Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A dream of mine is coming true

 So, April was pretty much a wash for getting anything done, because I had two different trips I took plus two birthdays. And May was mostly lost to COVID. So here we are in June and I'm realizing that this blog hasn't had an update in a while and so you don't know my news!

I finally, FINALLY got a book deal. It is an extremely small book deal with a very tiny, new publisher. But I did my due diligence and they are neither a scam nor complete amateurs, so I think they will do a good job with my books.

Yes, that's books plural, they want the entire solar sailing trilogy. I've been feeling like the world needed more historically-inspired, low-tech space opera, centering the struggles of the common man. Or, in this case, woman. So I wrote one, and then I hadn't managed to fit in all the interesting worldbuilding I'd dreamed up, so I wrote another, and I'm working on the third. And these will ALL be coming to you, starting next summer! With pretty covers and available from major online booksellers!

It's very exciting. I know that publishing on this level, without an agent and separately from the publishing oligopoly (I can't remember if it's Big Five still or Big Four but it's Few Options, anyway) means I won't be selling thousands of copies, becoming famous, or making millions. But it's a chance to reach the select batch of people who will enjoy these books. And lots of authors do start here and gradually build a much bigger following. But honestly, what I wanted was to be picked by a non-me person (eg, not self publishing) and then to be read without having to nag my friends and family to do it as a favor. Which I will finally accomplish.

Now, there's a little snag, which I knew was coming if I ever published these things. The books have a lesbian romance in them. I knew some people wouldn't approve. Other people would start asking questions about me that I haven't answered, at least not in their presence.

I could, of course, try to pretend that I have written *counts on fingers* four novels now with queer romances in them as an exercise in empathy. But I doubt anybody would believe me, and in any event it wouldn't make me happy. The second you begin to doubt whether people would love you if they knew the truth about you, it starts to feel like they already don't love you. Because after all, the only you they have access to is the one with the uncomfortable truths edited out. They love that one, but it isn't you.

Anyway, I am bisexual, and I didn't hide it, and a lot of people got upset about it when they figured it out. Some people seem to think bisexual means that I sleep with a lot of people. (I do not. I am a boring monogamous married lady.) Or that I'm basically straight but want attention. (I would honestly prefer less attention, at least for this.) What it really is, is that some of the things I imagine and dream of and relate to, are women falling for women, so that's what I write. And people could just accept this as a normal thing that people do. But they don't, so I feel the need to explain myself. To say, sure, this is a thing I feel.

It puzzles me that some Catholics disapprove of me because of this. I mean, I left the church some time ago. That was, by Catholic standards, a sin. Feeling butterflies in my stomach because a pretty woman smiled at me is not a sin. It's simply a feeling. You could, I suppose, urge me to try not to feel that way, to pretend I don't, to write only universes in which those feelings never happen, to write only some of the romances I think are beautiful.

But why would I do that?

When I was Catholic, the idea that gay marriage and gay relationships were wrong was a thing I simply had to take on faith. And I no longer have any faith. There is no reason why I should condemn them; there never was. And it just feels better not to second-guess half my feelings, to treat half of myself as broken. I don't feel that I am.

Anyway, if the idea of a Navy midshipman and a notorious pirate falling in love while pushing back against two dystopian governments appeals to you . . . you'll have to wait about a year because publishing is slow, but I'll share the links here when I have them.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The pale horse caught up with me

 Two years I managed to escape it, but now we all have COVID.

It's not hard to figure out how. Two months ago, the schools lifted the mask requirement. Since then, we've all been sick several times, even though my kids still wear theirs. Cloth masks aren't that great to begin with, and they only protect others, not yourself. But N95s aren't available in child sizes. I got them better masks during the steep wave earlier this year, but they cost a lot and weren't reusable. If I'd known cases were on the rise now, I would have gotten more, but the first I noticed was when we were already sick.

Marko caught it first, no surprises there. Middle school requires a lot of mixing around; there are always cases in his school. He had a sore throat and a fever for two days. I should have tested him, but I didn't. Last time I tested him, it took two adults to hold him down and swab him, and it just felt a little heartless when he'd be staying home till he was recovered anyway.

