Ask Margot-Is My Partner Devout Enough?

One man has his doubts about the woman he’s dating—she isn’t living for the Lord. Here’s advice.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
How do you handle a partner who isn’t living for the Lord at the moment? She says, “It’s a blank wall” when she tries to pray. I’m trying to be as patient as I can, and I pray for her often. My own faith is being challenged greatly by this ordeal. Without God in His proper place in both of our lives, I know our relationship is going to be rife with difficulties.
You desire to share your faith with your loved one.
She’s been ‘away’ from God for a long time now, and though it’s hard to keep praying, I’m trying to take comfort in the parable of the persistent widow. I don’t believe that all our conflicts will magically disappear once she does come back to God, but I do believe we will have the framework necessary to deal with our conflicts once she does. I keep giving her over to God. She’s His. He has allowed me the chance to have her in my life. But I’m not seeing any signs of her changing yet—any advice?
– Martin

Dear Martin,
You’ve found yourself in a challenging situation. You desire to share your faith — and your level of observance — with your loved one. And you’re uncomfortable having that faith challenged. I’m not surprised you’re feeling tied up in knots and pulled in two different directions all at the same time.

I reckon, after so many years of opining here on the Internet and making just about every dating/relationship mistake you can make, that I’m a bona fide expert on most anything related to romance. But every once in a while, an issue comes down the pike that requires a higher level of expertise and I rally my A-1 network of spiritual advisors.

It just so happened that your message arrived when I was about to contact my old pal from high school, Boo Tyson, M. Div. The daughter of a prominent Methodist minister, she’s executive director of the nonprofit MAINstream Coalition in Prairie Village, KS. I shared your conundrum with her and asked how she’d counsel you if you were a member of her flock. Here’s what she said:

“I’d say the answer to your question actually lies in your own faith. Think about it for a minute: If what you say about God is true — that is, that God that allowed you to have this woman in your life — then you must also have faith that God will take care of her, just like God takes care of you. This woman is not yours to save. She is yours to love. Let God be God, and all will be OK.

“Now, if you think that perhaps you’ve given God credit for something that you chose, you might want to try another tactic. Is there some chance that you chose this woman rather
The answer to your question actually lies in your own faith.
than God choosing this woman—perhaps using your free will that many believe was given to us by God? If you think that perhaps your differences in theological and spiritual approaches make you unequally yoked and, therefore, not the best of lifelong companions, you might consider using a therapist to help the two of you talk through these differences in order to decide if you two are indeed compatible. A trained therapist might be help the two of you discern whether you are a good match and what to do next.”

Seems reasonable enough to me. But Boo wasn’t finished. She added this very important postscript: “Martin, I am somewhat worried about you though, no matter what happens with this particular woman. My experience has taught me that none of us is likely to be successful in attempting to mediate another person’s relationship with the Divine. I hear you wanting God to occupy the same place for her as God does for you. I understand that you want to be compatible with your partner in all ways, including your religious lives. Just keep in mind that may make it very difficult to find a partner with whom you can settle down because it is very difficult to regulate the prayer life, the spiritual life and the relationship with the Divine for anyone other than yourself.”

“Now, perhaps you can find a partner who you do think keeps God in God’s ‘proper place,’ but rarely do people stay in one place about such things. Our faith lives tend to ebb, flow and grow (and otherwise change) over time. You may be well-served by separating out what is your work to do and what is God’s work to do before you’re unable to find any partner who can make the grade.”

Good luck with this, Martin. Boo and I both hope you find a way to feel satisfied with whichever partner you ultimately choose—or is chosen for you.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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