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Mixed Religion Relationship

Erica wrote:

I am in love with a man who is Catholic. My background is very strict, fundamental, evangelical, (parents and siblings are all missionaries) Baptist and I know my mother (father is deceased and Mom has remarried a like-minded man) and siblings will be very unhappy about my upcoming marriage/living together with Ben.

Although my mother knows I have been dating him for more than a year, she doesn't realize how serious I am. I dare not bring Ben around to family functions because they will all pounce on him, asking about his spiritual life and try to convert him. I am 55 years old (next week) and been divorced for 15 years and finally have an empty nest and having time for myself. Ben is a very generous, caring, compassionate, loving lawyer (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it!) And he loves me - more than my ex-husband ever thought about!

For more than 50 years I embraced their religious ideals, because that is all I have known my whole life and went with the flow, although I always "tried" very hard - not genuinely feeling the words I was reciting and the actions I was doing (or not doing!), and wondering why I didn't have the same 24/7 "pray without ceasing" heart they seem to have. A bad experience last year with a church deacon who harshly judged me for taking a short-term early Sunday morning job was the straw that broke the camel's back and since then, I have felt like a burden has fallen off my shoulders.

Although I feel so free now, deep down inside I am anxious because I am "leaving the faith" as such because of the long-term indoctrination I have been subjected to all my life. It has not been hard for me to release the words/actions that I held on to for so many years, because it never felt comfortable to me, but I do have anxious moments thinking, "what if they are right?" and I will go to hell like 99% of the world because they don't believe the same doctrines!

I don't care if my mother wants to "disinherit" me - but I really do respect her and hate to disappoint her, but this is not making it easier for me to tell her of my situation. I know my family will now spend hours praying for the salvation of my soul and to deliver me from this sinful situation and bring me back into the fold! My 4 daughters all approve of my relationship with Ben and tell me to go for it!

Should I just elope and tell the family afterwards, or inform them before hand. I don't want my mother to have a heart attack when she hears the news!!! The worst I want her to experience is calloused knees!!

Dear Erica

There's a fair few issues here.

First, you will need to try and sort out your own feelings about religion; as you say, there may be pressure from the family, also from your man - and from your subconscious. You are going to need to be strong, so having some inner peace is probably important.

Second, be sure of what you are doing and why you are doing it. At your age, I do not want to insult you by questioning what you are doing; that's your job, and an important one.

Third, the issue of how to do it. By now, if you've read the above, you'll already be realising that honesty is the best policy. You are way too old to elope - and way too old to impress anybody by eloping. Your family may well find your decison difficult, and it's possible they'll never come to terms with it. That's something to think about. But however hard it is, for them, it'll be harder if you are dishonest and cowardly about it.

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing with your head held high, and and good eye contact. personally, I'd do it without your man at your side, but ask if you can bring him next time; your circumstances may say different.

I cannot predict their reactions, I suspect you may be surpised too. But while you must live your life, they must be true to theirs, and only they know exactly where the family / religion loyalty divide falls.

All of you will have to live with the outcome, so avoid any arguments if you can; it's the initial painting-selves-into-corners that does all the damage years later; least said, as they say, soonest mended.

Prepare for the worst; hope for the best; Good Luck!

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