Religious differences may have once represented an insurmountable barrier, but a growing number of couples have different religious beliefs. These relationships can flourish like any other, but they do create unique difficulties. The following tips will help you meet those challenges head on and make the most of your relationship.
Get It Out in the Open
Communication is never optional in a relationship, but it becomes particularly important if you and your partner have different religious beliefs. Every religion has unique ideas around diet, sex, the role of marriage and other topics that could impact your relationship. It may not be essential for you and your partner to agree about everything, but you do have to respect each other and make compromises. The first step to doing this is to simply understand each other's beliefs.
From the beginning of your relationship, it is important to discuss your respective religions, or lack thereof, their teachings and any rules associated within that religion. Make it clear how strongly you believe in each teaching, where you are willing to compromise and what is non-negotiable for you. Then keep the lines of communication open throughout the relationship. Never hesitate to tell your partner if they offend you or fail to respect your beliefs. The more you communicate, the easier it is to make faith differences work.
Make It a Learning Experience
Rather than waiting for your partner to tell you what they believe, you should actively seek information on their religion. Not only will this make it easier to understand your partner's explanations, but it will demonstrate respect for their beliefs and a willingness to invest time in the relationship. Look for books, articles, and videos made by people who themselves practice the religion, as this will ensure that the information is authentic. You should also consider attending one of your partner's religious services. Though make sure to ask ahead of time what you are allowed to do; many religions restrict the participation of outsiders.
The same advice applies if your partner is not religious but you are. Read the writings of atheists and agnostics, visit secular online forums, talk to friends or other individuals who may have secular beliefs and get a sense of how people live without religion as a central part of their lives. This will help you to appreciate your partner's views.
Manage Family Matters
Although you and your partner may not have a problem dating across religious lines, your respective families could have other views. It is important to address family issues from day one, telling your relatives openly that you are dating someone with different beliefs about religion. Emphasize that you take the relationship seriously, have no desire to convert your partner or let them convert you and consider your partner an honest and trustworthy person. The more upfront you are about your relationship, the more likely your family is to understand and support it.
Explain to your family what your partner's beliefs are, emphasizing anything that they should avoid talking about or doing. To your partner, explain how your parents' beliefs differ from your own, especially if those ways involve adhering more rigidly to religious rules than you do.
When you meet your partner's family, be willing to answer questions they ask about your beliefs or lack thereof in an honest manner. Avoid arguments, instead treating any disagreement as an opportunity to learn more about what your partner's family believes. The more respectful and open you are, the easier it is to earn the family's trust.