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Teen Considers Not Revealing To His Religious Sister That Her Husband Is Secretly Atheist

Man talking to male teen
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No relationship is totally perfect, and couples are bound to disappear about something from time to time. But couples should agree about fundamental things, like religion and child-rearing.

And a person who lies to their partner about one of those fundamental beliefs might be sabotaging their relationship, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor QuirkyAdhesiveness89 was taken aback when his brother-in-law confided in him that he was an atheist, though he’d told his wife that he was deeply religious like her.

When his brother-in-law asked him not to tell anyone, the Original Poster (OP) wasn’t sure what to do.

He asked the sub:

“WIBTA (Would I Be the A**hole) if I kept my brother-in-law’s secret?”

The OP recently spent time with his brother-in-law for the first time.

“I (16 Male) was recently invited by my sister’s (28 Female) husband (30 Male), my brother-in-law (BIL) to hang out in the city, get pizza, watch ‘Black Adam,’ and just connect with each other.”

“On the trip home, we got to talking about religion, and he asked me what I thought about religion, to be honest, and that he wouldn’t judge.”

“I was honest and said I was an atheist, to which he seemed relieved.”

He was surprised when his brother-in-law confided in him that day.

“He then opened up, saying that all his life, he was pretending to have faith.”

“He hasn’t been a Christian since he was a teenager and needed to tell someone.”

“He asked me to keep it a secret and not tell anyone I wasn’t positive wouldn’t pass the info onto his wife or her family, because he loves her despite her faith, but isn’t sure how much his lack of would affect their marriage.”

The OP felt conflicted.

“My mom is always adamant that couples shouldn’t have secrets, but this is really important, and I wanna do the right thing.”

“WIBTA (Would I Be the A**hole) if I kept the secret?”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some said the OP’s BIL was wrong to put this secret on his teen brother.

“I feel like I’m going crazy here. A 28-year-old should not be asking a teenager to keep secrets at all, let alone from his wife.”

“This is bizarre behavior by the BIL. Having a conversation is fine, but asking to keep secrets? Absolutely not.”

“OP felt conflicted enough to come here and post about it.”

“OP is NTA, but be cautious, OP.” – fivethousanddollars

“Do you remember being 16? I do. I was still a KID despite doing lots of adult things. A 28-year-old shouldn’t be confiding in a teenager and asking said teenager to keep secrets from his family. It’s highly inappropriate.”

“Why can’t this 28-year-old find friends or peers to confide in if this was weighing on him so badly?”

“Not to mention anyone who would be far less likely to share this secret because they aren’t keeping it from FAMILY.”

“OP, you can do whatever you feel is right; either way, you are doing the right thing. This guy had no right to ask you to keep a secret.” – Lambamham

“NTA but I’d recommend not getting involved in this further.”

“It’s never a good idea to get mixed up in somebody else’s relationship. If you need to speak to him again about this, just tell him you aren’t going to share this secret, but that you don’t want to be put in this position again.”

“If he has concerns or problems he can’t share with his spouse, he shouldn’t be sharing them with his spouse’s 16-year-old brother.” – CoconutChai73

“Why would he expect you to keep any kind of secret from your sister for him?”

“He shouldn’t have put you in his business, and when you’re older, I hope you won’t do that to a 16-year-old and leave them feeling conflicted enough to post on the internet to strangers.”

“I’m sure your sister’s husband is a nice guy, but sometimes you have to have hard, truthful conversations with people. No matter how much you fear losing them.”

“If your sister doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share her faith, no one has a right to lie to her. She needs to make that choice on her own.”

“As for you, you are not responsible for their relationship and it was very wrong for him to involve and ‘confide’ in you. If I was your sister, I would be more upset about that than anything.” – Many_Rain_4001

“This isn’t an are-you-an-AH situation. I’m going to get downvoted, but I hope people read this and really think about what I am saying.”

“For context, I am a ‘family’ lawyer, this is a nice way of saying that the area of law I have practiced in for nearly two decades involved a significant number of cases involving child sexual abuse. Please, everyone, consider what I am saying carefully.”

“The most common practice of child predators, from prepubescent to late teen, is to confide secrets in them that may seem irrelevant but are actually testing to see if they will seek adult help.”

“No reasonable adult uses a minor as a secret keeper. They are either emotionally immature and don’t realize the burden secrets place on a mind that is not fully developed, or they have a more sinister intention.”

“My big problem is I have heard the circumstance above before. Dozens of times. I could write those words from memory. Unfortunately, I usually hear them 20-30 years after the event when the perpetrator may be long dead because it took the victim that long to come forward.”

“Confiding can be a grooming tactic, frequently used to test out the target’s willingness to stay quiet and to convey a false sense of connection.”

“Now, this guy may just be emotionally immature and confiding his secrets to a minor he barely knows without considering the mental strain it places on that child.”

“However, it could be much more sinister. Please tell your sister, mother, school counselor… Just tell someone. This is important safety advice for children and important emotional maturity for adults.”

“Children are not adult secret keepers. You protect them by never endorsing that behavior, even when it may be harmless because sometimes it’s not.” – throwAWweddingwoe

Others said the OP was not wrong to keep the secret for his BIL.

