It’s not a secret that I am unequally yoked. I’ve been asked, how I make my marriage work. My husband, an atheist, joins us for weekly mass, we send our children to Catholic school, he volunteers there too. We also say grace before meals and when I cantor, he sits with the boys in the pew, making sure they participate according to their age levels.
For a while, it was difficult for me to explain how I made it work, because it was so ingrained in the fabric of my marriage and conversion back in May of 2012. Here are 6 ways, by no means exhaustive, of how I make my marriage work as a Catholic, married to an Atheist.
- Pray: You’ll need to pray in every season. Pray for him, for whatever he needs, for His will to be done, for his days to be fruitful, to be open to the tapping on the door to his heart. My preferred way of praying for my husband is while he’s sleeping. I just place my arm over his chest and hold him as I pray my intentions for him. I ask to see him as God sees him and to respond to him that way too. I ask that his heart softens towards me and my journey just as my heart softens to his. Pray for yourself – why not? I pray for myself all the time.
- Never give up: Just when you think there’s nothing left to be done, you’ll be surprised. He may just want to go to that mass with you, or special church event. This may not mean that he’s converting per say, but he’s converting how he thinks about your spiritual life. This is a partnership, a relationship, a give and take and give again. He also may just surprise you and take a picture of a cathedral for you while he’s away on business because he knew you would love to see it. (yep, that just happened to me a couple of weeks ago)
- Remember him and Him: If you’re a new convert, this is for you. When you are new in your conversion journey, it’s a love affair. Truly. You can’t stop thinking about it and everything you think, do or say is seen through the lens of faith. You want to spend all of your time in this new faith, this new love. This is how you loved your significant other when you first met, remember? The world stopped and started with them. That’s got to be a hard thing for your husband to live through (in my case). I’m not saying dampen your journey or keep it all to yourself (I tried that – HARD), but don’t forget him in the process. It’s a tough balancing act, I know. Pray for the grace to be balanced in this area. The more mindful of it you are the more it will show that your love for him hasn’t changed, just expanded to include God.
- Practice the Little Way: Love your significant other in little ways. I highly recommend reading St. Therese of Lisieux A Story of a Soul. She created this way of loving God and it works just the same as loving your husband, your fellow Christian, even people you don’t like. “St. Therese translated ‘the little way’ in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives.” This goes hand in hand with number 3, I think. You can live the ‘Little Way’ for God and for your husband knowing in your heart, that it’s all grace. My priest said something to me once that really put things into perspective for me. He said “Cristina, of course this is hard. Think of this as school, you’re in the 5th grade of your faith and he hasn’t even gotten through Kindergarten, yet. You’re trying to make him understand algebra. Just help him count.” Exactly. WHOA! Put more succinctly, meet him where he’s at!
- Trust: Just because a conversion has taken place doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bath water. You fell in love for reasons beyond your faith. From that common ground, trust that it will work out the way it’s supposed to – if there is love. I know it sounds very cliche, and maybe it’s supposed to. I really believe that if there is love, especially where there is a belief that marriage is a sacrament – something not to be broken, a sign that you are set apart for God and something truly holy; it will work. He’s and your husband is on your side. That’s a great recipe for success.
If you’re looking for another resource, and if you’ve read my blog long enough, you know that another resource is always necessary – take a read of The Secret Diary of Elizabeth Lesseur: The Woman Whose Goodness Changed Her Husband from Atheist to Priest. Almost too good to be true, Amazon’s summary goes on to state:
This inspiring book gives you a splendid example of how to live as a Christian in a secular environment that can be indifferent or hostile to your Faith. For Elisabeth Leseur had two great loves: God and her husband Felix, who was an atheist. Felix loved Elisabeth as well; yet to their mutual sorrow, he couldn’t share the life of the Spirit that Elisabeth cherished.
Occasionally the happiness of their life together in upper-class Parisian society was shattered by Felix’s frustration and impatience. How could such an intelligent woman waste her time, as he saw it, with ignorant superstitions? Sometimes he and his friends would even ridicule and mock her faith.
But Elisabeth loved Felix too much to allow their home to degenerate into an emotional war zone. She realized that confrontations and arguments were useless; she chose instead to keep quiet and pray for Felix. In her secret diary she recorded how she used his efforts to destroy her faith as means to grow in love for him and for God.
If you do happen to read this book by Elizabeth Lesseur, or have read it, do tell me what you think of it. Have I missed anything on this list? If you’re in an unequally yoked marriage and there is a tip I’ve not included, please for the love of dark chocolate brownies, add it in the comments!
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