Adam and I plan to marry, but his parents want me to convert; I don’t want to. Even more important to them than my conversion is that their future grandchildren be brought up in the same religious tradition. This is deeply concerning: it’s too soon for me to think about kids, but I imagine that once I do have children, I will not want to cede any kind of “raising” to anybody but myself and my husband, especially if it means raising them in a tradition that I have a lot of fundamental problems with. Parenting is hard enough, but adding meddlesome, high-strung in-laws to the equation might make it more difficult than I can bear.
My compromise: our children should learn as much as possible about the religion to feel connected to their father and grandparents. They can go to mosque every so often and it could be one presence in their life among many others. However, the sect doesn’t permit people who are not part of the faith to enter their buildings, meaning neither I nor my children would be permitted inside unless at their births we agree to a covenant to raise them in the faith and call them Muslims. Even if I agree to this covenant, religion would never be a family group activity because I’m not allowed in the building.
I feel that my compromise is reasonable but that the rules of his sect demand something unreasonable. I believe Adam might agree to my compromise, but his parents won’t. I am set to meet them in a month and it’s already causing Adam and me a ton of stress. I want Adam to have the kind of boundaries with his parents that I have with mine, but I don’t know how it’s possible given their culture and religion.
Beyond the issue of children, members of this sect are expected to give 12% of their income to the religious leader in a process I find extremely dubious. Besides my misgivings with this rule, this is yet another way in which I feel excluded as Adam will be giving a large portion of his income to a club I am not allowed to be a part of unless I convert.
I am so in love with this man, but If his parents are part of the package, I don’t know if I can handle it; I have enough anxiety as it is. Do you have any advice? — Scared future daughter-in-law
It’s not a question of whether Adam’s parents are part of the package; they *are* part of the package. When you marry someone, you marry into his or her family, and Adam has made clear to you what his parents’ expectations are of the way their grandchildren will be raised. Thus, the question becomes: Is Adam prepared and willing to disregard his parents’ expectations and to raise his children outside his parents’ religious sect?
You say it’s too early for you to be thinking about children, but if you are thinking about marriage — which you are — is isn’t too early to be thinking about and discussing your hypothetical children and how you’ll raise them. In fact, not only is it not too early, but it’s also actually essential that you have these conversations about children — even if you don’t plan to have children for many years. (Here are some other topics you need to discuss before you get married!). The reason why it’s so important to discuss children — whether you want them, how you plan to raise them (including what religion, if any, they’ll be raised in) — is to determine whether you and your partner’s idea of parenthood match up. If one of you wants kids and the other doesn’t, for example, you shouldn’t get married no matter how much you love each other. Likewise, if one of you plans to raise his kids in a strict Muslim sect and the other does not want to raise her kids in a strict Muslim sect, you shouldn’t get married no matter how much you love each other. You wouldn’t be a match.
Right now you and Adam are at the point where you have to determine whether or not your parenting goals match up, and based on what you’ve shared in your letter, it would seem that they do not. But maybe you’re making some assumptions that haven’t been thoroughly discussed yet. You say you “believe” Adam might agree to your compromise, but his parents won’t. Well, believing something and knowing for sure because it’s been communicated are two different things and you need to find out for sure where Adam stands, how much influence his parents have on him, and what his expectations are of you and of your life together should you have children.
Even if Adam decides to create those boundaries with his parents that you say you have with yours, and he disregards their wishes in favor of his own, his parents will still be “part of the package.” There is a very high chance that if their son essentially turns his back on their religion by marrying an atheist and raising children outside their sect, they will resent you for it. You say you have “enough anxiety as it is,” and that if his parents are part of the package – and they are — that you don’t know if you “can handle it.” These are pretty good reasons not to marry someone who comes from a faith you have a fundamental problem with — a faith that is a big part of his family’s identity and life.
The bottom line is that love is not enough to build a life with someone. It’s a big component of a successful and happy marriage, of course, but it’s far from the only one. If you disagree on such major issues as how to raise your children, all the love in the world isn’t going to spare you the impossible hurdles such divisions will create. Tough conversations with Adam and meeting his parents in a few weeks will help give you the clarity you need to decide whether this relationship has a future. You need to summon the strength to walk away if it you determine that it doesn’t.
No, you definitely have zero obligation to tell your ex-husband you’re seeing someone, and you shouldn’t. I can understand how, after 17 years together, you might still have an urge to share things with your ex, but don’t. Your marriage is over and, with no kids together, there’s literally no good reason to reach out to him with news about your dating life (and in fact, doing so might even seem manipulative). As for the guy you’re seeing: Don’t try to “convince” people about anything related to your relationship. They can speculate all they want — people always will! — but the details are none of their damn business, and what they think honestly isn’t any of yours. Free yourself from the burden of worrying about everyone’s opinions about your personal life and just… live! It’s a wonderful gift you can give yourself (and the person you’re dating).