I tend to stay away from religious people since our values usually clash and it just leads to conflict. Once, though, I did date a guy who was incredibly committed to his Christian faith. I didn’t convert or anything and we obviously didn’t last, but the experience did teach me a lot both about myself and religion in general.
Religion gives you a community.
As an atheist, I’ve always viewed churchgoers as a little culty. But dating this guy meant that I was dragged along to countless church events. There was so much potato salad! Once I stopped feeling like a heathen, I realized that most people were open and friendly and I appreciated the welcoming, family-like environment. They weren’t exactly my type of people, but I could see why the community was so important to my boyfriend.
Faith can be a great thing to lean on.
I’m a perpetual worrier and my brain works overtime constantly thinking of worst-case scenarios. It’s exhausting. My boyfriend, on the other hand, seemed constantly at peace. After talking to him about it, I found that his belief in God helped him believe that everything was going to turn out okay. Now, I’m not saying you should be delusional, but I think in our jaded, cynical world, a little optimism could go a long way and religion helped with that.
Everyone has something to give.
I’m in my twenties. In other words, I’m broke, generally confused, and spend all my time trying to make my life better. But generosity isn’t reserved for philanthropists with millions to give! From volunteering at soup kitchens to running book drives, my boyfriend’s church was always doing something that gave back, and I realized that community service added a lot of meaning to my life.
My body is under nobody’s authority but my own.
I love fashion, but it turned out that my boyfriend was not here for even my most modest leggings. He’d make little comments here and there like, “Are you sure you want to go out like that?” “Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable being more covered up?” I told him that what I wear is my decision and that I don’t subscribe to the church’s standards of how a woman should dress. This was a point of contention for a long time, but I stuck to my guns. If he was that embarrassed by what I wore, maybe he shouldn’t have been dating me.
I’m not ashamed of my sexuality.
My boyfriend had very strict rules about what he was and wasn’t willing to do in terms of intimacy: holding hands was okay, but anything beyond a light kiss was not. I was happy to respect his boundaries, but after a while, it became apparent that his celibacy wasn’t just about saving himself for marriage. It came from a deep-seated shame of having any kind of “impure” thought, and it was a shame he tried to impose on me. I realized that I’m not going to apologize or feel bad about my desires. There’s nothing “dirty” or “shameful” about sex, and I wished he could have seen that.
I don’t accept male authority as an absolute.
This was a big problem in our relationship: my boyfriend believed that based on the Bible, I should “submit” to his guidance and decisions. The thing is that I’m a big fat feminist, and while I love collaborating and sharing power in relationships, I was not about to hand over the reins to him.
Religion can give you a superiority complex.
My boyfriend and his friends thought they were superior because they were “following God’s word.” Okay, so they weren’t fanatically waving homophobic signs at soldiers’ funerals, but they were definitely judgmental about anyone they thought was “straying” from God’s path, from friends who were having premarital sex to a girl wearing a skirt that was just a “little too immodest.” I hated how they’d build themselves up by tearing others down, all under the guise of being “pious.”
I don’t need to be saved.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the odd act of chivalry, but a weird theme I found while dating my religious boyfriend was that I always had to be open to being “saved” by God. It was this mindset that I wasn’t capable of taking care of myself and had to submit to males or another higher power. No thanks. This girl’s steering her own ship!
If they’re not open to debate, I’m not open to them.
I have no problem with people having opposite views to mine. In fact, I love free discussions and learning where people are coming from. However, my boyfriend would get super defensive whenever I questioned any of his beliefs. He always thought I was attacking him because I was a non-believer. I couldn’t deal with how threatened he felt and hated how we couldn’t have mature, analytical conversations about our differences.
In the end, religion is a deal breaker for me.
I’m not saying people who are religious are bad or are incapable of being in a relationship, but for me, the differences in ideologies are too great to surmount. I don’t want to spend all my time fighting because I don’t want to go to mass or because he thinks abortion is immoral. While sometimes opposites attract, religious people are just too opposite for me.
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