Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: Just before I met her parents, my girlfriend confessed to me that she was married before. She was quite young, and divorced after a short time.
Our church, which we attend together, is pretty much against remarriage after divorce. Our pastors almost certainly wouldn’t marry us if they knew her history.
My girlfriend is not from around here, so she feels she can just keep this a secret and get married in our church.
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I had never thought much about divorce and remarriage. Now that I’ve been forced to think about it, I’m having second thoughts about this whole religion. I suggested we find another church, and she said no, she loves this church. What’s the best course of action? Please don’t tell me to break up with her.
Marriage in Mind
No, that’s not what I’m going to suggest. Anything so decisive would be premature.
That’s because you still have a lot of thinking to do. You just got one piece of information — a big one, but still — and that was all you needed to contemplate your way out of your church? That’s a drastically different view of your own world, so I’m wondering how many other stones in your life are sitting there unturned.
There’s another one already waiting for you: The fact that she is comfortable burying a truth to hold on to a church she likes. Do you think people have a duty to observe an organized religion in full? Or is it OK to use them a la carte, as your girlfriend intends here? If the latter, does she need to be honest, or is her lie of omission OK with you? Are you OK with abetting that lie?
If you two love each other, that’s a start. If you know each other well, that’s better. If you respect each other, then you’re getting even warmer. But if you want a marriage that’s strong at its foundation and resilient under the various pressures life invariably offers, then both of you need to know yourselves really well, know what you believe in, know what is and isn’t worth fighting for, and agree with each other enough on the big things to move in the same direction through life.
You sound as if you just dipped your first toe into this process after a lifetime of just doing what you’ve always done (because you were told to, because your parents did that, etc.). I suggest you wade in deeper, and invite your girlfriend to do the same. The church-wedding question gives you some interesting and likely productive places to start.
Re: Religion: When a family member remarried, we were told very firmly that neither the new spouse’s family nor the church can ever know it wasn’t a first marriage for both. If I had been given this news upfront I would have made my objections clear and maybe even not attended the nuptials, but it wasn’t till I was about to walk into the rehearsal dinner that I was told. I really resent the position the couple has put my whole side of the family in — it forces us to police ourselves in all conversation so as to not let anything slip.
Excellent point, thank you.
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