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Struggling to go through religious-based premarital counseling. HELP!!

Growing up, I lived with a Christian father and a nonreligious mother. They would constantly fight over religion and I would find that the circle of "Christian" friends that my dad kept would use the religion for the wrong reasons. My dad was very "old school" and used his religion as a way of controlling the household. Some of their arguments would get violent, and once I was old enough to ask difficult questions myself (mostly out of curiosity), some of this angry energy was directed at me. I also had a pastor who made advances toward me and touched me when I was in confirmation class. When I left home for college, I stopped going to church (although I wanted to stop much earlier). I became nonreligious and have put all of that torment in my past.

Fast forward 7 years and I'm months away from marrying the man of my dreams. He and I are like two halves of the same brain- we can communicate without saying anything. I would do anything for him, and we adore each other. He was brought up in a loving Christian home, but religion doesn't play a huge part in his life. In our 3 years together (2 of which living together), we've only discussed the topic twice. He doesn't even own a Bible. From his end, it was more of a "this is what I believe, take it or leave it but I'm not going to force it on you", and I reciprocated. Our spiritual paths are parallel in many ways anyway, and as far as raising kids, we're good with what spiritual base we have. I don't mind if my fiance tells our kids about religion (it's not that I'm an atheist- I guess I'm just "religiously apathetic"), but it came with the understanding that he would be the "God-expert", that teaching about that would come from him.

The complication: we wanted his stepfather to marry us, since he is an ordained minister. But, we've just started our counseling sessions and I think I was caught off guard by all of the God-speak. I suppose I thought the classes would help us resolve issues as a couple and grow together, but with all of the Bible reading and discussions of "the role of a Christian wife/husband", I'm seriously freaked out. I cried nearly all of last night, and my fiance and I both had to call in sick today because neither of us slept at all. I feel like I'm reliving all of the torment that I had put away. I feel like I'm back in confirmation class again. Also, the language used in the course materials seemed very condescending and disrespectful toward "nonbelievers". I didn't say anything just to avoid it being uncomfortable, but I was extremely offended at the end of the first session. It felt like I had been told that our marriage would be a sham because God isn't the focus of my life.

Part of me wants a secular wedding just so we don't have to have these classes, but I don't want to disappoint my fiance. I also don't want to create friction between my dad and I because he doesn't know about me being nonreligious, or my future in-laws since they seemed excited about marrying us. I'm ok with going through a Christian ceremony, but I really don't want the months of religion-based classes leading up to it. I'm not sure how I will work through it.

What should I do? Should I go along with it just to avoid friction? Should we go with a secular wedding? There are 4 more classes, each 2 hours long spread out over the next 6 weeks. If I just suck it up, I know it'll be a long, difficult, painful process. I talked to my fiance and he agrees that the ideal would still to have his stepdad marry us, without having the classes. He's going to talk to them about it, but I'm just really concerned that it may be a case of "take the classes or I don't marry you"



TLDNR version: He's Christian, his family is, my dad and his side of the family is too. My dad and my pastor damaged my idea of Christianity, so I'm nonreligious now. His stepdad, a minister, is marrying us. Premarital counseling classes are very religious-based and bringing back memories of childhood abuse. How do I work around that without disappointing anyone?

Re: Struggling to go through religious-based premarital counseling. HELP!!

  • You need to talk to your FI.  If I were you, I'd seriously consider having a secular ceremony instead.  It sounds like religion isn't a huge part of your lives and I would think your FI would rather you be comfortable than put you through more of these classes. 

    The one caveat I'm going to add is if you and your FI are not paying for the wedding yourselves, whoever is footing the bill has a say in the decisions - inlcuding relgious vs. secular ceremony.
  • Ven&Radio- We are paying for it 100%, so that's not an issue at all. I knew if my parents contributed, it would come with strings, so we spent over a year saving up for ourselves.

    I guess the only thing left to do is figure out how to discuss it with everyone...
  • ShesSoColdShesSoCold bend over and I'll show ya mod
    Moderator 5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its
    I would encourage you to discuss having a non-religious ceremony with your FI. 

    Not only are the PMC sessions not correlating with what you believe in, but the ceremony itself won't either. 

