I don’t drink to excess, but my churchgoing wife still doesn’t trust me. What can I do?

Our elder has a few suggestions for reaching a compromise.

Dear EWC

Lately, my wife and I have been getting along like cats and dogs. We just see everything so differently, from income to saving to eating to everything. She is a churchgoer and she is very religious. I believe but do not go to church or practiced religion, and most of our arguments are basically about me being selfish, as she puts it. I have always been a loving family man but every once in a while I like me-time in the shop, or fishing on the river, or camping with friends.

She is also very against me drinking alcohol. She doesn’t like it; she sees things in a spiritual way. I enjoy a few beers every once in a while. I do not drink every day and the older I get the less I like hangovers, so I do not drink excessively. Her thing is to come up to the shop and ask if I am drinking and that is where it all starts. She is so against it and I really like the freedom to have a few adult beverages if I want. This makes the home unpleasant for days. I just don’t get it. She will tell you that I just can’t have a couple, but that’s not true. I am a happy drinker but when she comes and hunts me down to give me grief it just puts a bad taste in my mouth. Any insight is appreciated

Granny-Nora replies

This is a common problem that I personally see quite frequently. I hope I can give you some perspective.

I will start with my own personal story. I married my husband two days after my 22nd birthday. He is 12 years older than I am. While we are both members of the same church, he was faithful with attendance, and I was not. As a matter of fact, I was quite bitter about our church at the time. I spent 20 years away from the church (except on rare occasions), and 16 of those years we were married.

Our church has a health code with an alcohol ban, but since I was not active in church, I did drink alcohol. My husband has never partaken of alcohol. There were days prior to marrying him, that I drank too much. I refer to that time as my “young and dumb days.” We had a lot of things to discuss prior to marriage, obviously, with my position as it was regarding our church. Frankly, it was the stormiest courtship on record. I gave the engagement ring back three times. In the end, we did get married, and have stayed married 41 years.

We love each other, and our marriage means a lot to both of us. As a matter of fact, marriage and family is the absolute core of our religious beliefs. Thus, we knew there were going to have to be compromised if our marriage was going to work.

Out of respect for my husband, I would only take an occasional glass of wine after we married. I never drank too much. He knew that I love Italian food and that a glass of wine just goes with an Italian meal. So, if we went to an Italian restaurant for dinner, he always asked if I wanted a glass of wine. One year for Christmas, or my birthday, or our anniversary (I’m not sure which because they are all in December and run together for me), he actually bought me a bottle of my favorite wine.

There were other religious issues we tackled as a result of my inactivity in church, but that is how we handled the alcohol issue.

I don’t know how I get myself into these situations, but over the last two years, I have been sort of a listening ear for people who are struggling in their marriages because one spouse decides to leave our church entirely, or at least not attend regularly. The thing I always tell them is that their marriage and children are more important than any of these issues. If I were talking to your wife, I would ask her, “What is more important, a husband who loves you and your children, or nagging him about an occasional beer?” On the other hand, if you were sitting in front of me right now, the question I would ask you is, “What is more important, a beer, or your wife and family?”

If you prioritize your life by what is really important, people always come before any material possession or any vice. Marriage is a very sacred thing. I personally believe that when we leave this life, we will be reunited as families in the eternities. However, even if that is not true (and I’ll never believe it is not), my marriage and my family are the most important thing in my life. They are what keep me grounded and happy. I would never do anything to jeopardize my marriage, or my relationships with my husband, children, and grandchildren.

So, here is what I suggest for you and your wife. Pick a quiet time when you are alone without distractions of children and/or cell phones and other technology. Have a nice meal. Never discuss something important on an empty stomach, or right as someone walks in the door from work. When you are both relaxed, talk this out calmly. Hopefully, you can come to some sort of compromise that will make you both happy.

I’m going out on a limb here by saying that I think what is really bothering you is that your wife doesn’t trust you to be in the shop and not drink and that it’s not the ban from alcohol itself that sticks in your throat. If I’m right about that, explain that to her — gently. If you still really want to drink an occasional beer, maybe you could promise her that you will only have one beer a week (or whatever you think is reasonable) if she will agree to trust you and not hound you about it.

I’m also going to go out on a limb here and say that I think what is really bothering your wife is that you are not going to church, and not so much that you are drinking beer. You may want to offer to go to church with her on an occasional basis, even if you don’t really believe in it, for the sake of marital unity.

A word of caution: If you don’t intend on being a regular attending and devout member, don’t give your wife that false hope. Lay your cards on the table, and tell her that you are doing this because you love her and value your marriage; not because you have any religious convictions.

I hope I have said something that helps. These things are not easy. Gee, marriage itself is just plain hard! As hard as it is, it is worth it! You’ll figure this out, and you’ll be fine.

Letter #: 420642
Category: Marriage

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