Hi there, I’m a 15 year old guy, and I’ve been in a relationship with a Christian, self proclaimed “holy-roller” for about 7 months. In high school, let me tell you, that’s a long time. Anyway, I really like this girl. I mean, I think I may love her. Now, my deeply logical brain is what keeps me from accepting the Christianity that previous generations of my family hold so dear, and yet I stayed with this girl knowing that at some point my feelings about the universe would at some point clash with hers.
This happened about 2 weeks ago.
We were talking about it on Skype and she got deeply emotional about it. We both shed some tears and she said she was contemplating breaking up with me. I told her there’s no way I’m breaking up with her over this, because I’m fine with whatever religion/non-religion she follows, and that it’s her choice. She decided that she just never wants to bring up religion again. I told her that’s not what I want, that she should bring it up whenever, because couples should talk about these kinds of things. Still, she insisted that she wouldn’t again.
Today, she brought it back up.
We were once more on Skype and she started singing a song (“Our God Is Greater,” or something). She mentioned that she wanted to go back to church. I told her to go. She said it doesn’t work like that. I said go on Sunday. She said she’d be out of town. I said to go to a church there. She said she doesn’t like any other church. Then I sang a line from her song, but I sang, “Our church is greater,” and she got majorly PO’d. I thought it was harmless fun, and she got all mad at me, saying I was making fun of her religion (which I wasn’t, at least not on purpose). Then she said I’ve “crossed the line one too many times,” and then left me for the night saying (over text) “Sometimes I can’t stand to reason with you.”
I don’t know what to do, sir. I do NOT want her to change, and I do NOT want to change. This girl is everything to me. I don’t want religion to stand in the way. I need help. Basically, I’m in love with a Christian girl, and I don’t want to switch sides. How do I make it work?
Dear Tormented Teen,
I deeply want to ease your torment, and I also feel helpless to do so.
I understand torment. The first time I fell in love was three of your lifetimes ago, but I still remember it vividly. It was overwhelming because I had never experienced anything like it before. It was both wonderful and awful at the same time. The awful parts were because she and I were not fully honest and frank with each other, and that was because we were not fully honest and frank with ourselves. She and I were at the effects of our desire and our fear.
Desire is always, always accompanied by fear. We long for the desired thing, and we fear either not getting it or losing it. We might try to ignore the fear, but it still can strongly censor what we say to each other, and censor what we think to ourselves. We can end up mistaking wishes for truth, or not distinguishing hope from reality.
I also understand that asking a 15-year-old who is in love to think soberly is asking a great deal, and I’m saying that with complete respect. I’m sure that as you say, you have a deeply logical brain, but despite the often-used analogy, the brain is not really like a computer. It is chemically based, and its most powerful chemicals have nothing to do with logic. It is subject to the effects of testosterone, adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin, to name just a few. Passion trumps reason almost every time. It makes for great literature and painful lives.
Your girlfriend’s passion for you and her passion for her religion are in conflict. Your passion for her and your logic whispering in your ear are in conflict. The fear of loss that always goes with desire is causing both of you to not be fully honest and frank with each other. That conversation about her going to church sounded to me like she was hinting that she wanted you to go with her, but she held that back. It sounded like you wanted her to be more rational and more responsible for her own needs, but you held that back and expressed it indirectly by teasing her about her song.
Hinting and teasing about this is not going to work. You must face your fears honestly and frankly within yourselves, and then discuss the fearful things honestly and frankly with each other. It’s a possibility that you’ll lose each other by being honest and frank, but it’s almost a certainty that you’ll lose each other by not being honest and frank.
You’re right to insist that couples should talk about these kinds of things as they come up. A tacit agreement to not discuss an important issue gradually becomes a division between them. You have already shown some good effort to make it safe for her to be honest and frank. Now continue to show her by your own example. Tell her, “This is scary for me to talk about, but I care about you too much to let it silently grow between us.” Don’t pretend to be confident or to have all the answers. Let the vulnerability of your genuineness give her permission to offer you the same.
You must be true to your principles and convictions, just as she must be true to hers. You both might be able to adjust to your differences, but you both must want the other to have their integrity. This is where you will find how deep your caring is. A shallow caring simply wants to be with the other person. A deep caring wants whatever is true and best and right for both of you, even if that means not being with the other person.
To be fifteen is wonderful and awful. To be four times older than that, as I am, is wonderful and awful. To be in love at either age is wonderful and awful. The fear of loss for what we desire never goes away. The only thing that changes is how that loss might happen.
I wish both of you well, and happiness in your journeys.
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