How do you get over someone who loves you and still leaves you
November 16, 2013 5:47 PM   Subscribe

There's a lot of advice out there for getting over someone but I can't wrap my head around being left unexpectedly when I still feel loved. First time being broken up with at 30 doesn't help either...

Long story short, I was (am!) in love with a very religious man. He also loves me, an atheist. I have gone through life having gradually built up relationships with people and have never felt that instant chemistry and comfort with someone until now. The kind where everyone around you knows you're dating before you do. Unfortunately, we have two very different views on love. When I love someone who is a good, moral, loving individual I see great value in treasuring that despite differences in culture, religion, etc. He, on the other hand, let himself get swept away by emotion and then suddenly decided that despite the fact that he still loves me, our religious differences are not in line with what he sees as his future. Even worse, after he decided we could no longer be together he suddenly started dating someone who was a longtime platonic friend who is a member of his church. I am confused and crushed by this rapid turn of events. I can see that he still loves me when I run into him but my self-esteem is completely shot. I have never been broken up with before and I know that is part of it. I thought this was my last relationship and I would never have to feel that pain! I feel as though I am not good or pure enough for him and as unhelpful as I know this is, I feel that if our love was stronger or if I were a better partner then he could see past our differences. I am extremely supportive of his faith and love that it is a part of him, I do not understand why he cannot reciprocate. How can I get past this and not feel as though there is something wrong with me? Also, is it unhealthy to rely on love and character alone? Should I place more weight on other things, I feel as thought maybe I'm being naive and impractical with wanting this to work. Thanks for your help in this awful time
posted by Valkyrie21 to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It is definitely possible for a relationship between an atheist and someone who is somewhat religious to work. But with someone who is very religious, it is probably a mark of love and respect that he has not made a fuss about trying to convert you, but no, it is also probably not reasonable to think that this would work out long-term. At least, not without compromising something that you'd probably not like him so much if he was the sort of person who compromised like that, you know? Sometimes relationships just don't work out because you're not really travelling the same path, and it's normal for that to hurt but it will ease in time.
posted by Sequence at 5:59 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

What will make you feel better is time. There's not much else.

Obviously you can't do anything about it. I personally think that he's an asshole for engaging in a relationship in the first place if this was a dealbreaker, but people's religiosity changes over time, I guess.

But based on your description, you got left for another person. He's just using religion as an excuse - as an excuse to tell you, and one to tell himself. Which I think should tell you everything you need to know about his moral foundation.

People almost always break up because their paths diverge, whatever those paths may be. It doesn't make you naive to hope that wouldn't happen to you, it's what we all hope for when we take the chance on another person. You're not wrong for taking the chance, but you may decide in the future to tread more carefully with religious people. Or you may meet one who embraces the difference and continues to do so indefinitely.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:22 PM on November 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

Essentially, the same advice on how to get over a failed relationship with a selfish ex applies. Go no contact, concentrate on yourself, get busy, get happy.

Perhaps try to look at it from another angle: it is his fault, being narrow minded, and not your lack of "pureness". He's being a bit selfish flaunting his new partner so soon after he left you. Those things don't reflect too well on his character, IMHO.

Time will help. Promise. Best of luck.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:26 PM on November 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

you sound quite heartbroken and i'm really sorry this has happened. as Sequence said it's because you and he are on different paths in life. it isn't because you are not good enough or anything like that. you haven't done anything wrong in your relationship. as a person of faith i wish your bf hadn't done things the way he did. it was really unfair of him to get seriously involved with you because we don't choose who we fall in love with. there are plenty of lovely people of all faiths or no faith. because he realized he's serious about his faith he needs to be with someone who shares the most important thing in his life. i'm really sorry you got hurt by him not figuring that out beforehand. you will get over this in time but please know there really wasn't anything you could have done differently while being true to yourself.

on preview i don't think it was because of the new gf but because of his faith. sometimes people get together rather quickly in the church.
posted by wildflower at 6:32 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for your pain. This is one of the few cases where it really isn't about you. Many of us with a certain belief system feel that we are not to be "unequally yoked."

You must really be something for him to have fallen for you to start with. So please understand that this is not about you being flawed, it's about you being on two different paths in life and he knows that to be true to himself that it is better to be separate now.

