I’ve heard it said a lot; people want to date someone who shares their faith. It’s part of the process for them to have someone that understands how they tick in terms of how they see what’s beyond this world. To many people, their faith defines what they believe, how they see the world and how they should behave.
So, simple right? Christians go with Christians, Muslims go with Muslims and atheists go with atheists: the perfect game of musical chairs where everyone gets a chair.
Not so. I’ve been in relationships with the same faith, different faiths and no faith, and they have all had their various levels of successes and/or failures for three reasons: the particular breed of the faith, the strength of that person’s faith and, most importantly, the personality of the individual.
The first thing to take into consideration is to analyze the faith or mind frame to which you belong. Are you a fundamentalist Christian where you are taught that your lover will burn in hell if they do not go to church? Are you an atheist and think that all religious people are stupid for what they believe? Then an interfaith relationship cannot possibly work.
This isn’t a slight on those beliefs, it’s just that some mindsets are simply not compatible with being in close quarters with wildly different mindsets. That’s when you need to play the game of musical chairs and find someone that shares your beliefs. But those people who perfectly agree with you in every way religiously may not always be around. And then there are those with accepting faiths. That’s when interfaith relationships come in.
The trick, then, is to find someone that is part of an accepting faith persuasion where they do not see other beliefs as a direct threat. Ideally they should be of the mindset that “all roads lead to God,” be it Buddhism, Hinduism or certain sects of Christianity. In other words, they should not be threatened by your views and know that just being a good person will get someone where they need to go in the here and thereafter.
Another factor is the strength of the person’s faith, if they have one. It is one thing for someone to be baptized and write on their census form that they are Catholic, but they may never go to church. That person may just be laid back enough to accept you for what you are. Then you are in good company for a relationship.
For the third factor, I cannot stress enough the importance of the person’s personality. Whatever faith they are, whatever beliefs they have, they have to have the ability to compromise. Someone has to bend and not feed everyone at the table ham if they are Jewish. Someone has to shrug their shoulders when their partner goes off to perform a Solstice ritual and not say they are wasting their time. And both have to be able to say that it is okay what they believe because it matters enough to them to keep practicing it.
Because at the end of the day, you should both be in a place where you can love each other for the people they are, not just where they go on Sundays, at the full moon, at Ramadan or where they don’t go at all. That is what makes in interfaith relationship work.