What to Do When You and Your Husband Have Differing Beliefs

🌺 Published by Brittany Ann

 What to Do When You and Your Husband Have Differing BeliefsPin

Religion may not make it into the top five topics that couples fight about (that’d be money — which you can read about here, sex, work, parenting and housework, if you’re curious), but that doesn’t mean that religion doesn’t cause its fair share of conflicts–especially when both spouses have differing religious beliefs.

I never thought my husband and I fit into this category, but apparently to some, we do.

After my series on Catholic and Protestant beliefs last year, in which I shared that my husband grew up Catholic and I grew up Baptist, I’ve had a few people email me asking how that works, exactly.

Apparently Baptists and Catholics are bitter rivals or some such thing? I literally had no idea until we were married and it was too late to do anything about it 🙂

(For the record, I’m no longer Baptist. Just some weird mix of Baptist, Missionary, Non-denominational and Catholic culture and belief. Which, if that doesn’t make sense to you–that’s okay. It doesn’t make sense to me either… But you can read more about my story here if you’re curious.)

 

So, I’ve had people email me, asking:

“How does it work when you and your husband don’t believe the same thing? And do you have any tips or advice for people in the same situation?”

 

And honestly, this question surprised me a bit. My husband and I may not believe the exact same things, but it’s never really been a problem for us.

Still, I can definitely see how it would be for many as it’s such a heated topic, and one with such huge, eternal implications.

And even just in the day-to-day–What type of wedding do you have? Which church do you attend? What prayers do you teach your children? What school do you send them to? How do you deal with the knowledge that the people you love so dearly don’t know and believe what you consider to be such an important truth?

These are all issues that we’ve had to address as a couple, and it can be a tricky path to navigate.

So for anyone in a similar situation–here’s my advice to you.

 

** Note: This article is for husbands/wives who both believe, but who believe differently. If your husband isn’t a believer, go here instead: Unequally Yoked Marriage? Here’s What to Do When Your Spouse Isn’t a Believer

 

 

1. Learn About Each Others’ Beliefs

 

As I was researching my Catholic/Protestant belief series, I came across SO many articles essentially bashing the Catholic Church. And the worst part was, when you looked at their reasoning, it was all based on incredibly common misconceptions about the Catholic Church. Had they done any research at all, they would have seen that what they were sharing was simply not true.

Don’t make this same mistake in your marriage.

Don’t just assume that your husband is wrong, stupid or crazy for what he believes. Most religions don’t just pull their beliefs out of thin air. There are actual reasons for why they believe what they do–even if they are wrong.

So learn more about what he believes and why and share the same about your beliefs as well. You might be surprised by what you find.

 

Attend church services at each others’ churches–not just once but several times. Take part in each others’ religious traditions. Go to classes. Read books. Meet with a priest/pastor as well as other people in that same religion. Listen to radio programs and podcasts. Have deep (but friendly) discussions. Get to know all you can.

 

Over the past two years I have attended Mass, gone through RCIA, listened to Catholic radio, read Catholic books and articles, met with a priest a number of times to ask some pretty big questions, had some great discussions online, and most importantly, prayed about the issues and read my Bible for myself with fresh eyes.

Did doing all of that make me Catholic too? Nope. But I did learn a TON and saw that a lot of things I had been taught growing up simply weren’t accurate. It was very eye-opening.

 

2. Find Common Ground

 

Even if you and your husband have two different labels (Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, Buddhist, Atheist or whatever), chances are you have more in common than you know. Find these commonalities and embrace them.

For example, maybe you both hold the Bible in very high regard, you just interpret it differently in some places. Maybe you both value honesty, generosity, missions or truth. Maybe you both have a heart for children, or the elderly, or the homeless. Maybe you have similar ideas about the ways you’d like to raise your children, including the values you’d like to instill in them.

 

For us, personally, most of what we believe has always been the same anyways, even though we have two different labels. I’m still not a fan of the whole Mary/Saints thing and he may never be comfortable with raising his hands in church, but who cares? We both believe in the Bible, Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection and a whole slew of other, much more important, things.

Don’t let a few minor differences be the small crack satan uses to cause a big divide.

