How Do You Rebuild Your Marriage After Leaving Christianity?

A reader asked:

How do you rebuild your marriage after leaving Christianity?


One of the most difficult places to be in is when one marriage partner leaves Christianity and the other doesn’t. A mixed marriage is difficult and more than a few couples end up divorced, unable to find common ground for a successful relationship. For this reason it is not surprising that some new atheists keep their godlessness to themselves, contenting themselves with living in the closet for the sake of their marriage and family.

In my case, my wife and I came out of the Promised Land together. We journeyed back to Egypt hand-in-hand. My wife is an agnostic and I am an atheist. This, in and of itself, is amazing. As Christians we had no diversity, no place for disagreement. Now we are free to be whatever we want to be. There are no rules, no strictures that force either of us to believe certain things. We are free…

It is wonderful that we can be in agreement on many of the changes that have come our way. It makes life a lot easier when the person you sleep with agrees with you.

For Polly and I, the past 3 years have been a time of reflection and beginning anew. Without God and the Bible as our rule and guide we have been forced to rethink what we believe about morality and ethics. The fact the we are both political liberals helps a lot. (though we disagree on some issues) Long-held beliefs are now up for reëxamination. It is not easy to take a hard look at things you have believed for most of your adult life.

Instead of talking about sin we talk about good or bad. Our list of things we think are bad is much smaller these days. We now have the freedom to accept people for who and what they are. (though we still have biases and prejudices that show up now and again) No more Bible judgments of the lifestyles and beliefs of others.

If you are a married couple considering leaving Christianity or have already left Christianity:

  • Don’t be in a hurry.
  • Don’t flame everyone or everything in your past. (easier said than done , but when you are more settled in a few years later you will be glad you didn’t flame everyone in your past)
  • Talk, Talk, Talk.
  • Read, Read, Read.
  • Talk, Talk, Talk.
  • Respect one another and allow for differences of belief. Not everyone comes to the same place at the same time.
  • Always allow for open and frank discussion. Learn the difference between arguing and discussing.
  • Now that Jesus, the church, and the ministry is no longer the tail that wags the dog, take time to learn what the other person likes to do. Who are they?
  • Remember the church often sucks the life out of people, out of marriages. Self is often lost in religious communities that promote the denial of self. Both marriage partners have to become reacquainted with who they really are. This can be a difficult process and it might result in a marriage partner that is very different from the person you married. Be patient…
  • Rekindle the flames of marital love. Many times Christian marriages suffer because Christians are taught to love Jesus first. (and that gets translated by pastors into a long list of things to do) Now that Jesus is no longer your lover you are free to rekindle your love for your marriage partner.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek help from others who have walked this path before you. Don’t be afraid to seek out a competent (non-Christian) counselor to talk to if you need to. Talking to someone is NOT an admission of failure.

The above mentioned thoughts are just that…..thoughts. No seven steps to a happy marriage. These things helped my wife and I and continue to do so as our marriage continues to evolve.

I know both Polly and I can say we love where we are now. Despite the difficulties we face due to my health problems, our marriage continue to grow and mature. Is our marriage perfect? Nope. Not even close. But it is, for a flawed human relationship pretty awesome.

Repost from April 2012

Comments (4)

  1. Jada

    Thanks for posting this again. It parallels my experience in so many ways, and gives me some new things to consider.

  2. Becky Rogers Wiren

    This parallels my marriage’s experiences too. My husband and I respect each other, and it doesn’t matter he is an atheist and I am a theist. Our beliefs allow us to love and respect each other the way we are.

  3. Wayne

    Thank you for a well written piece that many will find helpful.

    My wife was the product of the bus ministries and grew up completely indoctrinated by her church since she was seven. She “saved” me during the turbulent uncertainty of my first year at university. We became good friends and got married 5 years later. After 5 years of marriage, some personal difficulties made me question my beliefs on an intellectual level. Like Bruce, I was closely involved in a threesome affair with the trinity. I knew that if I continued on the same path, my life and that of my wife will be devastated. Deciding what to do and how best to approach the situation was extremely difficult since church had been an intimate part of my wife’s life since the beginning.

    Eventually, I summoned up enough courage to bring the subject up. I told her that I needed a bit of time away from church to sort out my doubts together and I needed her support. If god was real, then he will lead us back. I will love her no matter what and will respect her own personal decision in the matter even if it is different than mine. During those couple of months away from church, I studied my faith obsessively. When my pastor came to check up on me three months later, it was obvious that I was gone and we parted ways. I cannot live my life as a lie and must be true to myself.

    I managed to survive with my wife by my side. Initially, she thought that we will eventually go back, but time has made church a distant memory for us. There was a lot of fear at the beginning especially since we almost lost our entire network of friends. Communication and trust were vital through all this. However, it was love and respect for each other that held us together.

    It has been 25 years since we left church, but that big chunk of our lives can never be completely forgotten. Church has blessed us with good things, but it also has haunted us with bad things. Like with everything else in life, we must move forward and make the most of whatever the future throws our way.

    For those who have not seem the 1960 version of “Inherit the Wind” with Spencer Tracy, I highly recommend you do. The movie brings up many points that I struggled with during my deconversion. If I had watched this 25 years ago, it would have helped clarify my own thoughts and make the decision to finally let go much easier.

    1. bruce (Post author)

      Thank you for sharing your story. It adds powerful voice to this discussion. I told Polly about your story last night and we talked a good bit about it. Like you, I am so glad my wife has walked this crazy path with me.


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