Dating And Religion-Asking The Right Questions

Wondering about your date’s faith? Here’s how to get the info you seek.

By Andrea Pyros

f your faith is important to you, one of the first things you’re probably curious about when you’re dating someone new is whether his or her religious beliefs are compatible with yours. Without giving your date the third degree, how can you suss out where this person’s spiritual beliefs lie? After
Don’t get super-serious during early, getting-to-know-you dates.
all, learning about a prospective partner’s faith isn’t just about finding out his or her denomination, it’s also discovering whether you two share fundamental values and have similar ideas for the direction you want your lives to go. Here are some tips on how to explore the topic of faith with a prospective mate.

Phrase it delicately
Don’t get super-serious during early, getting-to-know-you dates. This isn’t the time to say, “So tell me, where do you worship?” Instead, stick with lighter conversations that still allow you to probe a little. For example, “If you see a movie, ask your date which character he most identified with, and why,” suggests Susan Campbell, Ph.D., author of Saying What’s Real: 7 Keys to Authentic Communication and Relationship Success. “You will learn a lot from what he says.” Or if you read a compelling human-interest story in the paper that shows someone making a moral choice, ask your date what he would do in a similar situation. Hearing how he’d work through an ethical dilemma is a great way to learn more about his values and whether you’d be comfortable with the choices he’d make.

Talk about the news
Along the same lines, bringing up current events that pertain to religion can also yield insight into someone’s beliefs, says Reverend Gerald DeSobe, Executive Director of Krist Samaritan Center in Houston, TX. Ask your date how she feels about a religious topic that’s been in the media, such as a book like The DaVinci Code or the growth of Christian rock stations. “A person of faith will most likely have a greater response, whatever her religious affiliation,” DeSobe says. “If she says ‘I couldn’t care less,’ well, that’s information, too.”

Share biographies
When getting to know someone new, it’s natural to discuss your background, which for you could include your spiritual upbringing as well as the role your faith currently plays in your life. This provides a perfect chance to reveal — and uncover — some specifics. You might say, “I was raised a Baptist and that continues to play an important role in my life. Was your family religious?” Or “I became more interested in Judaism during college.
There is no formula here. People should just be themselves.
Now I attend services each week. Do you find that you’re more or less religious than your family?”

How your date responds to these types of questions will guide how you continue the dialogue. You can certainly ask in what religion she was raised, and whether it’s still important. If you discover that she is not the same religion as you, that doesn’t necessarily signal a problem, DeSobe says. “It’s important to know if someone is a person of faith, because there can be problems in relationships when one partner is and the other isn’t. But it is often much easier to find a place in the middle if you are both people of faith.”

Extend an invitation
Inviting your date to do something fun with you that involves your religion is another good way to gauge compatibility, says Rabbi Ellen Lippmann of Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, in Brooklyn, NY. “Tell them, ‘I’m having a Shabbat dinner Friday night, would you like to come?’ You don’t have to ask him what he thinks about Shabbat; this is about you inviting him to do something with you that you enjoy.” If your date is respectful and shows interest, even if he or she doesn’t share your religion, it signals a comfort level with your religious practice, and that this person could be open to being a part of it as you grow closer.

Act naturally
Most of all, there’s no need to worry unnecessarily about when and how to bring up your own spirituality, says Reverend Gerald Gallagher of the Church of the Messiah in Rhinebeck, NY. “There is no formula here. People should just be themselves.” If something is important to you (whether that’s triathlon training, breeding Welsh Corgis, or singing in your church choir), it’s natural that you’d talk about that with someone you’re spending time with. Be open and truthful about who you are. It will lead to a similar honesty from your date and be a great foundation for what comes next.

Writer Andrea Pyros has written for, YM, Fitness, and other publications. She is coauthor of the book Girls on Film. She lives in upstate New York with her husband and their dog.
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