(Closed) Converting to a New Religion Before Getting Married?

posted 9 years ago in Emotional
Post # 3
Member
6009 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: May 2009

Wow, this sounds incredibly frustrating and painful.  From reading your post, it does not sound like conversion to Catholicism is a good step for you.  You said that you feel pressure to convert, even though your Fi insists that you don’t have to.  Also, it sounds like you are very comfortable in your current church and beliefs.  Catholicism and Methodism are similar in a lot of ways, but if you are happy with your Methodist background and you don’t believe in the theology of the Catholic church, you shouldn’t convert. 

It also sounds like your Fi has some very specific feelings about Catholicism and religion in general.  Since you are getting married in the Catholic church, have you started your pre-marital counseling yet?  I think it would be very helpful for you to sit down with a counselor (Catholic, Methodist, or non-religious) who can encourage you to talk through your different beliefs.  It’s ok for you to believe different things, go to different churches, etc…  And just because you promise to raise your children in the Catholic church doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expose them to other religions or beliefs.  Honestly, though, it sounds like this has become a super emotional issue for you two, and you might need someone to help you work it out who can be a little more rational/objective in the arguments.  It sounds like even though your Fi says he doesn’t need you to convert, he’s putting a lot of pressure on you by being so close-minded and judgemental about your beliefs and church.

FWIW, I converted to Catholicism a little over a year before our wedding.  Even though part of my motivation was to understand and be a part of the same belief system as my husband and future children, a lot of it was personal understanding that my beliefs fit with Catholicism.  If you personally don’t fit with Catholicism, I think converting would put a lot of uneeded tension and unhappiness into your relationship.

Post # 4
Member
6009 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: May 2009

I forgot to add that if it makes you uncomfortable during Mass, you don’t have to just sit in your pew during the Eucharist.  You can go up to the front like everyone else, but instead of receiving the Eucharist, you would receive just a blessing from the priest.  I would let your priest know this before the service, but you basically just walk up with everyone else.  Instead of the wafer though, cross your arms over your chest and ask for a blessing.  I used to do this before I converted and it made that “waiting” time during the Eucharist a lot more comfortable.

Post # 5
Member
14186 posts
Honey Beekeeper
  • Wedding: June 2009

I have zero advice for you, but I wanted to send some sympathy. I have a Catholic roommate who says “you either believe in God or you don’t, the rest is just details” as a philosophy she adopted to date men outside the Catholic religion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy!

Maybe you guys can go halvsies. Every other week you go to Catholic church (which it sounds like you do very quietly and nicely and respectfully) and on the off weeks you go to your church? Ultimately you believe the same thing, yet you worship differently. And you should both be able to hopefully find a compromise for your children. Compromise! You can’t do one if the other doesn’t whole heartedly agree. But don’t convert just to convert. You won’t be “Catholic on the inside” and that isn’t being true to yourself and that is kinda hypocritical. Stick to your beliefs, but find a way to meld with your FI’s and he needs to find a way to meld with yours. It’s a two way street; he has to do it too.I will say, his bad attitude isn’t helping and that’s kinda poopy.

Ok this may not be an option…is there a middle ground religion for a church you can attend “regularly” and then maybe attend mass for major holidays? Personally, I’m looking for a more liberal church and my Darling Husband is baptist (the stricter sects though) so we’re looking for something in-between that acknowledges what we believe without being a) too strict for me or b) too liberal for him. I don’t think there’s a lot of leeway in Catholicism from what my roommate has told me. Good luck! Sorry if my ideas suck =]

Post # 6
Member
87 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: June 2009

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love your honesty, I think your post inspired many other people out there in the same position to reach out to others to discuss the issue of inter-faith relationships. I was in your position when my husband and I first starting dating. He came from a non-denominational background and I identify as Catholic. There were a lot of stereotypes on both sides and it was painful at times because faith is so personal! One thing that we did that really helped to shape our discussion was to buy and watch a dvd called “Common Ground:What Protestants and Catholics can learn from each other.” It comes with a workbook and you look up scripture…it was very helpful to us and we usually tried to watch a few chapters a week (Sundays after church were great!) Otherwise, we went to a few bible studies in each other’s churches and also spoke with a priest and pastor to figure out how to pray on the issue and learn more about the other faith.