I am a serious Christian and I know that a great deal of my happiness with my husband is tied up with our shared values. It's really THAT important to us. I am sorry that he got involved with you to start with because it sounds like you both are hurting, and that is sad.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:56 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lets get this straight. He is NOT the right man for you. No matter how you try to shape it, this man has NO respect for your religious or lack of religious beliefs. He does NOT respect that part of you. What makes you think he is respecting you. And if a man doesn't respect you and your beliefs, he is not the right man for you. Simple. A person who cannot reciprocate is not in love.

If this is the first time you have broken up, then it is just that. Your inability to deal with a break up. Don't confuse the two. Get it right. This is more about your emotions as it relates to being rejected by another human being whom you were in love with. THAT is what you have to focus on. People like him will come and go. There will be others you will fall in and out of love. What is now the most toughest is the fact that you are dealing with a new situation and your emotions are trying to acclimate to that. That's it. Be patient with yourself, observe and go with the flow.
posted by ladoo at 7:01 PM on November 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

A person can love you but that doesn't mean it's the right kind of love. And the sad fact is that if he doesn't think it's the right kind of love, then by definition it's not.

It doesn't mean you should change anything about what you value or look for. Why would you be him when you are you?

This sucks but it's just another of the many and horrible variations of he's just not right for you.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:10 PM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

I feel as though I am not good or pure enough for him and as unhelpful as I know this is, I feel that if our love was stronger or if I were a better partner then he could see past our differences.
Nope. Nope nope nope. No. way. And I know you know this to be the case, but I also want to say it, straight up. Good enough or pure enough is mostly just bs if you're a civil human being -- you *are* good enough and pure enough. And if your love was stronger or you were a better partner he could get over a religious belief that cut him off from a good love? Are you kidding me? They do not belong in the same sentence, those two concepts do not belong in the same sentence. They don't belong in the same world. As you know.

I am extremely supportive of his faith and love that it is a part of him, I do not understand why he cannot reciprocate.
There is no understanding it. Religious beliefs operate way lower than logic. Religions are so good for so many people, they ground many people, but they can sure get in the way of logic. There is no point in trying to understand why. No kidding.

How can I get past this and not feel as though there is something wrong with me?
There is nothing wrong with you. I promise. You've just got hit -- hard -- you just burned by lightning out of a clear blue sky. It's maybe not normal to feel as you are feeling -- really, what is normal, aside from a setting on the washing machine? -- so it's maybe not normal to feel what you're feeling but I think that most of us do, when we get hit by the damn bus that just nailed you.

Also, is it unhealthy to rely on love and character alone? Should I place more weight on other things, I feel as thought maybe I'm being naive and impractical with wanting this to work.
Nope. You're doing fine. You're questioning yourself because you'd rather find something, somewhere, anywhere, to be wrong, in an attempt to have it all make sense. What happened to you doesn't make sense. Love affairs so often do not -- look around, everybody is nuts. You got hit by a bus. Relying upon love and character is great. Trust yourself.

Thanks for your help in this awful time.
We'd all do anything we could to relieve you of some of this. This stuff just so sucks. Anyone who has been walking around this joint for more than fifteen years or twenty, hey, we all of us get it in the neck, time to time. And we'll start to doubt ourselves. Which you are doing, just part of the process.

You remember getting a sliver into your finger, running to your mother or father or whoever, and they'd get a tweezers to take it out, you'd have to hold your hand still but you wouldn't, because you knew it was gonna hurt? But eventually you held your hand still.

Don't just do something -- stand there. Stand still. Allow yourself to grieve. It's easy to jump around in our heads and/or our hearts, trying to make sense of things that don't. And won't. Ever. Jesus, I moved to flippin' Texas, from Chicago, running from my mirror, trying to make sense of what I did, what she did, he said, she said, blah blah blah.

Damned if the mirrors down here didn't show the exact same goddamn thing they showed up there in yankee-land. Very, very annoying.

