Religious differences


Religious differences


your avatar   Kelly, 21-year-old woman

I am a Buddhist. He is a Christian. Upon reading this, do you think it is already impossible for me to hope? For two years or so, we have been close. Despite knowing that we are not to fall for each other, I think we did. We became like a couple...holding hands and all. Against our better sense, against what everyone had to say about two people of different religions, we became an unofficial couple.

I have sacrificed too much for him...time and youth. I know he cares for me, but he is too devout a Christian. He tries to get me to convert, and while there are things that I would break my arm to get for him, to do for him, breaking my family's hearts isn't one of them. So finally, he pulled away after two years. The reason was that he wanted to serve his God. I felt so cheated. Like I have done so much but was played out by my destiny. I feel like the best way to stop feeling this agony is to end it, but I lack the courage. When I almost met with an accident recently, I was just waiting for the end, but my destiny was not to be.

Are two people who seem to fit each other so well just destined to end up apart from something as intangible as religion? I believe I am not the only one in this world who wishes for religious harmony and inter-religious harmony. I am not suicidal, but I am very tired. Since it seems that he has given me up, I am wondering: Should I too give him up? What about all those talks about treasuring happiness while it lasts? What about those talks about fighting for what you want? Or should I learn to accept what people give and in this case, since he gives nothing, to accept nothing and move on?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Kelly,

Of course you are perfectly right. All the great religions of the world give us the same message, and the differences are only on the surface. You are a good person, he is a good person, you both try to follow a noble religion. It should be all right.


But unfortunately he is more rigid in his beliefs. From what you wrote, it sounds like to this young man, Christianity is right, everything else therefore must be wrong. Well, he is wrong, but who is going to convince him of this?

And also as you wrote, religion is not just some beliefs, but also part of a culture. Your family would feel betrayed if you stopped being a Buddhist. It would seem to them that you have left their way of living altogether, and tried to turn yourself into something you are not, rejecting all the values they believe in. And you know, perhaps they are right.

So, you are caught between conflicting pulls on you. No wonder things are so distressing and difficult.

Kelly, the problem is not that this young man and you have different religions, but that he is not a tolerant, giving person in the way that you are. He is rigid.

Suppose that you married him, with each of you keeping your own religion. That works fine if both are tolerant. It has worked in my family: my wife is Christian, I am not. But this man you care for is not tolerant. There will be other differences between you, besides religion. What happens when he wants to control other aspects of your life?

When a person wants everything 100% his own way, and is not willing to give, the relationship is guaranteed to become unhappy. If you could resolve the religion issue, he would later make you unhappy over something else, perhaps how to bring up children, how to manage money... Everything will gradually be his way, none of it in yours, until you would feel as if you were in prison.

I have seen this happen in many relationships.

So, my feeling is that perhaps you have had a lucky escape. Of course, it hurts now. But Kelly, it is not true that there is only one person for you. There are things about this young man that attracted you. There are many other fine young men out there with much the same characteristics, and some of them will be tolerant of the cultural differences between you. Some might even be Buddhist, or be attracted to you BECAUSE of your culture, rather than despite it.

The pain of loss will ease. You are young. Move forward, knowing that you have not lost the chance for happiness, but the chance for being imprisoned.

If you read this, please email me at and let me know if my answer was helpful to you.

Have a good life,

Bob Rich

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


Set personal goals, like "make a new friend" or "clean out the garage".
"The most sacred place in the world is in your mind. Guard it ferociously."
Rick Beneteau
Only you have the power to control your emotions and how you feel about yourself.