If you need any more books or dvd resources to supplement any learning path you are on…please just let me know! Hang in there!

Post # 7
Member
672 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: November 2009

I don’t think you should be converting, maybe you’ll change your mind someday but you don’t sound like you’re in a place for that now.  If you love your church and your faith, why give that up?  It’s completely unfair for your Fiance to be so insensitive and say such rude things about your church.

And he thinks that all those classes and stuff cements people in Catholicism?  Haha, I was raised Catholic, the whole nine yards of classes and all of it, and after I was confirmed I think I went to Mass of my own volition maybe 3 times in 8 years.  Some of us do it because our parents force us, despite begging and pleading, and then when we’re done, we’re done.  For years my entire faith went by the wayside because of how much I hated the particularly terrible church I was raised in (now I go to a Lutheran church).  Of course – for people who are happily Catholic I certainly don’t believe that all Catholic churches are miserable!  🙂 

Honestly, you need to find something that works for your family as a whole.  You and your own faith shouldn’t have to suffer and he should be respecting it as much as you seem to be trying to respect his.  Hopefully pre-marital counseling with help with this for both of you, I think maybe you should try and get on that ASAP.  It’ll help you feel more at ease and you guys will find a way to make it work!

Post # 8
Member
2004 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2008

Wow, I identify with so much in your post. Many of the issues you described were things that my husband and I encountered (and surmounted!). I converted to Catholicism (from nominal Episcopalianism) before our wedding. My husband was also a convert from Episcopalianism, but he was more serious about religion in general than me.

First, there is a lot of variation among priests and churches—I wouldn’t chalk up the differences you see between the Catholic and Methodist churches you go to as being differences between Catholicism and Methodism themselves. The best church I have ever been to was a Catholic one (and I wasn’t even Catholic at the time I went to it). What the priest would say in his homily (sermon) never failed to connect perfectly not only with the scripture but also with exactly how it related to real life. Sunday schools are also run differently from place to place, as are the religious schools. No matter what religion you settle in, finding a good parish is an important and difficult task.

***

My main point, however, is that the dynamic between your fiance and you is probably about more than just religion. I see it as:

You both have strong opinions about a subject. You both agree more than you disagree. However, you are more flexible than he is. You adapt to see things from others’ points of view, and you emphasize the positives if you can. On the other hand, he likes what he is used to. He values tradition and a “do as I say, not as I do” ethos. Change increases his adherence to his values, which appears as rigidity to you. 

His rigidity eventually makes you resent his viewpoints and opinions, even if you agree with 95% of those opinions. Your flexibility makes him fear that standards are being lost, and so he becomes more inflexible! He insists that certain standards be upheld, even when it doesn’t make logical sense (such as sending future children to Catholic school because that would be traditional, it’s what he did, and it enforces responsibility—even though he hated it). You feel you are at an impasse.

Am I anywhere close? And do you have this dynamic in other areas of your life?

***

My husband and I have this flexibility-inflexibility tension in our relationship. There are positives to being on both ends of the continuum. Flexibility keeps you looking for the best in the things, but inflexibility makes sure that you hold up good moral standards and principles. You need both in a relationship to make it work, to balance each other out. It just takes some doing to get the knack of it sometimes.

I have to remember to look for the value in the viewpoint he is speaking from. I think when you talk to him about this, you need to express what your needs are from him, and also from a religion (because they are not the same, and your husband’s representation of Catholicism is not how it is for everyone). For example, I need to know my husband is hearing me and acknowledging the sacrifices I make; even when I make them willingly the recognition makes a huge difference in how I feel. I also need a religion that had compassion and openness in it. There is a totalitarian, domineering side to Catholicism and there is also an open, loving, compassionate side of Catholicism. You just have to know where to look.

