Ask Margot-Our Faiths Are Clashing!

She’s a Methodist, he’s a Mormon and there’s trouble brewing. Can the faith gap be bridged?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I am currently in a relationship, and I feel as though my boyfriend is the man I’ll marry. He and I have talked, and I know he feels the same way I do. We have talked about having and raising children, and we agree on every topic except one. You see, he
You’re both facing a very important juncture in your relationship.
is Mormon, and I am Methodist. He wants our children to be raised Mormon, and I do not. Neither of us seems willing to budge, and I don’t know how to resolve this issue. Should we stop dating now, or worry about it when the time is right?
-Methodist in an Embarrassingly Sticky Situation

Dear MESS,
You’re both facing a very important juncture in your relationship, and how you handle it will set the tone for your future together—assuming you still think you have one. So there will never be a “righter” time than right now to talk about this.

But I have to say I’m surprised that two people raised in such different faiths would have gotten this far in a relationship without talking seriously about how they want to raise their kids. This gets my Spidey Sense tingling and makes me wonder if you two have been truly honest with each other about this and other aspects of your relationship.

For people of fairly similar belief structures, spiritual differences are pretty easy to manage when it’s just the two of you. Both people can decide together how you want to honor your respective worship schedules and practices.

But when it comes to having kids and which religion they will practice, even the best-negotiated dual-faith relationship can hit rough water. And for people of very different faiths, this can be an extremely challenging situation.

There are lots of reasons for this. For instance:
  1. You see this as a referendum on your faith.
  2. You truly believe your faith is “better.”
  3. You want to add another member to the congregation.
  4. You don’t want to be out-numbered in the family.
  5. You don’t want to disappoint your family and faith community.
But let’s say the two of you just got swept up in your love and — with rose-colored glasses fully in place — you blew right past the discussion of how
Our feelings about how to raise children are strong and complicated.
your kids would be raised once you figured out both of you wanted a family. If that’s the case, now what should you do?

If you really do believe this guy is The One, this current challenge is worth approaching thoughtfully. It would be a disservice to your relationship to just break up without having a meaningful and deliberate discussion of this very important issue.

But this isn’t going to be easy. Our feelings about how to raise children are strong and complicated. You and your boyfriend should plan to have this talk at a low-stress time in your schedules, when you have plenty of time to spend on this. Here’s how to make the conversation a productive one:
  • You might want to establish some ground rules, like being sure you take turns, share feelings non-judgmentally, avoid snap judgments, etc. I’m sure your respective pastors have lots of tips for having compassionate and calm conversations about tough issues.
  • You and your boyfriend need to think carefully about your feelings on this dicey issue. Get clear on what you feel. Acknowledge it. Then put it aside for a bit, and come back to it later.
  • Talk about your common spiritual ground. What beliefs, values, rites and observances do Methodists and Mormons share? Which do the two of you share that your faiths don’t?
  • Next, talk about the beliefs, values, rites and observances you want your kids to have or experience.
You don’t have to come up with any answers immediately. This isn’t likely to be resolved in one conversation. But you can get closer to figuring out if there are reasonable enough compromises and sufficient common ground to continue talking this over.

If, however, the two of you can’t discuss this productively or can’t find even small patches of common ground, then, unfortunately, it’s probably time to break up. If that’s the case, bring compassion to the discussion and have faith that making this tough decision is an opportunity for both of you to meet and marry people who want to raise kids in the same way you do.

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