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The Easter Dating Dilemma


What to do when one of you thinks it's about faith and the other thinks it's about eating candy.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

or you, Easter is a serious religious observance. For your date, it's an excuse to plan a festive brunch and eat way too many foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. How do you discuss each of your needs and reach a resolution that suits you both without having a fight of Biblical proportions? Read on.

Some topics are just plain hard to discuss calmly. "Sex, religion and politics all hit primal
People are naturally predisposed to want to be right about their deeply held positions.
parts of our brains—the reptilian and emotional brains that are largely subconscious," explains Meryl Runion, a communications expert and founder of Speak Strong, LLC, in Cascade, CO. "We expect our conversations about these topics to be logical," she continues. "But the primal brain tends to classify ideas into right-wrong, bad-good, and even righteous and evil. Therefore, any hint that someone doesn't hold the 'right' belief can seem like an indication that their beliefs are completely 'wrong.' The stakes are even higher when people are dating, because there is more pressure to conform among couples."

Here's some advice that will help you have constructive, inclusive and calm conversations about the holidays with your date:

Play nice
"Be sure not to polarize the conversation," Runion counsels. "If a date talks about the Easter Bunny, someone who sees Easter as the celebration of redemption needs to be careful not to diminish the secular perspective while sharing their deep spiritual perspective."

Tread carefully and calmly. Adds Phil Holcomb, cofounder of Extraordinary Learning, a personal and professional coaching company in Seattle, "People are naturally predisposed to want to be right about their deeply held positions. Even in just talking about those positions, people tend to become adamant so as to diminish the room for being told they are wrong. None of us wants to hear that our most deeply held positions of faith are not worthy." Though you may disagree with your date's perspective, don't get into a debate.

Tell, don't sell
"The most common mistake in these conversations is to sell my beliefs rather than tell my beliefs," Holcomb says. "My date did not sign up for religious instruction or indoctrination from me. When, in the course of getting to know someone, I reveal my articles of faith as a matter of fact for me, but with room for you to express yourself without fear of put-down or chastisement
My date did not sign up for religious instruction or indoctrination from me.
from me, I create a foundation for continuing and deeper conversation." Runion agrees: "People learn best from seeing and experiencing. When someone sees how your faith guides you, that person will understand it far better than if you try to convince the person." It's all about sharing traditions and learning from one another, not lecturing.

Learn something
"Ask questions about the highlights of your date's experience and be open to the goodness in his or her way of celebrating, even if it seems like a trivialization of a high holy day," Runion notes. "If you show interest, you won't come across as pushy when you mention yours. Learn from each other. That will keep the doors open."

But don't make it the Spanish Inquisition. "When a person thinks he or she is being quizzed, qualified or grilled, that person is likely to become defensive and close down," Holcomb says. "I want the person to feel safe to tell me his or her truth, and I want to invite, through my behavior, the person to be curious about me."

The last word
"Faith is a topic that promotes intimacy," Holcomb says. "People at the dating level are often afraid of being truly intimate because they think, 'If I let you know the real me you may not like what you see and go away.'" But the fact is, without honest, open communication about values and beliefs, the relationship will "go away" anyway. "The worst-case scenario in this situation is that you think you are not a match based on your faith criteria," Holcomb says. "But you can still value each another, rather than feel devalued around each another." And that's an attitude worth adopting, whether you are spending Easter Sunday at services or sharing sweets.


North Carolina-based freelancer Margot Carmichael Lester also writes the Ask Margot advice column. Submit your faith-based dating queries to AskMargot@match.com.
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