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flutterM83's avatar

Religion and breakups. Did we do the right thing?

Asked by flutterM83 (4points) April 25th, 2009

I apologize for the long post, but I want to make sure you guys get the entire back story.

So my boyfriend of 2+ years and I broke up yesterday. It was about religion, which has caused conflict throughout our entire relationship so far, but we’ve always been able to ride it out. The thing is, we have been thinking about marriage a lot lately. I’m a christian (methodist) and he’s not saved, but has grown up in a strictly southern baptist family.

He decided that he wants a good, christian (southern baptist) home and that if we were to get married then we probably wouldn’t have that. Personally, I think the two denominations aren’t all that different, and because of this I would be willing to convert to southern baptist if we got married as well as raise our children in that denomination. It’s even not so bad because I think raising them with a stricter set of beliefs is better than another alternative: raising them with beliefs that are completely liberal compared to mine (Also, I can see where he’s coming from with wanting a southern baptist home). He disagrees on the two denominations’ similarities though; subsequently, he disagrees that my converting to being baptist would work out.

On my side of the story, I cannot marry someone who is unequally yoked. It is clear in the Bible that a believer marrying an unbeliever will not have a good marriage and I’ve seen this played out in many marriages. I’ve seen some marriages where it does work out, but (not to put anyone down! This is my experience… if yours is different, I would love to know.) it seems like the believer in those relationships values the marriage over their faith, something I am not comfortable doing.

I believe that if he were saved, he would see things different. Just last Sunday we were at his church and his pastor mentioned that christians see each other family—and from what I’ve seen, this is true. Christians normally have no trouble identifying those of similar faith.

So here’s our resolution: We broke up, realizing these differences are probably not going to resolve themselves on their own. This would be an easy decision, except that we’re both still in love with each other. Deeply in love. So we’re going to stay friends and both work on our faith. He’s going to really explore his faith and I’m going to work on becoming closer to God. The moment he gets saved, he said he will call me up and we’ll talk and go from there.

My questions for you are these:
– Can you think of any better resolution?
– Staying friends… is that the right thing to do? It’s funny; this doesn’t feel like an end at all, just a large pause. But is it good (or even right) for us to put the relationship on hold but still have such strong feelings for one another?
– I already miss him terribly. Advice on feeling better?

This discussion is NOT intended for a debate on religion.

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51 Answers

casheroo's avatar

Honestly, this whole “you’re not my religion, you converting is not enough” sounds like his way of just dumping you. He sounds like he wants to find a true southern baptist, or just someone else.
If you guys can’t accept each other’s different religious beliefs (big shocker) then it obviously will never work out. I wouldn’t even give it a second thought.

Facade's avatar

If you two feel your denominations are important, and he’s not even a Christian and has no desire to be one, I’d say you did the right thing. You’ve already seen how differing religions cause problems in your relationship, so it’s smart not to get into a marriage with that situation.

MissAusten's avatar

When I was in college, I dated a guy for two years who had very different religious beliefs than I do. I was raised Episcopalian, and he was raised Pentecostal. At first, the difference didn’t seem to matter very much. I didn’t know anything about the Pentecostal church, and the few times I went to church with him I was very uncomfortable. I always knew, without a doubt, that I would never share his beliefs. After listening to a particularly narrow-minded and spiteful sermon about how all other Christian denominations were doomed to hell, I told my boyfriend I would not be going to church with him again.

One day he told me that he prayed all the time that I would convert. He said that it didn’t matter how I felt about it because he was confident God would answer his prayers. Not long after that, I borrowed his car and found brochures for engagement rings tucked into the sun visor (I wasn’t snooping, they fell on me when I put the visor down to shade my eyes). I started thinking about having children with him, and how I’d hate to have my kids exposed to the kinds of ideas I’d heard in his church. I thought about the very small private school my boyfriend had gone to in his church and how very few opportunities the students had. I envisioned years of conflict over how our kids would be raised, and the complete lack of willingness on my boyfriend’s part to compromise. It didn’t sound like something I wanted to deal with, so I broke up with him. I will say, though, that at that point I’d been having doubts about the relationship for some time.