Stand still. Don't run. Hurt. Eat chocolate. Buy a nice hat. We're all with you, hard as we can.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:32 PM on November 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

I had this happen to me. He wasn't a churchgoer but saw himself attending church with his future wife, whoever she was, in their future life together. To make a long story short, he's now a Christian woman's fourth husband and third baby daddy and is reportedly content approximately 5 years into that marriage. Checking that box can trump so many other things!
posted by txtwinkletoes at 7:34 PM on November 16, 2013

How can I get past this and not feel as though there is something wrong with me? Also, is it unhealthy to rely on love and character alone? Should I place more weight on other things, I feel as thought maybe I'm being naive and impractical with wanting this to work.

A site I think would be good for you to read would be Baggage Reclaim. The author talks about not getting caught up in instant chemistry and paying attention to whether someone shares your values as being more important even than common interests, and also deconstructs a lot of the ways women are conditioned to internalize their partners' bad behavior. She understands the connections between the questions you're asking, and she explains them really well.
posted by alphanerd at 8:28 PM on November 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

He may have felt that it was something about you that he could tolerate, but that when it came right down to consideration about the future, he realized that for him, things like marriage, and especially raising children, it simply wasn't going to work.

It's also possible that someone pointed it out to him, or encouraged him to think about it, leading to his decision-making.

Something to keep in mind: there are many people who are not religious, but still believe, on some level of conscious or subconscious, that there is a higher power. He may have mistakenly believed that you were - or could be - one of these, which is often less likely to be a deal-breaker than a total atheist.

Nothing is going to take the hurt away like magic, but it's rare that these combos turn out well in the long run, which may, on some level, help.

You also didn't mention (at least that I caught) how long you were in the relationship. It's pretty common for people to be together for a while on attraction before learning enough about each other to make a decision about long-term compatibility.
posted by stormyteal at 8:42 PM on November 16, 2013

I'm a devout and religiously active person and while I undoubtedly see things differently from your ex-boyfriend and participate in a different type of faith community, I have known, been close to, and often loved and cherished many people of the outlook I'd assume your ex adheres to. If I'm wrong about the type of religion he's practicing, then what I have to say won't be worth much - but I suspect I'm right.

I am extremely supportive of his faith and love that it is a part of him, I do not understand why he cannot reciprocate.

I would guess that to his consideration his faith is not a "part of him", it is not a tradition or a language of spiritual expression or whatever. It is the capital T Truth and furthermore without strict belief in, devotion to and adherence with this Truth right existence is impossible. This is how theologically conservative and strictly orthodox communities of religions like Christianity and Islam view, express, and teach their doctrines. "Support" and "love" of atheism are an impossibility within this perspective. It is a contradiction in terms. To support atheism is to reject his truth, period.

So your relationship caused enormous cognitive dissonance for him. Knowledge of your atheism would have caused consternation, concern and reproach from his community. Say you considered marriage (likely a strictly religious sacrament in his perspective): it is very likely his minister would flatly refuse to officiate a marriage with a self-professed atheist. Not to be indelicate but if your relationship was sexual this would also likely have been a huge source of shame and conflict for him. Shared religion is absolutely the only model recognized within this type of belief system as the foundation of a relationship.

So it really has nothing to do with anything like purity, goodness, the strength of your love or your qualities as a partner. "Seeing past your differences" is just fundamentally at odds with this religious perspective. Allowing worldly (any non-religious) considerations to overshadow religious ones isn't just not allowed: rejecting the worldly no matter how appealing is explicitly presented as a key virtue and a necessary part of faithful life.

And you can critique and judge that as much as you want but at the end of the day it is like any other fundamental deal-breaker in a relationship. If one person is devoted to having children and the other is dead set against it, the relationship is done no matter what it's qualities otherwise. For many people religion is just as inflexible of a condition.

For what it's worth I've seen the particular scenario of a religious individual leaving an emotionally charged relationship over fundamental differences in beliefs and then apparently rushing into a new relationship with someone from their faith community. I don't know exactly what's behind it and it's probably useless to speculate but it's certainly a pattern I recognize from past acquaintances. It may not help much to say it but it is not, I think, personal: more about some kind of attempt to correct and soothe the impact (which he has probably been holding down for much longer than you know) of that painful cognitive dissonance.