He was sick for two days, well for two, and then I got sick. Sore throat that felt just like a regular cold, with fever following very shortly after. I tested myself that evening and tested positive. So did John.

Various kids have had various symptoms all week. I'm sure the school district would love us to keep track of everyone's individual symptoms and test everyone. But they agreed to my plan to keep us all locked down for ten days and test each kid once before they return.

I'm glad we're all vaccinated. Nobody has been seriously ill. But we adults have been very uncomfortably ill, with excruciating sore throats, coughing, fever, whole days in bed. Today is day 6 for me and I'm sneezing and blowing my nose like I've got allergies, and I still kinda want to stay in bed. But this counts for very good improvement, all things considered.

I feel frustrated and helpless. Sure, there have been times when I've taken calculated risks. I don't know if it's better or worse that none of those times actually gave me COVID, just the non-optional duty of sending my kids to school. (Virtual is not an option this year, here.) I'm mad that we didn't keep masks; people can fight over their effectiveness but I'm pretty sure they kept us COVID-free for two years. Now certain sources are saying that cases are high enough now that people should consider masking again. Seriously? Talk about shutting the barn door after the horse is out. I feel we always do just a bit too little for the current risk scenario. If I briefly feel that we're doing enough, and I actually feel comfortable going out . . . the rules relax further, it becomes less safe, and I stop feeling like I should go out anymore.

I wish I could just relax now, having had it, but they're saying now it's mutating fast enough that a person may be able to get it as much as four times a year. This is just how we live now. Just tolerating an amount of sickness we never did before, with of course a certain number of deaths annually. I hear the flu was the same. There wasn't a seasonal flu before 1918, and now there is, and we just accept tens of thousands of deaths from it, plus of course the misery of the rest of us having to get it. And it's such a little deal that we write off other illnesses as being as insignificant as that.

I'm tired, you guys. None of this had to be this way, but everything seems to be getting stupider all the time, so why not, right? Can't have our health, can't have anything.

Anyway, the kids are mostly well now, and bored, but they're murdering each other significantly less than they sometimes do, so that's something. They'll get back to school in time for two weeks of end-of-year fun, and then it'll be summer. As worried as I am about keeping them entertained without school, I'm glad we'll be able to go outside and play with the neighbors at least.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

My ideal vacation

 We went on vacation this weekend. There's a mountain lodge just an hour and a half from us, and John had a three-day weekend. It's sort of an agritourism place—a little farm, horses, a creek, apple trees, that kind of thing.

Going on a vacation with kids is rather fraught. The adults are stressing out trying to make sure we eat and sleep and say on. The kids are bouncing off the walls with excitement to do [future fun thing], or they're currently doing the fun thing and fighting over who can do it first/ most/ best, or they're complaining that the fun thing, which they absolutely did enjoy, was retroactively not fun at all now that it's over.

That said, they did have a good time for the most part. They played foosball, fed goats, and made s'mores. Me, I enjoyed the folk music around the fire, the pond, and doing puzzles in the game room.

Still, vacations are not easy for me. I always spend the first day or two feeling out of sorts. Sleeping in a new place leaves me tired, and without my familiar routines and surroundings I don't feel like myself.

For a weekend vacation, before I can adapt I go home. If the vacation is longer, I get attached to the place and miss it when I leave. I just bond to places more than most people seem to!

But I still amuse myself imagining my ideal vacation. Surely if everything were perfect enough, I could still have a good time!

The most important thing to me is that it's in the country somewhere. I need a nice view out the window and somewhere to walk around outside. If I wanted to overlook a parking lot I could just stay home.

Second, social time is not a vacation. It's still worth doing, and I will travel to see friends because I love them, but then I have to go back to my regular life less rested than when I left! So the ideal vacation is alone.

Third, there must be food I don't have to cook, easily accessible. Airbnbs fail on this count. The name had me fooled at first. There's really just a bed, no breakfast. You can bring your own, but cooking is one of the things I'm seeking to escape!

