March 01, 2015
Married to Someone who Finds my Studies an Annoyance
Dear, Dr. Craig,
As one who has recently discovered the realm of apologetics in the past couple years, you were one of the first I had come to know, and it has been a pleasure reading some of your material and watching your debates. I am currently only a junior in college and am studying philosophy and religious studies and love it, and hope to attend seminary in the future and get my masters in apologetics, God willing.
My question for you is not necessarily a theological or philosophical question but a question that I am hoping I could get some pastoral advice from you about that I feel you are perhaps the best suited to answer. I recently got married this past summer to an amazing woman I met at a one year bible college I attended a couple years ago and it has been great. But between transferring to a new (secular) school and being constantly busy with school and work I feel like my relationship with God is constantly on the backburner, as I am not getting into the word nearly as much as I used to and my prayer life is nearly nonexistent, and because of this my relationship with my wife is not where it should be either.
I love my major and I love my wife, but they don't seem to overlap very well, as my studies are normally more time intensive than hers and also she see's my talking about it more as an annoyance than anything. I guess why I am writing you is because I am getting so spiritually burnt out and need advice on how to ignite/maintain my relationship with God and keep a healthy relationship with my wife and if having an aspiration of being an apologist is worth it. Not only does everyone else not see why I have picked the path I have because they see philosophy as impractical and I won't be able to support a family with such an aspiration, but the path itself is difficult as I do not have many other fellow Christians in my classes and so I am being practically scorned in all directions. I often ask myself if it is worth it and if I should find some other path that would be more conducive to married life and family life that her and I hope to start in the foreseen future.
Dr. Craig is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Even if I make it through my undergraduate years, will seminary be any easier? I hope to seek out a spiritual mentor in the future but am still getting acquainted with our new local church and would love to have some direction until then. Thanks for your help and your great ministry!
Obviously, Wesley, not knowing you or your wife, I cannot counsel you adequately. Indeed, I’d urge you to treat this crisis with the utmost seriousness by finding a pastoral counselor or older married couple whom you both trust who can advise you on how to go forward.
Before I respond to your concerns, Wesley, I want to alert other readers to the importance of what Wesley has to say. He has married a woman, who, though “amazing,” does not share his interest in or burden for philosophy and apologetics and so finds his talking about such things an annoyance. I strongly urge those of you who are single to make having a shared interest in your field of study and ministry a top criterion in selecting a spouse. It doesn’t matter how beautiful she is or what a great cook she is if she has no interest in your field of study and so sees talking about things that you are passionate about as an annoyance.
When I was doing my M.A. studies in Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, Jan and I knew other couples like that. These wives had no discernible interest in understanding what their husbands were studying. Every Monday night Prof. Geisler held a colloquium in his home for us philosophy students, and Jan was the only wife who attended these meetings. I remember well one student remarking to us both, “I wish my wife were as interested in my studies as Jan is in yours.” Some of these wives even hated their husbands’ studies.
The division which this lack of commonality creates can be disastrous for a marriage. You just grow further and further apart. I’m not saying that you should marry another philosopher or theologian (far from it, in fact!); but I’m saying that things will be much easier for you both if the person you marry is at least interested in what you do and appreciates the value of it and is willing to learn a little bit about it and supports you wholeheartedly in your efforts in that field.
If you have the support of that one person in your studies and calling, then it doesn’t matter if no one else believes in you. Wesley’s letter shows how hard it is to make it when everyone is doubting you and you don’t have the strength and encouragement of that one person nearest you.
Wesley, the one bright spot in your letter is that you’ve been married only for a few months. Contrary to the romanticized view of marriage, the early years of marriage are the worst. Like two rivers coming together, there can be great turbulence when two lives combine, but later downstream they flow smoothly as one. But it’s vital that you confront the problems honestly in those first few years together or the little issues swept under the rug will be come insurmountable obstacles in time. The turmoil you’re going through is normal, but you’ve got to confront it openly and deal with it to overcome it.
It will get worse, not better, in seminary. The divisions and resentments sown between husbands and wives during the stressful years of grad school spoil or even destroy many marriages. Don’t let it happen to you and your young wife! So, yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel if you face the problems and deal with them.
I have found that as goes my relationship with my wife so goes my relationship with God. So I’m not surprised that both are in the doldrums for you. You need to take drastic action to restore both.
What can you do? First, it seems to me that you need better time management. Work expands to fill the time. You need to set aside time for God and time for your wife. Covenant to keep a consistent devotional life. I find that this necessitates getting up early. So habituate yourself to doing so. Go to your wife and tell her that you want to spend more time just being with her. Discuss it with her and find out how much time she’d like you to spend with her. Then agree to it and do it. Accept the consequences that you may get poorer grades as a result. It is a fool’s bargain to trade a good marriage for academic success. You’ll find that you can develop the study habits and self-discipline to get an amazing amount of work done in a restricted amount of time. More radically, you may need to think about putting your studies on hold while you work full time to put her through her undergrad education and ask her then to do the same for you when she’s done.
Next, learn how to talk with your wife. Cease temporarily talking about the things you’re studying (unless she asks!) and focus on how she feels about things. Validate her feelings and don’t be defensive. Ask yourself what God is teaching you about yourself from her reactions. Let communication of feelings with her become an end in itself. Make the effort to show interest in and learn about what she’s studying or interested in. Do for her what you wish she’d do for you.
Finally, I reiterate: get into some sort of counseling together.
As for the rest of your concerns about whether philosophical/theological studies are worth it, forget about them. If this is your calling and passion, then pursue it regardless of the naysayers. Those kind of people you will always have with you. But just make sure you don’t do this at the expense of your marriage. So, yes, philosophical/theological studies are worth the time and effort; but they are not worth your marriage. If you get help and take action to address the problems, you’ll find that you can have both.