He's Mormon, I'm Not--Can Our Relationship Survive? Ask Harry and Louise

Our husband-and-wife team advises a woman wondering whether she and her new beau can get past their religious differences.

By: Harry Jaffe, Louise Jaffe

Dear Harry and Louise,

I am a single woman in my thirties. I recently spent a week with a girlfriend whom I have known for more than ten years. While I was in her hometown, we went out to a bar. I met a wonderful man there and we ended up spending much of the week together. We connected in a way I haven't experienced since my college days. We laughed, we talked, we shared our personal histories. We had great sex, and it seemed as if we could not get enough of each other.

Well, we shared most of our personal histories. It turns out he left out a big part: He is Mormon. He says he wants to continue seeing me, even though we live several hours apart. I am not particularly religious, and I am completely respectful of others' religious beliefs. The problem is that every conversation involves his guilt about being with me. He wants to discuss me becoming a Mormon (not going to happen). He thinks we can be together as long as I am open to discussing his religion. I really think I could love this man. Why does religion have to keep us apart? How do I approach this conversation with him?

• • •

HARRY SAYS:

Patience.

Being the hopeless romantic, I do believe love can win out, but in this case the odds are long. The two things that cause conflict in a long-term relationship, beyond sex, are money and religion. It's best to share values on both matters as you build the foundation of a lasting bond.

I fear Mormonism is a religion where one has to be all in. I'm not sure tolerance and coexistence are possible--as they can sometimes be in intermarriage between Christians and Jews. I have plenty of experience on that score.

If there is no chance that you would become a Mormon, what are the chances that he would break with the faith--and the family? Seems unlikely, as you describe him.

Back to patience. See if your love affair can develop over time before you confront the nettlesome questions of religion. If you still can't manage to find a way to settle the matter, I'm afraid you will have to chalk it up to the Mormon you once loved.

• • •

LOUISE SAYS:

The connection you share sounds great. Except for the G-word: guilt. I don't care if this man is a Catholic, a Muslim, a druid, an agnostic, or a Mormon--he associates being with you with the corrosive emotion of guilt.

That being said, it sounds as if he's willing to discuss his religion and your different views about religion. I believe you when you say this connection is special and worth trying to maintain. I believe he wants to maintain this connection as well. Please be honest with him that you will never be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but you will try to keep an open mind about his religious beliefs. Assure him you welcome discussions about his church. Be clear that while your views remain constant, you will try to remain respectful of his church and his beliefs.

If he tells you the relationship cannot move forward unless you change your views, then believe him. Let him go with a smile and a positive word. This does not need to be a battle of the best religion.

If he says he can open his heart to a non-Mormon woman, then believe him. If this proves too difficult for him because of the other people in his life, then you will still need to be prepared to say goodbye.

I believe a deep and profound love for another person can smooth out the most jagged of differences (though there are probably many marital counselors holding their heads in disbelief at this thought). I'm currently reading about the marriage of the deeply religious Emma Wedgwood and Charles Darwin. They made each other's hearts sing despite their inability to agree on whether they would see each other in heaven.

You may have stumbled into a romance hindered by too many impediments to ever fully find its legs. Keep talking, keep being respectful, and, most important, keep being honest about who you are and what you are willing to accept.

• • •

HARRY SAYS:

Romantic Darwinism says this relationship might not be fit to survive, despite the sweet tale of Charles and Emma.

• • •

LOUISE SAYS:

Darwin spoke about "nature as war," and said those species that could adapt best to their surroundings would win the war. It could be that this is a "love as war" matter, in which the man is willing to adapt in order to let love grow in his environment. Or it could be the case of a woman who adapts to the realization that she loves a man who will always be more devoted to his faith than to her--and leaves.