    I personally (as a non-religious person) find it a little offensive for someone who doesn't agree with the teachings to have a Christian ceremony. 
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  • Ugh. I just want to give you a huge hug. If I had to sit through ONE HOUR of classes like that I would stab somebody. Don't put yourself through all that! Good luck talking to everyone.
  • phiraphira Bahstin member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    PLEASE talk to your fiance about this. This is kind of a huge deal, and I'm sure he's not going to insist that you go through this ordeal. If his stepdad requires pre-marital counseling in order to marry you, I recommend:

    1) finding someone else, non-religious, to do counseling with (e.g. a couple's therapist), or
    2) finding another officiant
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  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    phira said:
    PLEASE talk to your fiance about this. This is kind of a huge deal, and I'm sure he's not going to insist that you go through this ordeal. If his stepdad requires pre-marital counseling in order to marry you, I recommend:

    1) finding someone else, non-religious, to do counseling with (e.g. a couple's therapist), or
    2) finding another officiant

    I would do this as well.  While it is reasonable for pre-counseling to make you think more about certain things, no person should have to go through pre-counseling that is intrusive or makes you really uncomfortable.  This clearly does.
  • windiewindie member
    Sixth Anniversary 100 Comments 25 Love Its Name Dropper
    phira said:
    PLEASE talk to your fiance about this. This is kind of a huge deal, and I'm sure he's not going to insist that you go through this ordeal. If his stepdad requires pre-marital counseling in order to marry you, I recommend:

    1) finding someone else, non-religious, to do counseling with (e.g. a couple's therapist), or
    2) finding another officiant


    I agree! If PMC is required for the step-dad to marry you, ask if you can do it on your own, and then choose a non-religious PMC that fits what you were expecting.

    And I am sorry to hear about your experiences as a child & the Church.

  • chibiyuichibiyui The Boring Part of MD member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    I also think you should seek counseling for what you went through as a child. 

    You should also not be doing pre marital counseling with a family member. 

    I'd personally, look into a new officiant. Many officiants can do a lovely, christian ceremony without any sort of husband being the head of the household, or other stuff with the not so nice connotations. 
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  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    I would encourage you to discuss having a non-religious ceremony with your FI. 

    Not only are the PMC sessions not correlating with what you believe in, but the ceremony itself won't either. 

    I personally (as a non-religious person) find it a little offensive for someone who doesn't agree with the teachings to have a Christian ceremony. 

    *** stuck in box

    ME TOO.  

    I believe that if you have a religious ceremony you need to follow the rules of that religion, pastor, church,parish, whatever.    If the first PMC caused you so much pain you had to take off work you there is no way you will make it through the entire process.  It's time  to come clean with everyone.  If that means a new officiant, so be it.

    I also agree you should get counseling on your own.

    Good luck.






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  • KGold80KGold80 member
    500 Love Its 500 Comments Name Dropper
    I'm so sorry you're going through all of this stuff. I think others have given solid advice, especially with regard to seeking individual counseling.

    How about a secular ceremony with a different officiant and then asking fiancé's stepdad to do a blessing at the reception?
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  • Sugargirl1019Sugargirl1019 Deep in the Heart of Texas member
    500 Love Its 1000 Comments Second Anniversary First Answer
    Is your step father open to using Prepare/Enrich premarital counseling? That doesn't force the bible down your throat.

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  • I think your fiancé should tell his step-father that this counseling does not work for the two of you, and ask if he would still be open to marrying you if you undertook some sort of counseling elsewhere.

    There are many churches that do not require formal prep. There are even churches with a special call to minister to "recovering christians"- those who have suffered through their involvement with the church and need a place to find their way back safely. Don't force yourself through a traumatic experience.
    MairePoppy
  • daria24daria24 member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary First Answer
    As someone who also suffered what I would call "religion-based psychological abuse" during her childhood, I am so sorry you are going through this. I am also non-religious now (though I would label myself a hardcore atheist) and I urge you not to go through counseling, or a ceremony that doesn't reflect what you believe. You shouldn't have to just "suck it up", especially if it triggers PTSD. 

    Quite frankly, even if you didn't have these issues with religion, I never would have been willing to have a parent or relative do PMC. I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask FSFIL if he has another pastor willing to do it, or if he would be comfortable with a secular therapist meeting with you guys. 

    Finally, I recommend counseling for yourself. I personally didn't speak to a therapist about my experiences, but I have talked openly with my H (who is also an ex-Catholic) and with some of my classmates who had similar experiences. It was only by talking through it that I have been able to let it go. 
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    MairePoppy
  • While I think PMC is definitely a must, this obviously isn't working so perhaps it's time to change tactics. It shouldn't be so traumatic that you're missing work because of it - it should be an opportunity for growth and to work through any issues you may still need to resolve prior to getting married. It also sounds like a secular wedding would be the best option for you both. And like PP's have said, individual counseling could be quite helpful....

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  • MairePoppyMairePoppy Connecticut mod
    Moderator Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its
    I agree with PPs. 

    Give your fi a chance to work out a compromise with your FSFIL. He may be willing to perform the marriage ceremony if you complete the PMC with another Christian minister or therapist. If he's willing to perform the ceremony at the reception venue, he might be able to wave the remainder of the religious counseling. If he isn't able to compromise, find another minister or JOP.  