What’s funny is that he took the breakup so hard that he started drinking and smoking pot. This was a huge deal, because he’d always frowned on me having even one drink when we went out to dinner. He ended up marrying a friend of ours who was a huge partyer—they seem happy and have a beautiful family. I don’t at all regret walking away from that relationship. One of the things I value most about my husband is that we have the same ideas about how our children should be raised. Marriage and parenting is hard enough, I can’t imagine not having your partner on your team.

Amoebic's avatar

“Staying friends” immediately after a long-term relationship has just been an exercise in frustration and not letting each-other heal from the breakup healthily, in my experience. I think it’s okay after a little away-time before re-establish a friendship, but for right now, trying to be “friends” is just setting yourselves up for complication. Both of you WILL view your non-relationship differently. In order to just be “friends” you need to break away from your current situation, spend some time apart, and possibly in the future view one another independently of your very recent past.

As for the religion aspect, I’ve got nothing for you except wishing you both the best of luck in reaching a viable solution.

ragingloli's avatar

another example of religion destroying relationships for trivial reasons. it is a sad world, really. you should have put aside your petty religious differences and married anyway.
you’ve made a big mistake.

flameboi's avatar

My gf is super catholic, and I, well, I’m trying to get enough miles to go to heaven if that is how it works (let’s say, I’m spiritual, but a big fay specific religion), she likes me for me, not for my faith, i guess that would suffice…

Judi's avatar

I am confused by him saying that he’s not saved and then being so controlling about where you worship. You have problems on 2 fronts.
1. The control issues and
2. The unequally yolked thing.
Staying friends just prolongs the agony. It is to hard not to fall into old habits (Lean in to kiss, touch his hand or hair, all those things couples do.)
I would start moving on. You will probably find that by the time he is “ready” to “get saved” your life will have evolved and grown and you will see him as somewhat “small” if that makes any sense. I saw a guy who had broken my heart 10 years earlier once and my immediate reaction was that he was small, and I wondered how I let him break my heart.) I have a feeling you will feel the same in 5 years.

crisw's avatar

“it seems like the believer in those relationships values the marriage over their faith, something I am not comfortable doing.”

If you believe your faith is more important than your marriage, then you probably shouldn’t get married. You’re setting yourself up for unhappiness.

westy81585's avatar

I have never let religion get in the way of any relationship I’ve been in.

I’m agnostic, and I have dated…. Southern Baptists, Catholics, Atheists, one Jew, one Hindu, Lutherans, and a few other protestant religions.

Frankly, if you let religion dictate whether or not you’re going to be with someone…. then you’re taking religion too seriously.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

This is an easy one.

If religion means that much to you, it’s stands to reason that you should find a person to whom religion is as important to if you want a long lasting, fulfilling relationship.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

@Amoebic You are very much correct in my experience. There’s friendships and then there romantic relationships. Once you cross the line, there’s no going back. Once you break up with a lover, you’re never “just friends” again. You’re exes from that point forward and that relationship is very unique and frustrating. Better to move on because exes have a way of complicating future relationships.

Ivan's avatar

Let me get this straight. You broke up with someone who you really love and have been dating for a long time because you had incredibly trivial and insignificant differences of opinion about what to indoctrinate your children with? This is going to sound rude, but I think you need to better understand your priorities before you make a commitment to marriage.

Judi's avatar

@Ivan ; I think she has her priorities quite straight. If her faith is the most important thing in her life and she and the guy are not in sync it is better to find out now than to wait until they have been married a few years!

westy81585's avatar

@Judi That’s just it though, it sounds like they WERE in sync perfectly, and she let this detail get in the way.