In terms of your actual question, how to get over it, I think it is all the usual kind of things that many others have pointed to. Cut out contact to the greatest extent possible, keep reminding yourself that this was very much him, not you, grieve, seek the comfort and commiseration of your friends. Try not to think of yourself as being in a spot where you have to figure out what the hell is up with the Big Picture of Love and just see yourself in a painful but very human spot caused by circumstances outside your control.

is it unhealthy to rely on love and character alone?

In one sense, no - at least, there is nothing wrong with esteeming these things very highly - provided it's a shared value. But to think that love and character will always conquer all - well, no they don't always. There are all kinds of pragmatic things that can make a relationship between genuinely loving people of good character impossible. So perhaps you were naive in this case, but that isn't a terrible thing. You can't find love in this life without going out on a limb and trusting, and sometimes you take your knocks as a result. It doesn't mean it isn't possible, it doesn't mean that the person with whom love and character can win out isn't out there. For right now though what you have to focus on is healing your loss. Take care of yourself - try to eat right, get as much sleep as you can, be gentle to yourself both in your actions and your thoughts. It will get better.
posted by nanojath at 10:15 PM on November 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

It isn't you. Look down the years. He might want to go to the church picnic. Do you want to go with him? Maybe he will become an elder. Do you resent the time away from you and the children? BTW, where do the children go to school? Would he prefer that they go to an expensive private school, or that YOU home school them? Not very romantic, but then life has some hard edges. Consider that while you have had a hard landing, you may have escaped a tumultuous flight.
posted by Cranberry at 12:30 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

A lot of really harsh answers here! Yikes. I don't think it is kind or even correct to blame this guy for being "narrow minded" or "illogical" or "disrespectful" or that he left you for someone else. Geez. None of us know this guy, how can we make judgments like that?

Look, you've been in love, so you know how it is. You know how you can get swept along. You know how completely irrational it is. I was in a short-lived relationship with someone that I KNEW, deep in my soul, was not a forever relationship. He was 100%, no possibility of discussion, nope nope nope, against having kids. Ever. I am unsure on the kids question. But I felt uncomfortable basically having my choice made for me and being UNABLE to talk about it even. Yet, we dated for almost 3 months. Sometimes I would think about the future with him, moving in together, getting good jobs, being there for each other, the whole 9 yards.

Yet I KNEW that none of that would happen. I guess I just . . . hoped? I don't know. I really liked him, and was on my way to falling in love. We were very compatible and it felt so easy with him. Does that make me "illogical", that I couldn't put aside my qualms about never being able to have kids? Was I "narrow minded"? "Disrespectful" of his choices? And when we did break up (for unrelated and completely amicable reasons) and I very quickly found the love of my life - we're talking about 2 weeks later - does that mean that I left him for a better model? Not at all.

I just . . . liked him. I'm glad it didn't go any farther because if I HAD fallen in love, it would have made it 100 times worse to pull away in the end as I would have had to do.

Some people might (and have) said that this makes me a terrible person. That you shouldn't date anyone you can't see yourself marrying. And to be honest, I did my due diligence - we met via online dating and the not wanting kids thing came across as MUCH less vehement as it turned out to be in person. But by that time . . . we had met in person.

All I can say is, life is messy. Sometimes you meet and connect with people that aren't meant for you. Sometimes you can make it work. I'm not one of those people who can, and I expect your ex is the same way. It would be SO MUCH EASIER if we never met Mr. Wrong, but the thing no one tells you is that Mr. Wrong can be fun to spend some time with.

I'm sorry you're going through this. You're not naive or impractical, and I personally think it is IMPOSSIBLE to check all the boxes before you give away your heart. Which is what happened to your ex. Which is what you're resisting. So, don't. Accept that this one didn't work out, and the next one might not either. As hard as it seems, try to live in the moment.

Living in the moment is hard to make plans in, I know. If you do want to marry and have kids, try a more focused approach to dating so that you can increase your chances of meeting someone that will be right for you. But that doesn't mean your approach and values of "love conquers all" are wrong. It was just wrong for this guy, that's all.
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:31 AM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

We all have our deal-breakers and red flags in relationships. Things that may not matter now, but will become huge in the future. Religion is one of those things for him, hence why he can't see beyond it.

