Writer Ernest Holmes said, “The great religions of the world do not differ as much as they appear to.”
But, well, they differ.
If your partner has just found a religion that’s perfect for them, that’s exciting! But what does that mean for you? And where does it leave your relationship?
It’s time to ask yourself four questions.
Is religion a dealbreaker?
Some people can’t tell Buddha from Moses. Other people live and breathe their religion. Most people fall somewhere in between. When your partner changes their religion, you have to ask yourself, “How important is religion to me?”
If you and your partner have always been the same religion – even if that religion is atheism – then you’ve probably taken it for granted. Of course you believe the same things. Of course you see eye-to-eye on issues.
But if your partner changes their religion, that’s a big deal. Don’t talk them out of their spiritual journey, but don’t be afraid to do some soul-searching of your own.
If you were both atheist and your partner is suddenly very religious, are they trying to convert you? Are they pushing their beliefs in a way that makes you uncomfortable?
If you envisioned having a family together, will this change how you raise your children?
Will your own family be okay with you being with someone of a different religion?
Don’t immediately write bae off or break up just because of their religion journey, of course. But your feelings are important too. Listen to them.
What does this change on a practical level?
Religion starts as a private matter, but it never stays that way. After all, the whole point of religion is that it changes your life.
Have a talk with bae about how this will change things on a daily basis.
For example, it’s not always as simple as, “I’m a Catholic now so I’m going to go to Confession every once in a while.” Did you know that many Catholics don’t even fish on Fridays? So Friday-night fish fries are now off the table. And many Catholics fast during Lent, go to church every Sunday and abstain from sex before marriage – are you ready to reschedule your life and priorities around your partner’s new beliefs?
If bae wants to become Hindu, they might stop eating meat and might start celebrating holidays at temples. If they want to become Jewish or Muslim, then their entire diet will change as they cut out non-kosher and non-halal foods: Say goodbye to bacon and shrimp. Some religions, like Islam, forbid alcohol; some, like Mormonism, forbid caffeine; and some, like Seventh Day Adventists, forbid celebrating holidays altogether. So don’t hold your breath for a birthday present.
And of course, there’s sex. Many religions forbid sex before marriage. Will your partner suddenly want to become celibate? Or will they want to take the fastest taxi to the nearest altar and get married?
Then there’s the biggest question of all.
Are they okay with being gay?
Certain religions forbid homosexuality. If your partner converts to one of these religions, will they be okay embracing their sexuality, or will they try to change themselves out of shame? You two should have a long talk about this. You don’t want to wake up one Sunday morning to find bae trying to pray the gay out of you.
Do they expect you to convert?
Converting isn’t always bad. After all, we can’t really know a religion until we try it. Maybe what’s working for bae might work for you too; maybe Pastafarianism is your real calling. Even if you don’t want to convert, keep an open mind to bae’s new beliefs, and don’t’ be afraid to engage in some head-on debate.
If bae expects you to convert, that’s a whole different story.
It’s one thing for you to each discover spirituality on your own. It’s another for bae to hook you up to a scientology e-meter.
Even if bae has found the One True Path that will save their eternal soul, that’s not your journey right now. They can lead the way to spirituality, but they can’t shove you down that road. Make sure they know that.
What do you really know about this religion?
Don’t dismiss a religion just because of what you’ve heard from other people.
If you go by what you’ve seen on TV, then Jewish people spend all their time spinning Hanukkah dreidels, Christians put fish stickers onto everything, and Buddhist people meditate all day like Avatar the Last Airbender.
Even if you’re secure in your religion, open your mind to learning about these new beliefs. Even if you end up disagreeing about every tenant, at least you’ll be better educated. You gave it a chance.
By “learning,” I don’t mean “read a Wikipedia article and a couple of posts on your Facebook feed.” I mean attend services with bae. Read their scriptures. Listen to lessons from their most prominent speakers. Celebrate one of the holidays. Try some of the food. Sample their music. Before you judge something, explore it completely.
Your partner changing their religion doesn’t have to be the end of the world, or even the end of your relationship. Keep ad open mind and dive into exciting new beliefs – but don’t be afraid to know your own dealbreakers, too.