Many people ask about the physical characteristics or basic personality traits of what they want in their perfect someone. Religion can play a big role for some when choosing a life partner and it may not be a priority for others. For me personally I grew up Catholic but have had the honor of attending a Baptist church for a bit, Buddhist meditation and learning about other religions as a hobby. I call it an honor to be willing to learn about other religions as I love learning. When I got married to my ex-husband he grew up Muslim but then claimed to be an Atheist and then claimed to have studied to convert to Judaism. What I found out when I got my marriage annulled was that he was a liar. Maybe being a liar is a strong word, but he may have outwardly declared himself an atheist (flavor of the week- made him popular) but he still strongly adhered to the unspoken customs of what I like to characterize as traditional ways of Islamic families that are now changing due to modern times. He was stuck in old behaviors, values and beliefs taught to him as he was growing up Muslim. Not all muslim households were abusive but unfortunately his was. (I was told this of course he could have been lying). Nevertheless, it was his belief and values that being okay with being distant, uncommunicative, argumentative, a liar and abusive as all part of being married or in a partnership. It didn’t work with me. Our beliefs were too different and in the end I got tired of him abusing me and dissing my religion. (Enough already). With regards to dating and religion, rushing things is not wise (I know from experience) and doesn’t allow you to truly get to know each other. My now older, wiser and self reliant me knows that. The other aspect of getting to know someone completely before getting serious:
Religion, faith, ethics and values go a long way with how someone behaves. Making a mistake, even a big one can be a big turning point or learning experience for some. It changes them. For others they repeat the same patterns, unable to take responsibility for and be accountable for their mistakes.
I grew up Catholic but I am definitely much more progressive than my Catholic faith and beliefs. When I got my marriage annulled, they put me through a longer series of questions and meetings and interviews just to nullify my marriage. It was a very cleansing experience and it brought me to to the realization of the true importance of marriage and partnership – something I take very seriously now. In the eyes of the church the marriage I had with my ex was never a real marriage anyway. That kind of stung to me – when I got married I thought it was real, I went to confession and I cried and some stranger in the church said, “That’s the spirit of the lord talking through YOU!” In my opinion, it wasn’t real to my ex either because what kind of a fiancee cheats before the wedding and stands at the altar lying about his fidelity? In hindsight those first tears would not have been my last with him. Now, it’s all just a faded memory that has left a lasting impression on my many relationships today – a thankful event even if very painful.
Dating someone from church
As I shuffled my little ones to their Sunday School class I could see him waiting there. I hate to admit it, I mumbled under my breath – “Please go away, your single dad desperateness is showing.” There is nothing I find more awkward than rejecting somebody in church. I can barely tell the potluck ladies NO when it comes to bringing a side dish let alone reject someone for a date so I did what any other single mom would do. I lied! Yes I lied in Church. He stood there and hung around like he was studying the wall or watching paint dry while I hurriedly but slowly tried to take my time so that he would walk back into church for the service. Nope it didn’t work. He was waiting for me. I signed my kids in, greeted the teacher and swiftly turned around to walk off. Then he stopped me and in what seemed like an exorcist entranced spewage of small talk and TMI the inevitable spilled forth. “Would you like to sit together in church?” I couldn’t escape and I was not at all comfortable being intruded upon in a few hours of my “Spiritual, alone time.”
Sitting together during the service is NOT a date, I already have a date today with God.
When I go to church I take it seriously. If I get up in the middle of the sermon to praise the lord, that vulnerability is something I share with myself and the lord – not a stranger. So I did what others probably have done in their life, in the midst of the question and the fast talking I pretended I didn’t hear the question and said “Have a nice morning.” Yes I was mortified. But at that time I didn’t want to be uncomfortable during service.
Until after service . . . .
I thought my no answer would be universally understood as a rejection. Apparently not. This time Dad waited outside again this time with his beautiful daughter in tow. Her big blue bow in messed up hair bounced along next to my daughter as they played together looking at the fish tank. Good Grief, can the agony not end. While the girls look cute together all I could think of was, let’s not intermingle families. So he tried to start a conversation again. Mixed in with divorce and how many kids he had was “Would you like to go to dinner?” My knees got weak and I felt sick. I snatched my daughter’s hand, smiled and said I need to run off to do some errands but I was terribly busy you know being a single mom, I didn’t have time to date. So yeah I lied. I am sure he will come across my dating profile and call me out as a blasphemer.
You would think it was just as simple to click the checkbox on your dating profile and be done with it. The boxes for Christian that list out 5 to 10 “Types” of Christian and then the other more obvious choices like Jewish, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Muslim, and of course “Spiritual but not religious.” It’s almost easier to wonder whether money, foodie or workaholic could also be synonymous with a religion for the vast majority of profiles out there. That’s why there are dating sites like J-Date for those that are Jewish and Christian Mingle for those that are Christian – OR not!
Why should religion matter or not?
Based on my experience, religion matters a bit. If I am not as devoted as my partner in something so important as in honoring God I should allow him to express that side of himself and vice versa. However, if I begin to feel that I am less than because of his devotion than I am wasting my partner’s time. As a partner, your role is to be supportive not competitive with your partner’s religious beliefs and many times that means worshiping together, having open discussions about faith, and NOT judging each other based only upon the “red” words of the bible. Yet there are also many couples who have completely different religions or beliefs from each other that also do perfectly fine. The answer to that is about priorities. If religion is a priority than communicate that with your potential dates/relationships and explain how your every day life fulfills that you value religion. I have been told many times about someone’s values only to be showed something different. That is where many dating sites get it wrong. You check mark a box a to say you are Christian or to make you look good to potential dates and you can encounter many different types of Christians in different stages of their faith development – some are Christian by baptism and that is all while others are devoted. The overarching theme should be what you both bring to the table and what you are willing to prioritize and put up with – religion included.
When the going gets tough and TOUGH ain’t enough
While in San Antonio with Dallas Single Dad I quietly walked into the the Cathedral de San Fernando to sit and pray. We both grew up Catholic and both had tried out different religions but it was a topic we never brought up. We both are not exactly as devoted to church on our Sundays. I was quite embarrassed in having him see me pray because I felt like I would look hypocritical in his eyes since I am not that devoted. I pray all the time and I wanted to pray again just didn’t want him to see me. Of course he snuck up behind me as I finished and it obviously didn’t bother me afterward. Yet we still don’t really talk about religion and it is something that I think all couples should talk about before they get serious. Religion is not just important in sad times or difficult times but also in happy times or seemingly happy times. As individuals we all evolved in different ways and how we practice our religion plays a role in how we conduct our lives. There is a strength in energy when we pray together as a unit and a couple that prays together essentially enjoins those energy forces and imparts that to their children. When things get tough, I know that God has my back and my partner will hold my hand.