 

3. Adopt the Best Traditions of Both Worlds

 

So, getting back to the practical questions like “What type of wedding do you have?” “Which church do you attend?” and “What prayers do you teach your children?” your best bet is simply to draw from the best of both traditions.

My husband and I were actually married in a Protestant ceremony and then later remarried in the Catholic Church. We’ve both spent years in both Protestant and Catholic churches. Our kids learn both Protestant and Catholic prayers. They sing both Protestant and Catholic songs. They’ve gone to Protestant Sunday School and Catholic Vacation Bible School.

Because so much of what we believe is the same anyway (and because most teaching is pretty watered down and basic for children anyway), this really isn’t an issue. As our children get older, they will need to research more and decide for themselves what they specifically believe, but that’s something that ALL of us should do at some point anyway.

 

Now, I wouldn’t recommend you doing something that goes expressly against your religious beliefs. But if your differences are mostly just different ways of doing things–why not give his a try?

 

4. Set a Quiet Example

 

While it’s certainly admirable to want to share what you believe with others (after all–if you have knowledge that can change and even save lives–doesn’t that make you a jerk if you DON’T share?), no one wants to be a “project.”

Instead of constantly trying to change your husband and get him to see things your way, enjoy him for who he is and simply share pieces of your faith as you can.

 

1 Peter 3:1-2 says,

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

 

Now, God is our ultimate authority, so you don’t have to listen to your husband if he is telling you to do something ridiculous that God clearly forbids. But, in the normal day-to-day things, yes, listen to him and let him lead. When the judgement day comes, he will be responsible for how he led his family and you will be responsible for how you behaved under his guidance.

 

Maybe he won’t go to church with you, but you can still go. Maybe he won’t read the Bible and pray with you, but you can read the Bible and pray. You can trust God in all things. You can draw your strength from the Lord. You can learn how to put God first in all things.

And when he seems receptive or interested, you can share.

But no one wants to be poked, prodded or nagged into believing, or much worse, simply following a set of rules they don’t agree with. It doesn’t work that way.

 

5. Pray

 

And last–but certainly not least–don’t forget to pray for your husband. Even if your differences sometimes feel like an insurmountable obstacle to you, nothing is impossible for God. And even though you may not be able to change your spouse’s heart, God can (and He can change yours too!)

Pray that God would give you peace and understanding. That both of your eyes would be open to the truth–whatever that is. That your differences would bring you closer to God and to each other, rather than pull you further apart. That God would use the entire situation for His glory. Just pray. And let God take care of the rest.

 

* Not sure where to start? Try these Five Powerful Prayers to Pray for Your Husband

 

 

Whether you and your spouse are mostly alike in your beliefs or wildly different, you can still use your marriage to honor God and grow in faith together. You just have to be a little more intentional, a little more forgiving, a little more trusting and a little more laid back.

 

Do you and your spouse have similar beliefs or different? How has that affected both your marriage and your relationship with God?

Brittany Ann

Brittany Ann is an author, speaker, and founder of EquippingGodlyWomen.com, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping women be “all in” in faith and family.

  1. My husband is Catholic. I am Methodist. And this, too, for us has never been a problem. I have been shocked and dismayed at the anti-Catholic sentiment that I have come across. And here I was, under the impression, that we were both Christian, both believed in Jesus as being the son of God, and raised from the dead after three days. And this anti Catholic sentiment came from truly born again Christians – in fact, I remember sitting in a charasmatic church where they had just preached that over a million Catholics will go straight to hell because they are being decieved by the pope. I walked out. And the sad thing – Christianity divided will not stand. Catholic or not. And we will never, ever truly make a mark in this world while we condemn our own to hell. Satan’s tactic to divide and conquer the church. So, so sad!

    1. I know. It’s crazy. I never even knew it existed until I was an adult. I mean, I can almost see where it’s coming from — if all of the misconceptions were true, that WOULD be cause for worry. But they’re just that – misconceptions.

  2. What about when you come to an aspect such as Communion where both beliefs cannot both be true? Is Jesus really truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity in the Holy Eucharist or is it merely symbolic? How do you decide whether children should receive the Catholic Sacraments or not? How do you determine right and wrong, true and false between the differing beliefs?

