Only Two Problems With My Marriage...

Unfortunately, they're pretty big ones.

I don't believe in god and she doesn't believe in sex.

This time I'll talk a little more about the god part.

I grew up in a conservative Lutheran household (Dad was a pastor). Attended Lutheran grade school, high school and college and married a nice Christian girl from a similar background. I was heavily involved in the church for 30 years. I eventually started allowing myself to ask questions that I had suppressed most of my life in my sheltered religious cocoon and dug even deeper into scripture and books to find answers. Needless to say I found the answers. The truth is, I don't think I ever really believed it, but I was so immersed/indoctrinated in it that I never questioned it.

Now I am no longer pretending to believe, but I am going through the motions and attending church with my wife and kids every week. It is almost painful to sit through the illogical, contradictory, hypocritical, pious messages. What's more, most times after attending, my wife resents me more. She hears about how the husband should be the spiritual head of the household and it makes her sad, angry and resentful that I am not fulfilling my duties in this area. She sees other men teaching and setting good examples and is frustrated that I am not doing the same. Her faith appears to be very childlike. She is apparently insecure in her faith and does not allow herself to ask questions for fear that she won't like the answers. She refuses to talk about it at all because she feels like, by my questions, I am trying to lead her to join me in unbelief. This not only applies to religion, but politics, parenting and many other things. There's not much she will talk to me about because she feels like she can't trust me or open up to me since I "no longer share her morals and values." From my perspective, my morals haven't changed. At the risk of sounding arrogant, my morals and values are more consistent than most Christians I know.

I feel so alone! We live in a community that is extremely religious and conservative. I have no one to talk to. My wife won't talk to me about anything besides day-to-day activities with the kids. Speaking of kids, since they were born, our relationship has dropped off the bottom of her priority list.

I am doing my best to be supportive. I read bible stories to the kids and participate in family prayers (even though it eats me up inside to lie to my kids--don't know how much longer I can fake it as they get older and start to ask more questions). I am a very good provider financially. I devote all my free time to my family. I take care of myself physically.

I don't know how much longer I can continue like this. I'd be able to manage much easier if she wasn't rejecting me physically as well. Granted, our physical relationship was never good to begin with. We were good Christian young people so I didn't find out until after we were married that she had no interest in sex, but she at least used to make a slight effort occasionally for my sake. But now that we don't have a "spiritual connection" she doesn't feel like she can open herself up to me in that way. I still find her very attractive. Between her trust issues and self esteem issues, it is killing me. There's even more to it than that, she's got some legitimate physical issues. I crave intimacy, passion and physical contact.

We are still compatible in most ways and she is an excellent mother, but I have been struggling like this for at least 6 years. If not for our kids I imagine we probably would have ended it by now, but there's no easy answer. We've been married for 16 years and have built a life, house, home and family together.

She refuses to go to any kind of counseling because she says that no counseling can fix my unbelief, and as long as I'm an atheist, nothing else can fix our relationship. She thinks I should just try harder to "regain" my faith and that would fix everything. Believe me I have tried. If I could just "believe," I would. I have done more reading and studying than anyone I know, but the more I read (and attend church), the more certain I am about my lack of belief. I don't think there's something that I missed in the bible the first 5 times I read it or something a pastor can tell me that will make me see the light.

The thing is, she's not getting what she needs (a spiritual leader) from me out of this relationship either. I don't know if I can hang on for another 10-15 years until the kids are out of the house and I am no longer marketable to anyone.

I am lonely and dying inside but I don't see any way out.

Sorry for being so long-winded. I don't have many opportunities to vent.
FaithfullyBlue FaithfullyBlue
14 Responses Nov 2, 2012

I too lost my faith... following the same path as you have... the more I read, studied and even more, listened... the more I realized that I simply do not believe.

...I am perhaps more agnostic than atheist, but for all the same reasons you have listed.

I grew up in a town where there were more churches per capita than in any other town in North America... there were many possibilities, and I studied more than one...

You are not alone in this, and you should be the "spiritual" leader in your household, by sharing this... it is after all your carefully studied and thought out belief... and it states in the bible that you should teach your wife and children...

I believe that you should do so... teach them what you believe and why...

I don't know that you actually can... given your wife's slightly hysterical outlook on it... and to look at it from her side, it must be difficult for her, given that she believed she was marrying a "good Christian boy"... but I really see that as all the more reason to try to free her from those beliefs...

I know that I feel more free to be a moral and good person now than I did when I was trying to follow such antiquated and contradictory beliefs.

