Friday, December 11, 2009

Religion, Love and Relationships: Time to Talk

As the couple sat before me, I could see their smiles turn inward as we began to discuss their relationship issues concerning religion. Yes, it was time to talk about the pink elephant sitting in the living room that no one wanted to notice.

Candace was a liberal Buddhist, as she would say, and Mark was a conservative Christian. They were deeply in love they said, had been dating for 8 months, and found their way into my office when their discussion about marriage and children always ended with an argument over religion. Candace believed in many different paths to create a connection with the inner divine, while Mark saw one path to salvation, as it is stated in the bible that he referred to often.

After 45 minutes of a somewhat heated discussion, they realized that it would take more than love to make their relationship work. When it comes to topics that can derail any relationship, religion, politics and money usually lead the list. If a couple decides to discuss their differences head on, and not hide from them for months at a time as these two had, the resentments about their different opinions will be lessened.

Unfortunately in this case, they both had major resentments against each other, and one of the reasons Candace felt so slighted was that Mark said during our session, that he would never raise their children in any other way then the Christian path. This strong statement had never been shared with her before. She said if she would have known this months ago, she may have seen that the challenge for her beliefs was too great to bear, and would have moved on.

In this situation, the greatest problem couples face is their desire to not rock the boat, to keep a distance from the topics that cause an initial separation. As time goes by, the problem becomes bigger because of the resentments behind the problem on each side.

After working with this couple for 4 weeks, Mark decided to end the relationship, as he saw more clearly over time that his beliefs could not be compromised. We worked as a team to make sure that everyone agreed that no one was right here, that no one was wrong, and that their opposite beliefs were to be respected.

They both learned a very hard and painful lesson about the early stages of love, and how we sabotage the chances of it flourishing when we do not commit to being honest about our differences from the beginning.Mark also came to realize the hard way that he truly needed to be looking for a woman who shared his own religious beliefs only, and that dating anyone from outside of these beliefs would lead to heartache and frustration.

Slow down in any stage of a relationship to ensure that the love you have is real, and that you can openly and honestly discuss the differences of opinion that you may have in your current relationship regarding religion, marriage, love and children.

Love alone will never be enough to keep you in a healthy relationship together.

Love, peace, Rev. David