[Two Pronged] My husband is leaving me and my son for his church
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr. Baer,
Just today, I was informed by my own husband that he will be leaving me and my son. He will be moving out of the very own house he is still paying for, because his church advised him. Yes, because of his religion – INC.
While writing this letter, you can imagine how much I wanted to curse him and his church. I cannot believe that this religion exist, and that it would recommend such anti-family direction. Why did we come to this, you might be asking.
Here is how it all started:
In our marriage, there had been many misunderstandings financially. As much as I tried keeping my mouth shut just to keep my family at peace, one day I just exploded. Just this year, my husband was laid off for two months.
Ironically, I had a job two months before he was laid off so I did shoulder the household expenses (just those that would fit in into my salary) – I did not demand support from him because I know he was trying to meet both ends (he still has to pay our house and car) – just to realize he had been donating such amounts to the church enough to feed myself, my son and even him.
It had been a habit of him to cut the family budget, and to be honest, he would rather give to INC than provide for our needs. In my mind, I never accepted the fact that a house and a car is enough – he always reminded me he pays for these things. As a wife, I expected he'd be more generous to me and to his son – or if not, he would at least balance his finances between his family and "his other priority."
To cut it short, I questioned the church.
Was it right to prioritize the church before us, his family? Was it right that he hides money from me and yet generously donate to them? Was it right that the church request for 6 light bulbs and yet my husband denies me of even one?
As time goes by, every little thing seemed to pile up, every little thing seemed to be a big deal. I got angry and angrier. I stopped going to church. Every time it is donation time, I feel indifferent.
I began to entertain what others were saying about the church. I began to slowly see what other excommunicated members were experiencing. I've been very honest to them, I even reported to them what my husband did in the past (I don't want to detail them but it would be enough to file divorce) – believing they would be able to help me.
Them neglecting my reports opened my eyes to what was really happening in the church. What I though was a small problem, turned out it is not. I began to reflect to say the least.
I do not want to interfere with his faith, but the things my husband had been doing... I believe were no longer justifiable to our own family. And after reporting to the church, no actions were done. Then the verdict came.
My husband was called for a meeting in INC. He was told that he needed to separate from his wife (and son) because that is the only way to avoid being influenced by a non-believer like me. What the... and my husband just followed. What a successful brainwashing, so I say.
What kind of religion does that? Not even the law can just do that, but hearing from my husband's mouth, I can't believe they are capable and are practicing such family conflict!
I do not have plans of coming back to their church. All I care for and think of is my husband, and my son. This church I converted for is unbelievable. I do regret joining them Dr. Holmes, but my husband listens to them.
This church did not even consider we have a special child – yes we do. What do I do? I am so pissed.
Please enlighten me.
Thank you for your email.
Yours is just one of countless marriages that have come under pressure because of religious differences, not that this will afford you any consolation. The problem lies in the inevitable tension between the two relationships: first with one’s spouse and second with one’s supreme being, however defined: God, Buddha, Jehovah, some charismatic leader with a direct line to his version of god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a sacred tree etc.
Normally this is just a matter for the individual and, whatever the internal conflicts the believer may be suffering, they are not on public display unless the believer so wishes. However, when it comes to faiths that require believers to prove their adherence in various public ways, like only marrying a fellow believer, cutting believers’ contacts with non-believers, living divorced from the outside world, tithing etc., these conflicts can become common knowledge and force unwelcome choices.
Faced with choosing between one’s supreme being and one’s earthly family should pose few, if any, problems to a true and fervent believer. After all, promised eternal happiness in a heaven somewhere, who would willingly opt instead for a few years (comparatively) of imperfect happiness in this world?
And this is where you find yourself, Rose. Your husband is a true believer, brainwashed or not, and he is following the path that his faith demands of him, however absurd that may seem to you and/or any other outsider. If as a result he is prepared to forsake you and your child to pursue what he considers is his path to salvation, there is little or nothing that you can do to deflect him from this. His faith is impervious to reasoned arguments based on family responsibilities or financial obligations.
So instead of vainly trying to win him back, it is time to move on. Salvage what you can from the ruins of your marriage and start a new life without him.
It’s not an ideal outcome but your husband has placed the ideal beyond your grasp. This at least offers you a realistic future and keeps you free from the religious entanglements that you have rejected.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. There have been many studies done on the effect of religion on marriage but the one that stands out most is Communication, Marital Satisfaction and Religious Orientation in Interfaith Marriages (2009).
Its authors, Patrick C. Hughes and Fran C. Dickson, distinguish between spousal intrinsic religious orientation where there is a strong commitment to faith, and spousal extrinsic religious orientation, where religion is simply a means to another end.
The former seems an accurate description of your husband’s religious orientation. It is associated with reports of marital satisfaction and constructive communication inversely related to demand-withdrawal communication.
I daresay while your husband was able to practice his religion as he saw fit, including the behaviors that outraged you. You see, to him they may have seemed “dapat lang” (as it should be).
In fact, your misunderstanding of the role of INC (Iglesia ni Kristo) in his life may have completely blindsided him. He may have felt you knew what you were getting into since his religion was important enough to him to ask you to convert before you got married.
Yours, on the other hand, is an accurate description of a spousal extrinsic religious orientation. This is associated with demand-withdrawal communication.
In other words, your husband and you were living entirely different marriages. For as long as he could practice his religion as he saw fit and you didn’t complain too much, he was probably happy enough in his marriage.
You, however, were unhappy in your marriage, and the reasons are understandable. You have a different idea of what role religion should play and the priority it should have in your lives.
That is why you could/can not communicate constructively either with him or with his church. That is also the reason they cannot do the same with you.
The intellectual arguments you shared with us in your letter are almost meaningless to him because faith in, and love for, his religion mean so much more. And he could even argue that a man devoted to God is a man who takes care of his family best.
In other words, I agree with Mr Baer completely: “…it is time to move on, salvage what you can from the ruins of your marriage and start a new life without him. This (attitude and, hopefully, action suggested) at least offers you a realistic future."
I know these are not satisfactory answers, dearest Rose, especially if you were hoping we would be clearly on your side. In my own personal life, I would probably be with you 100%.
But what sort of columnists would I be if I merely passed on my seeming prejudices, without trying to get you to see another perspective?
I do not see my role as getting you together again, but in this case helping provide a different perspective which enables you to live with less bitterness and, perhaps in time, allow you to forgive your husband.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.