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Should I marry someone with a different worldview?

The last few weeks, we have been analyzing worldviews. We have defined a worldview as your set of assumptions which impact the way that you view the very essential questions of life. What is real, is there a God, what are humans, how do we determine right and wrong, what happens when I die, and more. Think of a worldview as the glasses that you put on which determine the way that the world looks.

After defining a worldview and the questions that worldviews must answer, we analyzed two popular worldviews so that you could see how this plays out: Naturalism and Christianity. I tried to stress during the last few weeks that all of us have a worldview, but not all of us have a consistent worldview. The challenge is to see your worldview built appropriately, like a tower so that it is balanced and doesn’t topple over under the weight of incongruency.

Today, I want to look practically at why these things matter engaging with the question, “Should I marry someone with a different worldview?” Now, I want to stress that I will be answering this solely from a philosophical perspective. If I were answering it from a biblical perspective, I would give you biblical principles, but today I want to show why I think my answer is relevant no matter what you believe.

In life, your worldview truly becomes the essence of who you are. How you view the world will massively impact your response to the great joys in your life (like having children) and the greatest of tragedies (like the death of a friend or family member). Your worldview forms the foundation for which you will build everything else. Where do you find your purpose? What is important in life? Should you focus your resources towards helping the poor or towards building the biggest house you can afford? All of these questions are directly, unapologetically influenced by your worldview.

Try to imagine your life as a line or an arrow. Based upon your worldview, you are moving in a very specific direction. Your partner’s life is also represented by a line and they are moving in the direction of their worldview. If you are both walking towards the same location, you will naturally be drawn closer to one another. As you raise your children, your counsel to them will be shaped by the same answers. When your child asks you why a classmate was mean or why it is wrong for them to be selfish, your worldview will shape your answer.

The tension in many relationships, however, exists when your worldview compels you to live for different things. One person’s worldview may shape him to squeeze life for all it’s worth because he believes that when he dies there is nothing else. This potentially, though not absolutely, could be manifested as attempting to gather the most toys and maximize his own pleasure while he is still alive. Suppose, however, that his wife is a committed a faith system (for our purposes, the faith system almost doesn’t matter). Her faith system might compel her to focus not on selfishly surrounding herself with pleasure but sacrificially giving herself in the service of other people. This couple is walking in two separate directions and their worldviews will inevitably clash unless one person compromises. When they try and raise their children, their values will be in opposition.

This is just one minor example, and it could play out in a hundred different ways, but the reality is that being on different pages will at some point in time result in tension. Now, is this a hard and fast rule that two different people will fail in their relationship? Of course not. This is not what I am trying to suggest, but I will say that two people walking in the same direction will experience a different capacity of joy, peace in struggles, and unity as they march together, hand in hand - a task which is impossible if one of you is going east and the other is headed west.

I am of the opinion that this should be considered by all couples. When people ask me to marry them, after they agree to go through pre-marital mentorship and counseling with me, this is always one of the first things we discuss. It is always a conversation worth having. You should know what your partner believes, what you believe, and why.

Similarly, I think the same principle is relevant to going into business with another person. One of you might have the goal of simply wanting to make enough money to provide for his family. The other might desire to rapidly expand, at any cost and risk, because he wants to go for the gold. These decisions - right or wrong - are shaped by our worldview.

Healthy partnerships share the same foundation and the same goal.