My ideal situation is like at retreats, where they have set mealtimes and the food is served without fuss. I'll accept a connected restaurant, but if it's 45 minutes and $20 to get lunch, that's not ideal to have to do three meals a day.

Things to do? Not required. I'd bring a book and my laptop to do some writing and be perfectly happy.

These kinds of places exist, for sure. Most of them are religious retreat houses, but I have an allergy. The rest are all inclusive spa resorts, which are too expensive for me. 

But the place we went was pretty close to all I want. I might come here again for a writing retreat, all by myself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Two views on parenting

 I noticed, rather early in my parenting career, two very different attitudes toward parenting. One, which was mine, was that it is a job. I do it for the sake of my children. It is hard. I cheer on their milestones. The older they get, the closer I am to being done.

The other is that it is an experience to treasure. You are supposed to love every minute. You keep a baby book and tons of keepsakes. You are sad when they grow older, because then you're closer to this magical time being over.

At the time I kind of despised the latter view. I felt it instrumentalized children, made them a fun consumer item rather than a sacred trust. Isn't it our job to help them grow up, not enjoy ourselves? Won't this lead to people pushing their children backwards because they dread them growing up?

But I was watching Jackie ride her bike the other day, and I thought, you know what? This moment won't last. I need to treasure it. Even though I forgot to get a picture of it. Even though I never kept a baby book and lost the kids' ultrasound pictures and don't, honestly, miss the baby stage. There is something to be said for simply delighting in your kids. Because kids deserve to be delighted in. They need to know that being with them makes you happy. That they're not just a chore for you.

I feel that this was missing in the definition I learned of love from various Catholic sources. Love, they reminded us sternly, is not good feelings, it is desiring the good for the other. To which I say, sure, it isn't just good feelings, but when people crave love, they don't simply crave being cared about. We want to be liked. We want to know the other person enjoys being with us. It's the knowledge that the good in us is recognized and appreciated.

This is especially true of kids, who are kind of a chore sometimes and are generally aware of it long before they are able to not be a chore. They know their parents love them, that their parents have to love them, but it doesn't feel good to know that you are loved just for duty, that your presence doesn't make your parents happy.

Obviously this isn't something you can force as easily as "willing the good." You can force yourself to work toward anyone's good, no matter how awful they are, but to like someone, there has to be something good about them. Plus, when you're exhausted or depressed, it can be hard to delight in your kids.

Still. It's important to remember that appreciating what a child (or anyone) has to offer us isn't purely selfish. It's giving them a chance to feel good and worthy. So I've been trying to remember to both say and show to my children that I like being around them. That, sure, some games I play with them purely because they beg me to, but some things I truly do enjoy. I love taking my kids on walks in the woods. I like hearing the ideas they come up with. I like listening to an audiobook or watching a good show together. And it's important that I make that obvious--that my kids know I'm not their grudging servant, I'm a person who is honestly lucky to have such delightful children.

Friday, March 11, 2022

The post on inflation I can't write for work

 I'm learning so much about finance from my job. However, since the financial advice I write is mainly for rich people who might need someone to manage their accounts for them, not poor people I want to radicalize into socialists, there's stuff I can't really address.

Inflation is really bad right now; it's the worst it's been since the 80s. Naturally this is bad in a lot of ways. It means that rent and food and transportation and healthcare are all more expensive than ever, but since wages lag inflation, you're probably still getting paid about the same. Meanwhile the money in your bank account is also worth less than it was. If you're really rich, you can get around this by investing your money at rates above inflation. But that's not normally something you can do if you don't have a pile of extra money lying around.

People have been asking what causes inflation, and mainly they seem to want to blame the president. Which is odd because we don't live in a country where presidents are permitted to set prices. Still, I have to admit that extra tax credits and stimulus have contributed to the price increases.

Here's how it works. Say a loaf of bread costs 50 cents to make and you can sell it for a dollar. If you sell it for more than a dollar, people aren't willing to pay that much for it, so you actually make less profit than if you keep the price at a dollar. Well and good.

