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scamandrius
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« on: February 13, 2009, 11:07:04 AM »

How many of you have a spouse who is non-Orthodox?  How many of you have a spouse who was non-Orthodox when you were married?  For the latter question, did that person convert?  Is there a tendency for male non-Orthodox to convert when they marry an Orthodox woman as opposed to non-Orthodox women to convert when they marry an Orthodox man?

For those of you currently married to a non-Orthodox, what particular challenges have you encountered in terms of practicing a common spirituality?  What of fasting?  What challenges have occurred in the raising of children--should they be Orthodox or be exposed to the traditions of both parents and let them choose? 

The reason I ask is that I am currently dating a non-Orthodox (there is a noticeable shortage of available Orthodox women in their 30s in Omha!) and she's great and everything, but she is an Evangelical and though she has come to church with me several times and I've been to hers once, she has no intention of converting and I fear that this could be somewhat detrimental if marriage were to be brought up.  I've been told by a friend of mine who worked as a  divorce lawyer that, after infidelity and finances, religious differences are the main reason for why marriages end up in divorce.   So, what are your experiences?
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« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2009, 12:12:09 PM »

Scamandrius, I am very happily married to a woman who is technically Orthodox (baptized in the Orthodox Church in her infancy), but describes herself as an agnostic.

The greatest challenge to me, as far as what you call "common spirituality" is concerned, is that my wife sees no point whatsoever in the rules of Orthopraxis. For example, she never prays, and finds prayer at home, in front of the icons, a mere superstition and a totally needless barbaric custom. She treats all other components of the Orthopraxis the same - for example, she sees no point in fasting or attending church services.

However, Lesya is not particularly against me observing Orthopraxis. On Wednesdays and Fridays, and during the calendar fasts, she always cooks for me a meal that has no meat or animal fat. She accompanies me when I go to Divine Liturgies, simply because I am her husband and she knows that it is important to me, and she wants to support me in every way.

So, all things considered, our marriage is good, and nothing REALLY harms or jeopardizes my faith. The only thing is, sometimes I am kind of jealous, envious about other people whose spouses are as serious about prayer, fasting and attending church as they themselves are. But that's all. And these periods of envy and jealousy in me never last long, because rationally, I realize that no marriage is "picture perfect" and my own "problems" may be a complete nothing compared with problems other families might have.

If, however, my wife were Heterodox and devout to her Heterodox beliefs... I simply don't know how I would cope. No experience of this kind. I know there are special Internet groups that discuss these situations, but I, personally, cannot even begin to imagine having a wife who is Evangelical or Catholic or Muslim or of any other religion.
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« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2009, 12:43:57 PM »


I am not married, however, my sister is and I can speak from what I've seen firsthand.  She has married a Roman Catholic man.  If she had to do it over again, she would have chosen another route.  It's so much harder to raise a family with your values and teachings, when your partner doesn't agree with them.

Before getting married, they had an agreement that any children they would have would be baptized in the Orthodox Faith and would therefore, attend an Orthodox Church and following Orthodox teachings.  It seemed so easy back then.

However, in truth, it has been difficult.  I am blessed and honored to be the godmother to their four children (2 boys and 2 girls.)  The boys are altar servers and the girls always come to church whenever they can even though they are too young to realize how important it is.  The father used to attend with his family, but lately he just stays home and complains that he doesn't have time to spend with his kids.  He is never happy when they go to church and always grumbles about what a huge waste of time it is.

Unfortunately, her husband's opinion of Orthodoxy is low, and his opinion of Ukrainians has turned out to be even lower. 

He usually causes some drama around our holidays (Pascha and the Nativity of the Lord).  You would think it would be easier with the different calendars.  She can go to his parents for the Latin holidays and they can celebrate with us for the Orthodox holidays.  However, it's never that easy.  He always makes fun of our traditions and practices.   Because their father doesn't take religion seriously, it impacts the kids to a certain extent.  They are literally afraid to talk about God or church or anything Ukrainian when their father is in the room because they know he will make fun of it and make them feel stupid. 

