Religion is an important way of finding meaning in the chaos and uncertainty of contemporary living. And yet not everyone takes recourse to religious beliefs to make their way into the world. So if you belong to the latter category but meet someone who is rather particular about living according to their faith, what chances do you have of a fulfilling relationship? Here are a few thoughts on dating someone religious when you are not.
Be prepared for limited choices in dating
Religious people are usually rather conservative in their socializing. So when dating someone who is more religious than you, you may have to plan your dates carefully. While an average woman would not mind meeting you at ten at night in a bar or a nightclub, the same proposal would meet with a stony silence when put to this woman. Instead ask your girl a couple of days ahead if she would like to go out with you so that she can let her family know or do whatever else she needs to before going on a date. For all you know she may be living with her parents and not allowed to keep late nights. More importantly the venue should be one where your date is comfortable – the classic movie and dinner routine should do just fine – other options could be an evening at a musical concert or a day at the museum. However make sure that the concert does not run till late at night; likewise if you are going to the movie or theater, see that it is not playing an adult comedy or anything similarly risqué.
Make sensible conversation
Along with politics and paychecks, religion usually figures as a taboo topic of conversation on dates. This is especially true of the early ones when you are trying to get things started on a pleasant note. So while in the first few dates you may share a number of enjoyable interests with your partner, over time you may realize that he/she holds deep-seated religious views. If you are only interested in casual dating, you can continue to see this person without too much complications. When making conversation avoid topics which are highly controversial and tend to rouse strong feelings. These are mostly issues which are located at the vortex of religion, politics, gender and culture – like whether abortion should be legalized or whether gay marriages should be allowed in churches. In recent times the link between certain religions, cultures and terrorism has become a highly volatile subject. So as far as possible, keep away from these topics if you wish to have a pleasant dating relationship with this person. Rather discuss things like mutual hobbies and choices in music or cuisine. Ask your date about his/her work or college if he/she is studying. Invite them to tell you about their friends or describe the best vacation they took. You could also chat about favorite films, actors and writers if you want to stick to something safe and yet interesting.
Be prepared for cultural differences
If your partner is more religious than you are, it is possible that he/she belongs to a different culture, faith or ethnicity. In this case, having a relationship would involve a higher degree of sensitivity and consideration. So when conversing or discussing things, be prepared for attitudes and views which may not match with yours. It is quite likely your partner values are traditional and he/she has fixed views on what is and is not ‘proper’ behavior in life and love. Avoid asking too many questions about their culture or background on the very first date. Actually this could be a sticky point since it could either be a source of pride or consternation for them. The best thing for you to do would be to take your cue from your partner. Make a general, positive remark about their culture and then see how they responds – if he/she is happy and wants to talk about it, you can ask them a few more questions; on the other hand if he/she seems to clam up, go on to talking about other things. In any case, think carefully before you say anything since cultural and religious differences could be a sensitive issue here.
Take it slow
If your date is more religious than you, he/she may hold pretty conservative views on intimacy and sex. In all likelihood he/she will be opposed to making love before marriage; so if you are looking for a relationship that involves sexual love, then you may have to wait quite a while – till marriage or at least till he/she is assured enough in their love for you. It would be a mistake to pressurize your partner about sex or even to make heavy sexual advances. At the same time though, your needs are valid too and if you feel that you are not feeling fulfilled in this relationship, you are entirely within your rights to look for another partner.
He/she may have other commitments
Established religions rarely function in a vacuum or even in a highly individualized manner. Most major religions encourage their followers to pray communally, come together to celebrate religious occasions and festivals as well volunteer their services for religious or humane ends. Thus it is likely that your partner will often be busy with church responsibilities and duties. Even when he/she is not working for their religious institution, your date may be adhering to certain rituals and customs as ordained in their faith. Thus you may have taken a great deal of trouble to make bookings at the finest restaurant in town only to find out that your date is fasting for that day or keeping off certain foods and drinks. Also when dating an overly religious person, you may have to contend with the overweening presence of his/her family in your personal life. When and where he goes out with you may depend to a large extent on the family’s advice. And it goes without saying that you cannot land at his/her place for a nightcap if he/she is living with their family. Again your partner may be at their family’s beck and call and may even have to reschedule a date with you in order to cater to a family gathering at church or religious festival. All these situations could be very trying to someone who is just trying to find a way to spend time with man or woman they love.
Finally you need to factor in differences in perspective if you are planning to have a long term relationship. In case of casual dating it is easier to accommodate religious differences as compared to committed relationships. Religious views are most often deeply ingrained and when you and your partner have children, the issue of how they will be raised – whether in a religious manner like your partner or in a more relaxed atmosphere like you - may become the site of a major conflict. Thus take into all aspects of your partner’s religious leanings before turning your dating relationship into something more serious.