Trouble is, people need to eat bread. So if all your competitors and you hike the price of bread at more or less the same time, people will still buy it even if it's $5 a loaf. Because they have to eat, and presumably you've hiked the price on all the other food you sell too.

Demand here is inflexible so prices can skyrocket--with one small check. This is that, if the price goes up enough, a certain number of poor people can't buy it no matter how much they want to. They go hungry rather than buy the bread. Now you're losing profits, so you grudgingly have to lower the price again. Low prices are generally good. Some very poor people still can't afford the bread though. You'll drop it to the point that most of your customers can afford the bread. Nobody's actually interested in making sure every single person can afford their product, just that they can sell enough volume to make a good profit.

Imagine, though, that the government realizes some people are going hungry, because they can't afford even a dollar a loaf. So it subsidizes food for the hungry, either by food stamps or straight-up cash.

Immediately demand goes up, and you (you're still a baker in this metaphor) sell a lot more. And you think, hey, with demand like this, maybe I can hike the price! So you hike it a little, and a little more, until demand drops off (some poor people cannot afford your bread). Then you've reached the sweet spot when you're making the most profit on bread you can.

It's safe to say, then, that providing for the poor causes inflation. It will always do that, because as long as suppliers are seeking only their own profit, the more money you provide to consumers, the higher demand will be, and the prices will go up.

This has happened with education. Easy-to-obtain student loans > most people can afford to at least try college > college prices go up. Now everyone's crushed by debt and all, but the profit margin is great. If we subsidize college more, prices will simply go up more. There is no reason for them to ever stop increasing prices until the point at which people stop buying the product. The price will always be set at a number some people can't afford.

And healthcare. Healthcare has very inflexible demand, because nobody likes dying. And so you can see the prices increase and increase; they don't stop increasing because sick people never stop buying healthcare. They will only stop increasing at the level when a significant number of people can't afford to buy it and die instead.

And rent, of course. And houses for sale. The costs go up and up and up, and we are all squeezed tighter and tighter, trying to pay for it. A certain number will not be able to do so, and we have homeless people. We have to have homeless people, to demonstrate we've reached the maximum price for the demand. A certain group of people do not even want there to be anywhere for homeless people to live, because if there is a painless option besides paying a thousand a month to a landlord and accepting a terrible job to pay for it, people will take that option. There has to be punishment for people who don't grind hard enough.

There is, of course, competition, and that helps. If someone wants to carve out a niche as the budget option, they can do so. (Much as I hate Walmart as a company, they make it possible for me to dress my children so I'm not going to say I'm not grateful.) But, in general, there's not enough competition. I heard from a guy on twitter the other day who lives in an area with only one grocery store. Bread there is $7 a loaf. Because when you're a monopoly you can do that. Here where I live, I've been able to reliably get bread for 60 cents, because we have quite a few different stores.

In this country, most things are provided by a very short list of companies. If they all agree-- either explicitly, or simply by watching each other's prices-- they can easily drive prices up and wages down. Take publishing. Since there are only five major publishers, there isn't a lot of competition for any book you want to sell, and advances get smaller while fringe benefits vanish. Likewise if the only department stores in your region are Target and Walmart, Target can set its price fairly high and all Walmart has to do is set theirs just a little bit lower to still be the budget option.

So, is it true that if we raise the minimum wage to keep up with inflation, it will cause more inflation? Probably, yeah. 

I still think we should do it, though. Because I would rather run a race trying to keep up with inflation than simply let a huge number of people fall further and further behind.

But I think we're eventually going to need some longer-term solution. Anti-trust enforcement is a big  one we haven't done enough in a long time. But I'm open to hearing more ideas. I know that division of wealth was once a lot more balanced in this country, and that there are countries where you can flip burgers for a living and still own a house. So it shouldn't be impossible.

But first, I think, we're going to have to want to. And there are a million and one reasons why people don't want that at all.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The meaning of suffering

When I was Catholic, my life was pretty hard. Some of my difficulties were specifically caused by being Catholic. I didn't see suffering as a reason not to do anything--in fact, I sometimes sought out things that would make me suffer more, because I thought it was good for me. But my religion also gave me ways to handle any suffering I experienced. It all felt meaningful. And it was all, of course, going to be canceled out by future reward.

