Dear Thomas,
I've heard the motto, "the family that prays together, stays together." I imagine that applies to dating couples too. My boyfriend is not particularly religious, and I am a Christian with roots in the Baptist church. I like to say grace before meals, it is a connection for me not only to God, but also to the traditions I was raised with. He says that praying "in Jesus' name" makes him uncomfortable, but I'm not sure I'm ok with leaving it out. Any advice for how we might find a way to pray together? Because I'd really like for us to stay together!

Dear Faithful,
When two people enter a relationship, from the outside it may look like the simple union of two persons. But inwardly, they bring their families with them, making the relationship much more complex. The new relationship brings to the surface deep-seated ideas and values that have their origins in the family. But no two families are alike, and so the couple faces the challenge of merging two deep streams of thoughts and feelings.

Your tradition of saying grace in Jesus' name is important to you. Apparently, not being religious in that way is important to your boyfriend. How you navigate these differences will strengthen or weaken your relationship. You could begin by respecting your boyfriend's sensitivities. Not wanting to be religious in a particular way is a spiritual choice. It doesn't necessarily mean that he is not religious but that he is religious in a different way. In a thoughtful conversation, you could uncover the roots of his feelings and ideas on this matter and be sure that he knows all about your background, too. In plain, non-judgmental language you could offer to respect his views and at the same time ask for some understanding of your feelings. Mutual respect can only come from a clear expression of what's important to you and why. Don't be defensive, but don't be overly accommodating.

There has to be a solution that takes both of your sensitivities into account. You could alternate forms of saying grace. Maybe a moment of silent blessing or thanksgiving would feel all right to him. Or, maybe you could say your grace occasionally, and have no grace at other times.

These solutions may seem mechanical. They are part of the experiment of finding out how to share a life with someone who has different values and views. Eventually, you may discover a deeper spiritual commonality, where you don't have to work at being mutually respectful. It will just happen.

Creating a good relationship entails some challenging learning on both sides. You may have to reconsider some of your childhood ideas about religion and religious practices. In that regard, your boyfriend's annoyance may have something to teach you. For his part, your boyfriend may have to learn religious tolerance and a deeper appreciation for spiritual traditions. In other words, this conflict has something important to give to each of you. It all depends how maturely you work it out.
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