Last week I traveled with my husband and son to the mid-west to visit with some of my in-laws. My sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and six nieces and nephews to be exact. Family is extremely important to me, particularly my nieces and nephews and so it was long overdue that we took the trip. We were also aware that this would help our son feel more connected to the family since four of these nieces and nephews are adopted. So we hopped on two planes and made our way to the middle of the country where it rained 6 out of the 7 days we were there. I didn't mind so much because I like cold rainy weather. Yes, I am aware this makes me a weirdo.
Although we have not visited too much with this part of the family, my SIL runs a very successful parenting/adoption blog and I know a lot about her family through that. We also chat via instant messenger and a year and a half ago we joined them on vacation, just to see them. It was during this trip that I learned firsthand how sanctimonious this pair are. My husband's family isn't super functional, but they clearly have a very negative opinion of my husband and see him as a bit of a screw-up. They assumed that the only reason we drove 4 1/2 hours to join them on holiday was because we were having marital problems and wanted marriage advice. This is the couple who almost got a divorce over porn. Yeah, okay. Sure. That's why we are here. It couldn't be because of the six adorable people who live with you and I want to have a relationship with.
From their perspective, my husband probably does seem like a bit of a screw up. He's always been a bit of a religious rebel. He had a lot of sex outside of marriage. His first marriage only lasted 9 months and the whole family treated it like it was some kind of failing on his part. Sure, she was cheating on him before and after the marriage, but surely he has some culpability? Right? He dropped out of art college. His career as a decade long cop didn't go anywhere. When he moved to a different state he struggled to find his footing. Of course, this is where the self-righteous duo stopped being in his life. So they weren't there when he decided to go into computers. They weren't there to see him quickly rise in the ranks. They weren't there when we started dating. They haven't been here to see what good parents we are. And so they see him as this screwed up guy from a dysfunctional family who struggled for a long time. I see all of that as the growing pains my husband had to go through to become the awesome man, husband, and father that he is today. I don't wish pain on anyone, but I don't think I would have wanted to marry my husband the way he was at 24.
All that said, it shouldn't come as any surprise that we had a few tense and awkward moments. Most of these moments consisted of either SIL or BIL wanting to talk ad naseum about husband's dysfunctional family. My husband accepted long ago that these were the people his parents were. It is what it is. We don't talk about it often. My relationship with my MIL and FIL are surface level at best. I don't talk to them on the phone and have unfollowed them both on Facebook. So talking about these virtual strangers for two hours straight was exhausting. I wanted to scream, "Can we please talk about something else?"
The most interesting, and by interesting I mean really awkward, was when my SIL began drilling me about church. What church are you going to? What church is your son going to? Why aren't you going with him? I don't like to lie if I can help it, but we were quickly moving into an area where changing the subject would just be suspicious. Husband to the rescue! My husband stands up and basically tells SIL that we don't go to church because he sees no value in it. The people in the church don't follow the basic tenants of their faith, are not open to anyone who thinks just a little differently than them, and asks for obedience in matters that aren't Biblical. As expected, she immediately gave the typical Christian, "Well, the church is full of hypocrites. I choose to stay and try and make it a better place." At this I quipped, "I'm done fighting. They don't want it to be a better place, they want it to remain as it is. I did that for years. I wasted my time on people who didn't care about me at all." We told her that instead of going to church on Sundays, we now drop our kid off at his and then we get some alone time. Sometimes we go grocery shopping. (Sunday mornings are great for shopping) Sometimes we go to a coffee house and just talk. Sometimes we go for a walk together at a park. And ALL of those things feel more filling to my spirit than going to church ever did. I told her flat out that I thought I would miss it more, but I don't. I've quite enjoyed not being obliged to go to church. Thanks to my husband the entire conversation shifted away from me and I didn't have to lie at all about my atheism. All of this went in one ear and out the other, because the next day she invited all of us to church. Ummmm....no. We're good. Remember that conversation yesterday? We really were serious. At this point, the only reason I would ever walk into a church is for a wedding or a funeral.
There were a few other conversations that were religious in nature, but not awkward. Like us talking about my parents and their super-spirituality when I was a kid. Or how the purity culture harmed me. (BTW I bought a bikini today and this matters a lot because I have never had the courage or body positiveity to wear one before. I'm not skinny, but I think I look hot in it.) And the other conversations were about our kids and parenting and books. Mundane things. It wasn't a bad visit overall. The religious talks were inevitable and I was ready for them. In the end though, I suspect that they still think husband is a bit of a screw up. Not because of his marriage or job now, but because he doesn't go to church. There's no winning.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.