From a Christian Woman Whose Marriage to a Non-Christian Failed

I thought worth sharing was this reader’s response to my post, Christian Marrying a Non-Christian? Marriage: FAIL :

I am a Christian who was married to an atheist; after twenty-two years, we are now divorced.

I understand and agree with a lot of the dissenting comments made to John’s post. However, ultimately I agree with John. A successful marriage is so much about respect, patience and kindness. This can, of course, occur among Christian and Non-Christian alike. And alcoholism, cheating and abuse can and does occur among Christian and Non-Christian people too.

So what made my marriage good (when it was good)? It was the attributes that tend to come from God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

And what caused my marriage to destruct and fail? It was a lot of things: sexual immorality, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, drunkenness, selfishness. Who did the good things? We both did at times. Who did the bad things? Some of them we both did. As a Christian I tried hard. I prayed for and strived to realize ideals in my marriage and my life. I tried to be a better person, a better wife, a better mother.

I feel as if my ex had fewer resources to draw from than I did. He could be good man—really good at times. But where does goodness come from, if not from God? I read the blog post by the atheist, David—the one who is married to a Christian woman [Letter From an Atheist Married to a Christian]—and he seems like a wonderful man. I have had many Christians in my life who were not as good a person as he seems to be.

I do have a bit of an issue with the “unequally yoked” verse of the Bible. I think this can mean much more than it has traditionally been interpreted to. I am now, after two-and-a-half-years and a lot of counseling, re-entering the dating world. I am choosing to date only Christians. But this is only one of the items on my list of must-haves. I also need a man who is not abusive, unkind, selfish, addicted, full of rage, and/or a drunk. I need a partner who is faithful, patient, kind, gentle, loving, and who has self control. There was a time in my life (most of my life, in fact) when I believed this was asking too much to hope for a man who had all of these qualities and was Christian. I believed that no such man existed. But I now believe that there are men in the world who believe as I do, and who strive to maintain such such standards in their lives. Don’t misunderstand me; I am not claiming perfection, nor do I expect a perfect man. And I don’t have the illusion that a Christian marriage means a marriage in which there are no problems. I know better than that.

The most important issue for me (and John addressed it) is that, as my (future) husband and I travel the road of life, we are traveling in the same direction. I want to share with him a common path and destination. I long for the oneness that can be experienced in such a relationship. I did not have that, and now I have another shot at it. If I don’t meet this man of my dreams, I think I’d consider someone with all of the qualities except for “Christian”—but at this point I’d probably just continue being alone. Besides, with my God, my family, and my friends, I know I am never truly alone.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    Beautiful letter. My prayers go to the writer that she finds that husband she is looking for.

    I was not a Christian when my wife, who was, agreed to marry me. I guess she saw the traits in me that she was looking for and decided she could help with the unsaved aspect later, that who my dashing good looks overwhelmed her (ha ha). She kept to her beliefs and went to church on Sundays even though I stayed home to watch the pre-game show for that days sporting event. She was able to get me to come to church for special events and eventually the Holy Spirit convicted me and I ask Jesus for forgiveness and have dedicated my life to Him ever since.

    I would not condone a marriage to an unsaved person for any Christian because my wife has told me of the heartache she endured with some of my music and movie choices, but she loved me and never gave up. It is not an easy path to go down for a Christian so I would not encourage it. My only suggestion is to be honest with the other person, I wished my wife had talked more about Jesus when we where dating as it may have lead me to Him sooner.

    Thank you John for letting us see this story and I think in todays society it is going to get harder and harder for Christians to find each other in a proper way. I have two daughters and I pray that they will find good Christian men to date when they get old enough, 30 sounds about right, so in the mean time I will disciple them so they know what they are looking for, that and I have a beautiful sword collection hanging on my wall to encourage good behavior form their courters.

    • Reynard Head

      Thank you, Christian Dad, for the sword collection idea! I am the saved father of a 17 year-old who

      wants to live with her 21 year-old boyfriend. Yes, prayer has become an hourly activity! I am curious

      about the heartache associated with music and movie choices. I understand that, as humans, by definition we cannot be as perfectly forgiving as Christ. But by the same token, as a human, at least in my own life, I have never experienced music and movie choices rising to the level of heartache…..

      although having a teen who listens to Lil' Wayne rap about "bricks in the hood" (cocaine as a livelyhood) was close. But when she pointed out to me that Snoop Dogg wasn't cool amymore because it "was obvious how the dope made him..like..DULL!" I actually felt proud – or maybe it was

      relieved. When her mom went away to prison for drugs ( long since we divorced), THAT was heartache.

      • montmartre

        About heartache: consider a Christian woman who values purity who loves a man who doesn't, or refuses, to understand, much less value, purity. Despite her pleas to stop and seek better forms of entertainment, the man continues to fill his head and heart with lust and poisons his ability to truly care for and love this woman. He is training himself to view her as an object for his pleasure. Eventually, he will begin to treat her that way.