Judi's avatar

They were NOT in sync spiritually, obviously. Faith, to many is not a small detail. It is the center of their being. It may not be at the top of your priority list, but it is at the top of mine, and according to @flutterm83 it is at the top of hers as well.

westy81585's avatar

@Judi If you let religion, or anything else like that for that matter, get in the way of something great you have with someone…. then I truly pity you.

Judi's avatar

And I say, if I let a person get in the way of my relationship with God then I am truly to be pitied.

fireside's avatar

Actually, as I read it, her boyfriend was the one that let it get in the way.

“He decided that he wants a good, christian (southern baptist) home and that if we were to get married then we probably wouldn’t have that.”

“I would be willing to convert to southern baptist”

“he disagrees that my converting to being baptist would work out”

I agree with casheroo, it was probably just a convenient excuse for him to break off the relationship because he wasn’t interested in getting married and that is where the relationship was headed.

Ivan's avatar

@Judi

Oh, I know; she does have firm priorities. Those priorities are just illogical and incompatible with marriage. Their beliefs are in sync, whether they realize it or not.

Judi's avatar

Funny, because in my marriage, I have often said that I don’t think we could have survived many of the storms we have faced if we didn’t have a common faith, which directed common priorities. Just because faith is not a part of your life does not mean that it is not the compass of someone else’s. Just because you don’t relate to something doesn’t make it illogical.

Ivan's avatar

It’s not illogical because I can’t relate. It’s illogical because it is not derived from logical thought and conflicts with any conclusion that would be derived from logical thought. If you are willing to abandon a relationship with someone you love because you want to indoctrinate your children such that they think so much like you that the incredibly insignificant differences in opinion between you and your potential husband would be unacceptable, that is illogical.

Judi's avatar

The Relationship wouldn’t work because they didn’t have shared values. Much like a relationship with you and I wouldn’t work because you wouldn’t be able to respect my faith, which is the most important part of my life. I can respect people who don’t share my faith, but to create a life with them they need to share my goals, my vision and want the same future as I do. The differences in opinion may be insignificant to you, but to her they are quite significant. Who are you to tell her what should and shouldn’t be significant in her life?

Ivan's avatar

They do share the same values. This isn’t about how important their faith is to them, this is about how important being able to indoctrinate their children is to them. If your faith is incredibly important to you, fine, that’s largely irrelevant, that’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is, a) the notion that it’s not only important for you to have your own faith, but it’s important that your husband have exactly the same beliefs as you. So much so that if he happens to be a member of a different protestant denomination, which shares 99.999999% of your beliefs, that is justification for leaving him. And, b) that the primary reason why it is justifiable to leave him is because you would disagree about how to indoctrinate your children.

If your primary goal in marriage is to find someone who believes exactly the same things as you in every way and to raise a new generation of children who believe exactly the same things as you in every way, you most certainly do not have your priorities sufficiently straight to warrant marriage.

westy81585's avatar

@Judi You do realize that all of the Protestant religions have virtually identical priorities, qualities, values, etc right?

If they had been southern baptist and jewish or muslim, that would be one thing (though all of the things I listed above are still virtually the same, and in fact all 3 religions worship the SAME god). But this is like saying that I speak a different language than someone who lives in the south or England. It’s just dialects.

Judi's avatar

But he said he’s “not saved.” He doesn’t even adhere to the denomination he is insisting she convert to, and even then, she is willing to convert, but he is still stating that he doesn’t think it would work out. (I just went back and read her original question again to be sure.) Doctrinal differences aside (and they are vast since he is not a believer, just wants his kids raised in the same church he was raised in) There is still the control issue.

westy81585's avatar

What difference do any of these churches make? They ALL raise their children with the same values and beliefs. They broke up on the stipulation that they weren’t the same religion and hence would want to raise their children differently… Well as a person who’s dated people of virtually every protestant denomination, including both of those in question, I can tell you for fact they don’t really have any solid differences in how they raise their children and conduct themselves.

