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Guest Jillian W

Should We Break Their Hearts?

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Guest Jillian W

My husband and I are young, mid-20s, and we are agnostic. We were raised Catholic but never really 'got' it, and we really tried. We've finally come to the conclusion that we are agnostic, and we feel so at peace for the first time.

 

We got married Catholic-style (which means it took a lot of time and energy and lying) to please our families, and it was shortly thereafter that we came to our agnostic-conclusion. Thinking about the church marriage makes us feel a little sick.

 

Our family members are Catholic; we've told some of them, and they're OK with it. But my in-laws are in their 60s, are very conservative and as they age are becoming less and less open-minded about people in life (e.g. gays, Democrats). They're old-fashioned - and very good people. We really respect them. But we've been advised that it would break their hearts to know about us.

 

We're very honest people - we hate lying. We could stand just not saying a word forever, but his parents expect us to go to Mass with them on holidays. I feel that it is disrespectful for us to take Eucharist, it's against Catholic beliefs for non-believers to do so, and it's unfair to us - that we're adults and still have to charade like this. I wish that we could sit in the pew during Eucharist - that's what non-Catholics are supposed to do. We wouldn't mind being in Mass if we just didn't have to pretend we agree with this stuff that we disagree strongly with. At present, we just try our best to make excuses from going to Mass with them, but at some point that's not going to fly anymore.

 

We've sought advise from those that we can trust, but we don't have many friends to ask, and some family members have called us selfish to want to tell his parents.

 

We would appreciate any advice.

 

Should we break their hearts?

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For me, being honest with my parents hurt some at first but is turning out to be pretty much for the best. I don't have to pretend and I can engage in conversation with them about their beliefs, helping both of us to connect on deeper, or at least more, levels. For my fiancee, telling his parents was a bigger deal because he hadn't really told them all along as it was happening (he lives away from his parents and mine are here). However, even though it is somewhat hard and awkward sometimes, he feels much better that he doesn't feel like he has to go to church and pretend and such. We are having a child (any day now!), and we have already gone so far as to let all of our family know about our beliefs and how we intend to raise our child based on those beliefs in a letter we wrote everyone. Most people have still be accepting of us. It has caused a little bit of a rift and maybe they are dissapointed. However, for me it has been important for people to see me for who I am and what I believe rather than think I am a Christian or a back slidden one (since I don't go to church and all that). It's really a personal decision. In psychology, we study something called cognitive dissonance. To my understanding it is when a person has a difference in what they think and what they do. It is said to cause problems for individuals until they make their thoughts line up with their behaviors or their behaviors to line up with what they think. I think that it is healthiest to be who one is as much as possible, even if it is hard at first. If you do decide to tell them, be prepared for the reaction and that it may take them some time to adjust (kind of like grief, actually). But, like I said, you two have to be the ones to decide what is ultimately best. You'll figure it out! At least you do have one another.

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YMA puts it nicely :)

 

I haven't told the folks, but I think soon it'll happen. Just seems inevitable. But, my fiancee and I will be revealing it to other people soon, so that will be a good warm-up.

 

It's all up to you, and you don't have to tell anyone anything because it's all your life and your choice. It's much better to be open and honest, but if it'll cause more strife than it's worth, don't let their Xianity give them an excuse to make trouble in Jebus'™ name. Sometimes Xians just look for excuses.

 

But you know the situation better than everyone. No matter what you decide, make the decision carefully and don't leap into it until you're ready. Good luck to you and yours :)

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Hi Jillian, and welcome to ex-C. :)

 

I saw a lot of myself in your post. I'm an ex-Catholic in my twenties, and I haven't told my folks either. Of course, my dad may threaten to assault me when he learns, so that's why I hesitate to reveal the secret (even though it's no longer feasible to keep it hidden, in my case).

 

Should you tell them? I'll answer the question with two of my own. Number one, are your in-laws cruel or abusive in any way? If so, you may have to be careful about revealing the secret to them (i.e. how and when you do it). Secondly, do *you* think you will be able to stand playing pretend for much longer? I can tell you from my experience that it's absolutely excruciating, and I'm sure you would say similar about yourself. You have to decide what's worse: breaking you're in-laws hearts, or continuing to put up a front for them.

 

I don't think there's one right or wrong answer to this question, in all honesty. Every situation is different, and hence calls for a different course of action. Good luck.

 

Rosa

 

My husband and I are young, mid-20s, and we are agnostic. We were raised Catholic but never really 'got' it, and we really tried. We've finally come to the conclusion that we are agnostic, and we feel so at peace for the first time.

 

We got married Catholic-style (which means it took a lot of time and energy and lying) to please our families, and it was shortly thereafter that we came to our agnostic-conclusion. Thinking about the church marriage makes us feel a little sick.

 

Our family members are Catholic; we've told some of them, and they're OK with it. But my in-laws are in their 60s, are very conservative and as they age are becoming less and less open-minded about people in life (e.g. gays, Democrats). They're old-fashioned - and very good people. We really respect them. But we've been advised that it would break their hearts to know about us.

