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The College Commandments: Religion in relationships

It’s been a while since I’ve written a College Commandments piece. It was easy for me to take a step back from writing about religion because, well, I’m not religious.

But my boyfriend is. 

That’s right, my man is a six-foot-four Irish Catholic from Connecticut. I, on the other hand, am a free-spirited Californian with a mom who just went back to school to study Chinese Medicine and acupuncture. 

What can I say, opposites attract. 

Now, I don’t know if I believe in God. I think there’s definitely something, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not even sure if I want to put a name to it. My boyfriend is dead set on the big man upstairs, and his son (pretty famous guy), being not only real, but an active person in his life. 

We’ve been dating for six months, and at the beginning, I thought this divide was going to lead to our eventual split — and so did he. 

But here’s my thing: I completely believe that when two people have strong relationships outside of their own, it makes for a way healthier bond. 

So, why should it matter to me if those relationships are spiritual?

Just because when I need help or guidance I call my mom or my sister, doesn’t mean I get to set the default on where that guidance comes from. 

And, those spiritual relationships actually do matter to me — a lot.

Not only do I strive to understand and be OK with his relationship with God, but if I want to be a solid partner, I need to fully support it. 

Dealing with this is an easier feat than you might think. All I do (well, all I really can do) is ask questions. 

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If he says something I don’t understand or don’t like, I have to remind myself that this is not my world and because of that, I have no real right to judge it.

I mean, I went to a Catholic high school that shaped a lot of my negative views of the church. But I know there’s always good things buried beneath my own experiences and the power dynamics that I feel get in the way of actual spirituality. 

This isn’t ground-breaking by any means. Good relationships require asking questions and respectfully listening to your partner — duh.

But this was hard for me. I saw the Catholic Church for everything it had done wrong. So, to have to sit and listen to all the things it does right wasn’t a comfortable conversation for me to have. 

But it’s not a one way street either. 

My man will sit there and listen to me talk about my perception of organized religion, and all the reasons I feel it puts spirituality in a box. I’ve told him the story about how I got detention for wearing a backless dress to a dance when I was 15 a million times. I mean, I literally got detention for showing my 15-year-old back — what the hell is that about?

Not only that, but he agrees with a lot of the things I say. Neither of us are on extreme sides of a religious spectrum. We’re both just kids who love each other and genuinely want to learn from both of our experiences. 

Pretty cute, huh?

Part of the reason we’ve been able to work through our difference so well is because we communicate the moment anything comes up, and we approach divisive topics with open minds. 

The other part is that we always show up. 

I don’t mean we always stick to our date plans. I’m talking about actually showing up and being there for the other person. 

On Easter Sunday, I got my ass up to go to Mass. 

I hadn’t been inside a Catholic Church since my high school graduation.

Here’s the thing though: it wasn’t a big deal to me to put on a nice outfit and go sit in a pretty building for an hour and listen to an old guy talk about the Bible.

But it meant everything to him, which is why it meant something to me. 

There’s always going to be reasons to argue or even split up in relationships, especially when you’re in college. 

But, if you just ask, listen and show up every once in a while, love can be a beautiful thing. 

If you love somebody, like really love them, you want to see the world the way they do. 

Being able to love and learn from somebody in that way doesn’t just make your relationship stronger, it makes you stronger too.