For many people in the world, faith is the cornerstone of their lives, the basis of their moral compass, and the guide that drives their everyday decision-making. And because of that, it’s something that absolutely needs to be considered when making romantic relationship decisions.
If you’re not someone who is religious and you’re considering dating someone who is—is that a good idea? Can it work? Or maybe you’re someone who is already dating someone religious and you’re running into some troubles. Is there a way to salvage things?
These are all fantastic questions that we hear all the time. In today’s guide, we want to answer all of these questions (and more). And as a precursor, we want to point out that we’re not here to talk about the merits of faith and whether it’s the right thing for you or not. We’re simply trying to help you navigate the complex, yet common, situation.
Table of Contents
Is Dating Someone Religious When You’re Not a Good Idea?
Let’s just dive into the million-dollar question right off the bat. Is it ever a good idea to date someone religious if you’re not and don’t plan to change that? The answer is that it depends. Let’s begin with a few questions that can help us answer this question for your unique situation.
How Important is Their Faith to Them
Here’s one of the most important questions. Are they just casually religious or are they someone who faith and religion are important to? If they’re just casually religious and it really doesn’t play a big role in their lives, then you may be able to make it work. Do keep in mind, though, that if they do start to take things more seriously later, you may run into some issues.
If they are someone whose faith is moderately or very important to them, that makes things complicated. In this situation, we’d advise that getting into a relationship is probably not a great idea. Faith is something that permeates all aspects of someone’s life. You may be able to work around issues early in the relationship, but as you go deeper and start to really understand how each other operates—it can create issues.
For example, maybe they’re someone whose religion doesn’t allow them to drink. That may not be an issue initially because they can look the other way. But what happens if you move in together? What happens if their family isn’t a fan that you like to drink?
This is just one example. Most religions have viewpoints about every aspect of life like premarital relations, substance use, swearing, unsavory content/movies/TV shows/etc., how children are raised, how time is spent, and so on. The list is pretty endless and you can expect conflict here that might not be evident from day one.
If their faith is important to them, we’d advise against getting into a relationship.
One last thing—what do you do if you’re not sure how important their faith is to them? Ask! Long gone are the days when talking about religion and politics and all of that stuff is taboo.
The point of dating is to find out who you are and are not going to be compatible with. It’s 100% okay to share that you’re not a religious person, see how religious they are, and flat out ask them if they think it might cause some issues.
Just be aware that this is a conversation you don’t want to brush over or not take seriously.
How Far Your Views on Morals and Life Choices Are From Theirs
Now, if you’re still interested in making it work, the next question to look at is how much potential conflict there may be. As we mentioned, religious people tend to live lives that are heavily influenced by their faith. While it might seem like a bunch of “rules” to you, it’s generally not the case with most religions. It’s more that they choose to live a particular lifestyle in respect or response to their faith which shows in their actions.
This is where you may need to get into specifics with them. You can start by asking what aspects of their lives are influenced by their faith. Then you can go through the popular “hot button” issues that we’ll list in a few. These are the areas of living that we tend to see the most conflict.
What you’re looking for here are areas of importance to them, what that means for how they live their life, whether you also live your life that way (or are okay living it that way), and then how they feel if you don’t live that way.
That’s a mouthful, but it will make sense with an example. Let’s take alcohol for example. If their religion doesn’t allow them to drink, do you drink? If so, are you okay with never drinking again? And if not, are they okay with you drinking? If they’re not going to be okay with it, that’s going to be a major issue.
Remember that just because something isn’t important to you or doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, it doesn’t mean that it’s not to them.
Again, start by letting them share the life choices and things that are most important to them. After that, here are some “hot button” issues that may or may not be important, but are certainly worth exploring.
- Substance Use – This includes alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Be aware that it should also be a discussion about the “degrees” of each. For example, most Christians feel that drinking is fine as long it’s not to excess (getting drunk).
- Premarital Relations – This would include everything from kissing to sexual intercourse, and everything in between.
- Above PG Content – Generally, this has a lot to do with TV shows, music, and movies. Many people of faith are particular about the type of content they watch or listen to, and probably will care what their significant other is consuming too.
- Pornography – Yes, we dropped the big “P” word. Most religions are not cool with this, so consider discussing it if it’s a part of your life. Do not think it’s something you can just keep hidden and expect to have a healthy relationship.
- Adult Language – This would include things like swearing (cuss words), as well as dirty jokes. Again, there are things you may not feel are a big deal, but your faith-rooted partner might.
- Attending Services – Do they have services that they attend regularly or on major holidays? Are they going to expect you to attend?
- Unique Rituals – Does their religion have any particular rituals that they may want you to partake in or be a part of? Consider things for everyday life as well as marriage. Yes, it may feel early to talk about something like marriage but imagine the headache and heartache you can save if you catch these things now and don’t enter into a relationship that won’t work.
- Raising Children – Much like marriage, it may seem silly to be thinking about raising kids now. However, if the relationship goes amazingly and you get married and want kids, what happens when you have wildly different views on how that will look? Yes, these are important enough reasons not to get into a relationship with someone—religious or not.
