Thanks to John Shore for the inspiration:
A woman wrote to ask what I thought about her dating a man with different beliefs. “It’s a problem plaguing my life,” she wrote. “This man treats me like a queen. I just want to talk to him all the time…. The problem is that he believes in Santa Claus– and my family … well, they don’t, and don’t like this relationship of mine one little bit. As far as they’re concerned, any man who believes hasn’t grown up yet. I love my family; I love my boyfriend. My question is: Is it right for me to date someone who believes in Santa Claus? How do I deal with others… who tell me it’s misguided?”
It sounds like you’re in love with him. Marrying someone when you don’t share his faith is a big problem.
You can’t really be with someone when you don’t share his most profound, intimate, and vital convictions, because it means the most important part of him—a huge part of him, the part of him that most wholly makes him him— is beyond your understanding, your grasp, your appreciation. That doesn’t make you stupid or shallow or mean-spirited. But it does mean you exist in a whole other world than he does. It means your core values are categorically different than his. It means you can’t really “get” him. It means you don’t grasp what makes him tick, motivates him, inspires him, moves him in the deepest way anyone can be moved. It’s like him trying to fully empathize with the reality of an aardvark…. It’s just … a different order of existence.
Different consciousness. Different drives. Different needs. Different values. Different reality.
You can marry someone when you don’t share his innermost beliefs. But doing so means going to bed every night with someone knowing you don’t really know him. And you may have your own reasons for why, in fact, that works for you. But in the end, it won’t work for him. It can’t. We all need spouses who really and truly get us—who know and love the very core of who we are. Sooner or later, anything less than that will leave him restless, angry, and looking for a way out.
The key to a truly happy marriage lies in gradually, over the years, revealing to your spouse deeper and deeper truths about who you are. It creates the psychological and spiritual context for the miraculous, deeply interactive process by which each partner discovers and reveals to the other everything they know and learn about themselves—and by which, in their turn, their partners absorb that input, lovingly integrating it into their worldview, into their self-identity. And thus does marriage, in a very real sense, make one life out of two.
A non-Clausian marrying a Clausian is entering a relationship destined to fall short of its potential, unless the non-Clausian undergoes the most radical personal change possible, and the hope of that happening is no basis for a marriage. A Clausian can share a good deal of themselves with someone who doesn’t share their faith—but they sure can’t share all of themselves. They can’t even share the best part of themselves[–their devotion to a figure of power and mystery who will judge them and reward them]. If he begins to try to share the real stuff about himself with you—all you can do, finally, is shrug and say that you just don’t get it.
Which leaves the Clausian spouse with exactly two choices: File for divorce, or continue on, married and alone.