Ask Margot-Sharing Religious Expectations

I want her to join my family and faith. When should I tell a date my religious expectations?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
My family has been very active in the same church since before I was born, so it’s important to them and to me that my romantic partner becomes a part of my religious community. Should I mention this on a first date and, if so, how?
-Honoring Thy Father in Florida

Dear HTF,
Your concepts of family and faith predate your dating history. Feelings about family go way back; they’re almost as hard-wired into us as the hard-wiring we’re born with. Same with faith. These
Wear it proudly and with honor by being clear about your values from date number one.
aren’t usually things we can compromise on.

So don’t play down your convictions or your beliefs. Wear it proudly and with honor by being clear about your values from date number one. Better yet, mention it in your profile, because your values around faith and family are as much a part of who you are as anything in your personality.

Now, I’m no circuit preacher (though my great-granddaddy was), but this is a much deeper issue that extends beyond your desire to honor thy father and thy faith. It’s time for you to decide how you want the woman of your life to live these things, too.

Forms & Feelings
Though we almost never think about think about it, there’s a big difference between what we do in our life (the forms of living we pursue) and our emotional experience of life (the feelings we get from pursuing the forms). And it’s always important, especially in situations like yours, to understand the difference.
  • Forms: Pursuing an active spiritual life requires you to do many things. You may attend services, classes, social events. You may pray and study on your own. Your family life has its own rituals and activities. These are the forms your life takes on as you live out our role as seeker and son. But there’s something else involved, too.
  • Feelings: How do you feel when you do these things? What is your emotional experience of attending services? Of praying? Or sitting around the table with your relatives for that big Sunday dinner you’ve always known? Whereas the forms are specific, the feelings don’t have to be. After all, you may get the same warm feelings about dinner with old friends as you do about dinner with family.
By learning to distinguish between form and feeling, you can discover something powerful: That you can actually get the same feelings, even if you don’t have the same forms. Why? Because feelings come from inside yourself—and you always have a choice about how you feel.

Questions & Answers
So what does all this have to do with advertising your convictions on a first date or even earlier? Well, it may just help you clarify what your convictions really are. To see what I mean, ask and answer these five questions:
  1. Do you want your partner to be active in your faith community (form), or to share your experience of your faith (feeling)?
  2. Do you care if she shares your beliefs (feeling), or is it enough that she just plays along (form)?
  3. How would you describe the sense of connectedness you want with your partner (feeling)?
  4. Will you get that if she merely participates with you in religious and family activities (form), or is there a way of participating together that you are looking for here (feeling)?
  5. Would it work for you if she were a deeply spiritual person (feeling) who pursued the activities associated with a different faith (form)?
Wants & Needs
When you say, “It’s important to me…that my romantic partner becomes a part of my religious community,” are you talking about forms, feelings,
By learning to distinguish between form and feeling, you can discover something powerful.
or both? Nail it down: By not leaving it open to interpretation, you can clearly state that you want the woman in your life to be a current member of your faith community and be willing to convert. Or that you simply want to be with a very devout person, regardless of whether she attends services with you or not.

Knowing the forms you want and the feelings you need—and being able to separate the two—may help you make some adjustments. Forms can change, right? You might move and join a different community within your faith. But we can’t get away from honoring our emotional needs. After all, if you moved you wouldn’t not look for a new community because you need the feelings you get from being active in a church.

Accountability & Clarity
Realizing this makes us more accountable because we can admit that how we feel about our lives is within our control. It also makes us more honest because we can tell others what kinds of feelings we need to be satisfied.

The clarity you get from understanding the connection in your life between forms and feelings will help you focus your energies on meeting and dating women who are right for you, rather than wasting time on those who aren’t. This way, you can up the odds of finding the woman of your dreams without relying on a wing and a prayer.

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