If you can see a path forward after discussing all of these issues, there’s a chance it could still work. We’d still advise against it, but the heart gets what the heart wants sometimes.
What If I am Already Dating Someone Who is Religious?
For some of you, you may wish that you saw this article before you started dating because you’re now running into issues. First, it’s okay. You probably didn’t know better, and this does happen a lot.
What you need to figure out, though, is this—is there a path forward staying together? The answer to this question is going to involve some inner-soul searching and some tough conversations. But the more honest, open, and direct you can be about it, the better the results (no matter what the outcome).
Here’s what we recommend. Go through the list of questions and steps outlined in the previous section. Assess the situation as if it were a new relationship. If you wouldn’t date this person from the start with all the information, then staying together is most likely not the best idea.
Yes, that may sound harsh. And yes, if you read other advice guides, they probably tell you to give a lot of weight to the fact that you’ve “been together for a while.” But honestly, as harsh as it sounds, if it isn’t going to work, it’s not going to magically work because you’ve got some time invested. If you’re trying to get from point A to point B and you’ve been walking the wrong direction for 20 miles, you’re never going to get to your destination unless you turn around and walk the right direction.
The only situations where you may want to consider more of the “time together factor” is if you have kids or are already legally married. Still, though, staying together is probably not going to be the best option, but that’s way more than we have time to dive into today.
Important – Don’t Expect Anyone to Change
This is a note important to both the person who is religious and the person who is not. Do not expect the other person to change if they don’t say they’re going to. Too often, religious people get into a relationship with a non-religious person thinking, “Oh, they’ll come around over time. I’ll be able to convert them.”
And the other way around, non-religious people sometimes think they might be able to “wear down” their new love interest or that they aren’t going to always be as committed to their faith as they say they are. If that’s your thought process, stop. Hard stop. While that might make it feel like you can get what you want, it’s nothing short of manipulative and unfair to the other person. Would you really want someone you care about to sacrifice something that’s obviously very important to them? We hope the answer is a resounding no.
If They Say They’re Going to Change
Sometimes, though, people say they’re open to changing their religious beliefs to make a relationship work. And while we commend the commitment to making it work, we want to provide some words of caution.
Changing their lifestyle to match yours is something we can usually get behind, as long as no one is sacrificing something important to them. But when it comes to changing their religious beliefs, you have to ask yourself how genuine the change is.
Are they just saying they believe something new? Generally, a genuine change in religious beliefs is not spurred by a necessity to do so to keep a relationship.
If they come to their new faith on their own, though, great! But be wary of someone claiming to make a change and even possibly believing it themselves if it’s not truly genuine. All you’re doing then is kicking the can down the road and pushing the problems to a slightly later date.
Dating Someone More Religious Than You
There is one additional situation that we’d like to cover that may be applicable to you and your situation. What happens if you are religious, but you’re dating someone who is much more religious to you. Maybe you were just raised a certain religion and you identify as such, but it really doesn’t have a lot to do with your day to day life. But the person your dating is devout or is quite passionate about their faith and it truly affects the way they live their life.
Can a relationship work in this scenario? Again, it depends. Here are the questions you have to ask yourself to get to the answer.
- How far apart is the disparity? If they’re only slightly more religious than you, it probably isn’t that big of a deal that you should be able to work through (if you want to).
- Do you plan to take your faith more seriously? If you’re just going through a life phase where you’ve drifted away from your religion but have plans to get more serious about it, that can probably work. Just realize you may need to prioritize that to keep the relationship moving in the right direction.
- What specific areas are they more religious than you? If it’s something simple that really doesn’t impact any of the areas we talked about earlier in the guide, that’s okay. But if there are big issues especially with lifestyle choices that you differ on—it may not be the best idea to stay in the relationship if no one plans to make any changes.
- Are you only religious in name? One other thing to look at is this. When you say less religious, do you mean that you believe in the same things as them but it just doesn’t play out as prominently in your day to day life? Or, do you mean that you were raised a certain religion and you’ve just always called yourself that but don’t really believe what the religion is based on? If it’s the first, you have a much better shot of making things work. If it’s the latter, you might as well assess the situation as if you’re not religious at all.
Speaking of changes, this is important to point out. Much like we talked about in the last section, you should never expect someone to compromise on their faith to meet you where you’re at. If that’s what you’re hoping will happen, you need to rethink your morals and how you conduct yourself in a relationship. If it’s your needs over theirs, that’s an issue.
Ultimately, people who are just less religious than their partner have a much better chance of making the relationship work because usually they believe the same fundamental things. But if you’re only religious in name and don’t share the same core beliefs, it’s probably going to be a problem.
The Wrap Up
So, here’s the bottom line. Dating someone religious when you’re not is almost always not a good idea. If their faith isn’t important to them and is just casual, it could possibly work, but you still run risks if they get more serious about it down the road.
And if you find yourself in a relationship already with someone who is religious and you’re not, you need to approach things with the same level of importance. If it’s not going to work in the long run, putting off coming to that determination is only going to make things harder.