 

We're very honest people - we hate lying. We could stand just not saying a word forever, but his parents expect us to go to Mass with them on holidays. I feel that it is disrespectful for us to take Eucharist, it's against Catholic beliefs for non-believers to do so, and it's unfair to us - that we're adults and still have to charade like this. I wish that we could sit in the pew during Eucharist - that's what non-Catholics are supposed to do. We wouldn't mind being in Mass if we just didn't have to pretend we agree with this stuff that we disagree strongly with. At present, we just try our best to make excuses from going to Mass with them, but at some point that's not going to fly anymore.

 

We've sought advise from those that we can trust, but we don't have many friends to ask, and some family members have called us selfish to want to tell his parents.

 

We would appreciate any advice.

 

Should we break their hearts?

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Hi Jillian, welcome to ExC.

 

I would say when the subject comes up to tell them. You shouldn't have to pretend. If going to Mass makes you uncomfortable, you shouldn't have to go. Be polite and kind about it, but don't let them try to make you justify yourselves. Tell them once and only once, and be prepared for a lot of weird and seemingly irrational questions. Be patient and assure them that you still love them and care for them deeply.

 

People often pick up on our discomfort and if we don't tell them why, they start to think it's something wrong with them. You'd be surprised how often you think somebody is going to "kill you" for something and they turn out completly rational or accepting. If you have an otherwise close relationship with them, do them and yourself a favor and let them know what's going on the next time the subject comes up. Timing IS important. Good luck.

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I've dealt with a similar situation for a while - my wife and I get invited to go to Easter services by my family every year.

 

We handle it by simply saying that "we have other plans for that day". That hasn't made them happy, but they've accepted it. We've been to a couple of christian weddings with communion, but haven't participated - I agree that participating in that is something to be avoided.

 

Whether that works in your situation is something you have to figure out. There isn't an universal approach.

 

I do know for me, however, as much as I love my mother, there are some things that I'm not willing to do for her.

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Hi Jillian, welcome to exc, hope you stick around, wow I really can't imagine being in your situation. I also come from a Catholic background, was baptized, went to mass a couple of times, but was never a "devout Catholic."

 

It sounds to me like you and your husband are good people, you want to be honest and I completely commend you for that. If it would break their hearts then you really have to think about it. Is it worth it? Is it something that will cause them a lot of stress?

 

And no I don't think that you're selfish for wanting to tell them the truth, I just think you're good and honest people, you don't want to lie and I wish more people would realize that its not only the xians who have good values. If its causing you heartache then it would be a good idea to tell them. Just tell them what you told us, that you feel its disrespectful for non-Catholics to take a part of Eucharist, people need to appreciate honesty like that. You're being truthful.

 

What I like to do is to sit down and write the person a letter and explain all the points, then I usually give it to them or talk to them about it. Maybe that might help you. Whatever you do, I hold no judgment, and I do hope that things work out for you. We're here for you if you need support.

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Hi Jillian!

I was in your situation, or one similar a short time back, having deconverted from pretty devout Catholic last December. I had to tell my family because I live so close to them and in fact attended the same parish as most of my in laws. And I have to admit one of the things my mother has thrown at me is how selfish I am, breaking hearts by my actions. But I could not continue to go to church and stand up and say "We believe" when I clearly did not. And having had a pretty torrid time for a few months, I now feel the best that I have for years. If I still had to keep it a secret, I think the whole process for me would have been more difficult and to be honest, I think it all would have come out in the end anyway, either by someone telling them "in confidence" or me having too much to drink on a family occasion and blurting it out then. Far better that it came out the way it did, when I felt secure and in control when I told, at a time that was as least stressful as possible for them. In addition, I needed to be able to tell my son in order to try and undo any damage I may have done.

But if I had lived a distance, would I have tried to pretend? Having gone through what I have gone through following my disclosure to the family, I might be tempted, but I think I could not live with the pretence.

I guess one option is to talk about a "crisis of faith", having a "difficult time" and go to Mass but not communion. If they ask more, just say you don't want to talk about it. You don't have to go into details about your beliefs with them.

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At present, we just try our best to make excuses from going to Mass with them, but at some point that's not going to fly anymore.

 

 

Why not?

 

Becasue you feel anxiety about dodging?

 

Eric PK posted some good advice. And my parents have been doing something pretty similar to my dad's in-laws for over 40 years.

 

It does help that my parent's live over 5000 miles away from said in-laws, so that does make it easier, and more understandable for others when they have "other plans for the day".

 

But if you live closer that is not so easy. You mentioned his family likes for you to join them for mass on holidays. How many holidays is this? Just the major ones? So that would mean grinning and bearing it for the sake of his folks, what, 4 or 5 days out of 365? Would it kill you to go?

 

His parents are NOT going to understand. You just said they have been getting more and more close-minded with age......is it really worth it to force open-mindedness upon them?

 

I'd go ahead and join them every now and then, and on days where you just cannot bear the idea, say you've got plans, BUT would LOVE to join them later in the day (or earlier in the day depending when Mass is) for a bite to eat somewhere.

 

You guys spending time with them is what his parents really value. Make the most of that time. It will make your absence at Mass less of an issue.

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