    1. For things like that – we agree to disagree. And I also ask myself “What’s the harm if one of us is wrong…” Meaning… although I don’t agree with praying to Saints myself, it isn’t going to hurt anything if my kids say the Hail Mary. We have the essentials covered. The rest is all just details to me.

    2. Just because there are differences doesn’t mean that a million Catholics are going straight to hell. I don’t believe in praying to the saints or to Mary, but I have to concede that there is a reason why God chose her out of all the millions of women in history and through time and across the world to bring Jesus into the world. And I don’t think Protestants (myself included) respect enough the fact that Mary is a person of supreme importance. I wouldn’t go so far as to pray to her, but I don’t think we can so easily dismiss her either as I have experienced most Protestants do.

      And that is pretty much my sentiments on the other issues as well – I’m not saying that the Catholics are right, but I can’t categorically state they’re wrong either. And for the most part, I believe as long as the essentials are correct – the rest is just details. At the end of it, we are all Christian: if you believe that Jesus is the son of God, died and rose again, and you have accepted Him into your life, you are a Christian. Irrespective of whether you’re a protestant or a Catholic. And that is the most important part.

      1. Those are exactly my thoughts too 🙂

        Although Catholics would say we aren’t experiencing all that Christ has to offer and we’re missing out on the rest, which I suppose makes sense too.

      2. But what if you don’t agree on the essentials? What if one believes in god and the other used to, but doesn’t anymore? I don’t see any way that there’s going to be much common ground between these two positions. And you mention that your essentials are “correct”–this assigning of “rightness” to YOUR belief is part of the problem. You may not be “right”, but you are teaching your kids this “wrong” position. How do you plan to explain this away, especially years later when your kids are old enough to decide for themselves? This isn’t just a difference of ritual, as you yourself clearly admit.

  3. I was reading your series on Catholic and Protestant beliefs and was wondering whether you have definitely decided not to become Catholic or are you still studying it with an option of becoming Catholic?
    Most converts I know, really wanted to joing the CC after learning about the Eucharist and other sacraments and the history of the Church.
    I guess my point is, if you now believe in the real presence, the authority of the Church and not just of the Bible and those other “controversial” Catholic beliefs, howcome you didn’t/don’t want to convert?
    (Asking for the intercesion of saints is not mandatory. :D)

    1. I’m still in the same place–haven’t converted. There’s no big thing that’s standing in my way. I just don’t feel like I have enough information to know for sure that Catholicism is correct. There are tons of very smart people on both sides of the debate. How can I figure it all out when they can’t?

      1. By trusting Jesus at His Word. He never wanted 10,000 different churches with varying beliefs about Him; He prayed that we would all be ONE, guided by the Holy Spirit Who is ever present and working THROUGH Christ’s Universal Church. Christ, knowing that He would eventually ascend to the Father, gave the keys to Simon, whose name Jesus changed to Peter (which means rock). What more convincing evidence is needed beyond the Word of Christ? And people *have* figured it out — Archbishop Fulton Sheen, John Paul II, Mother Theresa, and the countless men and women who have gone before us, some of whom are honored as “Saints” to whom we ask them to interceed and pray for us, no differently than if I ask you, Brittany, to pray for me, ultimately leading me ever closer to Christ. Brittany, I invite you to listen and perhaps consider calling my good friend, Tim Staples on Catholic Answers Live, he also was Protestant (Evangelical then Assemblies of God) and struggled with the Catholic faith. He will be taking calls from 5-6 PM (central time) tonight 1-888-318-7884 🙂 God bless you always my sister-in-Christ 🙂

      2. Well, yes, I do believe that there is one truth–but how do we know that Catholicism is it? Yes, there are plenty of really smart Catholics. But there are also plenty of really smart Protestants. An argument isn’t really an argument when it can be used from both sides 🙂

