Living in such a multicultural society, we all know folks who have religious and spir- itual beliefs that are different from our own. Luckily, our generation is overall a lot more accepting of these differences than the ones before us. After all, what people do privately is their own business if it’s not hurting anyone, right? But what if the person with different spiritual views is someone you’re in an intimate relationship with? Can you make it work?
With an endless possibility of combinations, everyone’s situation will be different. Obviously, the more seriously the people in the relationship take their respective faiths, the more issues there are to navigate. In the queer community, it’s not hard to find individuals who have rejected the very idea of religion after experiencing religious intolerance from their families and communities. For such a person, it may be difficult to try to merge worlds with a partner who is religious, but I think it can be done, and there can be real benefits for both parties. Many atheists and agnostics report that they are better able to let go of anger and resentment toward religion as a result of their relation- ship with a religious partner. People whom we love have a way of helping us see the best in everything. Many believers with non-believer partners say their relationships have helped them become more comfortable with questioning their religious beliefs and adopting more progressive and tolerant views.
So what about when there are two religions involved? Whether your pairing is Catholic and Muslim, Hindu and Jewish, or any of the myriad possibilities, a lot of questions are bound to come up. How will
you deal with your families? If you have children, what faith will they be raised in? What cemetery will you be buried in?
I spoke with Cantor Anibal Mass who does interfaith counselling at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in Winnipeg, a synagogue that both welcomes queer members and has an interfaith cemetery. He says one of the biggest problems with younger people getting into relationships these days, interfaith or otherwise, is that they simply aren’t talking enough about the important issues before committing to a relationship. “They think that common interests are enough, but they aren’t asking the big questions, and not even just about religion.” Whether you have differences in faith, or dif- fering opinions about how you will raise children or manage money, it’s necessary to determine if you have a worldview that’s compatible with your partner’s. Cantor Mass says it’s common for people to get more serious about their religion as they get older, or for a casually religious person to have a spiritual awakening, so reli- gious differences that can be easily minimized at first often come to the forefront later. He recommends counselling for any interfaith couple considering marriage.
In the end, differences in spirituality are not really too different from other differences we might face in relationships. They can be a deal breaker, but don’t necessarily have to be. We need to acknowledge our differences and work to make an honest assessment of compatibility, because if there’s anyone we should be able to tackle these difficult topics with, it’s our partner.
–Bick Facey is a sex-positive lover of words, and singer of sassy, silly and sad songs.
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