Now, my life is still difficult. There are things that are easier now that I decided to see suffering as a bad thing, a thing I could avoid by making different choices. Unfortunately, not all suffering can be avoided, especially not without causing harm to other people. So there's still suffering.

The difference is that now there is no answer to any of it. No meaning. If suffering is actually bad, then there's no bright side and no reward for putting up with it. It simply is.

If suffering, on its own, is purely bad, you'll avoid it more, which is good. I see some major problems with people failing to see suffering as bad, but rather priding themselves on being able to put up with it / see meaning in it / offer it up. Notable is Mother Teresa not giving painkillers to the dying, even though she had them available, because she felt suffering was the kiss of Jesus. From my perspective (as a person who does not believe suffering is the kiss of Jesus, or anything good at all) this is terrible. But I see similar attitudes in Catholics I know, who are pretty willing to tell you how much their life sucks, but pretty unwilling to make any real changes. Because, after all, it's only suffering, it's not sin or any kind of lasting harm.

I certainly had that attitude as a Catholic. I didn't want to suffer, I didn't worship suffering, but I just didn't see any point in avoiding it. My goals were different. So I always tried toughing out headaches instead of taking anything for them, only taking something when it was already bad and therefore not very responsive to medication. And I took jobs and situations that I knew would be hard on me, because I thought being pushed harder would be good for me.

Now, I take steps to avoid suffering. I put my kids in school, in large part, because having them all at home all the time was making me miserable. There are good things about it for them also, but it was including my own happiness as a point to consider that really pushed me over. I take ibuprofen when my head first starts to hurt. If I want some ice cream, I eat some dang ice cream. I'm not chasing suffering.

But suffering still happens. I still have chronic headaches. It took me years and years to go to a doctor about it, and then I did that and they still didn't know what the matter was. My kids are still overwhelming, and I have already done all the things that might make that job easier on me without neglecting them. I am still living through a global pandemic that makes me isolated and lonely.

And this time, there is no reason for any of it. It just sucks.

It kind of takes the pressure off, in some ways. I don't have to offer it up. I don't have to worry that complaining once in a while robs me of merit. I can cope in whatever way helps and isn't harmful.

But at the same time, a lot of coping strategies have been lost. "Hold my breath and get through it"? I have only one precious and unrepeatable life, and it's being wasted on being unhappy. "Things will get better"? Yeah, maybe, but maybe they won't. I don't believe in heaven, and this life is notoriously unfair. "Offer it up"? There is no logical reason why me suffering will help anyone else ever, and no evidence it ever has.

I don't regret having moved away from a belief system that valorized suffering. When I see suffering as a problem to solve, I make better choices, both for myself and when it comes to helping others. But at the same time, I wish there were some option that allowed me to see a meaning in meaningless suffering without denying that it is, in fact, bad. Something that made me feel I can have a week where I'm overwhelmed and struggling and nothing good happens, and yet somehow it's okay, something has been gained.

Any tips?

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Interfaith relationships

 One of the most common things people message me out of the blue to ask about is interfaith relationships. I guess when they're looking for advice, I'm the person they think is most likely to have the answer.

My first response (which I don't say) is generally, "What makes you think I'm any GOOD at it?" I don't have many marriage rules but one of the ones I do have is, never set your marriage up as a model for anybody. Everybody I know who does that ends up having a humiliatingly public divorce. And besides, it's embarrassing.

But I do have some rather general advice I tend to offer, and I think it's as good as any. I read a book once, In Faith and In Doubt, hoping it would have something helpful to say, only to find it was mostly about atheists marrying progressive Christians or Jews. The only thing they had to say about marrying more conservative religious people was "well, our book isn't meant for that, it probably won't work out anyway." THANKS THAT'S REALLY HELFPUL.

There are two kinds of advice I can offer. Advice before you get married and advice for after.

Should I marry somebody with different beliefs?

I can't answer that for you, obviously. But there are a few questions worth considering.