Judi's avatar

It all depends on your level of commitment. Obviously, they are both different. It would make for problems in a marriage.

fireside's avatar

It’s not about indoctrination of the children, so much as it is about having a common basis for making decisions as they relate to the family.

Also, religion has a social aspect to it and not sharing that social aspect is a divide that some may not be able to bridge. Why would anyone advocate starting a marriage on separate sides of a chasm? there will be plenty of other things that come between the two people.

Judi's avatar

Well said Fireside. Lurve!

westy81585's avatar

You guys stun me. That you can ruin a perfect relationship over such trivial differences in religion….. it frightens me.

@fireside Common basis for making decisions? Ok please tell me what differences a Southern Baptist and lets say…. a Lutheran, would have with matters relating to the family.

And what social aspect? That you hold someones extremely minor differences in beliefs against them? Apparently we don’t all live in a world where you don’t even know your friends religions unless you ask, because it DOESN’T MATTER.

I truly pity you both. And you’d better believe that your God pities you for wasting your time and ruining such good things on such trivial differences on how to worship him.

fireside's avatar

@westy81585 – the stated reason for a breakup is not always the actual reason, just a good excuse. Also, if the guy wanted to go to southern baptist church and the girl wanted to go to Lutheran church, they have two different social circles.

But more likely in this case, they guy wanted to watch football and didn’t want to be bothered with thoughts of marriage.

ragingloli's avatar

@westy81585 well said, my friend

Ivan's avatar

@fireside

“it is about having a common basis for making decisions as they relate to the family.”

Right, like the decision of “What should we force our children to believe?”

Judi's avatar

It is not a difference of Lutheran or Methodist and Baptist. It is , She is a believer and he’s not. The difference in Churches is not the problem it’s the concern that the questioner brought up about being “unequally yoked.” She has no problem going to a Baptist Church. She, like you doesn’t see that much difference in the denominations. (Neither do I. The essentials are the same.) The problem is that her faith is her center and his is not. They, like fireside said “don’t have a common basis for making decisions relating to the family.” Not because she is Methodist and he is Baptist, but because she is a Christian and he is not.

fireside's avatar

@Ivan – you have a very narrow point of view.
Maybe he didn’t love her.

Ivan's avatar

She said she loves him. They broke up because they disagreed about what religion to bring their children up into.

Love > Religious indoctrination.

Judi's avatar

I will not apologize for raising my children to love God, to rely on him, to trust him. I think (and so do they) that it is the greatest gift I could ever give them. They are giving the same gift to their children. You are free to think differently and raise your children with your own values. I value freedom of religion.

Judi's avatar

@Ivan and @westy81585 ; I dare you two to marry a devout Christian then come back and tell us a year later that your religious differences are trivial.

Ivan's avatar

@Judi

“I think (and so do they) that it is the greatest gift I could ever give them.”

Of course they think that… you told them to!

“You are free to raise your children with your own values.”

But I won’t be doing that. At least, I won’t be indoctrinating them with my own personal religious beliefs.

“I value freedom of religion.”

If this were true, you would allow your children to develop their own religious beliefs.

“I dare you two to marry a devout Christian then come back and tell us a year later that your religious differences are trivial.”

Those differences wouldn’t be trivial; the differences between a devout Christian and an atheist are quite fundamental. They are far greater than the difference between a non-practicing protestant and a practicing protestant. That being said, if I really did love this person, I would marry them regardless of our religious differences. The same can be said for political differences and which sports teams we might root for. All of these things are not important.

