Care and Feeding of Your Catholic, part 5, "mixed" relationships.
OK. This one’s a bit more pragmatic. Nothing special, just a few tidbits I’ve gleaned over 8 years of life with the Hoopy Frood. Feel free to add, reject, or correct. Seems like the issue of “mixed” relationships–that is, a relationship with a person who’s not Catholic–keeps coming up in various forms, blogs, and forums.
1.) Rule #1: The only person you can change is yourself.
2.) Rule #2: Your relationship isn’t a zero-sum game.
3.) Golden Rule in all things.
Really, that’s all there is to it. The times religion’s been an issue, someone broke one of the three rules. (In any issue, I might add, not just religion.)
I mean, look, it’s not theoretical physics. One of the common things I see come up is converting one’s spouse. If one’s spouse wants to convert, that’s one thing. If they don’t, forcing the issue isn’t going to do anyone any good. Would you want your spouse to try to convert you to their religion? No? Then why do it to him/her? And as to sneaking green scapulars into your SO’s stuff, is that really building trust? Would you want your SO sneaking their religious items into your things to make you convert? You can respect a person’s beliefs without agreeing to them, and such tactics don’t overly seem respectful.
The rest, really, is just details. What I’ve found works for us is a common ground, some area we can agree on. (In anything, again, not just religion.) Lord knows we’ve had our squabbles, but also one pig-headed statement doesn’t merit another. (“Get bent,” is not appropriate apologetics, for instance.) And really, if a couple disagrees, it means they disagree. It doesn’t mean they love each other less, which I think some newer couples seem to equate disagreement with.
The other big source of discord has been a lack of knowledge or understanding. For instance I have a horrible habit of ripping on evangelicals. I really do try to be nice, but their beliefs are the opposite of mine. Their emphasis upon their take on Christianity as being the only way (in some cases) really grates on my nerves, especially since some of them think they’re closer to “authentic” Christianity. Some of my in-laws are evangelical Christians, and I know I’ve said some unkind things that hurt the Frood, even though I wasn’t specifically talking about his family and he’s neither Christian, nor evangelical.
Conversely, I’ve had to sit through some rather uncomfortable moments, one in particular where it was said that all people born into a denomination aren’t strong in their faith, when I’ve been a Catholic since birth. To me it feels like they rub their faith in other peoples’ faces. To them, it’s as if I’m not “on fire.” I”m a contemplative–I need silence in my worship, where they have no problem with pop and more “boisterous” worship. They see ritual as dead, where I see it as a sign of the universal Church and something transcendent. It’s funny that the Hoopy Frood and I aren’t even the same religion, yet we agree on more in things spiritual than between his family and I, and we’re all Christian.
So I guess the bottom line is love your SO, keep a sense of humor about it all, and be prepared to pass the ketchup or apologize, when one of you puts your foot in your mouth.