Dating can be both fun and stressful. The trial and error of determining compatibility and really getting to know someone is time intensive and full of emotional ups and downs. And everyone has their own mental list of what they will accept in a potential mate and what they won’t. Of these, one that can be the most controversial and emotionally charged is whether or not the person you are dating (or considering dating) is of the same faith.
Faith in relationships can be very tricky, especially in today’s world where religions are so diverse and, sadly, religious beliefs are often nonexistent. It’s not uncommon to meet someone who seems perfect in every way – except that one. That leaves many having to decide whether dating outside their faith is acceptable. And whether the differences that arise are something that can be lived with, potentially for the long-term if you and your new love interest are compatible and happy in all of the other important ways.
There’s no hard and fast answer to whether you should or shouldn’t date outside your faith – that’s a very personal decision. It’s also possible that your religion has some rules for it as well. There are, however some things that are worth considering ahead of time. This is true even if you have no intention of considering a mate that doesn’t share your beliefs. Love has a very frustrating way of ignoring your personal parameters and keeping its own agenda, and that doesn’t always match yours. So being prepared for the unexpected is a good idea.
If your faith is important to you, and if you are reading this then chances are it is, there are a number of things to consider before you go on even the first date. Without doing this you may find yourself completely attached to someone and having to make some very hard and uncomfortable choices.
Our faith, whether it’s life-long teachings or something you have recently found, shapes our value systems and how we view the world as a whole. Yes, it’s possible to share many of the same values without sharing faith, but there is more to faith than just a sense of right and wrong. Religion for many involves reverence for our creation and purpose and places importance on the ways you pay respect to those things. Showing that respect through community, service, and certain purposeful rituals can be very important.
If you are dating someone who doesn’t want to participate in those things, or has their own belief system that is different than yours, you will need to think about how these differences work together. Before you determine if those differences are acceptable to you, ask yourself the following.
- Can I separate my love and personal life from my faith if necessary?
- Will I remain happy as the years go by with that separation?
- Can I respect and appreciate the different beliefs of someone I love, or will I eventually resent that they don’t believe as I do?
- Down deep am I hoping that I could change a person I love and make them part of my faith?
- Am I willing to accept that I may never share my faith with the person who is my life partner?
- And, although this may seem thinking too far forward, could I potentially raise children with a person who doesn’t share my faith? If you believe so, how will you compromise on the faith taught to your children?
Answering these questions honestly can give you a good starting place when you are considering becoming romantically involved with someone who believes differently than you do. The choice is yours and there isn’t a right or wrong answer, unless your religion says there is, but there is a question of personal fulfillment and happiness. If you know you can’t see yourself with someone who doesn’t agree with your faith system or value the ways you celebrate and recognize it, you may be setting yourself (and someone else) up for pain.
Family is another consideration when it comes to becoming romantically involved with someone of another faith. If your family is particularly involved in their religion and there is a long and devout history with that faith, you may encounter problems with their acceptance of your choices. Of course, your romantic choices are yours to make and not your family’s, but there is no discounting the importance of family and the role they play in your life.
If you choose to date outside your faith, and you know that this will cause a problem, it would be wise to talk to your family preemptively about your desires and reasons. The love they have for you will hopefully outweigh their objections eventually, but it may take time. For your part, you will also need to be willing to understand the reasons they place importance of your spiritual health as well. Their objections, for better or worse, will be rooted in their love for you and your well-being, in addition to the devotion to their beliefs.
In some families it may be assumed that dating outside the faith is a phase and that for something as serious as marriage you will choose differently. If you know that may not be the case, working to prepare them that you may choose a mate of a different faith is very important. This is true not only for the health and stability of your relationship with them, but also for the relationship they will have with someone that you love and may spend your life with.
Some people will create a mental difference between dating and marriage. They may think, “I’m just dating and having fun.” And while that may be true now, dating is the first step for any couple before marriage, so taking future concerns into account well before marriage is a possibility is crucial.
No relationship is ever perfect, but an interfaith marriage can add an extra layer of complexity and potential strife, especially when it comes to child-rearing and family relationships, as described above. Making peace with your acceptance or lack of acceptance, of a partner with different beliefs before you are years into a relationship is a smart and caring thing to do.
That being said, not everything can be anticipated and time has a way of changing things, even when we thought it never would. Know going into an interfaith relationship of any kind that times may come when your differences create distance or problems between the two of you. These can be overcome. It may, however, require help of a trusted religious leader or qualified couples counselor to bridge these gaps. Being open to the idea that you will seek help and support when and if it becomes necessary can provide a safety net for maintaining the health of your relationship.
Interfaith relationships are common these days and can be very successful. You make the chances for that success and your own happiness far greater when you think about things ahead of time and make your fating choices wisely.