    No matter what you decide in regards to your wedding ceremony, you should get some counseling, since this an situation that is actually making you anxious and sick. Also, this is an issue that will come up again and again as your children progress through baptism, confirmation etc...Even though you have decided that your Fi will be responsible for the religious training, your children will most likely want you to be involved in those milestones. 

                       
  • spara0038 said:
    Growing up, I lived with a Christian father and a nonreligious mother. They would constantly fight over religion and I would find that the circle of "Christian" friends that my dad kept would use the religion for the wrong reasons. My dad was very "old school" and used his religion as a way of controlling the household. Some of their arguments would get violent, and once I was old enough to ask difficult questions myself (mostly out of curiosity), some of this angry energy was directed at me. I also had a pastor who made advances toward me and touched me when I was in confirmation class. When I left home for college, I stopped going to church (although I wanted to stop much earlier). I became nonreligious and have put all of that torment in my past.

    Fast forward 7 years and I'm months away from marrying the man of my dreams. He and I are like two halves of the same brain- we can communicate without saying anything. I would do anything for him, and we adore each other. He was brought up in a loving Christian home, but religion doesn't play a huge part in his life. In our 3 years together (2 of which living together), we've only discussed the topic twice. He doesn't even own a Bible. From his end, it was more of a "this is what I believe, take it or leave it but I'm not going to force it on you", and I reciprocated. Our spiritual paths are parallel in many ways anyway, and as far as raising kids, we're good with what spiritual base we have. I don't mind if my fiance tells our kids about religion (it's not that I'm an atheist- I guess I'm just "religiously apathetic"), but it came with the understanding that he would be the "God-expert", that teaching about that would come from him.

    The complication: we wanted his stepfather to marry us, since he is an ordained minister. But, we've just started our counseling sessions and I think I was caught off guard by all of the God-speak. I suppose I thought the classes would help us resolve issues as a couple and grow together, but with all of the Bible reading and discussions of "the role of a Christian wife/husband", I'm seriously freaked out. I cried nearly all of last night, and my fiance and I both had to call in sick today because neither of us slept at all. I feel like I'm reliving all of the torment that I had put away. I feel like I'm back in confirmation class again. Also, the language used in the course materials seemed very condescending and disrespectful toward "nonbelievers". I didn't say anything just to avoid it being uncomfortable, but I was extremely offended at the end of the first session. It felt like I had been told that our marriage would be a sham because God isn't the focus of my life.

    Part of me wants a secular wedding just so we don't have to have these classes, but I don't want to disappoint my fiance. I also don't want to create friction between my dad and I because he doesn't know about me being nonreligious, or my future in-laws since they seemed excited about marrying us. I'm ok with going through a Christian ceremony, but I really don't want the months of religion-based classes leading up to it. I'm not sure how I will work through it.

    What should I do? Should I go along with it just to avoid friction? Should we go with a secular wedding? There are 4 more classes, each 2 hours long spread out over the next 6 weeks. If I just suck it up, I know it'll be a long, difficult, painful process. I talked to my fiance and he agrees that the ideal would still to have his stepdad marry us, without having the classes. He's going to talk to them about it, but I'm just really concerned that it may be a case of "take the classes or I don't marry you"



    TLDNR version: He's Christian, his family is, my dad and his side of the family is too. My dad and my pastor damaged my idea of Christianity, so I'm nonreligious now. His stepdad, a minister, is marrying us. Premarital counseling classes are very religious-based and bringing back memories of childhood abuse. How do I work around that without disappointing anyone?

    I am so sorry that counseling is dragging up all of these demons for you. I think you need to talk to your FI very seriously about this. Maybe you need a different kind of counseling. Or maybe you need a new officiant, or a different type of ceremony. We did not feel, at our stage of life/relationship, that traditional premarital counseling was needed  *in our case*. We are instead booking a neutral venue, calling in an ordained, non-denominational minister who offers secular services, and writing our own ceremony.

    I do understand what it can be like to grow up with parents who have very different views of religion. I'm sorry your experience has been so awful, and I don't think your fiance should be putting you through this anymore. You need a neutral party, and seeking this kind of complex counsel from a family member is anything but. Would you be more comfortable if he did the ceremony but a colleague walked you through the counseling sessions instead? Would you prefer seeing a secular therapist or taking a financial planning seminar, etc., and separating your counseling progress from the wedding entirely? (The latter may require you to choose a new venue if you planned to be married in church.)

    If that is still problematic, I would suggest starting over with a new officiant. Possibly a secular one, or a non-denominational pastor who can make your service spiritually meaningful to both of you without making you feel like you're being attacked or forced into a role you don't want. You need someone who will help you heal and encourage you both to come together. Best of luck. 

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