As far as atheists not having high moral standards... that is utter rubbish... atheists carry high morals standards because they believe that is the correct way to live, not because they fear hell fire, or wish for a reward in an after life...

That seems to me to require better moral fibre, not worse...

I really don't know if you can... I'm just telling you that I personally believe that you should do so.

The thing is, to control people in this life, you have to convince them that there is some sort of reward in another... people are much, much less willing to die for a cause they don't agree with, or don't understand if they believe that they are throwing away their "only" life to do so... than are those that are promised a new and better life, should they die for a cause...

For those who hunger for power, the religious beliefs of their followers is the road to such...


The first thing that you need to know about love is that it is impossible. That is, it is impossible without God. We are naturally sinful people. We are naturally selfish. When we love of our own ability, it is because we want something in return. Breakfast in bed is often out of duty - it's mother's day, out of guilt - making up for the fight last night, or as a bribe - you want to buy a boat. Why is it that "love" is so much more prevalent while dating than married? It's because a person is trying to win another over.
Fortunately true love is not just a pipe dream. It can be accomplished with the help of God. The first thing that one must embrace to truly love is to accept that God loves them. If you don't feel loved, it is difficult to love others. When you accept God's love for you, it will naturally flow out of you and to others.
Love is also sacrificial in nature. It wants what is best for other people, not ourselves. Once again, this goes against our nature. We look out for number one first and foremost. Jesus set the example of sacrificial love for us by dying on the cross. You will probably never be put in a position to die for a loved one but there will be many times when you'll need to sacrifice your time, your money, and your preferences in order to show love to someone.
The key to love is God. It would be great if we could just set our mind on being more loving but it just doesn't work that way. Our mind must be transformed by God. Some people see a dramatic transformation in their life when they surrender their will to God. For many others there is a gradual change from selfishness to sacrificially loving. But the first and most important step toward really loving is by asking God to make you a more loving person. This means that you have to acknowledge that you need help being a more loving husband or wife.
Without God's help, love is impossible. With the help of God, all things are possible. This is the most important thing to remember as you try to love others.

Ephesians 3:17-19
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Wow, I'm truly thankful for all the thoughtful, supportive resposes. I come here often but am typically just a lurker.Like most of us, I pathetically hope if I keep reading I might find a solution but of course the odds of a happy ending are negligible. I know I have no chance of ever having a satisfying relationship if I stay, but I've got this self-image of being a faithful, loyal, responsible person to maintain. My kids are 5 and 6 and I just can't yet bring myself to break up their home. My wife and I do a good enough job of putting on happy faces so they are not in a toxic environment.I think the only way I get out of this is if she gets enough advice from the Christian community that she should divorce me. Maybe I stop going through the motions and she gets fed up and does the dirty work?

Waiting for her keeps you firmly in the "victim" box.
You might be quite OK with that too.
But if you want to move this off top dead centre, it is incumbent on you to act.
To act, you will need to embrace your obligation of choice, and INFORMED choice is the best way to go.

Do you know how a divorce would shake out for you ? The financial aspects, the access to your kids, spousal support etc ? That would be good information to have and can be obtained by seeing a lawyer in your jurisdiction.
Having this information would mean you wouldn't get blinsided should your missus get in first (as seems quite possible) and, you might choose to pro-actively use the information to act youself.
With the knowledge, you could make an informed choice. At the very least, you would have created an alternate to the present situation, and that has to be helpful.

Tread your own path.

why on earth would you want to keep living a lie just to "keep up appearances"?? How dishonest of you. Personally, I would think you would be more faithful, loyal, and responsible if you would be honest about things.

Is there an official ILIASM guide to choosing a divorce lawyer?

Baz, I'm sure if it exists you can point me toward it.

To my knowledge no. These things are jurisdiction driven. For example, I could give you my lawyers number, but as that is in Melbourne Australia, and the laws will be different to where ever you are, it wouldn't be much use to you.

1 More Response

This marriage is over, and I have another issue to throw on the table. My mom is an atheist and my dad was Jewish so I have seen this dynamic before. You have developed disdain for religion and now look down on it, and thus do not respect your wife at all. Even if she had a sex drive this is enough to kill it. You are now an enlightened atheist and she is still a stupid, childlike (your words) person of faith. How do you suppose you can have relationship of equals with this dynamic? You're lonely but I promise that your wife is lonely too; she thought she was getting a person of faith and now she's got someone that not only has no faith but looks down on those that do have it, and yet still expects sex. I'm not particularly religious and my husband is methodist but I still respect him and his faith because I don't claim to have all the answers. Without mutual respect there can be no relationship. End the misery now.

