It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Non-Believer,” a woman who had just become exclusive with a practicing Christian who had expressed his desire that his future family — wife, included — attend church with him regularly. The LW, a non-Christian, is fine with her partner practicing whatever religion he wants, but she told her boyfriend she had no interest in ever attending church regularly. She wrote: “I don’t want to table the issue to just have it become a deal-breaker in several months — what’s the point? — but I guess I’m hoping maybe he will be less rigid in his view of what he wants me to be religiously.” Keep reading to see whether either of them has come around.
Thank you, Wendy, and everyone else for your thoughtful responses, both in terms of things I wanted to hear…and certainly in terms of those I was dreading to hear but needed as a reality check. But first, something I left out but feel I can clarify now: I’m not atheist, but actually of another religion although it’s more cultural than anything else and I don’t actively practice.
So after thinking long and hard about it, I decided that I could handle going to church with Calvin. I presented it as me going to support him in something that is important to him. I told him I was going to observe versus participate, and, when he asked, I told him to please not expect anything other than me to just sit there. Ultimately, the experience of going to church was not a big deal for me, and I was happy to follow through with what I had told him I would do.
That night, though, we ended up having a huge fight about religion again, and I had to explicitly tell him that I am not now going to, nor will I ever, convert to Christianity, something it sounds like he was hoping I might eventually warm up to. After a few days apart, we were able to talk more about the argument and Calvin was able to say that, if he is with me, he will accept me as is, including my religion of origin. Probably easier said than done, however. Calvin asked me questions about why maintaining those cultural ties are important and why I will not ever choose to convert, and he seemed to respect what I told him. He was not able to exactly articulate if that will be enough (i.e., if he needs to settle down with someone Christian or if all of our other levels of connection are enough).
So, in a lot of ways, it feels like we are back at square one, although at least he is curious about understanding more about my background and beliefs a bit more. My plan is to continue enjoying spending time with him and to proceed with caution. It makes me nervous and I’d love to know his bottom line right now, but I think, since I’m enjoying myself, I’ll take it slow(er) and try to reassess and ask him to check in with me about all this in a few months. Hopefully, that means I’ll have another update for you by the summer, for better or worse. I know this is potentially a recipe for disaster, but I’m not sure at what point he should have a definitive answer in his head about what he wants/needs in the long run.
-Still Feeling Stuck (not my original name, but feels appropriate now!)
Thank you for your update. I’m sure it must feel unsettling to have things be uncertain still, but part of dating is deciding what our must-haves and deal-breakers are. Each relationship brings us closer to not only figuring it out, but finding it. Maybe this will be it for you. Maybe not. Either way, you’re bound to learn a lot and will hopefully make some happy memories in the process.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.