Monday, December 3, 2012

The Faith Factor: Dating Outside Your Faith

Who hasn’t seen a movie or television show where two people of different faiths fall in love? In a sitcom, this provides laughs by having the mother of the son faint, or the father of the woman grouse about her new boyfriend. Many religions forbid you associating with an unbeliever. So how does faith factor into dating and relationships?

I noticed online that many men and women are willing to date people of differing faiths than their own. If this weren’t so, they would have relied on relatives and friends, or even participated in an arranged marriage.  One reason people check that “Any Faith” box on their profile is to put out a bigger net. They’ve seen the offerings at their church, synagogue or temple, and the pickings are slim.

Let’s face it; for the most part, we like to do things with another person, preferably a person who found us attractive and interesting. Although, most people who check Any Faith rationalize that other faiths can’t be that different. Besides, they just want a date, not a life-long union. So when do the deal breakers happen?

First, keep in mind that whatever religious faith a person professes will seem right to them, no matter if you have doubts about it. There may be parts of the faith you can’t swallow whole. Many religions emphasize the man must be in control because women are spiritually out of control creatures who need guidance. If your date suggests how you should dress or talk to suit his faith walk, remember this is only the beginning. It doesn’t mean he’s not a nice person, but he believes in his right to dominate you in all things. Will he change his ways for you? It is rather like asking a Dalmatian dog to turn itself into an Appaloosa horse. While they both have spots, they are two entirely different creatures.

  On the other hand, people pretend to change to humor the other person even to the point of showing up at their church. If the relationship becomes serious, many devoted sweethearts will still expect you to convert before considering marriage. If you were only pretending to make him happy, are you willing to go through an entirelife of play-acting? Perhaps you reason your faith is not very important to you, and you’d be willing trade it for a chance at this great guy. Should he expect you to throw it away just because he asked?

Truthfully, if someone respected you and your faith, then he would not ask you to do this. All honor in this relationship is deferred to the person’s faith, as opposed to the mate. In some ways, this is just another form of witness dating where your date’s end goal is your eternal salvation and conversion to their faith. Most likely, they aren’t interested in continuing a relationship because there are so many other people to date and save.

What does respect look like? It is sometimes better describing what it doesn’t look like. Any attempt to ridicule your faith or prove why it is wrong is not respect. Trying to twist the beliefs of your faith to reach the other partner’s short-term goal is not respect either. Your fellow sits on the couch and informs you that your Bible demands that you be submissive to your husband/man, so bring him another drink. Respect honors the other person’s religious beliefs by allowing her to practice them freely. This doesn’t mean you agree with them, or even participate, but you value the person.

Spirituality is a private thing, but ironically, people tend to wave it like a flag or wear it as if it were the jersey of their favorite team. If faith is a cause of disagreement between the two of you, then it will be an on-going battle, even if it is unspoken. Thousands of people of different faiths date, and even marry every day. How do they make it work?

They accept their beloved’s faith as part of who they are. People’s faith walk changes for various reasons. It is okay to be curious, but any condemnation is sure to put a damper on things.  Often, the couple will attend different services. If this is an issue, then it is better to forgo this relationship, especially if you spend most of your time trying to explain to your sweetheart that he’s hell bound. This is emotional abuse.

Sometimes people meet, become a couple, then one has a conversion experience greatly altering him. This changes everything. It is rather like your husband telling you he is going to become a woman. Even though you love him, you didn’t sign up to marry a woman. Faith is a personal issue, but often it does affect your loved ones. Your sweetheart/husband’s conversion may cause him to insist you must wear a headscarf or dresses that fall below your knee, or give up eating all meat or animal-originated products. This is inherently wrong. It is not your faith. Why should you follow concepts you didn’t embrace? You shouldn’t embrace them, although some women will reason the preservation of the relationship remains paramount.

Dating someone of your faith is no guarantee of happiness. People married to folks of the same faith divorce every day.  You can also date someone of a similar faith, but you have different degrees in your faith walk. He might go to mass every day, when you are lucky to hit major holidays. So what is the answer, or is there even one?

The two of you met at church camp for middle class protestant kids living in the Midwest. You both have similarities, besides your faith, that actually unite you. The more you have in common, the more successful your relationship will be. Unions based solely on religion usually aren’t successful. (Sometimes, this is misleading because many faiths do not allow couples to divorce. A bitter, acrimonious marriage is not a positive pairing.) In the beginning of your mixed faith dating, your family’s or friends’ disapproval gives you the spice of being romantic adventurers, but that wears off. What remains makes the difference. If you can’t respect your companion’s religion, then you can’t respect him either. Who needs that!

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