She asked us for our advice on what to do given she's looking to marry this man.
I've been wrestling around a lot with this one. She commented her plight at the end of August to my "I Married an Agnostic" post from 2011, and I'm half afraid she thinks I've forgotten all about her!
Anne, I promise that I haven't. I just didn't know how to write this without upsetting you. My advice, I fear, is not what you're hoping for.
My advice, in fact, is to get out now.
I realize you might be surprised to hear that from me, but I've walked in your shoes. For miles. I'm STILL walking in them which is precisely why I'm telling you that unless you know for certain you are being called to convert this man through a lifetime of marriage (which, itself, carries the reality of conversion not happening and your struggle having an adverse effect on future children), cut your losses, give your heart a healthy time to heal, and ask God to put the right man in your midst.
You might be wondering how I could say such a thing when my own marriage hasn't fallen apart and my son is a (mostly) willing participant in the Faith.
This was not without toil, tears, a very real threat of divorce, and an intense overhaul of my entire relationship with John. That's not even counting the amount of prayers and work that still go into it.
Am I saying I wish I hadn't married John? Of course not. I got two children out of the deal and undoubtedly grew closer to Christ. However, I was significantly less spiritually mature than you currently are when I answered the call to marriage.
You fully understand the importance of your faith and the necessity of a father to be a spiritual leader for his family. I didn't understand that; worse, I didn't even think such a thing was necessary! As a result of my ignorance, my family started out with a distinct disadvantage. We were not a cohesive unit in what would become a very large and important part of our lives. That friction reached its tentacles into everything, especially as I matured in my faith and realized the depth of my ignorance.
John's refusal to accept my religious beliefs as valid directly - DIRECTLY - correlates to his refusal to be open to more children.
So Anne, if you plan to have children, be prepared for a similar fate. It is an excruciating,
at-times-unbearable, cross to shoulder.
When I first learned that this was the driving reason behind my husband's reluctance to have more children, words couldn't possibly express the emotions that coursed through me. In fact, it's been over a year since I learned that this was my reality and this is the first time I've voiced it beyond my two closest friends.
It's also the prime reason why responding to you, Anne, has been so challenging. I couldn't be honest with you without being honest about the depth of my own struggle. This is a tragic, brutal and incredibly bigoted reality, and it's a reality I want so much to protect you from. I wouldn't wish this sort of sacrifice on anyone.
It's a sacrifice that I willingly make, yes, but it's a willing sacrifice only because I've already made my vows. You have not. Please understand that this is what you'd be saying "I do" to... not just for yourself, but for your future children.
And before you think to yourself that your boyfriend would never do such a thing, again, I've walked in your shoes. My husband said he accepted my Catholicism.
Seeing Vincent's participation alongside me must've shifted that for him, because Catholicism was no longer some harmless fairy tale. To John, it became a bitter irritant. Prayers at bedtime are nails on chalkboard. Sunday Mass can solicit anything from an eye-roll to not-so-secret vindication when Vince cries that he doesn't want to go.
Catholicism has become such a hated thing to my husband that he does not want to see it replicated in his children. Because he cannot love that part of me, he cannot love that part of our children. Thus, the only way to stave off such irritation is to stop having children. To poison one is enough... to poison more than one is unthinkable to him.
And that is his mindset. Through tears, I demanded to know how he could hold such a bigoted notion in his head. He is not what I'd consider a bigot. He's otherwise incredibly tolerant and accepting. In fact, should any of his friends read this, they'd probably think I was somehow mistaken - that I'd misunderstood his motivation.
I assure you I have not. I had him spell it out for me. That was one of the most painful and damaging conversations I've ever had with anyone in my entire life. It still stings when I think of it.
I couldn't understand. I still don't to a certain degree. I asked him what part of Catholicism bothered him so much that he couldn't stand to see it played out in me... in Vincent. He couldn't answer me. He noted prayers at bedtime or his little sayings of "Jesus loves me" irritated him, but our son is wonderful. Him being baptized Catholic has not somehow made him less wonderful, but for John, it was enough to make him resent and yes, even hate, Catholicism. Hate it to the point where he willingly allows me to suffer an enforced infertility so as not to bring forth any other children who would suffer the fate of *gasp* Baptism and a Catholic education.
It is not fear of finance... fear of time constraints... fear of love or capability that has condemned me to this cross of infertility. It is my husband's hatred of Catholicism.
He shared this in a moment of deep and unfiltered honesty just over one year ago. I appreciated his honesty, because it showed a level of trust that we'd never come close to understanding. However, I've lived with this knowledge, completely unsure how to proceed. When I thought his decision was based on finances and such, the cross was easier to bear. At least his rationale made sense. This, however, was almost insurmountable. It is still a daily struggle.
It is a struggle I want to preserve you from, Anne. It's a struggle I want to preserve your future children from.
My husband and I have since discussed things. We both agree that had we known then what we know now about the importance of faith to one another, we likely would not have gotten married. I had, after all, broken off the engagement at one point when he tried to get me to agree not to baptize our future children. We should've known then that faith was more important than we were giving it credit for.
But we didn't, and we publicly vowed to love one another every day for the rest of our lives. Love doesn't begin and end with tummy butterflies. It is an active choice to respect, honor, protect, nurture and support your spouse - every day.
So that is how I find myself in this situation. I love my husband, Anne. I love him, respect him, support him, and do my best to nurture him in ways that will ultimately make him a better person. He obviously tries his best to do the same for me. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't warn you of the heartache that comes with this sort of union.
Take my story to heart. For as much as you love your boyfriend (and I have no doubt you do), you will also love those children you create, and you need to be thinking of them. The best decision you can ever make for them is who their father will be.
In all things, you have my prayers. Other readers, please feel free to chime in with your advice for Anne.