In the meantime, we will keep plugging away, and praying that some day the good Lord will enlighten her husband and he will realize what he is "missing" and what is truly valuable in this life.

Watching her situation has strengthened my own resolve to hold out for a good Orthodox "boy" or just go it alone!  I am certainly better off than they are.   

What happiness we could experience if our spouses rejoiced with us in our Faith, and it wasn't a constant battle or point of contention in a marriage.  We could support each other and help keep each other on the right track. 

My advice is not to jump in to a marriage with your eyes closed.  Love IS blind....and we fail to see the difficulties ahead of us, for the love of the person. 

Good luck to you.

May God bless you the girl that will help fulfill you and strengthen your Faith.




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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2009, 04:53:00 PM »

Heorhij and Liza, I'm so sorry to hear it. My wife joined a year after I did so we were both Orthodox when we got married. None of our relatives are Orthodox. My family is RC and they run the gamut to neo-Traditional to "Spirit of Vatican 2". A sedevacantist priest always says "Don't marry a Catholic if you're not, because it isn't fair to the protestant." I think the same applies to us.
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2009, 05:24:10 PM »


I am not married, however, my sister is and I can speak from what I've seen firsthand.  She has married a Roman Catholic man.  If she had to do it over again, she would have chosen another route.  It's so much harder to raise a family with your values and teachings, when your partner doesn't agree with them.

Before getting married, they had an agreement that any children they would have would be baptized in the Orthodox Faith and would therefore, attend an Orthodox Church and following Orthodox teachings.  It seemed so easy back then.

However, in truth, it has been difficult.  I am blessed and honored to be the godmother to their four children (2 boys and 2 girls.)  The boys are altar servers and the girls always come to church whenever they can even though they are too young to realize how important it is.  The father used to attend with his family, but lately he just stays home and complains that he doesn't have time to spend with his kids.  He is never happy when they go to church and always grumbles about what a huge waste of time it is.

Unfortunately, her husband's opinion of Orthodoxy is low, and his opinion of Ukrainians has turned out to be even lower. 

He usually causes some drama around our holidays (Pascha and the Nativity of the Lord).  You would think it would be easier with the different calendars.  She can go to his parents for the Latin holidays and they can celebrate with us for the Orthodox holidays.  However, it's never that easy.  He always makes fun of our traditions and practices.   Because their father doesn't take religion seriously, it impacts the kids to a certain extent.  They are literally afraid to talk about God or church or anything Ukrainian when their father is in the room because they know he will make fun of it and make them feel stupid. 

In the meantime, we will keep plugging away, and praying that some day the good Lord will enlighten her husband and he will realize what he is "missing" and what is truly valuable in this life.

Watching her situation has strengthened my own resolve to hold out for a good Orthodox "boy" or just go it alone!  I am certainly better off than they are.   

What happiness we could experience if our spouses rejoiced with us in our Faith, and it wasn't a constant battle or point of contention in a marriage.  We could support each other and help keep each other on the right track. 

My advice is not to jump in to a marriage with your eyes closed.  Love IS blind....and we fail to see the difficulties ahead of us, for the love of the person. 

Good luck to you.

May God bless you the girl that will help fulfill you and strengthen your Faith.






I can relate.  After marriage, it became clear that my exwife was anti-Arab, which would have been nice to know beforehand (and therefore, no marriage).  She was ostensibly Orthodox, but later it turn out that she was more attracted to the Gospel of health and wealth.  We had switched to a more active parish, but it turned out she wanted to be associated with a more active parish, but not to be more active/devout.

If it's any consolation George, I envy you.
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2009, 05:57:24 PM »

I can relate.  After marriage, it became clear that my exwife was anti-Arab, which would have been nice to know beforehand (and therefore, no marriage).  She was ostensibly Orthodox, but later it turn out that she was more attracted to the Gospel of health and wealth.  We had switched to a more active parish, but it turned out she wanted to be associated with a more active parish, but not to be more active/devout.

