When my husband and I got married we were both Catholic, but we weren’t fully practicing the faith. Not only were we not well formed, we didn’t know it. My husband and I went to Mass on Sunday occasionally, if it was convenient, and also on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter.

One Sunday, we arrived at Mass and found there was a new pastor. This pastor’s homilies were like nothing I had ever heard before. In fact they made me angry! I didn’t speak to the pastor, didn’t even shake his hand on the way out the door, but for some reason I felt like I was arguing with him and so I started going to Mass every Sunday to continue the argument.

Each Sunday I would go to Mass and I would leave angry because I had just been informed of yet one more thing that I was doing wrong. I was overwhelmed with all of the rules. I was also skeptical of the pastor. I thought, “He can’t possibly know what he is talking about. He must be some kind of Catholic wacko.” I started researching and I didn’t have to dig very far to find that my pastor knew what he was talking about.

As I sat in that pew week after week I discovered that there were many areas of my life that were not in line with Church teaching. I had walked in the door pro-choice, pro-contraception, the list goes on. I found out that I was wrong.

Many other parishioners left. Several of our neighbors started shopping for a new parish with softer homilies. Some went to neighboring parishes; others went so far as to leave the Catholic Church. My husband found the difficult homilies amusing. When I tried to engage him in discussing our faith and what we should do, he would say, “Whatever you decide is fine.”

I decided we would stay. Somewhere deep inside I knew that this wasn’t about shopping for the right message so much as it was about finding the truth. My only explanation for this is that God, in His great generosity, must have given me a huge dose of grace. I began to change. I studied Catholicism. Everything I learned made so much sense that I couldn’t help but to grow in my faith. I fell in love with Holy Mother Church. I began going to daily Mass and volunteering in earnest. I was disappointed that my husband wasn’t interested, but I didn’t let that hold me back.

My new faith and his disinterest started to put stress on our marriage. It became really clear to me one Valentine’s day, when I received a Valentine’s gift basket from a girlfriend of mine. When my husband saw it I asked him to guess who had given it to me. “Probably Father Jones or Deacon Smith or the Youth Minister,” he said and walked out of the room. I was stunned. He proceeded to tell me how tired he was of my life revolving around God and the Church. He thought at first that it was a phase and that he just had to wait it out, but it was pretty clear that it wasn’t ending any time soon. He was tired of it and he wanted it to stop. I was no longer the person he had married.

unequally yokedI was devastated and yet it was clear to me that he felt jilted, like I had dumped him for God. I could understand that. My husband had been the center of my universe and now God was, and rightly so, I thought.

I sought counsel from a priest during confession and he told me that perhaps my cross right now was that I needed to tone things down a little. He didn’t mean for me to be less faithful. He meant that I should tone down my outward expression of the faith to give my husband a little space. This was my cross to bear. I left the crucifix on the wall but pulled the holy cards from the refrigerator. I cut back on my volunteer responsibilities. As I considered my primary vocation as wife, I realized that God didn’t want me to neglect my spouse in pursuit of my faith.

There was however, one area in which I couldn’t compromise. We were contracepting. Very early in my conversion process I stopped contracepting and at that point my husband chose to continue. This was very painful for me. I had learned of the beauty of the marital embrace and all that God had intended for it—that it be a complete gift of self. I yearned to give myself to my husband. And yet each time we came together I made my desire to be open to life clear and each time he denied me. The act that was supposed to be unitive was tearing us apart. I found myself wishing for a marriage “do-over”. It was humiliating to go to confession and confess my participation in my husband’s contraception. I was hurt and angry at my husband.

I finally realized that my wish for a do-over was nothing more than a pity party. I started to treat my husband with charity, not because I thought he deserved it (to the contrary, I thought he was being quite a jerk) but because I loved God. I began Natural Family Planning (NFP) on my own. My husband would have nothing to do with it. I began to refuse him on fertile days (not because I was opposed to conceiving but because history had proven that he would contracept). He continued to contracept on the other days but I found much peace in my own practice of NFP.

This went on for 3 years until I became pregnant and subsequently miscarried. My husband had surprised me by welcoming the pregnancy, and then was greatly disappointed and saddened as well. This loss was a turning point for me. I was done. I told my husband, “No more contraception. I won’t participate.” I had been patient and prayerful for 3 years but now I was done. I prayed for God to please pick up the pieces of my marriage and hold us together and mercifully He did.

Since that day my husband has never contracepted.

Several years have passed. I am at peace because my husband’s concession has allowed me to live in alignment with my faith. I continue to tone down my outward expression of my faith, and my husband is slowly but surely growing in his faith. We both have a long way to go, but praise be to God at least we are heading in the right direction!

11 Responses to Unequally Yoked

  1. Ginny says:

    Oh my goodness. My heart breaks for you two! Pleeeeeease hang in there. Your honesty is heroic and speaks about what all must embrace, the Cross you so observantly know well, to follow Jesus Christ and be faithful to Him. I wish all the married couples in my own parish could read your words! It is that important for them to realize and accept. God bless you and please hang in there. It will get better and offer up your pain and sorrow for you husband’s conversion. He will get it. God bless. Ginnyfree.

  2. Sherri says:

    What a beautiful example of God’s grace. He knows how to use each of us for his good will. Continued growth in your marriage and your walk.

  3. Thank you for your painfully lovely story. I’m grateful that you and your husband are experiencing God’s grace even though it’s not as expected.

  4. Lisa Orosa says:

    Your story and your cross is shared by many couples out there. I pray that you may persevere in growing in your faith and in your gentle witness to your husband. Thanks for sharing this important reflection. May it inspire others who are struggling with the same issues and may the Good Lord continue to transform our marriages and our families.

  5. Greg says:

    Personally I don’t think your husband was being a jerk, unless he was coercing you into sex against your will or something. Let’s try a different scenario: Jack and Jill are Catholics, Jill becomes a Protestant and finds no problem with birth control so she decides to start using it. Jack, being faithful to Catholic God, is convicted that sexual intimacy must include an openness to life and thus he is very upset with his wife for using birth control. The thing is, it’s Jill’s choice to use birth control and her protestant theology does not condemn her for it.

    These things happen, and I imagine the situations are tough, but personally without knowing any further details I’d say your husband was pretty reasonable.

  6. Pam says:

    I thank God for the gift of faith which my husband and I share. It is with a heavy heart that I pray for friends who are struggling with a difficult relationship with their spouse especially those who have rejected their Catholic faith or who are atheist or agnostic

  7. Emily says:

    So difficult. But I am so happy you are working on it and I have no doubt that your faithfulness will be answered by miracles in your husband’s faith/heart.
    Like anything else, we have to be strong good examples, even when we feel so very weak. Praying for you.

    Em

  8. Kim says:

    Thank you for having the courage to share your struggle. Your faithful witness will woo him over…it sounds as if it already is doing a mighty work! God is faithful and He sees your pain…continue the path of righteousness.

  9. Have faith! My husband became Catholic after five years of marriage. He had formerly been vehemently Protestant and it was a total surprise to me. He’s been Catholic for 20 years now–Grand Knight of the KOC for several years, Parish Council Chair–most people are shocked to find out he wasn’t born that way. 🙂

  10. My husband and I met at a youth retreat and dated throughout five years of youth leadership. We’ve never been anything but practicing Catholics, but he has fallen away in some of his vigor. He gets annoyed at my constant need to volunteer, especially when he has to change his plans to be with the kids. I am working on being more gracious about his time and he is coming to terms with my need to volunteer. I appreciate you sharing your struggle with those going through similar issues.

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