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Karen wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Would I be dishonoring God if I married my long term partner?

I have had very young children with him and I am currently pregnant with our third. He has been divorced in the past and is an unbeliever. He divorced due to incompatibility, not adultery. I am very new to the faith having previously been an atheist all my life.

  • It seems if I stay the way I am I will be committing fornication by having premarital sex.
  • If I marry him I will be viewed as being in an adulterous relationship as he divorced for non-biblical reasons.

The other alternative is that I leave him but then I would have a broken family and he would be heartbroken as would my children. None of the options seem to glorify God.

First and foremost, I want to make a decision that honors God through obedience to His Word but I don't know how best to do that because of the complexity of my situation.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.


  { Would a newbie to the faith be dishonoring God if I married my partner who is an unbeliever? }

John replied:

Hi Karen,

Thank you for your question. It's wonderful to hear of your new-found faith and moreover your desire to honor God. Your situation is complicated.

First, it would be helpful to know if you are Catholic.

Second, let's clear something up. Adultery is not a biblical grounds for divorce. That is a complete misunderstanding of what Jesus said. The Gospel writer uses the Greek word pornographos . . . where we get the words, fornication and pornography. When Jesus says only for fornication, He is not talking outside the marriage . . . as in adultery. He's talking about the marriage itself being invalid and thus the sex is fornication by definition. A perfect example would be a marriage to someone who already married to someone else, or a marriage to a close relative.

According the Catholic Church's teaching, valid, sacramental Marriages can't be dissolved but if, after investigation, some impediment existed before the marriage to the point that it would prevent the marriage from being sacramental, then it can be annulled. That said, there has to be pre-existing condition. These can vary from:

  • emotional immaturity
  • a refusal to have children, or
  • impotence.

The fact is annulments take a little time but they are fairly easily granted.

Now, it is assumed that marriage between two baptized Christians is valid and indeed sacramental. So you need to find out a few things so we can help you. You say this man is an unbeliever.

  • Well, was he baptized?
  • Was it a Christian wedding?

Again, all this stuff about annulments only applies to you if you are Catholic. If you're not, then we need to work on that or better put, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work on that, as the Catholic Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Christ.

We love our non-Catholic Christian brothers. We aren't judging them but they only have part of the truth. I'm not saying they are damned, when I say this. We don't ever have audacity to say anyone is damned.

The fact that he is divorced doesn't present this huge impediment. There are however, some other issues revolving around yoking yourself to an unbeliever as St. Paul wrote. It isn't normally advisable. Mind you I say normally. It is also very possible that through your Christian witness of love (not beating him silly with a Bible) that he may answer the call of Holy Spirit and become a believer. In addition, there is also the concern for your children, and of course I assume, since he is a long time partner, that you are both in love.

All this leads to some other questions:

  1. Is he willing to marry you?
  2. Being an unbeliever, how is he now going to respond to your faith?
    . . . and you have some responsibility there too. New converts in their zeal can become overbearing and drive people away.

  3. If you do marry him, will he allow you to raise all the Children as Catholics . . . or if you are not Catholic yet . . . at least raise them as Christians.

The first step is talk to him and when you do, you can't make it seem like all of a sudden you are rejecting him because you found Jesus. Rather, it is because you found Jesus, that you find this man to be gift from God and you want to honor God for giving this gift of a loving relationship, by doing things God's way:

  • You have children together
  • you're expecting another, etc.

The children are the most important responsibility of a husband and wife and currently for all intents and purposes you are in a common law marriage.

Things are going to get dicey here because he's going to want to continue to having relations with you before you're able to get married. That means a Church wedding if you're a Catholic so it's going to take some time to get the prior marriage situation straightened out in that case.

If he wasn't a baptized Christian of any kind, it could be much quicker but if he was, then an annulment will be required and that could take a while.

At this point I need to clarify that I'm not an expert on Catholic Canon Law. So once you let us know if you're Catholic and the status of your husband vis-a-vis Baptism (even infant baptism) then I think we need to verify some of what I've said about annulments with our Canon Law expert Fr. Jonathan.

My advice is to proceed with love and patience with your partner, for your own sake and that of child you're carrying. We can't have you arguing and stressed out during your pregnancy. It's a highly emotional time for you. You are (no offense intended) subject to natural effects of hormones during pregnancy. We don't want to make things worse.

So try to give us some the information I've requested and let's see if we can't help you further.

Congratulations both:

  1. on your conversion and
  2. on the new life God has privileged you to be carrying in your womb.

With Christian affection —


John DiMascio

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