You are correct. I know she is lonely as well. I feel terrible that she thought she chose a Christian spouse and is now stuck with an atheist. I truly had no intention of deceiving her. Granted I thought I was marrying someone who would have a physical relationship with me so I guess we both screwed each other over.

I didn't mean to come off nasty, its just that in my experience its difficult for atheists and believers to respect each other. This isn't totally your fault, you have just gone in different directions. It's common and happens for many reasons; I would just sit her down and tell her that you realize she needs someone of faith and you don't feel that can be you, so maybe its best if you amicably part ways. Tell her that you respect her beliefs even if you don't because it will help establish mutual respect as coparents, you just don't share them. In the end, none of us has the answers to these things. Good luck.

And if you've never had a physical relationship with her, that will probably not change and is one more reason to end the misery. Sorry.

I feel really sorry for you. I really do. Unfortunately, your wife's fate was arguably sealed for her before she was even conceived. Maybe yours as well.

Your wife comes over as someone who is strong-willed, obtusely so, but as someone who is completely and utterly intransigent. You do not have to be a 'believer' to be like that, but it may well be a flag for your general demeanour.

Your marriage is certainly over, given the chasm that divides the pair of you on your fundamental outlook on life. You can accommodate doubt and deal with it and your wife cannot. It can't get more stark than that. Your wife's instinct is that your are treacherous, a traitor, a turn-coat. It is that bad. You are only good enough if you continue to be an adjunct to her personality, her singular way of conducting her life. Consciously or unconsciously, she 'chose' you because that is what she wanted, expected. "Be with me or be against me", so to speak.

Faith, such as this, is neither strong or weak; it just is. It either exists, in it's purist form, or it does not exist at all. Just like a bubble, and when the bubble is burst...

As you are just venting I would not be impertinent to offer 'advice'. You'll figure it out for yourself. After all, you have the strength and the intelligence to do that. You will need time, whatever time you need or want to do so.

As for your kids, well, is history to repeat itself, ad infinitum, generation-to-generation, or does it stop here? Only you can decide that. Even your wife doesn't get a say in that.

I hope that you can find the strength within yourself, from deep within, to not only keep your head above water but to flourish in your own small way, in the longer term and that you can find some happiness in this world that you can cherish before passing from it. After all, you have decided that this is it, it is no dry run.

I really really feel for you! I know saying that doesnt help anything. I am agnostic (not open to religion, but not saying I know what happens after death..because i Dont?!), and I was surrounded by religious people at Uni because of where I was studying and felt alone, so I can only imagine what your feeling. I think you should lay all your cards on the table and tell her, you simply cant keep living like this. Your views wont change, it would be easier for you to believe but then your just lying to yourself. she probably deep down feels like you, but is scared that if there is no "god" firgure it will scare her. Her rejecting you until you "BELIEVE", is ridiculous, and will just carry on pushing you away. if she cant accept you the way you are, then thats the end of it. better to separate now if the kids are very young. good luck

A few suggestions:
1. Can you arrange for a transfer in your work to a larger, more diverse community?
2. Can you talk honestly with your spouse, to the effect of "We are both good parents, but we are not suited to each other. Maybe it's time for us to share the parenting duties, and move on to find more suitable mates. I will always respect you for being a great mother to our kids and for making your own way in life, and I deserve the same respect in return. I hope we can move forward and work towards putting our kids first, as separate rather than together".
3. Make sure you expose your kids to other ways of life: get yourself invited to friends/relatives in other cities/states/provinces and visit, show them how other people live. Invite colleagues/friends over to your house to show them how you live. etc.

best of luck.

1) We did just move to this large metropolitan area. It's just in the heart of a very red state:).
2) It's difficult to have an honest conversation about this topic. She gets so emotional and shuts down. She also has had issues with depression and I still care too much to just drop a bomb on her.

I have a story to tell you....
My H grew up in a strong German Lutheran family in the Midwest. I grew up in CA in a loose protestant denomination. I ended up at a Lutheran College and started attending the church. I enjoyed it and am grateful for the spiritual foundation it provided for the kids. We also attended church each Sunday and participated in programs for the kids.

