Whether you can never pick a movie you both like or a pizza topping you can both agree on, being in a relationship can often mean being open to compromise. Of course, when something as complex as religious beliefs come into play, knowing how to navigate your differences can sometimes feel totally daunting. And if you're uncomfortable attending a religious service, but your partner wants to take you to one, it's not always easy to know what to do.
"Religion may be something that is very meaningful to your partner," Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin MS, LCPC, Certified Imago Therapist, and cofounder of The Marriage Restoration Project, tells Elite Daily. "It is only natural that your partner would want to share such an important of their life with you."
According to the Pew Research Center, 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, of more than 35,000 Americans from across all 50 states, 40 percent of participants ages 18-29 attested that religion was "very important" in their lives, whereas 50 percent of those ages 30-49, and 60 percent of those ages 50+ said the same. By and large, younger people in America are navigating religion in different ways than generations before them. So, if you and your partner have different religious identities or practices — or are even in the process of discovery — you're certainly not alone.
The role religion will play in your relationship may ultimately require engaging in a number of conversations overtime. However, according to Rabbi Slatkin, when it comes to activities like attending religious services, it may be possible to strike a balance between supporting your partner, while remaining authentic to yourself. "Doing things for your partner because it is important to them and comes from a place of love and compassion, needs not to contradict living your own truth," Rabbi Slatkin says. When you're in a partnership, it's important that all parties feel supported in expressing their ideas and ideologies. Yet, holding space for your partner's values doesn't need to contradict or minimize your own beliefs and feelings.
Rabbi Slatkin shares that attending a service because your partner asked you to in no ways needs to mean anything more than just being supportive. "Attending the religious service does not mean that you subscribe to the experience," Rabbi Slatkin says. "You can go just because you love your partner and want to be there for them." If your discomfort stems from feeling pressure to participate in a religious ritual, or if you're worried your attendance may be misinterpreted as the desire to convert, speaking to your partner beforehand about your specific reservations may help affirm your intentions. Attending a service doesn't need to mean you're changing your whole life or that you even agree with your partner's religious beliefs, but it can be a gesture of respect, and demonstration to show you care.
Of course, if attending a religious service is definitely not your thing, or even puts your mental health at risk, that's totally OK too. Just because religion may play a large role in your partner's life, does not mean that you need to force yourself to do anything you're uncomfortable with. "It's important to have a safe conversation with your partner about your feelings of discomfort," Rabbi Slatkin says. If attending a religious service would make you uncomfortable, you're allowed to express that openly. Having honest and safe conversations can help you and your partner communicate and find a solution that makes everyone feel supported.
If you're not feeling up for a religious service, Rabbi Slatkin suggests validating how important religion may be to your partner when discussing your discomfort with attending a service. "Share how you understand how it is important to them, but the same time, you are feeling uncomfortable," Rabbi Slatkin says. "Make sure it is a good time when you both can sit down and focus. This will help you both stay focus and not reactive." Unlike opting out of an invitation to a sporting event or a concert, RSVPing "No" to an invitation to attend a religious service can provoke an extremely sensitive topic. Setting out time to sit down and discuss your feelings openly can help make space for both you and your partner to express your needs. Staying focused on your specific feelings and your POV, while still validating your partner and their beliefs, can keep the conversation centered on supporting each other and not on reacting or arguing over who is right or wrong.
If you're not comfortable attending a religious service with your partner, it's OK to tell them that. When opening up a dialogue, try to make sure you and your partner have the time and space to really express yourselves. If you're willing to attend a service, but don't want your attendance interpreted as anything more, discussing your boundaries and intentions with going to said service may clear up any confusion. And if attending a service is not for you, you don't need to go, or to even feel the pressure to go. Partnership may mean meeting halfway, but it never needs to mean compromising your comfort.