Religion and Marriage: What Happens When You're Not On the Same Page?

I want to believe, but my husband doesn't. Marriage and religion.

Religion and Marriage: What Happens When You’re Not On the Same Page?

I want to believe, but my husband doesn’t.

-Melissa Chapman,

Religion vs. marriage

We just celebrated the Jewish New Year, and try as I might to ignore my husband’s insistence that all religions are clearly bunk, it’s causing some stress. Religion, to him, means that you spend your whole life devoted to a deity you have no proof even exists. He feels I need to come to terms with the undeniable fact that death is The End.

My husband is a scientist — he believes in evolution; he believes in only what he can touch and see and what science can uncover. He wasn’t raised in a particularly religious way.  He’s what we call a “Yom Kippur Jew”, AKA a person of the Jewish faith who wears one of those pink yarmulkas he’s fished out of his wedding yarmulka collection from the 1980s (when he was a big on the “I’ll be an usher at your wedding so I can meet a hot chick who will drink too much and who has wedding fever clouding her judgment about who she’ll agree to share a hotel room nightcap with” circuit) and steps foot in a synagogue on that one day to acknowledge in some small way the heritage into which he was born.

On the other hand, I was raised in a very religious household and attended some serious religious school programs. And whether it’s the guilt of having been, as my husband terms it, “fed more religious propaganda,” or because as a kid it feels good to have this belief that there is a larger presence presumably taking care of me, I bought into this whole Jewish faith and for a while it was what sustained me.

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Unfortunately my husband, during our 14 years together, at least as I see it, has never been able to find any solace or comfort in a god that he cannot be certain exists. And I have to admit I have been struggling with my own religious identity too, especially in the wake of my dad’s death which felt too sudden and so senseless.

It used to be when my husband would present arguments for taking our kids out of their religious private school, I could retort with a litany of reasons to keep them in, But since my dad passed, I admit I’m finding it harder to counteract my husband’s culled straight from science / the diehard evolutionists belief that this earth, this world, as crazy as it may feel, is really all we have. That there is nothing after this … and so all these religious celebrations, regardless of which god you subscribe to, are ultimately meaningless.

I am trying hard to keep going to keep holding on, to see this new year as a way to reaffirm my belief in a higher power and wanting desperately to believe that my dad is up there, smiling, watching and finally free of pain.

What do you think? Do you have the same religious beliefs as your mate? How does it affect your relationship?

Melissa ChapmanMelissa Chapman blogs about her marriage and everything in between at Her work has appeared in The Staten Island Advance,, ABC News, BlogHer, Baby Center, Momtourage, Lifetime Moms, Babble, The Washington Post, Time Out NY Kids and iVillage.

Read all of her Betty columns here.




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8 thoughts on “Religion and Marriage: What Happens When You're Not On the Same Page?

  1. I was married for seventeen years to a man who was a true atheist.His father was a scientist also, and did not believe in God. My husband loved my dedication to my Catholic faith, and we had our son baptized Catholic. Our son also went to Catholic school and made his First Communion,etc.
    My husband came home one day ten years after we were married and told me he was “starting school tonight”. When I asked him, “What kind of school?”, he said, “I am attending the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults because I want to be Catholic like you and John Paul.” I was stunned. That man became the most devout Catholic I have ever known.
    Our son is 29 and yesterday his 89 day old daughter died. She was born with Trisomy 13.
    My son, like me, finds so much comfort in his faith. Although the baby was baptized by the hospital chaplain immediately after her birth, my son had a beautiful Catholic baptism for her several weeks ago.
    I think that at one time or another, everyone questions his faith. And I don’t believe that a husband and wife have to share the same religion. All I will tell you is this: It formed a special bond between my husband and me that can never be broken, regardless of our divorce years later. I applaud you for raising your children with a belief in God. I do not think that you will ever regret it.

  2. I read this in hopes for some sort of answer to the question. 🙂 I am the scientific one and my husband is very much a religious man. We’ve only been married a few years and I think he had hoped that I would join him in church activities and such as our marriage progressed. He was not always religious and I think our friendship was much better oh so many years ago before I was afraid of being admonished for my taste in music, movies and the like and before he made God his number one love. He now spends 2 evenings a week and all day Sunday at church. I hope one day we can find something in common that doesn’t conflict with his relationship with God and still allows me to have my own views. Make no mistake, we both love each other very much, it is just difficult when we differ so much.

  3. I really think it is great the both of you are sticking it out. Unfortunatly, my story did not have that happy ending. I am a christian woman and I was married for 12 years to an atheist. I never judged his beliefs. I would not do that to anyone, but he could not do the same the for me. It was a constant struggle. I wanted to know God more, become closer to him, be involved in a church and our 2 children. I really felt God was calling me. When I told my husband I wanted to go to church, everything went downhill. I was just not allowed to go. He would literally take the keys to my car. It was an abusive marriage, my husband was a drug addict. I stuck it out through all of that, but when it came to the point I was not allowed to express my beliefs as he was his, it was time for me to leave. Even after the marriage dissolved I still continue to pray for him and hope he can turn his life around and in some ways he has. He has told me, that me leaving made him see a lot. We both were able to forgive each other and move forward with our lives. Having a difference of opinion about religion in a relationship can be a struggle, but I still do not believe it isnt something a couple cant work through. Anything is possible. I swore after all I had been through I would never love another man again. Two years later, God brought and amazing man into my life. He shares the same beliefs I do and it has made things so much better. We have a very strong bond. I feel as long as you are with someone that supports your beliefs (religious or not) that your relationship will be fine. It is when the one person becomes critical in the relationship or controlling is when the problem sets in. I think everyone takes time to evaluate their faith and it is normal. I have been through it a few times. I think it is in those times, that our faith is being tested.

  4. I would like to answer to this blog; however, my comment is probably too long to post here. Is there a way I may email the writer of this blog, instead? I hope the information I have to offer will be of some benefit.

    In the meantime, you are in my prayers as you struggle with your challenges, and I hope you will not try to face them completely alone. (I’m certain you’re not trying to though, after submitting this article.) 🙂 God bless!

  5. I have thought for you, have your husband read the book “Heaven is for Real”-By: Todd Burpo, Lynn Vincent (A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back) that might make him believe? Good Luck, I’ll be praying for you.

  6. Though many may think it is “un-cool” un-sophisticated and infantile to believe in God and nurture a strong faith-life… as each day’s news headlines prove – Godlessness is ruining our society and leading to so many of us being utterly LOST. As a very joyful Catholic woman, I always expected that if I were to marry – I’d ideally marry a practicing Catholic. After 12 years of marriage, 3 healthy kids, 1 miscarriage, and a serious bout with cancer during my last pregnancy (which yielded my beautiful little girl!) – I’ve learned that sharing common faith with my husband has been imperative. I can’t imagine raising kids in our shallow and materialistic world without balancing out all of the noise with the truth. The truth is that WE as humans Are Not GODS; some power greater than us created our world and life forms, and there is purpose and existence after this life on earth. Why do scientists so often ignore that which is the obvious?
    Many prayers for you as you cope with your father’s death; I understand that many burdens and sorrows in life actually serve to strengthen and test our character and “metal”. When unconditional faith exists – it is easy to accept the events of life which we, as humans,don’t control. I hope also that others in this quandary of loving someone without common faith/value in religious practice will remain steadfast in their beliefs – and do all they can to share God’s love with the person that they have chosen to love. -V

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