This month marks three years since my husband told me that he no longer believed in any kind of God.
After three years, I feel like I should be able to talk about this easily. Being three years into something generally brings a bit of comfort. You know that you don’t have all of the answers, but you also aren’t a complete novice any more. You’ve got some experience. You’ve got some language to express what is going on.
I still feel as new to this whole interfaith marriage thing as I did that afternoon in our living room.
When people ask me how I cope having a husband who is an atheist, I never know how to answer.
Depending on who is asking, I know they are probably looking for a particular answer.
Some are looking for the sad story. How it grieves my heart that he’s no longer a believer. How I pray constantly for his soul to be saved. How being unequally yoked is a burden that weighs heavy.
Some are looking for the angry story. How I’m pissed that he changed his spiritual beliefs after almost thirteen years of marriage. How I can’t believe that he’d leave me as the sole spiritual advisor to our four children.
Some are looking for the inspiring story. How I maintain a quiet and gentle spirit so that I might win him back. How I radiate peace and calm in the face of these trying circumstances.
I’m always afraid that I’m going to let someone down. I’ll let down the Christian community because I’m not working hard enough to convert my unsaved husband when there’s an expectation that I should be doing more. I’ll let down the atheist community because I do miss the religious connection that we shared and I’m not quiet about that. Feeling sad is negative, feeling content is negative. I’ll let down the others who are in mixed faith marriages because I don’t have neat answers to their questions.
When we first started this journey, I was so frustrated because I couldn’t find stories. How could men and women in mixed faith marriages not be writing about it? How could they not be sharing their experience so I could know how I was supposed to feel? Why was I so alone in this when I knew that I was not alone in this?
But now, three years later, I understand better.
There isn’t a single story to tell.
It’s sad and angry and inspirational all mixed together. The emotions catch me off guard. A sense of loneliness on a Sunday morning when I’m in the middle of a worship song that we used to sing together. A hint of frustration when I am unable to ask my spouse to pray with me about something troubling. A feeling of gratitude that I am able to navigate this road with the person that I love the most in the whole world.
That’s the most important thing. No matter how much I feel like I need to have the right answer, no matter how conflicted I feel as I try to sort out what that answer even is, almost sixteen years ago we promised we would love one another no matter our circumstances.
Nothing that happened three years ago can change that.