We have been married for 11 years now. We were married in a church, by our pastor, recited bible verses and vows. We were believers entering into marriage as 20 somethings who had no clue. If the last decade has taught me anything, it’s that marriage is hard work. No matter how compatible you are with someone, it still takes more work than you could ever imagine as a starry-eyed fiancee. Even WITH the church-requried pre-marital class that is honestly a bunch of fluff.
We both viewed marriage as a gift from and directly tied to god. Without god, there is no love. If we ever divorce, it would be a sin. Adultery, anger, forgiveness, prayer, couples devotionals, 1 Corinthians 13, so many rules about love and marriage. It was quite a lot of pressure and we tried our best. I think the only ‘sin’ we didn’t commit against each other is adultery. Imagine having a fight with your partner and then feeling like you not only hurt them, but god as well. So much emotional baggage tied into each conflict.
After a decade together as faithful believers, we are now married as atheists. This changes the game, as you can imagine. Now, we are only accountable to ourselves and there are real life consequences for our actions. Our concern is the here and now. It was a little worrisome at first because I liked the comfort that my husband would not leave me or else god’s wrath would be upon him. 😄 That is no longer looming in the background. We had a discussion about it the other day and realized that now, perhaps for the first time, staying married is a choice. A choice between two consenting adults who have to reaffirm that choice each day. There is no great punishment for leaving other than the downsides of divorce (which there are many). Consequences but not punishment. Should we ever choose to leave, we would survive. The kids would survive. Life would go on. There is freedom in that thought. Love by choice is always sweeter than force.
On a related note, sex is also a choice now rather than an obligation. I will have to tackle the incredibly unhealthy underpinnings of sex as a believer in a different blog post. For now, it is a comfort knowing that I no long HAVE TO fulfill my wifely duties but instead if we choose to be intimate, it is out of love only.
So, where does this leave us? I think at the beginning of a self-aware and personally accountable relationship. We have even talked about renewing our vows or essentially getting married all over again without god or pretense. Just reality and commitment. Plus, it would make for a fun party!