        Imagine your daughter's suitor picking her up for a date just after, say, watching a sexually explicit film. He's been leering at women and now turns his gaze to the beautiful young woman you have raised. Would you not mind? Imagine how your daughter would feel. Respected? Loved? I believe that if you've raised her to have developed healthy self-esteem and value her dignity, she would sense that she deserves better—not a "better person" (no one's perfect), but better consideration. If entertainment is a matter of preference for the man, shouldn't he be willing to make such a small sacrifice for the woman whose heart he is supposed to be winning? "Heartbreak" is quite an appropriate term.

        And it goes in reverse: women can develop unrealistic expectations that turn into demands her boyfriend/husband can't meet, be it in romantic gestures or financial status or social standing, etc. Instead of valuing a man for who he his as a person and taking care to help encourage his masculinity and spiritual growth, a woman can train herself to belittle his efforts to please her by comparing him to fictitious men who never stumble. I've yet to learn of a man feeling respected and loved with his girlfriend/wife admiring and desiring other men.

        What we consume is a reflection of our interests and values, and moreover, we reap what we sow: indulging unwise/unhealthy/unwholesome movies and music colors our perception of the world and the people in it, including ourselves.

        Here's an article you might find interesting: http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0000704.c

        As for the very unwise idea of cohabiting with her boyfriend, here's a resource: http://www.virginia.edu/marriageproject/nextgener

        Of course, knowing the facts doesn't mean a person will decide to act wisely. Only a changed heart will.

        Your daughter is blessed to have a father who cares for her welfare. I'll pray for your family as well.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    I'd marry a Christian in a second. Just not certain kinds of Christians.

  • Kelly

    Amen brotha!

  • http://christianranter.wordpress.com Des

    "I feel as if my ex had fewer resources to draw from than I did. He could be good man—really good at times. But where does goodness come from, if not from God?"

    Powerful statement!

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    It was the attributes that tend to come from God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

    …with of course the connotation that those without God are somehow lacking in said traits.

  • Candace

    There aren't any people without God, Mike. Though there are many who don't know He's with them.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    "There aren’t any people without God, Mike. "

    There actually aren't any people with god.

    There's just people who give credit to themselves for the way they are, and people who give credit to something else that doesn't exist.

  • Candace

    Nice theory, 'cept that it's wrong ;-)

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    and this is the heart of the matter to which atheists hate Jesus:

    morsecode said:"There’s just people who give credit to themselves for the way they are, and people who give credit to something else that doesn’t exist."

    Atheists want to to credit for God's blessings, Christians give the credit where credit is due.

    But thats all I am going to say about that, since this is not what this post is about.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    Yes Mcoville.

    In fact, I hate ALL things that I don't think exist.

    Jesus. Big Foot. Doctor Who. Vishnu.

    Hate all of them. With passion.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    I, unlike Morse, don't hate the non-existent. I hate the though process that leads to their creation and maintenance. :-)

  • http://www.synginc.com Pete

    Christian or non Christian……why would you hate?

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    What are you talking about?

  • Bertha

    I was so touched by the letter. I am one who also is still married to a man who was once a Christian, Grandson to one of the well known Reverend (Pastor) in the Church. When he proposed love to me knowing that I am a devorted Chrisitan and from a Christian Family. He pretended to be one and which was not a problem to him since he knew his bible very well. I was so convinced that I had found a man who was Mr Right to me and I married him. What shocked me was the first night we moved to stay together, a woman came claiming to be pregnant and the three of us slept in the same bed,with him on the middle. I was already married and was a vergin when I marrried him. To cut the stroy short, it became worse and he even asked me to abort my first pregnancy but I refused. I had noone to explain all these and I was convinced that with prayer, he was going change and we will have a happy marriage.

    He never changed, he abused me, cheated me not helping me with anything, we had three children, he never contributed anything to the three children. He even sometimes bought meat for his dogs whilst the childen had no food or sometimes when he found there was no food in the house he would buy his only food and stayed at the pub and later came when everybody is in bed and he will start preparing his food and eat and come to bed where he would start beating me or accusing me for nothing I would have done. One day he beat me and I ran outside, he came and beat me in the streat, I was not dressed inside and I fell, all people who came to watch saw my body. One day he used a knife and cut off my night dress if I was near he could have cut me with the knife but I do not how God intervened and the knife only cut the night dress. He chased me out of the bedroom and could only pull me to our main bedroom when he wanted me that night. My marriage was in hell but not many knew it. I kept praying for God to help me. The police were called by neighbours one day and I was granted Piece Order. I stayed at home and he was asked to move out. I kept on praying to God and even fasted for 40 days, I realy wanted my marriage to be a happy marriage. My children were affected but I kept on encouraging themand asked them to pray as well for their father. Two of them are happly married and one is doing his Degree and will be completing in September. My Pastors asked me to process a divorce but I did’nt want to divorce and I love him but he ill treated me. I finallly left the country and started working supporting the children and after 30 years of my life in hell He phoned me to say He is sorry, and he wants to join me.

