Friday, 28 July 2017

Growing apart

One thing that can quickly threaten a relationship is a clash of fundament-ally different beliefs. Religious and political beliefs especially, but anything the couple fiercely disagree on.

Often there's an unexpected breaking-point. With one couple it was a miscarriage. Although their views were diverging more and more, they were sticking together - until she lost her baby.

William had been fairly agnostic while his wife was intensely religious. For a while this wasn't a problem. But after the miscarriage they reacted very differently. While William became a confirmed atheist, wondering how a deity could kill an unborn child, his wife found comfort in her religious beliefs, which became even stronger.

When he finally admitted to her that he was an atheist, she had "a full-blown meltdown" and said he would go to hell. He tried to repair the damage by not talking about religion, but things got worse and she asked for a divorce.

An unfortunate turn of events, but one that's probably very common. It's hard to get along if your views differ so dramatically. Initial tolerance of each other's views can easily turn into open hostility.

Luckily both Jenny and I are atheists, socialists and feminists, so scope for disagreement is strictly limited. We won't be at each other's throats over something as basic as the pros and cons of capitalism. We're more likely to differ over the choice of carpeting or whether the bed linen needs a wash.

And neither of us have strange obsessions the other can't stomach. We're not fans of alternative medicine, or flying saucers, or psychic phenomena, or wild conspiracy theories. We're both habitual sceptics who believe in more tangible realities like ice cream and pinot grigio.

If that means we're bound for hell, so be it.

36 comments:

Dave Martin said...

Religion and politics are the worst things for causing arguments.
But as I have no time for religion of any shape or colour, and I don't get involved in politics, my life is free from confrontation.

John Gray said...

When i worked on spinal injuries i noted that when one part of a couble sustained life changing injuries it was the " stronger" relationships that eventually survived...not rocket science i know but true.... Tge relationships that were not perhaps concrete to start with eventually crumbled

Bijoux said...

I can't imagine marrying someone with different religious views. My son was in a 2.5 year relationship like that and I was immensely relieved when they broke up.

kylie said...

If you don't try natural therapies you are cutting off your nose to spite your face!

I have read that the long term survival of a relationship can be predicted accurately just by the courtesy displayed between the individuals at an early point in the relationship, which is more about basic respect than big issues like religion and politics. Certainly my experience of life would suggest that those basic courtesies can tell us a lot about a person or a relationship

Nick said...

Dave: Good thinking. Sounds like a very trouble-free existence!

John: Indeed, a major crisis of that sort soon proves how resilient or how fragile a relationship is.

Bijoux: Did they break up BECAUSE of the religious differences?

Nick said...

Kylie: I've never needed a natural therapy, but I would certainly try one if it was recommended to me by someone who had benefited. I'm not against a one-off treatment, more the insistence that natural medicine is always better than conventional medicine.

I agree about the basic courtesies. If a couple are habitually rude to each other, it's a bad sign.

kylie said...

Conventional (allopathic) medicine has it's strengths but many times alternative medicine is less invasive, has less side effects and is more likely to treat causes than just mask symptoms.
I'm curious about what you would see as a need for alternative medicine? conventional medicine tries to give answers for every possible ailment so nobody will ever think they need an alternative but that doesn't mean the conventional treatment is the best alternative.
My daughter has had great success treating sinus issues with acupuncture, herbs and attention to some of her habits. A teacher of hers was going to have a surgeon drill through her teeth as a sinus treatment, so did the teacher need alternative therapy? I guess it depends how much she likes her teeth.

Nick said...

Kylie: When would I use alternative medicine? I guess when conventional medicine had failed or it was going to be too drastic - like your example of drilling through teeth. Right now my only health problem is slightly raised blood pressure, for which I take Amlodipine. It has no noticeable side-effects and is very effective at lowering my blood pressure up to 30 points. Other than that, I'm extremely healthy and don't need any other medicines. I had an enlarged prostate which was preventing me peeing properly and I had an operation to reduce it. I don't know of any alternative medicine for that problem! I don't think conventional medicine is perfect, in fact it can often be disastrous, but I think it's irrational to write it off altogether.

Blogoratti said...

Interesting thoughts indeed, and it is surprising how often such issues as politics and religious beliefs can tear apart a relationship. But there is nothing like having a strong relationship.

Greetings!

Rummuser said...

My late wife was a Christian. I am a Vedantin. Our son has been baptised into the Christian faith by his maternal grand mother and her church. One of my son's uncles is a Muslim and my son has been converted into that faith as well. My daughter in law comes from a family of orthodox Hindus of the extreme right. My family of siblings and cousins can also boast about mates of other religions, caste and nationality besides language. We also have a couple of atheists thrown in to the mixture. In our homes we celebrate all festivals and so far we have not had any strife on the score of religion or the absence of it.

None of us can understand the need to obsess about our beliefs or the lack of it.

Nick said...

Blogoratti: A strong relationship can survive extremely traumatic events that would blow a weak relationship to bits. I think of the McCanns, who are still together after Madeleine's disappearance, the endless media circus and relentless public criticism. They've been exposed to all this for over ten years now.

Nick said...

