So you meet someone you really like but somewhere between that first date and a full-blown relationship, you realize that you’re on totally different pages when it comes to religion. It’s a pretty big deal and it’ll probably leave you confused as to whether it’s a big enough deal to nip a promising relationship in the bud. So could you handle someone whose faith differs from yours?
How important are your beliefs to you?
I’m an atheist and I take my lack of religion very seriously, so I won’t entertain any attempts at trying to convert me or ridicule my refusal to buy into the idea of a God. Still, I believe that people are free to worship who they want as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my life and that includes anyone I date. If you think that dating someone from a different religion might hurt your beliefs in some indelible way, you might want to take your love elsewhere.
What will your family think about him?
When my ex, who was a Muslim, told his parents about me, they practically forbade him from continuing to see me. Families are usually the backbone that religions are built around so you have to be ready to deal with the fact that either or both of your parents might not approve. The trick is to decide from the beginning how much discord you can bear and for how long.
How much are you willing to compromise?
Relationships are about finding ways to accommodate your partner without giving up whole parts of yourself. Before you consider dating someone whose religious beliefs do not align with yours, you might want to draw clear boundaries in the sand and then try to see what things you can agree on. You don’t want to feel blindsided when they start asking you to convert or do things you aren’t comfortable with.
Is this a fling?
I’ve lost count of the number of times I started dating someone thinking it wasn’t going to go anywhere only to wake up many mornings down the road and admit that I’d been lying to myself the whole time. While I understand that it can be pretty difficult to decide where your relationship is going from the start, you don’t want to wait until things get too serious and cloud your judgment. Is this person someone you can see yourself with years from now? If you walked away, how big would your regrets be?
Are you willing to partake in their religious rituals?
This is where things can turn ugly pretty quickly. Dating someone means that you’ll have to do some of the things that matter to your partner even when you find those activities to be 50 shades of awful. For me, dating Christians means pretending to like Christmas. I can live with that, but asking me to do things like attending church services, praying, and taking the holy communion is asking for way too much. There are limits to what I will do for love.
What about your children’s beliefs?
My main struggle with trying to decide whether or not to date someone because of their religion is how it will affect the children we might have. I’m not cool with indoctrinating my kids with beliefs I don’t agree with. If they ever decide to be religious, I want it to be of their own choosing and I wouldn’t want to date anyone who has a different idea on the subject except I know I’m never going to consider having kids with them.
Do you want the same things out of the relationship?
Love might conquer all, but it won’t save a doomed relationship from falling to pieces. Dating someone with different religious beliefs might be hard, but you’re more likely to make things work if you can find common ground on other important things. I mean, I’ve dated people who are atheists like me and it still didn’t last because there were so many other things waiting to cause a rift in the relationship that the similarity of our beliefs didn’t matter.
Can you keep an open mind?
I’m no expert, but I find that love goes a bit more smoothly when you don’t shut yourself off to things that you do not understand or experiences that are not your own. My lover once told me a beautiful story about the reason for her faith that made me more accepting of her religious drama. Even though I could have spent the rest of the evening poking holes in her story, I simply listened and accepted her right to feel that way.
What wins: the pros or cons?
I’ve seen people make all kinds of unsatisfactory relationship situations work from long distance to terminal illnesses. In the end, what it comes down to is how much you stand to gain or lose by dating someone with different religious beliefs. If you think that right now or down the road, being with them will outweigh the differences, then by all means, go for it.
Dating someone with different religious beliefs might not seem like a big deal, and maybe it’s not. However, having a long-term relationship with someone of a different faith definitely can be. Ask yourself the above questions before you make a decision—they should help shed some light on the situation.