After a lifetime of hearing that you shouldn’t discuss politics or religion in polite company, it might feel odd to talk about religion in your online dating profile or in preliminary interactions with a date. But if faith is important to you (and it probably is or you wouldn’t be reading this), then you should definitely make sure that it’s evident early on.

“If the rituals and creed of your religion are a guiding force in your daily life, then you will want to feature your religion prominently in your online profile,” says Micah Sachs, online managing editor of nonprofit www.InterfaithFamily.com. “If religion is only a small part of your life — more a matter of going to a house of worship a few times a year and celebrating holidays with your family — then you probably can include the bare minimum amount of information about your faith.”

So think carefully about the role of faith in your life and be honest about it before posting or revising your profile, mentioning it in an email or talking about it with your date. Why?
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“If religious beliefs are an important part of a person’s life, omitting them from a profile or online discussion can lead the potential mate to think she or he was ‘set-up’ and that the writer was hiding something because [he or she knew] it would be a problem,” says Daniel Bridge, rabbi emeritus of Hillel at the University of Washington in Seattle. That’s not the kind of feeling that long-term relationships are built on.

Need further encouragement? “I had a coaching client who came to me upon ending a good relationship over this issue,” recalls Paulette Kouffman Sherman, a licensed psychologist, ordained minister and author of Dating From The Inside-Out: Using The Law of Attraction in Matters of the Heart. “He was Jewish and she was Christian. Neither had wanted to rock the boat by bringing up this issue. She always figured that they would both compromise and create a joint experience of faith. He assumed that she would convert to Judaism if they married. When the relationship approached an engagement, religious differences became a deal-breaker.”

Judgment call
Even so, you’ll want to proceed mindfully. “There is a temptation to place a potential date in a ‘box’ based upon religion, nationality, political orientation, and so forth,” explains Sherman. “While these things are important, no one thing represents a person on a deep level,” she notes. “Thus, it is important to know someone and to be known over time to get a complete and experiential picture.”

So it’s a balancing act: Talk about your faith, but not too much. How do you convey your faith without screaming it from the rooftops? “Focus on values instead of beliefs,” counsels Alex Yaroslavsky, a mediator and conflict resolution expert in New York. “Values are personal and can be a great topic to explore in order to get to know the other person. Beliefs, on the other hand, are more abstract and can derail a date because we all have slightly different beliefs, and having them challenged can be threatening.”

Of course, if you’re Catholic and only want to date Catholics, then leading with your beliefs is the only way to go.

That’s why you should definitely divulge your religious beliefs and practices before becoming exclusive with someone.

“Once you close the door on other dating possibilities, your job is to see if there is a good fit long-term,” Sherman says. “This determination includes examining issues like religion, money, children, values, etc. Perhaps most importantly, religion is just one platform for observing the level of mutual respect, compromise and authentic communication between partners. There will be many challenges and what counts is whether you can find a mutually satisfying way to face them together.”

Margot Carmichael Lester is a North Carolina-based freelance writer who shares her wit and wisdom in the Ask Margot advice column. Send your faith-based dating conundrums to AskMargot@match.com.