Ramana: It seems to me that Indians are more tolerant of other people's religion because the country has so many different ones. If people fell out over religion, it would be a non-stop fracas!

Bijoux said...

I doubt that was the main reason, but I stay out of my kids' relationships as best as I can and he's a very private person.

CheerfulMonk said...

Andy and I don't agree on some seemingly important things --- he's a libertarian, is against progressives and environmentalists, etc. But he doesn't vote so I figure it's not a big problem. We work well together as a team so we have plenty of other things to talk about. Almost 53 years of marriage so far so it's safe to say it's working.

Wisewebwoman said...

I always thought it was money and its issues that drove couples apart along with lack of respect and consideration. H'm.

They key to me has always been respect. I see the lack of that in so many couples including some recent PGs that stayed with me.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Bijoux: Fair enough.

Jean: Indeed, after 53 years it must be a pretty strong relationship, despite the differences.

www: Yep, respect is so important, along with give and take, and an open mind. And some studies say one major factor in relationship breakdown is lack of communication. Couples just don't talk about things that are bugging them.

tammy j said...

"None of us can understand the need to obsess about our beliefs or the lack of it."
I like this phrase that rummy wrote.
also... I imagine in today's roller coaster economy the couples who feel the same way about money might be most important. nothing like a natural 'saver' living with a spouse who lets money run through their fingers like water! that will be a hard marriage indeed.

Nick said...

Tammy: I agree, a natural saver and a spendthrift are unlikely to stay together for long. Jenny's more of a spender than I am but she's a long way from being a spendthrift!

Treey Stynes said...

Mandy and I are atheists too. Now Coronation Street....

Nick said...

Treey: Apparently the number of atheists in the UK is rising and the number of believers is dropping. So what's the Coronation Street connection?

helen devries said...

I had friends who split up about the fact that there were parts that Heineken could certainly reach, but most of us have stayed together...I suppose because we have the same values if not the same opinions.

Nick said...

There's a report today that a Londonderry couple split up after a heated argument about how a bed should be made.

Nick said...

Helen: I think heavy drinking contributes to a lot of break-ups. And yes, similar values are important. Jenny and I often say that's why we've stayed together so long.

Tikno said...

A good thought from Dave Martin's comments.
Look in the middle east, there is plenty of time to argue rather than not make confrontations.

Nick said...

Tikno: The middle east is a horrifying mess. And Tony Blair still denies that the Iraq War started the whole downward spiral.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Break up's often happen when there has been a tragedy in a couple's lives. One would think it would bring you closer together but there must beso many things going on in your mind after a tragic loss. Nice to know that you and Jenny only have bed linen and carpets to worry about !!! XXXX

Nick said...

Jacqueline: Yes, people react in different ways to a tragedy, and that might bring them together or drive them apart. If one person blames the other for the tragedy, that's not going to help.

Ms Scarlet said...

I believe in ice cream, too.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet: Ice cream is cool, lol.

Hattie said...

We have been married 52 years. Dealing with my illness, stage 4 lung cancer, has brought us closer together than ever. He is a scientist, and I share his pragmatic point of view. I'm not especially tolerant of "alternative" medicine, because in talking to proponents of non-traditional treatments, I find that they often have no higher education and may be very deficient in scientific knowledge. They are too often satisfied with anecdotal narratives that promise a cure, etc. They may not hear the stories of patients who stopped taking chemo and died within weeks. I am doing way better with conventional treatments than anyone expected, including my oncologist, and would not dream of imperiling my situation by trying unproven methods of treatment.

Nick said...

Hattie: I think you're right, people who bang on about alternative medicine are probably relying more on personal anecdotes than on scientific evidence. As you say, they probably don't hear all the negative experiences. In your situation I wouldn't resort to unproven remedies either. Too many people have tried them with disastrous results.

kylie said...

Not for a minute did i write off conventional medicine

joared said...

Interestingly, some couples, maybe not many, may enjoy and thrive on their differences -- they're a legitimate devil's advocate for each other. Certainly can stimulate thinking for both as they may have a "we agree not to agree" perspective on some issues, plus beliefs can evolve and change over the years. An expectation with efforts to change a partner's beliefs would be a recipe for disaster, however.

As for alternative medicine, I would place my confidence in most scientifically proven successful medicine first and foremost. The medical condition I had would certainly dictate my attitude toward how I would go about treating it. Anecdotal accounts must be very carefully assessed as a few can provide important information but, if I was under treatment, I would certainly consult with my physician before adopting anything outside a prescribed regimen.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I could not be in a serious relationship with someone I wasn't aligned with in terms of religion, politics, world view. We can disagree about little things within those categories but I don't think I'd be able to be in a long-term relationship with someone who was very religious or conservative.

Nick said...

Kylie: That's good to know!

Joared: It's hard to believe a couple can have fundamentally different opinions and still rub along. I would have thought there'd be constant tension - and not the creative kind.

Anecdotal accounts of alternative medicine "successes" need to be treated with a lot of caution. There are people out there peddling some very dubious and unproven remedies.

Nick said...

Agent: Me neither. There would be such huge fault lines between our opinions, I can't see how a relationship could be sustainable.