First, are you both people who prefer not to talk about religion, or both people who love to talk to religion, even with people you disagree with? Either way is fine. Where you get hung up is when one person loves their religion and wants to talk about it a lot, and the other is upset by the reminder you don't agree. Or when one or both of you find religion an important topic you'd want to talk about with the people closest to you, but also can't stand to talk about it with people you disagree with. Either of those is going to be a big problem. Religion is fine as a thing people don't really bring up. Not so great as a thing you desperately want to talk about, but it's a big fight whenever you do.

Second, how out-there are the beliefs we're talking about? Not just in terms of ideas. I imagine most people aren't that threatened if you believe in aliens or something, but what about practice? Here are a few beliefs and practices that can be a red flag if only one partner believes in them:

  • no birth control
  • male headship
  • no meat
  • no medical care / limits on medical care
  • clergy get a say in family decisions
  • children must be raised in the religion
  • everyone not in the religion goes to hell
Rules like this tend to affect both partners. So you can't just say "well you don't use birth control and I will." And I highly don't recommend going with, "well, let's hope it never comes up." It'll come up.

I think you can sometimes have a happy marriage while disagreeing on things like this, but whenever a belief will affect the other partner, I think it's really important to discuss what you'll do about it before you get married. For instance, if he believes in male headship but she does not, it's worth getting clear that he doesn't actually expect her to obey him since that's not her belief.

Of course as your resident nonbeliever, I'm here to point out that your faith does not give you the right to dictate how another person behaves. You can't say, "Well, I have a belief against meat, and you don't have any beliefs about meat, therefore mine takes precedence and no meat can ever be allowed in our house." I don't believe that "my religion teaches it" should be any stronger (or weaker) an argument than "I really want it." You do really want it, because you really want to be loyal to your religion! And the argument that you really want it, sincerely (and not just because your church is making you) is generally the argument that will play best with a nonbelieving spouse anyway.

In general, I don't think different beliefs are a reason not to get married. Not even if your whole family says it's absolutely unthinkable to. But you should respect their beliefs, and respect them for having them. You should not believe they are deluded, brainwashed, or willfully rejecting God. If you believe that about somebody, you don't really respect them and you shouldn't marry them.

Once you're married or in a long-term relationship

So let's say you're already in the relationship you're in, and your partner announces they are joining a new church or has left the church you shared. These are generally the more difficult situations, because none of this stuff was gone over ahead of time. It feels like you went into the marriage expecting one thing and got something completely different.

Well, it happens. People change throughout life; part of the scary part of marriage is that you will be married, not just to the person you said vows to, but the person they grow to become over the next twenty or fifty years.

But the person you married did not (and could not) promise not to change for you. No matter what church you married in, they have to follow their conscience. So try to understand this change in light of your respect and love for them. What good thing about them led them to this change? Is it their intellectual curiosity, their spiritual side, their conscientiousness? Whatever it is, it probably existed in them when you got married, and you probably loved it then. Your marriage has a better chance of weathering this change if you can respect and love the qualities they have that led them to join or leave a religion.

I say "chance" because let's be completely honest here: a lot of marriages do not survive a change in religion. Sometimes, a church itself tries to break one up because one spouse left! Sometimes, both partners have to accept that their life paths have diverged too much to stay together. I think it's always best to honestly talk about the possibility of divorce. Is that something you've thought about? Is it something they've thought about? What are the reasons you don't want that to happen? Are they on board to stick with something that's more of a challenge than they signed up for?

Another thing to discuss, as above, is whether or not religion is something you still enjoy talking about. Are you up for hearing all about their spiritual journey, or would you rather you both quietly just believed other things? Do they agree with you on that? Is there a compromise where you talk about it a little bit but try not to argue?

I want to very adamantly stress that it is never your job to convert your spouse. I learned that as a Catholic and I still believe in it now. Each person's spiritual journey is a path they have to walk in perfect freedom. Other people in their life can try to guide them on it, but you're their spouse. It's impossible for them to take your advice in the same light they take anyone else's. It feels like pressure. If you want, you can offer to talk about your beliefs any time they'd like. But talk about them as your beliefs. Don't bring out your apologetics stuff. Offer to set them up with another person to have those conversations if they want to. But make it clear that you're committed to them as they are now, not in the hope they'll someday change their mind.