    I believe God will give you what you are looking for but my reason for not divorcing was in1 Corithians 7; I knew God hate divorce and also I feared for my children that this trend of divorce will continue with them like a chain which will need someone to stand and break the chains. That is the reason I stood whilst going through this difficult marriage.

    I pray that God will grant you your heart desires. That you find the one who satisfies your heart.

    • Chicago

      Betha,

      I know that I will come across as an unsympathetic person, but this is my question. Do you Christians not believe that God has a plan for everyone of you? If you believe that, then your suffering at the hands of your husban could be God’s plan for you. Correct? If so, you shouldn’t complain about it or at the least you should start questioning the existence of God.

      • beninabox1

        Silly, silly Chicago. That's a cartoon picture of Christianity and completely neglects the principle of free will. You seem also to be reinforcing the distortion that a Christian should meekly accept whatever abuse comes their way.

        Bertha, what a person does may not be what God plans for the person. However, humans in authority often tell people that God wants them to stay in abusive marriages for their own ego-based power reasons. By the way, I'd suggest you re-read 1 Corinthians 7 with a person knowledgeable in biblical scholarship. There is some distinction about whether Paul is speaking for God or simply speaking for himself in some of the verses.

  • dylan

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Why would you stay married to someone who hurts, abuses, and cheats on you just because a book says you should. It makes absolutely no sense. I'm pretty sure that relationships are supposed to bring happiness, and if that happiness ends, you should probably end the relationship at the same time.

    I would imagine that at some point before marriage these people dated, and I would also imagine that once they realized that they weren't happy with that person, they broke off the relationship. Why does it have to be different once you’re married? It just means that it took longer to realize that you are unhappy with each other, but that doesn't mean that you should be miserable the rest of your life. If your unhappy and your spouse mistreats you, get out of the toxic relationship, that simple.

    You Christians who spend your whole lives trying to please some creature that may or may not be real should really get with the times and start taking care of yourselves instead of others views of you. If the people around you see that you are being hurt and tell you that its your fault or that you should just pray for it to get better, you should probably change whom you associate with and surround yourself with people who actually want you to be happy, not those who blindly follow a book that contradicts itself more times than not.

    I think that looking only for a partner with the same religious beliefs as yourself is a good strategy and shortcut to find someone whom you will probably get along with, but it is also highly exclusive of people that you might have a stronger connection with just because they are not branded the same as you.

    So mcoville, teach your daughters to worship something they can't see and blindly follow a very outdated story, and threaten their courtiers with your swords. I wouldn't worry at all about what they might want out of life, don't waste your thoughts on the idea that they might be different than you and might be looking for something different than a partner who thinks the same as them.

    People can be so close-minded. Who cares if there is a god or isn't, if you spend all your time stressing about what's going to happen in the future you will never enjoy the present. If people are bringing you down, its up to you to bring yourself back up. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't seek help, but seek help from positive people and people who actually care about you, not people who care more about following a set of guidelines and fitting in with the structure.

  • Ken

    I’m glad most of you Christians find happiness in your faith but I think you guys should re-evaluate your faith if it teaches you to stick with an abusive relationship just to save a marriage. Much fuss is made about the sanctity of the institution of marriage when marriage was never supposed to be some type of defining moment of a relationship even before, during and after the time of Christ.

    Marriage was always independent of religion and was as such, one of the tools used by society to maintain the status of individuals within their social structures by contracting them with equal members of the society thereby ensuring the prosperity of the family’s future. Marriage during and after the time of Christ was a contract between two families (and two individuals) – the man offered the woman prosperity and the woman offered extension of his genealogy. This is the reason why common folk (poor) didn’t get married while it was only the rich who did up until later 17th-18th centuries. This was because poor people had no reason to enter into contracts for exchange of assets between families since they didn’t have any assets or belongings. The church became heavily involved in the institution of marriage only after the 15th century thereby empowering itself with the right to declare man and woman as husband and wife.

