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Dear Evan,

Have you ever dated someone who was really religious and he/she chose religion over you? The thing is, I’m not of any religion, but I’m pretty open-minded. Someone I used to be with is Catholic and recently discovered that he wants to pursue his faith more seriously. I don’t mind at all but he ultimately felt that because I don’t believe in the same thing, he’ll end up making decisions in the future based on his faith that I won’t be able to fully understand. He says I won’t be able to support his decisions and/or I’ll resent him.

An example is if we were married in the future, he would want to donate lots and lots of money to the needy because he’s willing to sacrifice his own selfish needs to help others as God would want him to. But I said although that’s admirable, I’d rather take that money and pay off our mortgage or save it for the kid’s college funds.

I honestly don’t know if his religion is just an excuse because he fell out of love for me or if it is really true. During our course of relationship, he led me to believe that we were meant to be together and it’s so easy for him to see us married. I guess I just can’t comprehend how someone can choose religion over another person especially when he says we were made for each other.

He must’ve really had a change of heart and I realize that that can happen, but I feel led on and a bit hurt and angry.

Evan, I’d like to know what is your take on this issue?

Sandra

Dear Sandra,

My girlfriend is Catholic and I’m Jewish.

I don’t take her to synagogue, she doesn’t take me to church.

We saw my family over Thanksgiving, we’re seeing hers over Christmas.

We don’t agree on anything spiritual, so we don’t even discuss it.

Sometimes, I’ll let my secular biases out, and she always forgives me.

She knows I love and respect her, even if I don’t always love and respect the influence of the Christian right.

This is how you have an interfaith relationship. Respect each other, without trying to change each other.

The problem is that most of us can’t really respect when someone sees the world completely differently than we do. In order to have that strong connection we crave, we look for someone who is like-minded. I’ve got clients who want someone who can dance, because dancing is important. I’ve got clients who have to find a dog-lover, because their pets are like children. And yes, I have clients who value religion above all, and demand that a partner feel the same.

These are all arbitrary deal-breakers, which often serve to keep these people alone for a really long time. The thing is: you can’t tell them that they should change. People want what they want.

I wrote an article for Yahoo called “Setting the Bar Too High,” which focuses on the deal-breakers we impose on relationships. There’s nothing wrong with having preferences; the problem comes when our preferences serve to box us in and restrict our options in love….

I used an example of a Jewish woman who wanted to marry Jewish (which is normal), but also wanted to insist that her man be an animal activist as well. And if she simply multiplied the odds of those two deal-breakers (2% of the population is Jewish; .1% might be considered male animal activists), she’s essentially declaring that only .002% of the population is even DATEABLE. This says nothing about whether her man is also kind, attractive, successful, emotionally available or interested in her.

And yet we wonder why finding someone is so difficult.

Some people (including some industrious person who sent me an anonymous copy of Why Marry Jewish, and another who compared me to Hitler) get really bent out of shape about this — as if I was saying that religion doesn’t matter. Not true. Religion absolutely matters — if you make it matter. Loving dogs absolutely matters — if you make it matter. And height and weight and age absolutely matter — if you make them matter. Just don’t be surprised when the more rules you have for your partner, the harder it is to find a partner.

Just don’t be surprised when the more rules you have for your partner, the harder it is to find a partner.

To bring this back to you, Sandra… People have their self-imposed deal-breakers and they always will. It doesn’t matter if he fell out of love, is making an excuse, or really resents that you’ve got no desire to start tithing your income. Anyone who chooses religion over you is not your future spouse.

Which brings up a bigger point: let’s stop obsessing about WHY people do things. The truth is, we’ll never know people’s motivations for acting. “Why didn’t she call me back?” wonders a guy after a first date. It could be any number of reasons — she’s getting over her ex, you have bad breath, she didn’t feel that spark, you talked too much about yourself, she’s seeing three other guys. And since you’re never going to get into her head, why drive yourself nuts about it?

I’m a big believer in searching for answers, but only where answers can be had. Which is why I don’t spend much time worrying about how we got here or where we go when we die; nor do I obsess about why someone doesn’t like me. If there were feedback forms on every date, it would be useful, but we’re never gonna really know why others do what they do. So how about we just look at their actions instead?

Your boyfriend dumped you for Jesus. Let him go.