Yes, it sucks to be in your position now; but it's so much better than if you'd dedicated months, years, or decades into a relationship that was doomed to fail.

#1 ingredient in relationship is love. But it's not the only thing. He wants a different path than the one he'd have with you. He did the right thing to break up with you than trying to slowly & painfully pushing you into fitting into that mold. That would have been miserable.

How to get over it? Accept that your life together would have caused much more misery than breaking up now. And move on. Keep busy, take classes or learn new hobby, become more active, get involved in the community or do volunteer work. Fill the void.
Good luck!
posted by Neekee at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2013

I'd like to address one part of this, the "rapid turn of events," complete with new, more convenient/appropriate girlfriend. This indicates to me that despite being a good and moral person, he was also secretive about what was in his head and heart, that he worked it out on his own (or possibly with others, but not you), came to his decision and blindsided you with it.

I'm not saying he's a villain, but I am saying that this is an indication of his operating system, how he works. Unless you two have had conversations that were meant to alert you to the crisis but that maybe you failed to recognize or refused to acknowledge, this is a big clue that there would have been major problems no matter what. He apparently spent enough time thinking about this on his own that not only did he cut you out, but had already lined up your replacement. That's a lot of planning.

I know it sounds cruel and terrible to state it this way, but I feel like what he did is actually rather cruel and terrible in a way that he does not recognize at all (unless something similar were to happen to him, probably), and I agree with those who say it's better this happened now rather than some other life-shattering unilateral decision or series of decisions he might make further down the line that would completely leave you out of the equation.

Personally, I can understand how religion might be a factor in ending a relationship in the same way that wants/doesn't children could be. Or how you can love someone but not be able to handle their addiction or mental disorder or geographic separation or cultural differences. It happens, and it's sad but not terrible, because the delicate formulation of what makes it possible for two people to live together and love and be happy with each other over the years is so unique for every relationship. What looks like misery to me might be completely fulfilling and perfect for someone else. So, I won't slam him because he chose a path that put his religion first, but how he chose to walk it definitely seems a strong indication that he really might not be all you imagine him to be. I'm sorry that this happened, and you are not wrong about love and character, though you might have been wrong or misled about this guy and his essential character.
posted by taz at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

I have never been broken up with before and I know that is part of it.

A huge part. Time is your friend and enemy here. It will heal, but slowly.

There is nothing wrong with you, he treated you pretty badly.
His reason for leaving was perfectly valid, a major religion difference is a deal breaker for a lot of people.
His method of leaving was a big pile of crap.

I'm very sorry this happened the way it happened. All break ups are hard, the 1st is usually the hardest, and the circumstances here make it rougher.
posted by French Fry at 10:46 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was 29 when I was first broken up with. Things that really help? Travel, time in nature, and exercise. Take day trips to beautiful places and hike there. Ride the train to a new city and walk around the farmers' market. Spending time with old friends and family may also really help.

I also humbly offer the suggestion that since his belief system leads to conclusions like "no matter how much I personally love this person, I cannot be with him/her because s/he doesn't share this viewpoint," it is a belief system that, as much as you think you can support it, is one that you'd be justified if you eventually found repugnant.
posted by salvia at 12:09 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

... I suggested it might be "repugnant," because to give it your full respect could feel self-effacing. If he believes that people who aren't [Whatever Religion] can never truly be Good People, respecting his views would equate to disrespecting yourself. (You can respect his right to his views while not respecting the beliefs.)

But it depends on what his views actually are; that might not be how he sees it. Still, even if you don't find it repugnant, you can at least see how it IS fundamentally different from your own, no? You believe that people can have different beliefs and still choose one another as life partners. He believes that "no, that cannot happen," or at least that he cannot. The fact that you cannot just drop your own belief system and agree that "only people of X Faith should partner with one another" shows the gulf between you and this man.

