Ask Amy: Religion creates tough challenge for couple

April 28, 2013

DEAR AMY: I am an atheist. My family is nonreligious. I have never felt an empty void due to lack of believing in a higher being, nor have I ever felt the need to seek something greater in which to believe.

I have happily settled on the philosophy of aiming to be a good person, having positive values (many of which are shared by major religions) and accepting people the way they are.

I am now in a serious relationship with someone who is Muslim. According to his religion, it is unacceptable to be with someone without a religion. I’ve always been honest with him. I’ve told him that although I can explore religions, I cannot guarantee that I will ever believe in God. He seemed to understand that faith cannot be forced upon a person.

Yesterday he told me that I don’t understand the sacrifice he’s making for us, in terms of betraying his religion, and that it kills him every day. There is no doubt that we love each other, but I am beginning to fear that our difference in religious leanings cannot be overcome. Some friends say that it would be best for us just to go our separate ways. Others tell me to “just believe,” but it’s not that simple. Yet others say it’s my boyfriend’s problem, but aren’t the two of us in this together? Is there anything that I, and we, can do to make this work? -- Nonreligious

DEAR NONRELIGIOUS: Pretending to believe in a higher power is not the way to go. Faith is not something that you can pretend your way into.

Nor is this is your boyfriend’s problem alone. I assume his family is also Muslim, just as yours is comprised of nonbelievers. Given how important his religion is to him, what you need to learn is that issues like this tend to magnify, not diminish, over time.

You two could seek the advice and counsel of a religious leader in his faith, ideally someone who knows him personally. This would further your education. Hearing the religious and cultural reality from clergy might give you a realistic view of your future if you two stay together. Then, yes, you both have a tough decision to make.

DEAR AMY: I would like to ask for help in dealing with a lady from church. Often in social settings, when talking to me or others, she will say something like, “Oh, here’s the new song we’re learning for choir,” and then burst into song, full volume, about 2 feet away from our faces.

She loves the sound of her own voice and is a bit of a showoff. I find this extremely awkward and can’t look her in the eye while this is going on. I also have to take at least one or two steps back from her, which seems rude on my part.

Can I just tell her that these “musical assaults” make me uncomfortable? She is a very straightforward person herself, so I wonder if that’s the best way to deal with her. Every time it happens, I get a little sick to my stomach because it’s so awkward. How should I respond when this happens? -- Sharon

DEAR SHARON: People frequently ask me how to get other people to stop doing something. When it comes to being sung to, however, I struggle advising you to tell this choir member to take her “How Great Thou Art” elsewhere. Because, even though I am sure the singing is annoying, there is something about it that strikes me as being potentially awesome, in an “Aunt Bee belts a hymn” sort of way.

Definitely step back when this happens. Tell her, “I’m just reaching for the volume button,” but also think deeply about whether there is a way you can enjoy this. Because if you could approach this with a different and more tolerant spirit, it might actually be awesome.

DEAR AMY: When out on a date, who pays? -- Wondering

DEAR WONDERING: Generally, the person issuing the invitation pays for the date, or you agree to split the check. Unless Ryan Gosling is in the room. If Ryan Gosling is around, he pays.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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