When I began confronting my SM, I found the pastors of my church to be unhelpful. Nowhere in their message, whether to me personally or to the general congregation, was there space for loving myself and honoring myself above others. I also began to question what I really believed and found my faith was very different than the faith that was described to me at church. I stopped praying at the table because the rote prayer seemed insincere to me. I stopped saying the creed because I don't belive it anymore. My kids wondered but I was open about my feelings particularly as it related to being a female in a structure that diminished women. As time passed, my children started questionning their own beliefs too which is important for their development as authentic people. It's not so important to me what people believe as long as they understand why they believe it.

Fast forward to just last night. I went to dinner with the mother of one of my best friends. She is the widow of a former Lutheran Bishop. While I had told her son (my BFF) my story, she did not know the details. So I told her. I hadn't disclosed any of this to her or her husband before he passed beacuse I was afraid of being judged.

Here's what she told me..."My husband and I also had some problems. He became impotent in his mid 50's and wouldn't deal with it. I felt awful and alone, but over time we worked it out. After 6 children and knowing he was going to be a bishop, I just couldn't make any other choice." Then she said, "You did the right thing. You are an alive, vital woman and should have what you need in your life."

I would say the same to you. It's time to be your authentic self.

My husband and I are both atheists (small a, not rabid atheists, just non-believers). My son goes to a school with a Christian ethos - i.e. they teach them about Jesus and so forth in weekly religion classes. I feel some discomfort in it, but I'm letting it slide. I'm lying more by omission. I'm kinda going along with it like I go along with Santa. But at least we agree on that.

what you have is fundamental rift. I understand why she might be disappointed with your 'fall from grace' - but these kinds of things can be overcome if both parties want to.

Wow, your journey through religion is very much like my own. Unlike you, I did get the opportunity to share what I found in the scripture with my wife and she joined me in apostacy. Now this was long after the marriage had gone sexless, so, for us, one didn't really have much to do with the other, though our anchor of Christianity disappeared, exposing parts of the marriage that we had glossed over with Christian dogma.

That she continues in her faith is definitely a major problem for you two. I know, for me, I quit even going to church at all and haven't set foot in the walls of church in a long time. By your "faking it" on Sundays, and her persistence in the faith, it's creating a rift/wound that won't ever heal. Something has to give. Religious differences, especially those that are onset after marriage, can be as important as a matter of fidelity insofar as the damage it can do to a marriage.

She interprets your atheism as a rejection of her...not God, her.
So she's rejecting you "back". That's my take.
...When my wife went from quiet disbeliever to flaming atheist...I felt rejected too.
My ritual partner, in my mind, seemed to be mocking my Paganism, so I started practicing witchcraft alone. :(

You know...I don't have kids, so I'm probably saying this in way more of a glib manner than I might were I in your shoes...But to lie to people really, really bothers me.
I think she's making you do something I personally would find unacceptable.
Admittedly telling the kids you do not believe in God is going to confuse them, but it would hopefully lead to a dialogue on tolerance-something you want your kids to have.
I hate to abandon my spouse (and she's still in my house because she can't afford her own place yet). We are separated.
Some time recently, I realized she abandoned me first.
...Going by actions here, your spouse has abandoned you.

I wish you happiness.

Religion is often a bigger issue than even sex. I don't have any answers for you, unfortunately, but atheism and Christianity cannot co-exist in a marriage with children.

Um, can so!

I have a bit of the same issue but my wife is much more accommodating. I am allowed to voice my positions and I do not attend church.

But her views make sexual connection impossible. Well to be fair we will decide this for certain in the coming months.

But your situation is much harder to bridge. Read and vent, both are good. But for now you seem to be picking door number one over and over " live in misery". Seems a hard path to me looking back.

<p>My initial re-action here is that the Deity question and the sexless question are one and the same.</p><p>Your missus has a viewpoint on religion which you regard as childlike and niaive, and that you are pro-actively trying to fix her view up to be more in line with your overview on the matter.</p><p>I would suggest you cease and desist from this strategy. </p><p>For one key reason. It won't work.</p><p>You can present your case, make your point, and that is ALL you can do. You can't make her choices for her. She alone can do that. And clearly at this point, she chooses to stick with her beliefs. You have to respect that. You have to accept that. You can't control that. You can't "fix" that. And from her perspective, there is nothing to "fix".</p><p>If this matter is a fundamental core value of yours then the question arises, is it a dealbreaker ?? Because that throws the future of the dynamic into question.</p><p>Now, go back and re-read the above again, this time insert "attitude to sex" instead of "religion"</p><p>Do you see the connection ??</p><p>Do you see how far down the chute this is ??</p><p>Tread your own path.</p>