If I could edit the things that I hear come out of other women’s mouths, this is what it might look like:
I want to find a guy that is educated.
I want to find a guy with common sense.
The guy I date has to be taller than me.
The guy I date has to be attractive to me.
I have to find a guy that attends Purple church and believes Blue and is against Green.
I have to find a guy who is kind and good.
If I could edit the things that I hear come out of other women’s mouths, this is what it might look like. Love has no rules! If we could love whom we wish to love, many of the world’s problems would be simpler. Arranged marriages? No biggie. I choose to love the man that was chosen for me by my parents. Marriage equality? Not necessary, I’ll choose to be straight. And interracial marriages? Don’t even mention it. I’ll be sure to pick someone of the same race to fall in love with. Just think of the discord throughout history that could have been avoided if people had simply followed these guidelines!
If you are joking, or even just applying wishful thinking, great. But so much of the time, I think women mean the things they say, and it breaks my heart to think of all the missed opportunities that their self-imposed guidelines are creating.
Acceptance and agreement are two different things (whether it is religion or something else), and although I believe that, there are some days and some subjects with which I still struggle to live it. However, perhaps you can accept that your spouse has more or less religious fervor than yourself. You don’t have to agree with it. And, in most matters, life will go on peaceably if you can just bring yourself to accept that what your spouse (or partner) is or is not doing in that pursuit is different from you, and that’s okay.
Of course you have to draw the line somewhere, and the line will be in a different place and a different shape for each of us. Obviously you don’t want to be married to a rapist or a serial killer (at least I hope you don’t!). Which kind of brings us to one of my favorite criteria: a good person. A good person is as a good person does, as Forest Gump might have said if he addressed that particular issue. And if someone is good, does it really matter very much if they are Catholic or Muslim or Jewish?
I was raised loosely Protestant, and married an Irish Catholic who doesn’t go to mass very often anymore, i.e., at all. My great-aunt was forbidden by my great-grandparents from marrying an Italian Catholic that she was in love with. Instead she married a mean philanderer whom my grandmother did not trust enough to open the door to when she was home alone. I enjoy the irony of how far society has come – between my marriage and my great-aunt’s – and feel like I scored one for my great-aunt. I just wish she hadn’t had to endure a miserable marriage.
Recently my husband and I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding and joked about the (loose) similarities between the movie and our recent wedding. If we had had a church wedding, with seating for the bride on one side and the groom on the other, the disparity in the guest list would have been proportionate to that in the movie. When we were writing our guest list for the reception, he asked me if we were doing 50/50. After I recovered from laughing hysterically, I said the only way we could do that was if he disinvited half of his family or if I invited strangers off the street. Our final percentage was 75/25, and that was with me listing mutual friends on my side to bump up my numbers.
His parents are long dead, but I asked him if his mother would have insisted that I convert to Catholicism just as John Corbett had to convert to Greek Orthodox, and he replied in the affirmative. This brings me back to tolerance…I have no problem with my husband being Catholic, but I’m not sure what I would have done if I had been presented with the ultimatum: convert, or do not marry. I admire the symbolic gesture of conversion for a spouse (I love you so much I will even change religions for you.) and I know people who have done it, but I’m not sure if I could bring myself to do that. It’s not the gesture…I was willing to be married in the Catholic church if that had been important to my husband, but to officially state, “Yes, I am Catholic, and I follow the teachings of the Church,” when I know darn well I do not believe many of those teachings? I might have done it, but I would only have been going through the motions and part of me thinks that is wrong.
It is true that many differences in lifestyles and values are just too great to overcome and mean that you would not be a good match for someone. But my advice to women is to think critically about whether the differences that you are so concerned about have deep roots that are incapable of growing side by side, or if they are really just in name only.
If the problem is that someone calls themselves by another religion, ask yourself if they are still a good person, and if your outlook on life is really that different. If you think that they are not educated enough for you, ask yourself if they are smart, even if they don’t have a diploma to prove it. And if you are just worried about their height or looks…grow up and get over it!
Courtney Kelley lives in her hometown of Denver, Colorado with her husband and their pet parrot. She is an accountant by day and a freelance journalist by daydream.