Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The importance of faith in relationships

I've been thinking a lot about faith lately, and how important it is in a relationship. Faith was such a huge part of Craig's life, and even more importantly, his death. It was his faith that helped him keep a positive attitude since his ALS diagnosis in April, 2008. It was his faith that let him die without any fear in his eyes. What a comfort it was to me, to say goodbye to him, knowing he was not afraid, but looking forward to being with God.

It's been faith that has helped me with grief. Faith that those people I love who have died are in a better place and that I will be with them again some day. I'm guessing that the grief process must be a magnitude more painful for people with no faith.

But how important is faith in a relationship? Well, of course, that's a personal choice. Many religions (including Catholics -- my religion) believe you should only date people of the same faith. Of course, I've broken that "rule" many times, so that in itself might make me a poor example of a faithful Catholic.

When I was young -- and even in the early part of my post-divorce years -- I tended to be most interested in dating Catholics, since I was Catholic. It certainly made it much easier for me to be married to a Catholic... there was never any debate about the church to go to or how to raise our children. There was also some comfort in knowing that my partner understood and had a similar background in the traditions, rituals, and even the "guilt" we Catholics often suffer when we fail to follow every rule.

As I've gotten older and thought more about faith, I realized there were plenty of Catholic "rules" I didn't really agree with, and I spent more time exploring other Christian religions. Most religions, including Christianity, teach that unless you believe in the teachings of that religion, you won't get to heaven. That's a pretty tough pill for me to swallow. But then if I doubt that, then I feel the guilt at doubting what my faith teaches, and get this awful fear that I'm losing not just my ticket to heaven, but my faith altogether... something that is so important to me.

I've been open to dating people of any faith, thinking, especially now that my children are raised, it really isn't important whether or not I share the same faith with a partner. On the online dating sites, it seems "spiritual, but not religious" is quite trendy. I almost choose that as an option myself, due to my doubts about my own level of faith.

Then I met a guy, through my job, who "didn't believe in religion" and told me he'd never date a Christian. I remember feeling a bit insulted by that at first. But then I realized I probably wouldn't want to date someone who "didn't believe in religion" so I was no different. When the guy asked me out, I reminded him I was Christian and he told me he'd make an exception as long as I didn't try to convert him. I ended up telling him that I thought it was a bad idea. It was more than his lack of faith that turned me off... it was that he preferred to be around others who lacked faith.... that he judged people of strong faith poorly, which is just the opposite of how I feel.

I can't claim that my faith is as strong as I'd like it to be. I absolutely believe in God, but my little doubts about some of the teachings of Christianity leave me with nagging fears about my level of faith. But I so admire people of a strong faith -- not those who judge others for not believing how they do -- but those who have strong beliefs themselves and who hold their faith dear.

And if someone is very strong in faith, they probably want to date someone of that same faith. Logically, this is all leading to the conclusion that if I want to date someone of strong faith, I should only date Christians. Of course, the downside there is given my own wishy-washy faith, good Christians may not want to date me!

The other thing to consider, of course, is it is a lot more than just faith that determines a good relationship. I certainly have met many people of many religions who I think I could love. I suppose who I would want most is someone who has a strong faith himself and someone who would accept me and help me grow in my own faith...

How about you? Do you think faith is important in a relationship?


David said...

Not a religious person myself, but not anti-religious, either..

I think it is possible for people to have very different religious and/or political views while still having a strong commonality at a deeper level. As a (fictional) example of Ayn Rand's novel "We the Living," the heroine, Kira, who is a firm anti-Communist, becomes close friends with Andrei, who is a devoted Communist. Kira to Andrei:

" see, if we had souls, which we haven't, and if our souls met - yours and mine - they'd fight to death. But after they had torn each other to pieces, to the very bottom, they'd see that they had the same root"

Yvette said...

Interesting comment, David.

Personally, I'm a person who always likes "balance." I actually think two people with opposite viewpoints do a good job in balancing one another so that their "end values" so to speak, might be somewhere in the middle.

It's kind of the whole ying-yang thing.

If both people can be open enough to accept an opposing viewpoint, rather than fighting about it...trying to make the other person wrong... I think it actually can be very healthy.