If You & Your Partner Don’t Agree On Religion, Here’s How To Talk About It
In some ways, the old adage of "opposites attract" can be very true — especially when having those differences helps create a balance between you and your partner, and brings out new sides of you. However, when those differences start getting at the core of you who are and your beliefs, being too different has the potential to create friction in the relationship. Case in point: If you and your partner don’t agree on religion, that can create a serious divide between you, especially if you don't feel like it’s something you can talk about without it turning into an argument.
"Religion is a fundamental part of who you are. It's not something small like what your favorite food is or favorite color. This is something that can truly make or break a relationship. It's important for couples to respect the parts of each other they don't agree on, or a relationship will never work," Jeannie Assimos, eHarmony's chief of advice, warns Elite Daily. So, if you and your partner have differing views on religion, you can't just sweep it under the rug and hope it resolves itself. It's essential to learn how to talk about it in a way that is respectful and open if you want to have a real future together.
To help cross that communication divide, I reached out to relationship experts for their takes. Here's how they suggest tackling this tricky topic.
1. Find Common Ground
In order to have a productive conversation about this sensitive subject, David Bennett, certified counselor, relationship expert, and co-founder of Double Trust Dating, tells Elite Daily the first step is to find some neutral territory and commonality. “Many religions (and sects within religions) share a lot in common, including basic moral codes, common beliefs, and similar rituals (like prayer and meditation). Choosing to focus on commonalities versus emphasizing divisions can help,” he suggests.
2. Educate Yourself About Their Beliefs Before You Judge
Before you fully form an opinion about something important, like religion, it's always a good idea to really understand the subject. Otherwise, you risk having a belief that is based on misinformation, says Bennett. “Learn more about each other's religious views. Many people often misunderstand religion because they only know what is portrayed in the media or on TV. Taking time to learn more about each other's religion could help each partner develop more respect and even appreciation for that religion,” he explains.
While doing your own research is a good way to start, don’t be afraid to ask your partner questions as well, Celeste Viciere, licensed mental health clinician, author, and host of Celeste The Therapist Podcast, tells Elite Daily. “It is important to ask questions,” Viciere says. “Do not assume or go to Google for an answer. If you aren't sure of something about your partner's religion or their religious background, be transparent about what you think and ask them to tell you so you can learn more about it.” This is a good way to have an open dialogue that won’t automatically put your partner on the defense. Viciere adds that when you ask questions, it's important to keep an open mind and not bring outside baggage into the conversation. “Be mindful of how society affects your thought pattern,” she suggests. “We get so many signals from society, and it can tend to happen unconsciously. Being self-aware of this is so important. If the relationship is solid, you should feel comfortable enough to ask about your partner's background and traditions.”
3. Focus On Values Over Religion
Focusing on the values that you share instead of your different cultures might help keep the conversation on a positive path, Lydia Kociuba, professional online dating profile writer and coach tells Elite Daily. “It's not important for a couple to agree on a religion if their values are still fundamentally the same. Religion is a value source, not necessarily the value itself,” she explains.
4. Avoid Conversations About Who Is Right And Wrong
The one thing you definitely want to avoid when discussing this tricky topic, says Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of Dr. Romance's Guide to Finding Love Today, is why one of you is “right or wrong” for their religious beliefs. This is one way to shut down any positive progress. “Arguing about who is right or wrong will not solve anything,” Tessina tells Elite Daily. Her advice is to focus your energy on understanding rather than debating. “Work on understanding what is important to each of you, then finding a way to incorporate that and resolve your differences. Focus on the problem only long enough to understand what it is, then switch the focus of your discussion to what will work, and what will solve the problem that both of you can live with your mutual decision,” she says.
While talking about something as personal and sensitive as religious beliefs can feel like a minefield, Dr. Shoshana Aal, clinical psychologist and owner of Watermark Counseling, tells Elite Daily that differing views don’t have to be deal breakers if you don’t make them one. “While views on religion do play a large role in a person’s life, it is no more important to have the same religion as your partner than to have the same cultural background, or even the same preference for vacation spots,” she says. “Having the same religious beliefs might make some things easier, but differences between you and your partner can just as easily add excitement and diversity to the relationship. Just keep in mind that the mindset should never be ‘my beliefs against yours,’ but ‘love and respect for each other's differences’,” she concludes.
Ultimately, this is advice that can help you communicate about any subject, and is key to a loving and healthy relationship.