If it's any consolation George, I envy you.

Thank you, Ialmisry. Sorry about your situation. I think I would never be able to live with a woman who would be anti-Ukrainian, even if she were the most devout Orthodox. And I don't think I would have much patience for "the Gospel of health and wealth." Lesya is not into that Gospel, thank God. She is into the Gospel of love and family; and about anything where God is involved, she just says "I don't know."

May the Lord help you find a good spouse.
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2009, 02:03:24 AM »

scamandrius,

 Personally, I wouldn't date a girl if she flat out said she had no intention of converting.  Here's a few things that you might want to think about-

*You or her (most likely both) will have to compromise something somewhere down the road.  What are you willing to compromise about your faith?  Is she willing to compromise something about hers?  Religion will come up over and over as each of you (separately and together) face life's difficulties.  Can she understand/tolerate you lighting candles and kissing icons?  How about praying to our Lady Theotokos and the saints?  These two issues are HUGE stumbling blocks with Evangelicals. 

*What will you raise your children?  This might seem like a small thing while you're dating but your faith will become a big deal once children come along. Can your wife tolerate seeing her children crossing themselves and praying to the Theotokos?  How will she handle their questions as they begin to mature and begin to question their faith?  How will you answer your child when he/she asks the tough questions about why mommy doesn't like your church?  How will your wife answer?  How will you address the fact that Protestantism is wrong (and thereby convict their mother?)  What will probably happen is that it won't get addressed and the children will either leave religion or have a muddled and confused sense of their own faith.

 These are not impossible situations, but they are very serious one's that will need to be dealt with with a lot of love, patience and understanding.  Lastly, I'm sure you'll bring this up with your priest, right? Wink

 In Christ,

 Gabriel

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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2009, 09:24:35 AM »

scamandrius,

 Personally, I wouldn't date a girl if she flat out said she had no intention of converting.  Here's a few things that you might want to think about-

*You or her (most likely both) will have to compromise something somewhere down the road.  What are you willing to compromise about your faith?  Is she willing to compromise something about hers?  Religion will come up over and over as each of you (separately and together) face life's difficulties.  Can she understand/tolerate you lighting candles and kissing icons?  How about praying to our Lady Theotokos and the saints?  These two issues are HUGE stumbling blocks with Evangelicals. 

*What will you raise your children?  This might seem like a small thing while you're dating but your faith will become a big deal once children come along. Can your wife tolerate seeing her children crossing themselves and praying to the Theotokos?  How will she handle their questions as they begin to mature and begin to question their faith?  How will you answer your child when he/she asks the tough questions about why mommy doesn't like your church?  How will your wife answer?  How will you address the fact that Protestantism is wrong (and thereby convict their mother?)  What will probably happen is that it won't get addressed and the children will either leave religion or have a muddled and confused sense of their own faith.

 These are not impossible situations, but they are very serious one's that will need to be dealt with with a lot of love, patience and understanding.  Lastly, I'm sure you'll bring this up with your priest, right? Wink

 In Christ,

 Gabriel

Edited for spelling
Scamandarius,

I would second all of the above as a warning: your friend is right about the role of interfaith marriage in divorce.

But I have to say, nothing is guaranteed.  I married a baptized cradle Orthodox from one of the most Orthodox countries.  She had been an atheist, but had returned to the Church years before I met her.  She had become regular in going to Church, reading the Bible, etc.

In our parish their is someone who married the daughter of Protestant missionaries to Ireland, a house churcher.  He met her when she was living in an evangelical house of Wheaton.  I remember him saying that he thought God was calling him to marry her, despite the religious difference, and he was called to love her as his wife.

They alternate weekends for Church, one week ours, next week hers.  None of the children are baptized I believe (I don't know, but I suspect that they "compromised" on letting them decide, which of course by default concedes the Protestant position), because I've never seen any of them commune.  I often see him come to Vespers and other services by himself.

