Ask Margot-I Have Issues With His Faith

She’s a Pentecostal who renounced Catholicism…and then fell for a devout Catholic! What to do?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I grew up in a Catholic family and was horribly miserable with it. I later found Christ and am now a charismatic Pentecostal. I’ve struggled with bitterness about Catholicism, but now I’m dating a Catholic. He talks a lot about how we’re going to be together forever and everything, but all I can think
You can’t choose who you fall in love with.
about is how I would never want to have my children raised Catholic or have a Catholic wedding! The differences in our beliefs just seem like they will make things too complicated. I love him and don’t want to break up with him, but at the same time I don’t know if it would really be God’s will for either of us to compromise our faiths. What’s your advice?
– Dizzied by Denominations

Dear Dizzied,
No wonder your head is spinning. You’re seeing a guy who’s part of a faith community and belief structure that you not only don’t share—you have very strong negative feelings about them!

My first question is, why did you decide to get involved with a guy who participates in a religion that makes you “horribly miserable”? I can hear the romantics out there hollering, “You can’t choose who you fall in love with.” And I think there’s some truth in that. You can’t control that basic attraction and affinity you feel for someone. That comes from deep inside. But you can control how you act on the feeling, now, can’t you? You can find someone very attractive but decide not to pursue a physical relationship. You can feel very simpatico with someone, but choose not to get romantically involved.

First things first
So the first thing you need to do is think about what drew you into this relationship. From where I’m sitting, there are a few common possibilities:
  • True love: Maybe God has willed you to be together, but that scares you. People of wildly different faiths fall in love and live happily ever after all the time. So who says this can’t happen for you?
  • Blind lust: He’s hot. You like being near him. And the possibility of physical contact is very alluring. (I’m assuming here that you’re abstaining, but maybe you’re not.)
  • Fear of commitment: Lots of us (yours truly included) have chosen people we can’t possibly have long-term relationships with precisely because we don’t — at our core — want to be in a long-term relationship. Do you have a pattern of dating people whose personal or religious values aren’t in sync with yours?
  • Fear of being alone: Many of us (again, I’m among them... ) are so afraid of being alone that we make a choice to see anyone who’s interested so we can be part of a couple. Again, if you’ve got a history of dating people who’re wrong for you, this could be the reason behind your situation.
Of course, there could be other reasons. But I encourage you to investigate at least these four, to see if you can get to the bottom of this. Doing this is really important, not only for your current relationship, but for
That’s the only hope you have of making this relationship go.
any relationships you may have in the future. Carrying bad patterns with you when you leave a relationship just perpetuates the problem.

Focus on your clashing faiths
I can’t say definitively whether you should break up with him or not without knowing more about your motivations to start seeing him in the first place. But I will point out that your steadfast distaste for Catholicism is going to keep you out of a large chunk of this man’s life. And I don’t think that’s a good thing for a strong marriage.

I can, however, comment on two important issues you brought up in your letter:
  • Marriage: You say you would never want a Catholic wedding, but maybe he would go in for a Pentecostal or some other kind of service. That’s just the first challenge, though. Once you’re married, your commitment to each other may conflict with your commitment to your faiths. Do you want to spend part of every Sunday (at least) apart and have separate sets of friends from church?
  • Children: Another thing you’d “never” want is for your kids to be raised Catholic. How does your man feel about this? Is that fair? How would you feel if he didn’t want his kids raised as Pentecosts? In what church would you raise them? Does he get a say in this?
These questions are difficult enough in the abstract when you’re still just dating. But it’s better to consider — and talk about — them now while the stakes are relatively low. That’s the only hope you have of making this relationship go.

And there’s one more thing. It’s time to deal with your bad feelings about Catholicism in a more constructive way. That was your past; don’t continue to make it your present. Perhaps you could talk to a counselor about this and develop some tools for managing your feelings, purging the bad memories and learning to accept your man’s chosen faith without fearing it. Even if you and this guy don’t decide to stay together, it would still be worthwhile to cleanse that negativity from your life.

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