    What I am trying to say is that historically and biblically speaking marriage has no connection with religion. We are all people looking for happiness. Remember that you only live once and for you to spend your youth in an unhappy relationship because God wants you to lead a messy life is not just a theologically misinformed opinion but also shows your lack of respect for your own body and mind. I’ve read stories about people who spend 15-20 years of their lives in bad marriages hoping for things to change for the better. Even if you got married early (around 20 years) you basically spend your entire youth with someone who does not make you happy. Why? So you can be 45, wise and look back at the life you wasted away? It does not mean you don’t make an attempt to work your marriage out. Many times couples have differences which can be resolved. Be realistic and practical about what you can achieve. It’s easier said than done but as long as you’re aware of what you can achieve by your sheer will and determination you will keep your disappointments to a bare minimum. If a man/woman does not change after 4-5 years, chances are he/she will never change. Even if he does change after a few years, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth wasting the better part of your life changing someone who despises you?

    As for the Christians who “hate” other non-Christians – great job being a “Christian!” We all have to come to know you guys as the ones who love to hate. So much for being followers of Christ.

    Ps: If Vishnu does not exist there is no exact proof for existence of your God as well except that you believe so! So the next time you think a Hindu is silly for believing in Vishnu just remember, you’re sailing in the same boat!

  • A Random Atheist

    A friend of mine recently told me that I don’t “act like an atheist”. I was a bit perplexed; we’re in the same social circle, and although he is the only religious (and very devout) member of our large group, no-one has ever directly challenged, dismissed, or knowingly insulted his faith (although we do have spirited discussions quite frequently.) What did it mean, I wondered, to “act like an atheist”, when all the atheists I know act with relative indifference to other persons’ faith? It turns out there is a very small, bitter, and vocal number of us who post copiously on the internet, picking fights and being generally obnoxious towards our fellows with religious conviction, and (according to my friend) this is the image many Christians he knows have of us as a whole. I made a promise to myself that the next time I saw this behavior, I would say something about it. I did not expect to run into it in response to the very intimate and painful personal stories shared with us by formerly abused wives who managed to save themselves from their dangerous situations.

    Bravo to these women, both for opening up to us about their troubled marriages, and also for finding the courage (wherever their support came from) to stand up for themselves and to better their lives. It saddens me that some feel that the real tragedy here is that (gasp) there could be Christians on the internet, rather than how poorly men are allowed treat their spouses in our society (by much more than just religious institutions.) This post might be a bit self-serving, and I know it’s in response to a delicate subject, but I promised myself I’d push back when and where I could – sorry if I’ve hijacked a serious conversation to do it.

  • June

    "I feel as if my ex had fewer resources to draw from than I did. He could be good man—really good at times. But where does goodness come from, if not from God? "

    This is absolutely ridiculous. It's the same argument that I've heard from people before that those without religion can't be 'good', 'ethical' or 'moral'. Like atheists have no concept of how to be good people without God. All of those things I and the author of the letter have referenced exists within those who aren't religious. It's the simple idea of being good people and treating others as we would like to be treated. It's not exactly rocket science that can only happen through the holy spirit. Sounds like the author sold her husband unfairly short, didn't give him a chance and set him up for failure by being blind to the fact that he had just as many resources to draw from as she did. Just because he didn't have 'god' doesn't mean he's incapable and lacking other tools in which to be a wonderful husband.

  • Thomas Beck

    I think it's the other way around – I think it's religious extremists who can and do and will do anything no matter how awful because they think (have convinced themselves) that it's what God wants them to do. The Sixth Commandment says, Thou Shalt Not Murder – but Scott Roeder convinced himself that murdering George Tiller – in a church! – was just fine. And just so you won't think I'm anti-Christian because I'm a Jew, I'm just as opposed to what the ultra-Orthodox extremists are trying to do in Israel right now. I think atheists and agnostics and skeptics and religious moderates are far more moral than most fundamentalists and extremists because we don't think our faith permits us to do anything we think it demands from us. We use our brains and common sense and good judgment and secular ethics and morality as well as our faith to guide our actions. That's a lot harder, but also a lot less likely to produce extremism and terrorism.

  • PugetPost

    The Bible contains all kinds of warnings to stay away from non-Christians–Give not that which is Holy to the dogs (meaning, don’t marry them); Don’t wish them God-speed (keep your good will and heart from the use of your enemy)–and gives a great list of who’s a dog: it includes the “unbelieving” and the unbaptized, as well as fornicators, adulterers, thieves, slanderers, liars, and other reprehensible characters. This is a guide, just as valid as advice not to eat too much sugar, or spoiled meat is to preserve physical health. People who ignore it often suffer.

  • PugetPost

    errata to above:

    It is ridiculous and irresponsible to categorize every group organized by the liberty of “no-state-church” statutes as Christian. They are often cults, liars, or evil in other respects, and do not reflect the role of religion–that is to do good. So the loosing of atheists’ or others’ wrath against religion because of these groups is absurd and inaccurate.

  • Julian

    Well, a Christian who TRIES to practice Christianity, anyone can say I’m a Christian, but those that try to live their faith are the diamonds in the rough.
    You do not judge a religion by those that fail to practice it.