The following post is a compilation of reflections and articles on Interfaith Marriage by a Christian who has been married to an Atheist for 28 years. Here, Solsikke shares her struggles stemming from difference and speaks about nurturing love, respect, and tolerance rooted in shared values.
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Once I'd taken on the task of writing about Christian/Atheist marriage, it gave me the opportunity to look back at the blogs I have written over the years which have taken me through the highs and lows.
I don't think I ever considered my blogs for public reading. They were personal reflections for me and quite cathartic for working through difficult periods. So it seems a little strange to share deliberately them openly now. They were never intended to be positive up-beat pro-interfaith pieces, but rather to honestly describe the tricky times and tensions as well as the moments of insight and commitment to each other, just as and when they arose. So bear that in mind when you read. This is my story, not anybody else's.
Typically tensions arise for us over the Christmas period. Christmas is a strange time - religious in some ways and very secular in others. So it can be a confusing time for us - each having different hopes and expectations.
This was the first blog I ever wrote back in December 2011 on the subject of being a Christian who is married to an atheist. The issue of being sensitive to my husband's feelings and yet being true to my own beliefs has continued on over the years.
There were times when I felt under real pressure to give up my faith for the sake of our relationship and trying hard to assert my right to follow my faith; times when I focused on understanding and accommodating my husband's side; and times - again and again - when we both picked ourselves up and continued to walk together in our relationship.
In January this year I wrote my most recent blog on the issue. Some atheists I have spoken to have clearly said that they could never be in a relationship with somebody who was religious. And some theists have said the same thing about atheists. I am sure there must be many, many atheist/theist relationships/marriages out there - yet I have had difficulties finding anybody else.
In March, at the beginning of Lent, I started a Twitter account with the specific intention of using it to listen to atheists out there, hear what they have to say and learn from them. It has helped me in several ways:
Firstly, I have made some good friends out there. (Always good!)
Secondly, I have begun to understand some of the issues atheists (including my husband) have with religion, our religious scripture and the attitudes and behaviours of some theists. That's been particularly helpful in my situation, because a lot of those are issues my husband and I haven't been able to discuss, because they have so easily caused tensions, anger and upset. Somehow through the medium of the Internet with a bunch of strangers, that's been much easier.
Thirdly, I have realised that there are atheists out there who are whole lot stronger in their wording than my husband tends to be. (Haha!)
I am reaching a stage where I feel that I can only achieve so much by listening to strangers. The key issue is that this is about two people - my husband and me. We need to be courageous enough to listen and speak to each other. To risk that it might be painful at times and to trust that it will be okay and we will be safe. There is a reason that we have been together for 28 years - we are good together! We have much in common and share many values.
It seems not so much our differences in beliefs which come between us, but our fear that they could. We need to trust in ourselves and our love for each other.
I found this moving letter from an atheist married to a Christian. I especially love the final paragraph:
That love is what my interfaith marriage is all about. Rachel would call that the manifestation of God’s love and grace in our marriage. I call it my profound privilege to be able to spend every day of the rest of my life growing a little bit closer to my wife.
(Thank you, David B!)
I continue to be interested to hear from people who live in atheist/theist relationships. How do you make it work? What are your difficulties and how do you overcome them?
Let me know by replying to this post or by finding me on Twitter under @solsikke66
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Here are a selection of posts from Solsikke on Interfaith Marriage:
Tolerance in Interfaith Marriage
The Christian-Atheist Marriage Thing
Friends and Signs of Growth
Learning to See the Other Side
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