Should I Keep Dating Him Even Though Religion Might Tear Us Apart?

a religious man holding a bible

Evan, I’m really enjoying your advice. I have what I think is an unusual situation. I’ve been dating a very religious Catholic man for more than a year; I am not Catholic. I am divorced, and he says that for him to consider marrying me, I need an annulment through the Catholic Church — a long (up to two-year), arduous process.

I love him, but the thought of waiting two more years to find out what will happen with us seems really stressful. We’re both in our 40s and frankly, I don’t feel like I have a lot of time to waste. He’s made it clear that if my annulment is denied, he’s breaking up with me. In addition, he hasn’t PROMISED me that we’ll get married if I get my annulment, but only says it’s probable. What to do?

We spend almost all our free time together, tell each other we love each other, attend each other’s family functions — everything is great. But the thought of binding myself to someone a little more and a little more each day only to face the possibility of being told “Sorry, we have to break up” is almost unfathomable. Help. —Lee

I completely agree with you, Lee.

And without going on an anti-religious screed, all I can say is that this is where religious dogmatists lose me — putting centuries-old Church edicts over the practicalities of modern life.

Are you willing to marry a man who puts the needs of his church ahead of the needs of his wife?

Essentially, your boyfriend is telling you that the Catholic Church’s opinion and approval of your marriage is more important than your own individual needs.

That is completely in line with the teachings of the church and he is being completely consistent with his faith. You can’t fault him in that regard.

But you do have a very serious choice to make, at this point in time.

Are you willing to marry a man who puts the needs of his church ahead of the needs of his wife?

Moreover, are you willing to take a chance that a man who doesn’t exercise free will over his own choices in life is going to be a good husband and father? As you said yourself; if, for whatever reason, the church denies your annulment, he’s breaking up with you. And it’s not even a guarantee that you’ll be married (much less happily married) if the annulment comes through.

Are you willing to take a chance that a man who doesn’t exercise free will over his own choices in life is going to be a good husband and father?

I’m generally not one to give out validation in this space, but I’m highly sympathetic to the way you’re feeling.

One of the things that makes my life so charmed is the ability that I have to exercise control over it. I’m my own boss, offering my own opinion to women who seem to value it. I have a very accepting wife. And when someone else tries to exert her will in such a way that’s uncomfortable to me (my Mom or my wife’s Mom, for example), I maintain the right act in a way that works for my nuclear family.

This is a choice I made: to not prostrate myself to others’ dictates.

You’ve chosen a boyfriend who has already picked sides.

Compromising with you for your happiness is out of the question.

If your relationship will work, it’s going to be about you, compromising for the sake of the Catholic Church.

Personally, that wouldn’t work for me.

And, from the tone of your note, I’m guessing it doesn’t really work for you either. As tough as it is, religion is one of those issues that will impact the rest of your life. If you can’t find a path to meet halfway, I would highly suggest you find yourself a new partner who will.

Just have faith. With no disrespect to your boyfriend, there are MILLIONS of men out there who can make you happy, and will put your needs above the church’s policies.

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  1. 41

    I’d like to direct the poster, and some of the commenters here, to, which is a really great resource for “mixed marriage” and interchurch couples: those who are both actively involved in different Christian denominations. The issues of being interchurch, or mixed marriage (mixed marriage can include people from different denominations who may only be active in one of them),and interfaith marriages (between faiths, rather than within Christianity), are real and painful, but can also be beautiful. The question is, do you share fundamental convictions? Do you turn to the same place for comfort when you’re hurting? If so, I encourage you to try to find support in other interchurch or mixed marriage couples and families,and work through the church issues. But, like others commenters have said, ONLY do that if you respect his obedience to the church! For him to even consider placing himself ina position where he would NEVER be welcome to receive communion again…that’s tough. That said, Pope Francis just pointed out to a couple in South America that the person who married somebody who had been divorced with no annullment should still receive communion, because THAT person was not actually in a state of sin (it was their spouse who was in a state of sin and should not receive). So, based on that, you could marry your boyfriend, -potentially- in the church, and he would not be separated from communion although you would – if you had no annullment.

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