“NTA. It’s not your secret to share, it’s up to the husband to decide when or if he wants to share it.”

“It would be different if this was an issue of the husband doing something wrong like cheating, in which case I would probably have told you to do something about it, because it’s not fair to your sister. But his lack of faith is not a crime.” – MaybeAWalrus

“Your mom’s statement about ‘couples shouldn’t have secrets’ is pretty specific, the keyword is ‘couples.’ This is between your sister and her husband, you are not involved in this.”

“As to that absolute statement, I would disagree with it. There are always grey areas that need to be carefully managed, personally, I feel that it comes down to choosing the least amount of harm.”

“For you right now to get into their marriage would be harmful, you would lose the trust your BIL had in you, and you would be causing conflict and pain in their relationship. All over a ‘belief’? Not worth it.”

“NTA for keeping this to yourself.” – CaliforniaJade

“I don’t think BIL is an AH, but it sounds like he knew he didn’t share his wife’s faith before they got married. It sounds like sharing her faith with her spouse is likely quite important to his wife.”

“If he figured it out while they were together/after they married, it makes sense he’s worried to tell her, but if he knew before and knew it could be a deal breaker for her, then it’s pretty deceptive.”

“If BIL has only lived in predominantly Christian areas his whole life, I do feel for him, though.”

“I’m not Christian, and I would likely never get in a serious relationship with one (religious trauma, queer, pagan) but I have a couple of Christian friends. If I ended up with someone who was hiding the fact they were Christian from me for years, I’d be ticked and feel quite manipulated, especially if they knew I had religious trauma.”

“Except… the type of Christians I would NEVER date isn’t going to be quiet about their faith, judgment, or bigotry.” – Dangerous-Disk-8133

“NTA.”

“His lack of belief isn’t hurting her or anyone. With no actual harm or risk of harm to anyone, there’s no reason to tell your sister, and a number of good reasons not to. Revealing it could be harmful.”

“This is the kind of secret it’s okay to keep, and maybe even beneficial. If he always ate a favorite dish of hers and pretended to like it because she made it and he wanted her to be happy, but when you told him you didn’t like that dish, he blurted out that he didn’t either, would you keep that secret?” – Curious-One4595

“NTA for keeping it, and NTA if you tell her either.”

“That’s not a mess you have to get tangled up in, at all. It was really s**tty of him to tell you and ask you to keep it secret in the first place. He’s a big boy and should be able to have an honest conversation with his wife.”

“Instead, he’s going to her little brother, which is just a weird move all around.”

“So absolutely, you are NTA for wanting to stay out of it. You’re not betraying her trust by not telling her, BIL’s insecurities shouldn’t need to be any of your business. If you’re close with your sister and want to tell her, you are NTA for that either.”

“The only AH here is BIL for asking you to keep secrets from your sister, and for being dishonest with his wife. Religion is something that should be discussed before people get married, and it’s not your fault or problem that he failed to do so.” – sci_fi_bi

But some thought the OP’s sister deserved to know. 

“He thinks it’s OK to lie to his wife about something he thinks is important to her. This isn’t about his faith, it’s about his actions.”

“I think that adds a whole other level to it as well, for non-religious people lying about something for the entire relationship is still a massive thing but in religious relationships, it’s that and more.”

“I can’t see any scenario, religious relationship or otherwise, where people think lying about who you are to the person you’ve promised your life to is not a big deal.” – skittlzz_23

“As an atheist, I agree his wife deserves to know and make her own decision whether to continue the relationship. Not to mention if he respects her and her religion how can he feel justified lying to her every day when pretending to believe?” – phantomixie

“I think a lot of the people commenting that it’s not a big deal and doesn’t hurt anyone don’t understand that, for those of us who are religious, marriage isn’t just a contract, it’s one of the ultimate practices and displays of our faith: following God’s commandment to leave our parents, be joined with our spouse, and raise children.”

“And if OP’s sister feels that way about her marriage, then OP’s BIL hasn’t just told a harmless lie to avoid judgment; he’s lied about the very foundation of their entire marriage.”

“Because we’re not talking about lying about what job you had from 1992 to 1996. We’re talking about lying about a part of your entire identity, like lying to your partner about your sexuality.”

“While they’re at church every Sunday singing ‘Hallelujah,’ she’s looking at him thinking, ‘I’m so glad I married such a Godly man,’ while he’s thinking, ‘This is all bulls**t,’ and it’s incredibly unfair to her.”

“And it’s a whole other layer once kids are involved.” – Rektroth

“But it’s not about his belief. Her faith is important to her, and he has been lying about it for probably their entire relationship. He knows that she would probably not be comfortable in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share her faith, which is why he doesn’t tell her.”

“That is a massive betrayal. Maybe they could work it out if he was honest, but he chose to lie.” – BestCreativeName

“She deserves to be with a partner who is f**king honest with her and also someone who believes what she believes if she wants.”

“Jesus Ch***t. Lying isn’t benign. He’s literally taking away her choice.” – halfpastnone

While the subReddit was divided over whether or not the OP should keep his brother-in-law’s secret, they were resoundingly uncomfortable with the position the twenty-eight-year-old put the teenager in. Asking a minor to keep a secret is not appropriate, and it can lead to other terrible behaviors.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.