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Is your spouse an atheist? Try this exercise

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Many couples share everything except their faith, but this can help bring greater love and meaning to your marriage.

Many testimonies allude to how difficult it is to live with a spouse who does not share the same religious beliefs.:

“My husband is an atheist and it’s hard for me to live like this. He says religion is for the weak, and it’s difficult to be fully happy in our life as a couple because I don’t feel sufficiently recognized in the spiritual dimension. I pray for him, but I don’t think things are going to change and that makes me sad and discouraged.”

“My wife occasionally comes to church with me so that we go as a family and that’s important to me, I value it a lot. But I am living my faith alone, when I would love to share it with her. I am involved in the parish, but that is not enough to fulfil the lack I feel. My wife does love me, though.” 

This marital disparity in the spiritual life often brings with it real suffering—for both parties—that can lead to deep dissatisfaction and even despondency. How can we live in this situation in a more calm and even positive way?

An opportunity to accept the person who is different from you

In general, atheists have an interesting role in the lives of believers: they put them in a position where they need to strengthen their faith and live their Christian values more deeply. Without a doubt, in this sense we can be glad about that. If your partner is an atheist, ask yourself the right questions: “How do I, as a Christian, put into practice the values of the Gospel? And my love for others? And more specifically, the love in my marriage?

Besides being an atheist, what else is true of your spouse? Make a list, pen in hand, of all the things you value in your spouse and connect them to specific situations: are they tender, sensitive, attentive, conscientious, handy, intelligent, deep, fun, respectful, punctual, reserved, communicative, brave, thoughtful, humorous, etc.? The list can grow and grow. But if your list is desperately short, take another look—you didn’t marry this person for these few qualities. Your disappointment about your different spiritual orientations should not block out all the depths within him or her. 

You can both do this exercise individually, and it might bring our a very constructive conversation if you share your answers. It’s an opportunity to accept the differences of your spouse and be grateful for the diversity in your marriage. It’s a beautiful way to love each other. Because “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7)

Marie-Noël Florant

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