So I say, don’t abandon the thought of conversion yet. Don’t convert just for the wedding, and don’t do it unless you really want to, for the beliefs of the religion, not just for him or future children. There are tons of great books out there for learning about Catholicism, pm me and I can send you a list! Catholicism will still be there after you’re married. But to make sure this is the right marriage for you, you have to both be serious and open about who you are right now, not who you hope to be someday. Is he interested in being with you only if you share your religion? Can he be happy with the religiosity you have right now? And you with him? Let us know how it goes.

Post # 10
Member
2004 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2008

@acloyd, Yes, I am trained counselor, although I’m not working as one right now. Although frankly a lot of my insight comes from the fact that my husband and I have to navigate exactly the same personality conflict as you and your fiance!

If you’re going to talk to your fiance about this again, you need to approach the conversation in a fundamentally different way. I would discuss the “new approach” before having the discussion itself. Otherwise, you are just going to repeat the fight that you have already had so many times. A mediator is frankly not a bad idea—that’s what a counselor does, help you to express yourself in a controlled and orderly fashion.

Right now your fight is about personal attack. You feel like he doesn’t respect your beliefs, and your feelings are not respectful of his. Maybe the secret solution you are both hoping for is that the other will suddenly admit they were wrong and evince a change of heart. Not going to happen. 🙂

The approach you need to take is problem solving and teamwork. Because even though your hearts may differ in some places, you do share a common goal. You want to build a loving relationship in which religion and spirituality have important roles. Keep that at the forefront and forget about who’s right (hard to do!).

First, you don’t need to hate your own church to like his as well. Each of you is going to have to make some sacrifices—and maybe not an equal amount of sacrifice—and each of you needs to acknowledge the sacrifice of the other proportional to its magnitude. So if you decide to go to his church, then you need to tell him what kind of acknowledgement and treatment you need from him regarding the issue. And he needs to tell you what he needs from you to acknowledge the sacrifice he is making (and there is a sacrifice there, though it may not seem like it—maybe the sacrifice is that he can’t keep denigrating Methodism, which he is doing probably because he is afraid of it somewhere, afraid he will lose you to it and not be able to share a faith with you). 

It is less about him being right and more about you being happy.

It is less about you being right and more about him being happy. 

My personal example isn’t about religion but it’s about what happened when I changed my name. My husband wanted me to do it, and was never in a million years going to change his. He didn’t really get what a big deal it was for me. I felt conflicted about it, deeply unsure, but leaning toward doing it because someone had to for us both to be happy. 

I said, “I am unhappy about it but willing to change my name for the greater good of our relationship and know I will be fine in the end once I get over it.” He heard, “You question your love for me and don’t want to be a real family [which the name change represents]. I am deeply hurt.” Just when we needed comfort, we would fight.

Eventually I said to him, “I am changing my name and it is a sacrifice for me, but one I am willing to make. But what I need for you is just to say, ‘it’s going to be okay, I love you,’ and to acknowledge and thank me for the sacrifice. That is what I need to feel better. I need to hear these words.” And he said, “I need to know that you want to be with me and love me and that you are excited at some level to share my name.”

I needed him to address my fear of losing myself and acknowledge my sacrifice and the goodness of where I had come from (read: your fiance to acknowledge that Methodism is not evil), and he needed me to address his need for unity and alignment with tradition and to be excited about the future together. I’d spent so much time complaining I’d forgotten to look at the positives! Once we started responding in this new way the issue was so much improved. If you substitute “faith” for “name” you might see a reasonable corrolary with what’s going on with you two, I hope. Let us know how it goes :).

Post # 11
Member
101 posts
Blushing bee

I truly feel that you shouldn’t convert just to please him or to ‘make it easier for the kids’.  I am Buddhist and my fiance is Lutheran.  We’re getting married in a non denominational ceremony and I plan on exposing the kids to both sides.  I am a firm believer that children should be exposed to all religions, it makes them more well rounded, and then when they are old enough, they can make the decision as to what they want to follow.  I know what I’ve said probably didn’t help you at all given the fact that your fiance is such a devout Catholic, but it’s something to think about.

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