For whatever it's worth, speaking as a person whose ethics relate to responsibility to the human community and natural systems, I think that your tolerance and open-mindedness are a strength -- not wrong, not unhealthy. Perhaps you were "naive" in not knowing that his religious system would require him to break up with you, but we all learn as we go along; it's not bad to have not known that yet.
posted by salvia at 12:32 PM on November 17, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for your kind words is a huge help! As you may have guessed he is evangelical christian and was honest in the beginning that he wanted a christian wife who would do wifely things like cook clean and pop out oodles of I accepted that and we were friends and then he began to say that maybe he was wrong about what he wanted because he wanted ME and we started to date. (we are both young surgeons as well so oodles of babies and staying home?...not likely) I shouldn't have believed he changed but I did! Now I feel like a failed experiment with the dark side or something and now he's back on track with someone of wife quality. It's unpleasant...I hope this adds a little more background, it was too painful to write down the details yesterday because I felt as though it were all so obvious looking back on it I'm also angry that with all the work I've poured into my career it is somehow a black mark against me but not is not the first time men have looked down on me for my career
posted by Valkyrie21 at 12:49 PM on November 17, 2013

How can I get past this and not feel as though there is something wrong with me?

You tell yourself over and over why he broke up (religious differences) and that a breakup, as painful as it is, does not mean there is anything *wrong* with the one being broken upon with.

Also, is it unhealthy to rely on love and character alone?

It is not unhealthy. It might be a little unwise to tell yourself that because you will often come across situations where love and character don't conquer all, and the two are not the be all, end all that they are made up to be.

Should I place more weight on other things, I feel as thought maybe I'm being naive and impractical with wanting this to work.

You are neither naive nor impractical in wanting something to work. Heck, wanting a relationship to work is the hope and motivation that drives you to do the required work and put in the required effort. Just remember that people change, their opinions change, even values change at times- unknown unknowns you cant possibly account for ahead of time so don't beat yourself up when you stumble upon them.

I'm also angry that with all the work I've poured into my career it is somehow a black mark against me but not is not the first time men have looked down on me for my career

Don't go down this path of thinking. These are your word choices, not theirs and by saying so, you are really validating your own grudge. It is true that being career oriented and in a field that you are in, you will have to choose between one or the other more often than some others but if you have chosen this then dont let the disadvantages get to you, for you will be satisfied with neither aspect, not a career that requires more time and not your relationships that take time away from it.
posted by xm at 1:08 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your update really cements for me my previous assessment: he fell for you and then was on the roller coaster. Don't think of it as an "experiment". Not everyone is 100% certain of who they are and what they want. As someone said upthread, at least when he realized how he felt, he was honest instead of trying to make you into his "perfect wife".

FWIW, I don't agree with his viewpoint and I wouldn't want a traditional wifely role for myself, so I am not defending him. Just trying to help you see what he was thinking.
posted by chainsofreedom at 1:22 PM on November 17, 2013

I feel as though I am not good or pure enough for him

Well, maybe you weren't.

There are a lot of different meanings for those words.

From one definition of good: having the required qualities; of a high standard... strictly adhering to or fulfilling all the principles of a particular religion or cause.

If you want to keep being an atheist, maybe it's not very important to you to be "good".

As for purity, maybe there are people out there who feel you are sullied and impure, not properly god-fearing enough.

You'll come across plenty of people in life who will be more accepting of you if you convert to their religion. Some of them might try to make you feel bad about yourself for not following their religion.

If you feel bad about yourself and your impureness and lack of goodness, you can always convert and have your sins forgiven -- I don't get the feeling you want to do that. If you are an atheist, there are going to be people out there who think that's a bad thing. Do you think they are viewing your character in a rational manner? How much credence should you give their views in forming your self image?

Love and character don't trump basic incompatibility. Instant chemistry doesn't mean you are compatible. Instant chemistry can lead people to ignore things that will make them incompatible in the long term.

On reading your followup:
He sounds like a manipulative person. You are better off without someone who feels it's a problem you have a career. People that you end up having low self esteem around are NOT good people to have in your life. It doesn't sound like he respects women in general, let alone you. Since he went back to his church, I guess you can thank "god" he's out of your life.
posted by yohko at 1:32 PM on November 17, 2013

I wish people would quit putting him down here. He isn't manipulative. The truth is some Christians are fine with wives with careers and others would like their wives to be home with their children, and if both parties want that, that isn't an issue. That is what MY son wanted, that is what my daughter in law wanted, they are a good match.

