value your beliefs and will not run you down. Go find a nice boyfriend.

  • LoverofJesus116

         I’m a believer myself, and quite frankly, I understand his reasoning completely. 2 Corinthians 6:14 is one of my favorite verses, and the verse my own Christian boyfriend have considered “our verse”  (I once seen a shirt that read “I <3 Church Boys -2 Cor. 6:14" quickly earning him the name "Church Boy") It says quite clearly that as believers we should marry believers only. There is, and should be a radical difference between the lifestyles which, needless to say can cause problems. I do believe he loves you. He loves you enough to tell you that you're going to hell and that Jesus came to give you a chance at heaven,if you accept Him. if he didn't love you he probably would have just let you be burned and tortured forever. (Seriously how much would he have to hate you to let you go to hell, I mean it's HELL! )

         You say you're fine with his beliefs and you don't want to change yours when what you're asking is for him to change his beliefs (he believes the Bible, the Bible says not to marry un-believers). Furthermore, although I admit maybe calling you close-harted (and other such names) are not the best ways of trying to lead you to Christ, take into account that it is in our knowledge that a man must lead his family to Christ, if not he has failed as being the leader of said household. Because he did not lead his family to Christ they went to hell for eternal torture and punishment. Marriage in a Christians view is meant for a man and a woman to become as one. How can you two become one if the two constantly disagree? Although your boyfriend might not have made the best of choices here, I agree with his refusal to marry you.

    • emilywrites

      Okay, so he says he won’t marry her because the Bible says not to marry a non-believer, but doesn’t the Bible also say premarital sex is wrong? So why is he so adament about one and not the other? Is it acceptable to just pick and choose what Bible “rules” to follow? Because that sounds pretty fishy to me, as if he’s just making excuses and using the Bible to make them sound more legitimate. Just sayin’!

  • Jonda

    I cannot believe how abalabatemple@gmail.com do it, but my boyfriend is back. Not just half-hardheartedly back, like full force and wants to married me still, openly discussing any issues we’ve had and bringing up solutions to work on it. You have been so helpful to me throughout this love spell you cast for me. THANK YOU is not enough. I believe you are my guardian angel…….Jonda, USA.


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