  4. I’ve read a number of your posts, love them, but this one strikes a chord with me. My story ultimately led to divorce/annulment, but I’d like to say I tried my best.
    While dating in college, my ex-wife(Baptist preacher’s kid) and I attended each others church services to find common ground. Ultimately, I realized that I could never leave my home in the Catholic Church but I didn’t want her to convert for me. I suggested we move on (we had dated 3 years) since marriage would be hard enough even within the same faith. Six weeks later, she told me that she heard from God and that whether we got back together or not, she was starting the process to become Catholic.
    Well, it was important to me that she was doing this for her, so we eventually got engaged, got married and she became Catholic. Her family was never a fan of her conversion, but they saw how happy she was and calmed down over time. We had three beautiful kids and baptized them all along with 4 God children as well. Her father (the preacher) had Catholic priest friends and never really gave us too much trouble about Catholicism. Her mother, on the other hand, believes that Catholics are not saved.
    Her parents had been divorced for 20 years when her mother moved to the same town we lived in. Within 6 months of her mother moving here, my wife (at the time) greeted me when I came home from work with,
    “I’m not going to be Catholic anymore, and neither are the kids, and if you have a problem with that, we are done”
    She had made up her mind and wouldn’t consider talking to our priest together about her concerns. I prayed about it and absolutely knew in my heart that God did not want my marriage to end because of this issue. I decided to attend mass by myself early on Sunday mornings then come home and go with my wife and kids to whatever church she wanted. I wanted to attend as a family somewhere. After bouncing around, she chose a mega church with the worship music that she liked the best. Then one Sunday, I came home from early mass and she said, “So, did you go to your precious little church this morning?”. I realized then that it didn’t matter what I did, she wouldn’t be happy until I left the Catholic Church. It became a “respect” issue and that couldn’t be overcome. After 17 years, we divorced, I got an annulment and I now teach 9th grade Religious Ed and 10th grade Confirmation at my parish. I teach the youth about all the subjects you touch on and I love your open heart and true discernment. Thank you for that. Sorry for the long post, but I just felt moved to share. God Bless..

    1. I’m so sorry that things worked out that way for you 🙁 1 Corinthians 7:15 does say it’s okay to let the unbeliever go, but it’s always so sad when it has to end up that way.

  5. Not sure if you mind hearing what an atheist thinks but here goes. I don’t view Catholicism as a different religion than Baptist. They are both in fact denominations of the same religion called Christianity; as are a litany of other Christian denominations. Sure there are differences… but they are more superficial than relevant. There are different points of emphasis, different traditions, rituals and practices. But fundamentally you carry the same convictions, believe and follow the same God, the same Jesus, and for the most part the same biblical doctrines such as an after life and salvation. You also follow (or try to follow) Christian moral codes. You might have differences in biblical interpretation. One of you may hold to genesis literally and the other allegorically. But as Christians you actually have in fact more in common than you have different. Don’t focus on what divides you but instead in what brings you together because it’s more than you know and it’s what’s most important.

    1. I don’t mind at all–All opinions are welcome here! (As long as they are polite–which yours was) And I totally agree. Some people get very worked up because some of the details can really make a huge difference, but for the most part, it’s really all just minor details. Good to discuss–not worth fighting over. 🙂

  6. Thank you for posting this on Facebook again. I’ll keep praying and watching. I’ll keep my part and let God do the rest.

  7. What about if you become a believer after you’ve already gotten married (3 years now)….and have 2 kids? And husband wants no part of it?

  8. Thank you so much for your post!
    I have been feeling very lonely lately.
    I married my husband who grew up as catholic after he agreed that we would be attending Protestant church as a family. After a few years into the marriage, he decided the catholic church was the right one and he would not be open to only attending the protestant church services. This broke my heart because I really wanted to have a family who would attend a protestant church. We do not have kids but all I can think is that I would be heart broken seeing my kids being baptized as babies, praying to Saints and Mary. I feel like I failed God in waiting for a Protestant man to get married to. I feel so guilty. The thing is that I agree with most of the Catholic teachings just not with the praying to Saints and Mary and the early baptism. I often attend the mass with him but I do not feel as comfortable and happy as I fell in the protestant church. This whole situation has led me to be bitter towards his family who are very catholic because I feel like they influence him to be more catholic. I am just in need of prayer and advise. I am so glad I found this website!

    1. Awww, I can totally understand your feelings. I’m also attending Catholic mass even though I’m not Catholic and it isn’t my preference. What I can tell you is that it does et easier. It does eventually start to feel less foreign and more familiar. And you can absolutely find God in both places. Your story is just beginning – God’s not done working in your situation yet 🙂

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