But in their house they have plenty of icons, and the children have theirs and their patron saints, all with mom's seeming approval.  The children all take part in the Church's activities, have close friends in the parish.  Their home is intact, and as far as I can see happy, holy and full of the Lord (and His Church).

Meanwhile my sons are in a broken home, go to Church only every other weekend (getting them there other times has on occassion involved police action).  Last week I had a long talk with my son over the power of intercessory prayer, because he is deathly afraid that his mother is going to hell.

So like I said, no guarentees.

I almost married a Protestant back in Egypt.  Besides interference from her parents (which I ended up getting anyway when I married), the problem was that her family was insisting, over my objections, that she convert to Orthodoxy (her father was Orthodox, but definitely not the one running the family).  I learned through my relatives that she had been complaining that she didn't want to, but wanted to remain Protestant.  Since that is exactly what I had said ("I am Jesus, but I am Jesus worshipper of Christ [my name in Arabic means "Jesus-servant of Christ], not Jesus Christ.  Of course, the children will be Orthodox"), I thought it wise to bow out (and also spread the rumor that her and her family had rejected me, otherwise she'd be a marked woman and would have difficulty getting suitors).

In end, only prayer and discernment can answer your question.  Not logic.
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2009, 01:23:25 PM »

I converted without my spouse.   My husband supported me in my conversion, and 5 of our 6 kids ended up coming with me (the 6th one comes to church with me but isn't Orthodox).  But, since that time he's moves between support and ridicule.   It is not easy.  Every marriage has its share of difficulties and adding to that being of such different beliefs makes it even more difficult (IMHO).  In his defense, I imagine he sometimes feels suffocated by all things Orthodox.  Orthodoxy doesn't just describes the place you happen to worship at on Sundays, its a way of life. And, it is very different from Protestantism. 

If I were in your position I would not consider marriage with a non-Orthodox. 
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2009, 11:08:15 PM »

The famous Protestant Roger Williams was once asked who would be saved.  He replied, he was only certain about himself and his wife and he wasn't sure about his wife.

1 Cor. 7:16
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2009, 01:41:33 PM »

Thank you all for your responses.  I know that there are serious issues ahead, especially if we decide to remain together (we've been togther for 6 months now and are very close).  She suggested that we both meet with my parish priest to decide whether or not to go forward.  Though she has been very open to the traditions and practices of Orthodoxy (particulary fasting and she makes some great lenten dishes, let me tell you.  She may be worth keeping for that reason!)  She also has agreed to do my Lenten reading with me (Schmemann's Great Lent and Teh Way of the Pilgrim), but the very heart of Orthodoxy spirituality, prayer, has not been shared jointly between us.  I think she feels intimidated but, on the whole, she doesn't seem to pray very often when I'm not around.  The heart of Orthodoxy is its prayer life and if we can't share that, especially as a family, then I wonder how viable a marriage can be. 

There is also another problem. I'm 32 and she's 36.  She's getting restless and impatient (not with me) waiting for marriage, especially since I think she wants kids...soon.  So I'm feeling pressure, whereas I am not.

I really don't know what to do and I fear that, in the end, I'm really going to end up hurting her.

About this time last year, I broke up with my girlfriend of 16 months, whom I intended to marry.  I was very hurt by this because she had done so much harm to me.  I wanted to be careful this time but I feel that I would end up doing the same to her that my ex-girlfriend did to me.  ANd I don't want to do that person.

I don't know--celibacy seems to make more and more sense all the time!
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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2009, 02:19:41 PM »

As open as she seems to Orthodoxy, talking with your priest may not be a bad idea.

Some other things to consider:

-Is she willing to have the children baptized in the Orthodox Church and raise them Orthodox?
-Is she willing to attend weekly services with you?
-Is she okay with having icons in the house?

I knew a family in a parish I attended in NJ where the wife was Orthodox, the husband was not. They attended church weekly, had the children baptized Orthodox, and the husband was very active in the parish. (Even commandeered the annual perogie making and perogie dinners!  Grin) Although he had no problem attending church with his wife and raising his children Orthodox, there was something in him that prevented him from converting.

