Abby: Religion changes family friendship dynamics
Dear Abby: About a year ago, my daughter befriended a schoolmate. After numerous playdates, our families have become close. While my family is atheist, we know this family is devoutly Christian. Recently, after I mentioned in conversation that we “weren’t religious,” they invited us to their church for service. I diplomatically declined, but it felt awkward having told the mom our nonbeliefs.
Since then, this family invites us to church constantly, and the mom routinely brings up scripture while we’re talking. I feel like they are trying to convert us. I’m hurt that the respect we have extended to this family isn’t being reciprocated. How do I let her know she’s being disrespectful to me and my family’s beliefs without jeopardizing the friendship between our families?
Atheist in The South
Dear Atheist: I can’t guarantee that the woman won’t take offense, but it’s less likely if you refrain from using the word “disrespectful.” Try to remember that she thinks she’s offering you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It might be gentler if you told her that in light of the fact that you are an atheist, you find what she’s trying to do to be “hurtful.”
Continue to politely refuse her invitations to attend her church. If she’s in the habit of quoting scripture in normal conversation, you will have to grit your teeth and tolerate it. (Remember, we all have freedom of expression.) But I can’t guarantee that you will always remain as close as you have been, not because she’s hurt that you’re not interested in being converted, but because at some point you may find her behavior so annoying that YOU will end the relationship.
Dear Abby: My wife, “Mimi,”’ and I have been married nine years and together for 14. We have agreed that while we love each other, we are no longer “in love.” We have stayed together because we’re comfortable.
Mimi just told me that she’s pregnant with someone else’s baby and will be moving out soon. She is all I have known since we have been together. I feel lost and confused and sad. Do you have any advice?
Deeply Hurt in Tampa
Dear Deeply Hurt: Were you aware that your wife — whom you say you are no longer in love with — was seeing other men? If the answer is yes, then you should understand that what has happened is a logical progression. If not, then while you were comfortable with each other, you were not open and honest.
That you would feel sad is natural because there is loss involved in the demise of your relationship with Mimi. And so that this doesn’t happen in your next relationship, I’m advising you to discuss this with a therapist. You have some grieving to do and it would be better if you don’t do it alone.
Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.