I have been living with my boyfriend for fifteen years, and we have an eight-year-old daughter. I am a follower of Christ…. and for the past year I’ve been reading the Bible more. My husband knows about my faith in Christ, but he doesn’t practice it like I do. He has told me that we should get married, but we can’t because of the differences in our beliefs. I think that living together without being married is affecting my relationship with God. He is a good father and husband, but I feel disobedient to God every day and I don’t know what to do.

Dear Friend,

Your situation is very complicated, so it is easy to see why you don’t know what God expects you to do. However, it is clear that God is using your conscience to remind you that living with someone without being married is not part of His plan. As you have been reading in your Bible, you know that God designed the marriage relationship to be based on a promise between a man and a woman, a promise that is meant to provide emotional and physical safety for children as well as the two spouses.

Although it is true that many marriages fail, it is not because of the institution of marriage. Marriages fail because the man or the woman, or both, fail to keep the promises that they made to one another in their marriage vows.

If you had not had a daughter with this man, the answer would be easy. We would tell you to separate from him until or unless he decided to follow Christ. This is because we agree with you that two people who have different beliefs about God’s place and importance in their lives should not join together in marriage. Those who follow Christ should always live according to Biblical teachings, while those who do not follow Christ normally don’t care what the Bible says. The sharing of goals and priorities is impossible for two people who do not live by the same standard.

However, you do have a daughter, and we believe that fact changes everything. Your daughter needs her mother and her father, and she needs a home full of love and security. Since you say that your boyfriend is a good father and husband, it sounds like your daughter already has that kind of home.

We recommend that you prepare a document that both of you will sign, so that each of you will remember what you agreed to do. Your husband needs to agree that both you and your daughter can attend church activities up to three or four times each week, according to your circumstances. He also needs to agree that your daughter, as well as any future children, will be taught Biblical values, and that he will not teach her values that are contrary to the Bible, nor will he demean or ridicule you or your daughter for your beliefs.

As for your part, you must agree to respect his right to practice his own religion or to have no religion at all. That means that, although you will make it clear that he is welcome to accompany you to church activities, you will not plead with him nor try to make him feel guilty for not going with you.

If your husband is willing to agree to these terms and to sign the document, then we recommend that you get married immediately. But if he will not agree, then you will have to ask God to show you what to do next. We cannot answer further, as we do not know all the circumstances.

We wish you the best,