The heart wants what it wants but the heart is often an idiot. That's why we have brains to go with our hearts. Just because we love somebody "that way" doesn't necessarily mean it would be a good match, and you are both better off. Doesn't make you dirty, doesn't make him bad. A bad match is just that, a bad match.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:11 PM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I feel like a failed experiment with the dark side or something and now he's back on track with someone of wife quality. It's unpleasant...

Definitely. It makes total sense that you'd feel this way. There was a previous AskMe about this... hmm, maybe I imagined it? (I did find this one.) But it felt similar, something like -- "he went to go follow a path that he sees as a path to more light and goodness; does that mean that I'm on a path that is dark and evil?? Or is that what our time together was to him, at least?" It can be really painful and confusing.

Assuming you don't want to revisit your worldview and consider accepting his religion, then I'd view this as St. Alia of the Bunnies said above: as a bad fit. He wants to live in "Boca Raton" with someone, and you don't. The fact that he wants to live there doesn't mean you're a bad person for not living there. It took him a while to figure that out about himself. But you're not less good or less worthy. If he thinks so, that says more about him and his beliefs than about you.
posted by salvia at 8:37 PM on November 17, 2013

I think you pretty much have to accept that he neither values you not does he respect you, and he doesn't love you.

He's an idiot for that, but it is what it is. He left you pretty easily. And you're not the first person who has been left by someone they believed they loved.

He's a dumbass and you're lucky he's not your dumbass anymore.
posted by discopolo at 10:55 PM on November 17, 2013

I was an evangelical. I was in a brief relationship with a non-Christian during that time. Some time later, my long term girlfriend split up with me after I stopped going to church (I'm now an atheist, though it took a while for me to work that out). I'd say nanojath has it right.

You're thinking about romantic relationships in a particular way and having trouble because his way of framing it is alien to you. To you, it's about character and love, and if those are present, there's no reason to split, because other disagreements can be worked around if there's mutual respect. That's a sort of shared cultural understanding of relationships which you assumed he shared too. So, as he did leave you, you wonder whether there was something wrong with your character or love.

But his religion gives him a bunch of other explicit requirements (the unequally yoked teaching) and cultural assumptions (stay at home wife, lots of babies; though in the uglier parts of evangelicalism, those may also be explicit teachings) which may be just as important to him as the shared cultural stuff about love and character. This is weird to you because in your culture religion is a sort of odd life style choice, so you're treating it as if he's vegan and you're a meat-eater, say, but try to imagine what it'd be like if someone really believed that stuff.

So why'd he get into it in the first place? Because of feelings, I'd've thought. But as nanojath says, being in such a relationship creates a load of dissonance between what you're supposed to believe and what you're doing. It's uncomfortable. It's what I imagine being in an affair might feel like: you have a good time together, and then you're by yourself (or back in church) thinking "what am I doing?" It's not surprising that you'd rebound into a relationship with Church Girl after that.

Enough cultural relativism: your framing of relationships is better than his. There's nothing wrong with you, there's something wrong with a religion which assumes or explicitly teaches that women are the ones who stay at home with the kids. You are right to be angry: how dare they? I think I made the mistake with my Christian ex of being angry with her in the aftermath, but I've gradually come to the conclusion that many evangelicals are just caught up in the whole thing. I was going to say they're victims, but I recall being happy a reasonable amount as a Christian, until I started thinking too hard about it. Still, blame the system.

So, I'd treat it as if his job had moved him to Outer Mongolia. Send him a copy of something by Betrand Russell and move on.
posted by pw201 at 2:55 AM on November 18, 2013

"Now I feel like a failed experiment with the dark side or something"

Actually, you could reframe it this way: you were so awesome that you caused him to question everything he was raised to believe and everything he thought he wanted. That's pretty powerful. Sure, in the end he went back to those original beliefs, but the fact that he was so drawn to you that he momentarily was willing to throw all of that out speaks pretty highly of you.
posted by MsMolly at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2013

Sounds to me like he found another woman (ie: his rapid hook up with the mutual church-going friend) and your lack of shared religion was the perfect excuse to get away without coming across as a scumbag.
posted by stubbehtail at 2:43 PM on November 19, 2013

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