Judi's avatar

As adults, they have the freedom to abandon the faith I raised them in.
It is a parents responsibility to teach their children values. Did you read Lord of the Flies?
Are you saying that as a Christian, I should raise my children atheist?
In the Christian vocabulary to “not be saved” is saying that you are either atheist or agnostic, so even though we are arguing we do agree in what you said, ” the differences between a devout Christian and an atheist are quite fundamental.”
On everything else, I think we should just agree to disagree. I have no need to get the last word, and our fundamental differences are obvious. I have no desire to convert you to my way of thinking. This beginning to spin nowhere. I think we have exhausted the conversation.

ragingloli's avatar

“not saved” can (and does) also mean that person B does not belong to the right sect of christianity and person A considers person B an heretic.
I encountered this kind of mindset quite often. for example, many protestant christians do not consider catholicism as truly christian and thus “not saved”. the same goes for mormons, jehovahs witnesses, etc.

Ivan's avatar

“As adults, they have the freedom to abandon the faith I raised them in.”

is that some sort of rationalization? You can’t tell a child “Believe exactly what I tell you or you will burn for all eternity in a lake of fire,” then one day say, “OK, you are free to believe what you wish now,” and pretend that you are giving them the freedom to develop their own religious beliefs.

“In the Christian vocabulary to “not be saved” is saying that you are either atheist or agnostic”

Well then the Christian vocabulary is wrong. Agnosticism deals with knowledge. If you believe that you know that God exists/doesn’t exist, then you are not an agnostic. If you claim that you do not know whether God exists, you are an agnostic. Most people (religious and nonreligious alike) fit into the latter category. An atheist is someone who simply lacks a belief in a god. When asked the question, “Do you believe in a god,” any answer other than “Yes” makes you an atheist. Allowing your children to develop their own beliefs would not be raising them as atheists, it would be raising them as critical thinkers. They might become theists, they might become atheists; either way, it would be their choice and no one else’s.

Think of it this way. If you are confident that your beliefs are correct, then why is it necessary to force your children to accept them? If they were so obviously true, then eventually the children would come to believe them anyways and you should have nothing to worry about.

fireside's avatar

So, Ivan, do you plan to share nothing of what you believe or value with your children and see if they come to believe and value the same ideals as you?

It is natural to share your beliefs and values with your children.
If they choose otherwise, so be it.

My parents would like for me to have the same faith as them, but they are happy that I have a faith and a community that I enjoy. They see the benefits of me being involved in a community and thinking of others besides myself. They freely admit that they don’t have all the answers, they just share with me what they believe.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I don’t see where the harm is in allowing people to worship as they see fit. In the US this is a very basic freedom. It would be worse to disallow the freedom of thought regardless of whether or not people agree with them.

Ivan's avatar

@fireside

There is a difference between sharing what you believe and teaching it to them as if it were truth and forcing them to read texts that you feel are important and go to buildings that you feel are important and eat certain foods and dress a certain away, etc. So, no, I do plan to share my beliefs with my potential children. I also plan to share the beliefs of other people with my children in an effort to educate them and allow them to develop their own beliefs rationally.

fireside's avatar

well, I was just going to let it be, but you’ve intrigued me
@Ivan – At what age do you plan to tell your kids they don’t have to go anywhere or do anything they don’t want to do?

What if during this independent investigation of truth your kids decided that they did believe in God. Would you tell them their beliefs were wrong and try to change their mind? Or would you honor their beliefs?

Would you tell them that the conclusions they came to were not rational?

Ivan's avatar

@fireside

I don’t think I would be telling them anything. I would hopefully engage in discussion with them. They would know my stances and I would know theirs. I would respect their right to come to their own conclusions while still making sure we all understand why we feel the other is incorrect.

fireside's avatar

Ok, so you would still be “forcing them to read texts that you feel are important and go to buildings that you feel are important and eat certain foods” up to a certain age though right?

I mean you don’t exactly engage in conversation with a two year old. And of course a teenager would just not go to school if they had the choice. Just wondering where the distinction lies. Just in regards to religion, i guess.

Ivan's avatar

@fireside

The distinction is between religion and secular matters.

Judi's avatar

And you see marriage/relationships as a secular matter and a lot of people see relationships as a very spiritual matter.

Ivan's avatar

@Judi

I’m aware. I think they’re incorrect.

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