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Dating Someone with Another Faith Background

You’re dating and your religious beliefs are different. How much difference does this make?

The answer is: Another person’s religious beliefs are important to you to the degree they’re important to you. This may sound like begging the question, but it’s an important thing to ‘get’.

Assuming you’re looking for marriage, you need to make a “must have” and “can’t stand” list. If certain religious beliefs go into either group, pay attention to them, because you won’t be happy if they aren’t there (or are and shouldn’t be) and the relationship won’t work in the long run.

Begging the question is what Zen koans are all about; those maddening “answers” that the “master” gives when the novice asks a question. He seems to answer all around something without coming out and saying it. Why is this important?

Because the master is also teaching the novice how to think and how to answer his own questions.

The master answers so that the learner understands they’re either asking a question no one knows the answer to (like “Will this man make good children?), or it’s a question you don’t need an answer to in order to get on with your life (like, “Will this man go bald when he gets old?”), or that you know the answer as well as anyone else, you just don’t know it by reason (which is limited) and you can’t accept that (like, “Are we compatible?”), or that only you can answer (like, “Is this the right man for me?”).

In the case of religious beliefs, the emotionally intelligent thing to do is to figure out what you want (work with a coach for clarity; it’s worth it) and then experience the person.

It’s important to formulate you spiritual “must haves” and can’t stands” in the correct way. Do you mean adherence to a certain set of principals as espoused by a certain faith, such as being Methodist, or Buddhist? Do you need someone to agree with every word you say about it?

Or do you want the person to believe in certain spiritual principals which could be compatible with various faiths? Does it matter to you more how the person argues their faith verbally in their head, or how they live it in their daily actions and behaviors? Some people live in a way that’s very compatible with certain faiths, though they may not officially belong to any religious organization. Some religions require only faith; others require certain actions.

If you want to see certain values and principals in action, what are they? Honesty? The Golden Rule? Compassion? Kindness?

I do encourage you to take the time to see how the person lives out their principals. It’s easy to say you believe in charity. It’s not so easy to tithe.

Now since we began with koans, here is one to help you understand how to go about this, from Lao Tzu: “A tree that is unbending is easily broken.” This is referring to the EQ competency of flexibility.

Choosing a good life partner is a matter of both head and heart. I know all the self-help experts out there are telling to make a list, make a list, but, really, your common sense will tell you that people don’t conform to lists. That’s why you’re still looking, right?

Most of the clients who've come to me for relationship coaching have list that don't work in the real world. In other words, they only make sense on paper.

It's nice to make a list, yes, except it’s just words. Also the things on the list may not add up to someone who loves you treats you well, and is a responsible, pleasant and comfortable person to be. (Unless of course those things are on your list.

You’re going out to add something to your life – a partner. Think of it in terms of choosing a pet. You can head out to buy a Chocolate Lab, or you can head out to buy a female Chocolate lab with a gentle disposition who’s good with kids, or you can head out to by any dog with a gentle disposition who’s good with kids, or a dog under 50 lbs. with a gentle disposition who’s good with kids, or a dog that’s got a gentle disposition, weighs less than 50 lbs., is good with kids and is anything except a cocker spaniel.

On the other hand, you could go to the pet store and look for a dog that appeals to you!

What’s the best way to proceed? I think it depends upon your experience and EQ, and if you’re rather new in either area, I’d suggest some coaching. There’s a lot fo learn, and the more you learn, the more you can make wise choices.

In just about anything in life, first you have to learn the rules. Then you learn how to break them.

Back to the dog analogy. After owning dogs for more years than some of my readers have been alive, I’d go somewhere with likely candidates and then choose a dog that appeals to me. That’s because I’ve had a lot of experience with dogs, and I have good intuition, an EQ competency.

Intuition is leading from heart and suspending the intellect. Of course I would set forth with certain intellectual parameters in mind. I don’t want a dog that’s known to bite any more than I’d want a date who’s known to bite!

Good intuition allows you to suspend the intellect, which is important in matters of the heart. For instance, I know now that an English Spring Spaniel can make a wonderful animal companion, and so can a Basset, a Heinz 57 and a Siberian Husky.

By the same token, I know I can enjoy a male companion with a Ph.D., an M.A., no college but lots of smarts, or an M.D. In other words, I don’t “rule out” on the education (or the breed).

However, I also know that a dog that can’t be house-broken, or one that bites, or one that’s too abused to be able to enjoy people isn’t a good choice, any more than a man with too much emotional baggage, or a set of bad habits such as addiction, is also not a good choice. I will “rule out” on those parameters.

There’s a kind of list that works, and a kind that doesn’t. If you spend some time doing your homework, you’ll have better luck. Learn how to make a list that works, and develop your intuition. Then you can date in an emotionally intelligent way.

Why be the tree that bends so it doesn’t break? Because you might meet someone who would be an outstanding life partner for you who doesn’t happen to have something that’s on your list. In other words, be flexible about your list.

Generally speaking, you can bend on almost anything except a character or personality trait, and you can even bend on a personality trait if there’s enough good in the relationship.

For instance, more than one client I’ve worked with has found out that the “boring” man they were considering turned out to have the sort of stable, consistent personality traits that made for a good life partner, and that a pretty face is just another pretty face.

Look beneath the surface and have a list that allows for what really counts.

Good luck!

About the Author
©Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, , helps women find the relationship they dream of and is the author of “Midlife Dating Survival Manual for Women," . for information on coaching, Internet courses, discrete investigative service (to find out about the guy you're datig or the other woman) and ebooks.

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