A vital part of marriage is sharing your faith. Living in a mixed marriage, myself being some sort of non-denominational evangelical Protestant and my husband being a Catholic convert, has shown me firsthand exactly why so many people put an emphasis on being equally yoked in this respect, and how hard it can be when you are not. It is not impossible to have a happy mixed marriage, but there are many difficulties that arise and a lot of opportunities for compromise and growth!
Despite our differences, I have been blessed to be able to share my faith with my husband even from the beginning. His authentic faith is what drew me to him in the first place, and it’s something that I continue to admire in him and it’s one of the things I love most about him. God has given me a perfect match, in which I feel unbelievably blessed. The circumstances of our meeting convince me that God had this planned all along. His plan is better than anything I could come up with, so I’m all in. Here’s some of the work He has done:
In a mixed marriage, there are many opportunities for growth that come in the form of fervent prayer and frustration accompanied with heartache – sanctification at its best. There is an inability to share the deepest part of yourself with the person most important to you in the world. If you’re like me and have a hard time expressing yourself, the frustration is compounded by an inability to help the other person see your perspective. From my experience, the best advice I can give is to beg for understanding first, before acceptance. Communication is top priority. A huge relief can come from just knowing that the other person understands what you’re saying, regardless of if they agree. For me and my husband, this involved a lot of repeating back (a tried and true counseling method) to check that we’ve listened correctly, and a lot of yelling phrases like “Please let me finish and just listen!” As a woman, I’ve had to overcome my innate need to be treasured which gets twisted to me wanting to be understood without having to say everything. Don’t ask me, I just live with it. So I’ve had to work to tell Chris when I need something from him or I’m angry or whatever might be going on with me. Hard work to change your twisted self-centered nature, I tell ya what.
Once we understood each other a little better, it was a lot easier to start swallowing all that pride and make compromises. A lot of the compromise happened on my side of things for a few reasons. First, I’m a woman and as such I am submissive to my husband. Secondly, I wanted to maintain unity in our family, so I rejected a few of the compromises Chris offered on that basis. Lastly, I had a more permissive faith which allowed me to acquiesce to the restrictions of Chris’s faith so as to not cause his conscience to sin (1 Cor. 8:9). Looking back, each compromise took a lot of effort and I resented it somewhat at first, but a peaceful home is priceless.
I’ve detailed the compromises on baptism and contraception in a previous post. But we also had to decide where to go to church on Sunday mornings. That implies a lot more than just how you spend your Sunday mornings, because where you go to church determines the spiritual atmosphere of your home. Chris offered to go to Mass alone and we could all go to my parent’s non-denomination church together on Sunday mornings. I hated the idea of him living out his faith without me. Maybe I’m clingy. But I also believed I could live my faith out in a Catholic church as well as I could in a Protestant one, and I have. I believe that maintaining your faith in Christ regardless of your surroundings is an incredible witness. I ended up being witnessed to instead.
There are some issues that we still haven’t worked through. For instance, we were married before he officially converted, so when he did convert, it came time to have our marriage “blessed” by a priest. I am not comfortable with these vow renewals and the reasons behind them, so we have not done this, and I think we only will if I do convert. He was careful not to push me into the blessing, and only wants me to do it if I am alright with it. In fact, Chris’s attitude in this whole thing has been a wonderful. He never expected me to convert and never asked anything of me that I didn’t volunteer apart from the obvious things regarding how we live our lives.
Logistical problems aside, it takes a lot to understand and be understood when you live out a five hundred year old squabble in your family life. But it is worth every single minute of it to come out on the other side. I can’t explain how much I better understand my own faith, where it has come from, how it applies to my daily existence and how best to live it out. I’ve worked out problems that I’d shelved with Christianity as a whole and come to a secure and solid belief in God. In this process, I’ve changed more than my husband with respect to beliefs, but these changes were a completion and not a negation of the faith I already had.
I remember at one point, after I had lost a small fight with my husband, I told him, “I’ll be so mad at you if you’re right about all of this!!!” and he replied, “Why? Wouldn’t you love it if we were unified as a family?” It now looks like that’s where we are headed, and I am not angry. There’s a peace and joy I feel that’s wholly unexpected, but very welcome. I pray for all those in similar situations that they can experience that as well. After all, the main reason I began this blog was the hope that I could help others overcome the same obstacles that Chris and I have.