Tuesday, July 28, 2015


My girlfriend is part of a very tightly knit church community; I, as an atheist, clearly am not.  In the beginning, we thought that this might be a major issue in our relationship, but it hasn't proven to be nearly as problematic as we had feared.  The other church members have been almost universally welcoming to me, despite the fact that their faith does not officially sanction same-sex relationships (and is certainly not in support of same-sex marriage).  I've eaten meals with church members, cuddled their children, and even attended a few services without bursting into flames.  All has gone very well.

Occasionally, however, issues do arise.  One of the biggest has been the issue of "small group", which is a group of church members who meet every few weeks to share a meal and discussion of their faith.  This is a major social and community event for my girlfriend, as well as for her family, with whom I've grown quite close over the past year and a half.  Because the group members discuss things that are going on in their lives (including personal struggles and disappointments), the events are closed to "outsiders" to encourage openness and honesty.  Which means that I, the atheist, am not invited.

And sometimes this feels hard.  It's difficult to be excluded from something that is so central to my girlfriend's life, especially when all of the other family members (including my girlfriend's new sister-in-law) are automatically included*.  And yet, aside from my relationship to my girlfriend, I don't really have a right or a reason to be there.  I'm certainly not going to contribute anything to the bible study, and it would only be awkward if the group offered to pray for me after I told them of something difficult in my life.  I don't quite know whether I should just accept the status quo, or force myself on a group to which I may not even want to belong.

Any thoughts?

*Not to mention the food I'm missing out on.  Perogies!  Farmer's sausage!  Baking in all its myriad of forms!  These people are amazing cooks.


  1. It really depends on how much the "not welcome" part bothers you. I see no issue with not being part of something that is central to your gf's life. My wife does theatre. When she's in a show, it is central to her life and she creates all these intensely close bonds with her cast mates and the whole experience, and I'm not really a part of it. But when they go out after a show, I'm certainly invited (though I feel like a bit of an outsider). I have something like that in my life too, of which she is not a part, but there it is. However, I would not like her to feel "unwelcome." Of course, as an Atheist, I'm sure you can understand why they would rather not include you...since you would inevitably be there with a certain judgment (I'm agnostic myself, so I'm coming at this with some experience). If it makes her happy, and she can let go of needing to share it with you, and you can let go of needing to share it with her, I think you can both get past it.

    1. I think part of the challenge is that the relationship still feels somewhat new, despite being together for 17 months, and I still have a tendency to want to do everything together. It's probably a good thing to be forced to do some things apart!

  2. I think, that since you are not in any way ready to "join the church", it does preclude you getting to participate in all aspects of the church. Its so great that they are welcoming to you for all other gatherings---but this group is defined as "closed" and its not a reflection in any way on their thoughts about you. I wouldn't expect to be welcomed at a bible study or prayer group if it so happened that my partner was involved in such a thing. And I wouldn't want to go! How awkward and probably boring! I'd be trying not to roll my eyes (while stuffing my face with fancy baked goods). My husband and I also have a few separate activities that we participate in and I actually think its not a bad thing for the relationship as long as there are still plenty of other areas for closeness (which it seems there definitely are). I get where you're coming from, its hard to feel unwanted (and food!) but I think this is one of those cases that just...is how it is.

    1. You make a valid point. It's true that I would probably be bored out of my mind if I actually did go to a meeting. Funny how we think we want things that, in reality, we probably don't actually want.

  3. I'm more than a year late to this post.. But I will comment anyway :)
    My wife and I met a little over 5 years ago, moved in together 2.5 years ago, and got married 7 months ago. She's a catholic, I'm an atheist. She doesn't go to church and she considers herself a non practicing catholic.
    We had several issues in the first 2-3 years of our relationship. There was a lot of misinterpretation on both sides. She would think that any comment I made about church or religion was a terrible criticism, and I would think she was naive to not see what I was seeing. We avoided any topic that involved religion due to it very often resulting in arguments.
    Our relationship has matured a lot, and now we can literally talk about anything and be vocal about our opinions without the other person getting offended. I think we just got better at listening and viewing the other person's point of view. I think if she had frequent church meetings that I wasn't invited to, it would probably take me some time to accept it and to understand that, as you said, it is probably better that I didn't participate in it.
    She's still a catholic and I'm still an atheist, but thankfully it is no longer an issue for us.