I know of another family where the husband was Protestant and the wife was Orthodox. For twenty five years they bounced between the two churches, attending a different church every week. One day, a close member of the family dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 42. It finally dawned on the husband that if the same were to happen to him, no prayers for the dead would be said for him, and he couldn't have an Orthodox funeral. After twenty five years of bouncing back and forth, he finally converted.

The son of the above couple recently married. His bride is Protestant, and he is Orthodox. On their wedding day they went to her church first, then went to the Orthodox church. When they first got married they were bouncing between the churches every other week. Now 3 out of 4 weeks they go to the Orthodox Church. Many in the family feel she will eventually convert, but she has to work out some issues for herself first.

While a "mixed marriage" isn't impossible, it isn't easy. It sounds like your girlfriend isn't opposed to Orthodoxy, she's just not 100% comfortable with it either.

I don't blame her. Orthodoxy isn't easy. I've heard it compared to the US Marine Corp of Christianity.  Cool

I'm not saying she shouldn't convert, I'm merely saying I understand her hesitation.

Pray about it. God will lead you where He wants you.  Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2009, 10:53:23 PM »

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I could not in good conscience date a man who was not an active and devout Orthodox.


I grew up in a home of different religions (baptist mother and a lapsed mormon father) and I can tell you that the religion issue caused problems between my parents. Eventually my father converted to baptist and began attending church when I was about 10 years old. This was a happy ending because my father started to receive healing (and stopped drinking to excess and staying out partying). However, marriage is hard enough without complications of different praxis of faith.
May God grant you guidance in your relationship.
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2009, 05:50:11 PM »

I agree with the posters who said that consideration for the children of any such mixed marriage is essential.  Even if your spouse agrees to let you raise the children Orthodox, what if something should (God forbid) happen to you?  Would your spouse continue to raise the children in the Church or would their Orthodox upbringing fall by the wayside? 

On the other hand, not everyone has the luxury of marrying an active Orthodox Christian.  Especially in pan-Orthodox (non-ethnic) parishes, I have yet to see very active support for singles who want to meet other Orthodox.  Before I met my husband I was totally open to marriage with any practicing Christian.  Not ideal, but in a post-Christian and even anti-Christian society, it's better than nothing.   
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« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2009, 11:30:00 PM »

So, if you don't mind me asking Scamandrius, how are things going? 
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« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2009, 11:40:24 AM »

Although my husband and I are both Orthodox (he converted first - I was not opposed but it took me longer!), I can't imagine not being able to share that part of my life with my husband. Not only is this the deepest truest part of me, it is also what enables me to get up out of bed every morning!

Once we were having serious problems in our marriage (so serious that divorce was the most likely resolution). On Sunday, our priest called us up together to the chalice and communed us. It was a powerful and salvific moment that would have been impossible if we had not shared the same faith.

For me, personally, sharing a faith is a non-negotiable. It would just be too lonely without that.
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« Reply #16 on: November 26, 2009, 06:15:07 AM »

Just stumbled across this thread now it's been reactivated. Scamandrius, I guess you may have found your solution by now, but if not, have you asked your priest how he would deal with the situation? My partner's priest is very enthusiastic about pastoral care and a convert himself, and his attitude towards the prospect of mixed marriage seems to be, 'how can I help an Orthodox man make Orthodoxy most attractive to a non-Orthodox woman?' He's not told my partner to put pressure on me to convert, but he has made many suggestions that are clearly designed to ease me into an Orthodox way of life - suggesting we pray together, for example, and he is planning to come and bless the new home we're about to move into. The chaplain at my church, on her part, gave me a little icon and has encourage me to think about how to learn to be a better Christian through thinking about Orthodoxy. She hasn't suggested I encouraged my partner to convert, either, but you can see how on both sides, our churches are encouraging us to negotiate and communicate about our faith to each other.

If your priest can do this (and, ideally, your wife's priest - though I don't know how evangelicals might react),  then I think the support might make this difficult situation much easier?
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