How to Make an Atheist and Theist Relationship Work

Thứ bảy - 27/04/2024 01:13
In many ways, an atheist and theist couple has the same needs as anyone in a relationship: mutual respect, honest communication, and a willingness to work through problems. If faith or lack of faith is a core part of your identity,...
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In many ways, an atheist and theist couple has the same needs as anyone in a relationship: mutual respect, honest communication, and a willingness to work through problems. If faith or lack of faith is a core part of your identity, however, you may have trouble with the wide gap between you. Remember that a successful relationship does not mean total agreement. Build a bridge of understanding across that gap, and you can meet without having to abandon your worldview.

Part 1
Part 1 of 2:

Making the Relationship Work

  1. Step 1 Keep communication open.
    [1] If your difference in perspective causes friction between you, don't let it bubble away silently. As with any tension in a relationship, it's unlikely to disappear if you don't address it openly. Once in a while, something you say will upset your partner, or vice versa. Talk to each other so you both understand why it was upsetting, and what the intent was behind the words.
    • Communication doesn't mean a shouting match — in fact, that can be a sign that something has gone unsaid for too long. Pick the right time to have these conversations, when you're both relaxed.
  2. Step 2 Listen before you jump to conclusions.
    Most people have preconceived notions about what people of certain faiths (or no faith) are like. Don't assume your understanding of your partner's perspective is true. When discussing this sensitive topic, let your partner explain their point fully before you leap to respond.
  3. Step 3 Respect your partner's wishes.
    Respect is the most important factor in the success of your relationship.[2] Neither of you should pressure the other to convert or to leave the faith. Discuss the topic only if your partner is interested in listening.
    • If this is a dealbreaker on some level, be honest. For example, if you can't see yourself marrying someone who doesn't share your faith, a serious romantic partner deserves to know that.
  4. Step 4 Stop trying to prove yourself right.
    You can win an argument, but you can't win a relationship. In the end what matters is that you are willing to love someone in spite of your differences. You do not have to agree with your partner's beliefs, but you do need enough of an open mind to recognize the value of a different perspective, instead of dismissing it. If you think of the other person as stupid or silly for disagreeing with you, the relationship is not healthy.
  5. Step 5 Find a comfortable solution to daily life.
    When it comes down to specific religious practices, such as attending services or setting up a place of worship in the house, respect the other person's decision and find a compromise (if need be) through respectful conversation.
    • Student couples may find it easiest to keep clear boundaries around the religious practices, for example spending a weekly holy day apart from each other.
    • If you live together, the religious person should be allowed to worship at home. That said, religious practices should not take up all the living space or cause major inconvenience in the atheist's life.
  6. Step 6 Be considerate.
    Don't just avoid inconvenience. Actively work to accommodate your partner and demonstrate that you respect his (or her) lifestyle. If your partner has religious dietary restrictions, invite him to restaurants with plenty of valid options. If your atheist partner will be attending a religious holiday at your mom's house, prep your family with a few "do's and don'ts" about what to say.
  7. Step 7 Keep the discussions between you.
    Religion is a charged topic in many families and communities. It's generally best to keep serious conversations about faith between the two of you, rather than airing your issues to a wider social group.
    • Of course, this does not apply to professional counseling.
  8. Step 8 Handle the community.
    Most deeply religious people have a circle of friends who are also deeply religious. These friends should not determine the path of your relationship, but you can't ignore their existence. If these friends act intolerant or offensive, the two of you should discuss how to change their behavior, or else how to minimize the amount of time the atheist has to spend in contact with that group.
    • A smaller proportion of atheists are part of atheism-centered communities, but this can certainly happen in the other direction as well.
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Part 2
Part 2 of 2:

Sharing Exercise for Couples

  1. Step 1 Set aside a quiet afternoon together.
    This exercise is designed to allow two people to share their needs and perspectives with each other. You'll need a few hours together in a tranquil setting. Switch off the cell phones and make sure you won't be disturbed.
    • You don't have to be a theist and atheist to try this exercise. This can help any two people bridge the gap of understanding between them, whether that gap is based on philosophical differences or other factors.
    • This is a serious exercise, and can be seriously liberating if you both approach it willingly. That said, it can help to approach it with a sense of fun and anticipation. You may learn quite a bit about each other and about the potential of your relationship.
  2. Step 2 Prepare a writing activity with two notebooks.
    Speaking gently to your partner, suggest that you embark on a writing activity together. Writing silently in separate notebooks, each of you will jot down notes about your personal needs. To begin, each of you writes down these six headers, each at the top of a fresh page:
    • Certainty
    • Variety
    • Love and connection
    • Significance
    • Growth
    • Contribution
  3. Step 3 Rank your needs by importance.
    Assign each need a different rank, from 1 (most important) to 6 (least important). Write these numbers on your paper without telling your partner.
    • If you like, you can wait until after the next step, once you've given the subject some thought.
  4. Step 4 Write down what each need means to you.
    Working separately and quietly, write down what each need means to you; in what way it is important to you; and how your partner does or could fulfill this need. Here's a bit more detail to guide your writing:
    • Certainty is about security, stability, and predictability in your life.
    • Variety covers new experiences and adventures, whether in other countries or daily life.
    • Love and connection: What do you need to hear your partner say to you, in order to feel loved by them? What do you need to see them do? How can your partner show their love for you, in a way that would satisfy this need?
    • Significance refers to your perception of yourself as significant to others. For example, you may want to feel valued for your skills, your appearance, your background, your ability, your history, or your character traits.
    • Growth could mean improving a particular skill, learning new skills, or advancing your education or career.
    • Contribution is about your positive impact on the lives of others, whether that means your family, your community, or the world.
  5. Step 5 Take a break.
    Once you've each spent a fair amount of time writing on each need, take a short break. Go for a walk, have a cup of coffee or simply get up and stretch.
  6. Step 6 Swap notes with your partner.
    Read what they have written to gain a deeper insight into what fulfills them on all levels. Take your time to absorb this in your own head before you move on to the next step.
  7. Step 7 Voice your feedback.
    Tell your partner what you thought of the exercise, and describe your reactions to your partner's notes. Set a timer for ten minutes. When the time is up or you've run out of things to say, set the timer again and let your partner speak. Alternate back and forth as many times as you would like.
    • Only one person speaks in each ten minute interval. Do not interrupt each other.
  8. Step 8 Think about what you've learned.
    Hopefully, you've developed a greater understanding of your needs as a couple. To what extent are these needs reliant on a shared spiritual or religious background? You may find that the two of you cannot satisfy — or are not prepared to satisfy — the majority of each other's needs. In this case, you may need to discuss possible paths forward to change this or find fulfillment elsewhere. On the other hand, you may find your partner is keen to understand and meet your needs better, even if you do not share the same language of faith.
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