Can A Marriage Survive Religious Deconstruction?

This post is sad but it’s real.

When faith deconstruction strikes a marriage it can be devastating. By deconstruction, we mean the changing of belief, the loss of faith, or leaving the church. By strikes a marriage, I mean when one or both partners experience deconstruction.

My observation is most marriages don’t survive.

Here's a cartoon showing it happening.

when marriage doesn't survive deconstruction cartoon nakedpastor david hayward

Why Most Marriages Don't Survive Religious Deconstruction

There are several reasons why:

  1. They realize the only reason they got married was to have sex legally. They wanted to have sex, but the only way was to get married. Now, years later and starting to question everything about the faith and the church, they admit getting married just to have sex isn’t a good enough reason to stay together. Especially if sex is no longer an important part of the relationship.
  2. They discover that they’re not really in love. They pretended they were because of pressure from the church to behave as though they were. It takes a lot of self-awareness and honesty to say, You know what? I don’t love him/her. I never really did! Once they admit that, then they realize there’s no reason to keep trying to make this work.
  3. They conclude that since they have changed so much and that they no longer feel compatible, it’s not worth the effort required to fix it. They are not the person I married, and I don’t have the energy or the time to try to fall in love with this version of them! They feel so out of sync with each other that the happiness is gone and there’s no point in continuing.
  4. They want to abandon anything to do with their religious past, including their spouse. I’ll be honest with you: this was one that nearly broke up my marriage. I wanted to run from everything. I escaped religion and the church, abhorred the thought of feeling trapped, and considered walking away from my wife. It was a confusing time. Some don’t survive this impulse and do leave everything associated with their past, including their marriage.
  5. They decide that they were married too young and have never known anything but married life, have never colored outside the lines, and were never allowed to live authentically without being responsible to or for another. Related to this are people who discover they’re not monogamous or heterosexual or their assigned gender, etcetera. Often the woman decides she will longer participate in a misogynist or sexist relationship. Many go their separate ways in order to live their own way‚ something they’ve never done before.

A huge part of the problem is the stigma of divorce that survives in our minds from our religious days. You remember: God hates divorce and you should suffer long even in a terrible marriage because that’s always better than divorce. But, I do not judge anyone going through this or for the decision they make. It’s always messy. It’s never clean.

I’ve said it before, if you can make your marriage work because you want to, then work hard to do it. But if you want to end it, do it as well as you can. The goal is the personal wellbeing of each person and taking the steps necessary to make sure that happens.

Perhaps you can add other reasons marriages don’t survive deconstruction.

Marriage and Deconstruction Resources

Some days deconstruction made me numb. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my marriage. In this video below, I talk about this terrifying experience with Monica Alhbin from the G(ud)-Punkten podcast. In the second half, we talk about the hurt you feel when you lose your community to deconstruction.

I also wrote a book, Til Doubt Do Us Part to help married couples eho are deconstructing.

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I agree with Kevin. I’m experiencing my wife doubling down on her faith and asking me to stop talking about anything that could challenge it. I sympathize with her — I’m the one suddenly changing the rules of engagement, so to speak.

In any case, I would add another reason to the list: one partner experiences faith deconstruction and the other doesn’t. They may decide that their different faiths/worldviews are too different. (I guess this could be a specific case of #3.)


Going through deconstruction and my wife isn’t and doesn’t want to talk about it.

Kevin Plouffe

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