My Spouse Has Gotten More Religious Since We Got Married

Atheists and Marriage

Everyone grows as they go through life. Indeed, they should grow and they should develop — intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally. For some, the result of that process may be a deepening of past religious faith or the adoption of a new religion entirely.

If that person's partner is not religious at all or is merely superficially religious, conflicts and problems can readily appear in the marriage.

Regardless of the exact doctrines of the person's new or developing faith, the character of that person is changing, and therefore so will the nature of their relationship with others — including their spouse. There is no getting around this, so the only question left is how the relationships will change.

It is entirely possible that the change will be for the better. There might not be anything specific in the religion which would cause a person to look less favorably upon nonbelievers, but there might be things which encourage a person to be more appreciative of loved ones and more firmly committed to a marital relationship. Thus, a deepening or changing religious faith will not necessarily be destructive to the marriage.

Problems With Religious Differences in Marriage

Unfortunately, we must face the fact that there are many more chances for there to be problems than improvements. For one thing, it's a sociological fact that recent converts to any faith (even if that "conversion" is simply a strengthening of past faith) tend to be the most fanatical and committed members.

Not every convert is like that of course, but when it does happen there is likely to be less tolerance for an unconverted spouse than you would find in a person who has always been a member of that religion.

Also, when a religious faith becomes stronger, then it should be expected that that faith will come to play a more and more important role in a person's life.

They will take their religious beliefs into consideration in more and more situations — including situations where religion never played a role before.

That means that their religion can become a critical factor for their marriage and the decisions made within and about that marriage — but what about the nonreligious or less religious spouse? If they do not share in the belief that religion should play such a role in the relationship, then what we have are two people with radically diverging perspectives on what marriage is and how marriage should be acted upon. Over the long term, that can prove highly problematic.

How to Deal With Religious Differences

So, what should a person do? Perhaps the most important thing is communication — the more that is left unsaid and simply assumed, the more likely there will be misunderstandings, miscommunications, and conflict. If, however, both partners are completely up front about what they are thinking, then potential disasters might be averted.

The more religious person needs to explain how their beliefs are changing and why this is important to them. The less religious person needs to explain where they stand and why that is important to them. Keeping the lines of communication open might be sufficient, even if the religious spouse wants religion to play a role in the marriage which isn't possible due to the position of their mate.

However, the possibility of professional counseling should be kept in mind. An impartial observer might be able to offer suggestions tailored to individual situations which will make coping with religious differences easier. They key here is "impartial" — a marital counselor who is committed to the same religious faith as your spouse might not be able to provide even-handed advice, but such a counselor might prove especially appealing to your spouse.

Because of this, deciding upon a counselor who is acceptable to both may prove especially difficult, but it is crucial because the wrong counselor who says the wrong things can cause a bad situation to get even worse. It is also important to keep in mind that you shouldn't give up if one counselor proves unhelpful — not all of them are equally good and not all are equally suited for every marital problem.

If one doesn't help you, be prepared to try a couple of others until you find someone who can do something.