Making decisions together

There are tons of decisions you make as a couple, and religion affects a lot of them. For instance, what are you doing for Christmas? Can the kids do Sunday morning soccer? What will you eat? How many children will you have?

In general, the tip in the first part still stands: the fact that your religion calls for something is not a trump card. Just say you really really want it. You believe that it is important, so you should be willing to compromise on other things to get it. If you're in the habit of wanting the last word on everything, you don't have much relationship capital left to argue for church on Sundays.

Try to be fair. If you want to go to church by yourself on Sundays, your spouse should get some kidfree time to do what they want on Saturdays. If you want to instruct the kids in your faith, it's fair that they should get to explain to the kids why they believe differently. If you want a kosher menu, offer to cook it. Never make your religion a burden on somebody else.

Where having children is concerned, I strongly believe it's important that both parents agree before having a child. If one says yes and the other says no, the answer is no. Why? Because a child will be a massive undertaking for both parents.

Birth control is the decision of the person whose body it is--even the Catholic Church admits this. But I would add that, despite what the church says, it's a lot healthier to make that decision together. Try to come to an actual agreement, not a deadlock. Never ever pressure your spouse to put something in their body they don't want to. Never ever pressure your spouse to have unprotected sex (or any sex) if they don't want to.

Raising children

Whether or not to raise the children in a faith is one of the biggest decisions you'll ever make as a couple. Personally, I don't believe children have a faith, because they aren't yet in a position to judge what they believe. My kids change their minds about it all the time. I gave permission for them to be baptized Catholic and chrismated Orthodox, so they count as far as the church cares, but in my view they are just children. The religion(s) they choose as adults will matter a lot more.

You can make any compromises you want to. Ours goes something like this: the kids go to church, unless there's a plague afoot or they intensely don't want to. John says prayers with them and answers their questions according to his beliefs. I answer their questions according to my beliefs. I teach them a bit about various religions, and ask them if they have any guesses about God. I tell them their guesses about God are as valid as anybody else's, because nobody knows for sure.

If at some point one of the kids takes a strong dislike to church, we'll have to re-evaluate. On the one hand, I strongly believe in respecting a child's wishes when possible. (Especially because you never know what's given them such a strong aversion to something.) On the other, I'm also aware that dragging a child kicking and screaming into a church is a surefire way of making an atheist adult. This is generally my argument to John for why we shouldn't do it--his best bet for these kids growing up religious is to make it something they get to do, not something they have to do.

And if one of our children is gay or trans, I will support them immediately and request that John do the same. His faith is against it, but I think his conscience is for it, so we'll just have to see what happens. I know that my belief in supporting a child's identity is every bit as strong as any person's religious faith, so I'll go to bat for that where I didn't for other stuff. I feel like when you are willing to compromise about most issues, it makes it mean a lot more when you dig your heels in on specific things that matter to you.

To sum up

Respect and compromise go a long way in any marriage, doubly so in an interfaith one. Respect that your spouse's religion is a part of them, and that, even though you don't agree, you know it comes from a good place. Compromise on everything you can, to win agreement on those things that are truly vital to you. Never assume that your religion is a trump card your spouse is obliged to defer to--even if they shared it when they married you. Treat religious and non-religious beliefs as equal.

Only talk about religion if you both are comfortable with it. If you sense your spouse is upset by discussing areas where you disagree, drop the issue before it gets heated. Be ready to explain, but never try to convert them.

And if you can't agree on important decisions, you can't respect their beliefs as a part of them, they don't respect you in turn, or you can't stand being married to someone who believes differently . . . it's okay to break up. Just remember that, if you have kids, you will still need to be an expert on interfaith dialogue to be a good coparent.

I hope that helps. All of these ideas are things I've personally learned, but remember: I'm not perfect at this either. An interfaith marriage is playing on hard level. As long as you keep what you love about your partner at the forefront of your mind, I think you can get through a lot of mistakes and arguments.

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