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My Husband No Longer Believes

Question:

I’ve been married for 8 years and my husband just tells me that he no longer believes in God. We’ve never been consistent church goers, but I’ve always thought we were on the same page with religion – Methodist. When he told me his concerns (evolution, lacking proof, not believing in heaven, and "how can God let terrible things happen, such as terrorism and letting children starve?")I didn’t have many answers, but I still believe. I asked him to please let us continue raising our kids as Christians as we continue to discuss and figure out how we are going to get through this. I hope he changes his beliefs, but how can I live with this? I can’t look at him the same way. And how confusing is this going to be for my young kids if he puts this question in their heads?

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Answer:

In criticism of Freud’s psychoanalysis it was said that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." What was meant by this is that the cigar represents nothing else but what it is. In your case, perhaps "a cigar is NOT just a cigar." What I am hinting at is that perhaps there is more wrong in your marriage than your husband’s changing views about religion.

You state that you have been married for 8 years and that you have young children together. I assume that you have either two or three children. In many ways, your relationship appears to be ideal. However, your complaint is that your husband has done a lot of thinking and "soul searching" and is not sure he believes in God. If that is the only thing wrong in your marriage then you have nothing to worry about. Yet, you report that it is difficult for you to "look at him the same way." Why??

Your husband is going through a "spiritual crisis" and, it seems to me, the crisis is between him and God, or between him and people. He is stressing over the very real fact that wars, famine, murder, robbery and cruelty continue in this world unabated. He has a good point. Why would you want to keep your children from a father who is sensitive and soul searching?

I want to remind you of a couple of things:

1. There is no reason why you cannot continue to go to Church with the children and nurture their spiritual and religious beliefs.

2. If your husband is angry at God, that is between him and God, even if he no longer believes.

3. Once they become adult, your children will make their own decisions about spirituality and religion regardless of their father and mother. This happens to every couple who raises children.

4. I have known many families over the decades where parents either come from different religions or the same religion but different beliefs. In all of these cases the children grew up to be healthy and happy people with many of them practicing the religion of the parent who was the deeper believer.

5. In my experiences both as a therapist and a human being, it was the people whose marriages were filled with conflict, arguing, violence, alcoholism and divorce, that ended up with adult children who were deeply troubled and upset.

What I am trying to say is that your husband’s changing beliefs are not the problem. In fact, if the two of you have a good marriage, with mutual love and affection, then the marriage and the children will cope very well with the fact that one of you is experiencing changing beliefs.

On the other hand, if the two of you are unhappy with one another because there is no love, no warmth but lots of conflict, arguing, drinking, etc., then your children will suffer regardless of how deep your religious beliefs are.

I can recommend a book to both of you. It was written by a Rabbi but it’s message is meant for and addressed to people of all religions, universally. The Rabbi provides an answer to the type of question your husband is raising. The book is a smashing success and has been for decades after it was first published. The author and Rabbi is Kushner and the title of the book is: When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Perhaps it will help you and your husband but, perhaps, it will not. Either way it is an excellent and sensitive book that looks at a question that has troubled people since World War II: How could God let those things happen?

I urge both of you to read this book. I urge both of you to continue to love one another, assuming you are both in love with one another, accept one another’s differences and give your children endless amounts of love. A healthy and happy marriage should be able to transcend changing beliefs on the part of one or both spouses. We have too many divorces and people should not divorce just because one of them begins to have spiritual questions. Your children can tolerate Dad’s questioning his beliefs but they cannot tolerate a divorce and all the pain it causes, unless there is real violence, drug abuse and other types of abuse present.

Best of Luck

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