What is their perspective? Can our unbelieving spouses harbor feelings that are identical to ours? In fact, they usually do.
An impromptu interview with my husband was revealing. I asked him if he would be willing to share his perspective with me regarding the emotions a nonbeliever experiences when faith becomes a disagreement in marriage. Nonbelievers usually rest in one of two camps: indifference or antagonistic. The spouse of a believer will experience a range of emotions as they navigate the new direction of their marriage.
Hurt/betrayal: Spouses think to themselves, “It wasn’t me who changed.” They may not actually say this out loud but the thought has occurred to our spouse on many an occasion.
As our relationship with Christ grows, we are changed. We exclude our spouse from activities and friendships purposefully or unknowingly because we think he/she won’t be interested or may be hostile to any suggestion of something Christian. Our spouse feels alienated, hurt, and alone. We have experience the same feelings from a different direction. They also feel betrayed because we changed our belief system (core values) in midstream.
Pressure/resentment: Our spouses feel the pressure to change, to attend church, to become someone they are not ready to be. I know my husband has felt resentment because I pushed him hard to attend church. He also told me he feels conspicuous during our communion service because he does not participate. Funny, I never knew this until I interviewed him. I challenge you to interview your spouse. I am certain you will find the exercise enlightening.
Time spent away at church events can become a thorn in the marriage. Resentment festers because of church commitments. Take a careful look at these activities. Pray about what you should retain in your life and what must go. Your marriage must be a priority over events. Note: I say “events” not your personal relationship with Christ. Nurture your alone time with Christ daily. This effort will benefit your marriage.
My spouse resents the changes in our social life. As a couple, we are excluded from certain social events because I am a believer. Or, I purposely exclude myself from certain social events because I am a believer. Small issues like this, however, breed big resentments in our spouse’s hearts. Communication is the key here. My spouse and I talk about these situations frequently. We are able to work through our feelings about these social activities and derive an acceptable outcome for both of us.
Fear/disappointment: Many spouses fear their marriage may dissolve over Christianity. They fear rejection. They think their spouse will find them less desirable because they are a nonbeliever. It is up to us, the believers, to lavish love on our nonbelievers. Many times what they receive is criticism, harshness and the cold shoulder. This is where we must employ the concepts from proven sources such as, Love & Respect. Many wise Christians offer sound advice on building a strong marriage. Use these resources well and often.
Remember This: What we need to remember are two important concepts. Involve your spouse in your Christian life to the extent he/she agrees. Don’t push Christianity upon them. Invitations to home church, Bible study, progressive dinners, etc., are not met with enthusiasm. Take this advice from a woman who tried all of these ridiculous attempts. DON’T DO IT!!!
The second thing to remember is; people change. Throughout our lives, we change. I am certainly not the same woman today as I was in my twenties. Praise God!! We change. We grow. If it wasn’t our Christianity that changed us it would be some other passion. Understanding this concept will free you from guilt. Successful marriage is navigating change together through the years. It is the surrender of self by both partners. That is real love. This is the love that Christ models for us.
Now go and do likewise!! Be blessed!