Should you date a guy – or stay with a boyfriend – who doesn’t believe in God? Here’s how to decide, plus 9 tips for relationships and dating outside your faith.
I wrote this article for RosyBelle (not her real name), who asked about her relationship with someone who doesn’t share her faith: “I’ve been dating this guy about a year and a couple of months,” she said on Should You Date Someone Who Has Different Religious Beliefs? “He claims to be Catholic and I’m scared because I am a Christian. We have talked about marriage and moving at a slow place. But he believes that I am wrong for putting God before him! I told him I would put him first before anyone I will never give my soul up for him or anyone. He thinks I’m wrong and that he’s not willing to marry me because of what I said. Should I keep this relationship going? Or should I move on?”
If I was a writer who gave relationship advice to Christian women, I’d say “move on, little Rosy flower! This guy you’re dating will crush you, tamp your spirit, and lead you away from God. If you keep this relationship going, you will regret it. Your boyfriend won’t change, and you will be constantly pulled between your relationship with him and your faith.”
I’d give her that advice because of what she said:
- She is scared
- Her boyfriend isn’t letting her hold on to her beliefs
- Her boyfriend is actually pulling her away from God, instead of encouraging her to get closer
- He’s not willing to marry her because of her strong faith in God
- She didn’t say anything about loving her boyfriend
I believe Rosybelle already knows deep in her heart that she doesn’t want to continue this relationship. I think she’s looking for advice that she’s already given herself…but she needs outside confirmation and affirmation.
And that’s okay. We do this all the time – we struggle with big questions (and “should I date a guy who doesn’t believe in God?”) is one of the biggest. An even more complicated question is being in a relationship with someone who believes in God, but doesn’t share your depth of faith. And that’s the question RosyBelle is facing.
I don’t give relationship advice, but I do share tips and insights. Here’s what I think about dating outside your faith…
9 Tips for Dating a Guy Who Doesn’t Believe in God
RosyBelle’s boyfriend does believe in God (though he is Catholic, which is a more structured religion). She isn’t dating “outside her faith” as such. His faith is different than hers, and there’s nothing wrong with being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t share your exact same spiritual beliefs.
Unless, of course, his faith pulls you away from yours.
1. Decide how important your faith is to you
O, the deep deep love freedom grace healing power forgiveness light life depth of Jesus! I would choose my faith – my relationship with God, Son, and Holy Spirit – over any of my relationships, any day of the week. I’m home when I’m connected to Him. I’m alive when I lift my eyes up to the Heavens. I’m joyful and peaceful when I see Jesus’ face in my mind’s eye. I love God with all my heart and soul…and I am so grateful for Jesus.
My husband Bruce was raised Catholic; I was raised Christian (mostly at an Apostolic Church, but my mom has schizophrenia so we moved around a lot and none of the foster homes I was in took me to church. Bam! How’s that for an unexpected glimpse into my life?). Thankfully, Bruce questioned his Catholic faith long before we got married. We go to a Pentecostal Church, and I love it. It’s different for my husband, who is accustomed to the structure of the Catholic Church, but he is incredibly open to God’s leading him outside his faith comfort zone.
I never enjoyed dating guys who didn’t believe in God, though I did date several. I always felt more comfortable and “at home” in relationships with men who were Christian. I thought marriage would be easier if I married within my faith (and I was right), and I believed dating and marrying a guy who didn’t believe in God would pull me away from God (and I was right).
2. Ask yourself how your faith fits in to your future marriage
Here are a few questions to help you decide if you should date a guy who doesn’t believe in God:
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- Do you want to go to the same church as a couple?
- If your boyfriend is of a different faith, where will you get married?
- What would your relationship be like if your boyfriend believed in God?
- Are you planning to raise your children as part of your faith, your husband’s faith, or no faith at all?
- What do your parents and friends say about dating a guy outside your faith?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is your faith? (1 is “faith part of my life, but not too important” and 10 is “faith is my whole life, and I feel lost when I picture myself separated from God”).
On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is your relationship with the guy you’re dating? (1 is “I have reservations, concerns, fears, or anxieties about my relationship” and 10 is “I love dating this guy so much, I can’t picture life without him – even if he doesn’t believe in God”).
Take time to really think about these questions. I can’t tell you if you should be in a relationship with a guy outside your faith – and neither can your parents, friends, pastors, or anyone. Dating a guy who doesn’t believe in God is a choice you need to carefully make on your own.
3. Listen to God’s still small voice – or watch for his His thunder bolts!
I don’t mean that if you don’t listen to what God is trying to tell you, He’ll send thunderbolts your way. What I mean is that God doesn’t always speak in a still small voice. Sometimes he hits us over the head with His will, sometimes the Holy Spirit shouts at us, and sometimes Jesus shows up roaring like a lion. God speaks in a dozen different ways throughout your day – and a million different ways throughout your life.
Sometimes He speaks through people. Sometimes He even uses bloggers to tell you what you need to know about dating outside your faith, or having a relationship with a guy who doesn’t believe in God.
Stay connected to Him. Pray. You don’t need to desperately search for His will. You ARE His will. Just being you is His will for your life. Let go of the idea that God has one perfect will for your life, and you have to hunt and search to find it. Take a deep breath, and listen. Look. Pay attention to how you feel, what people are telling you, and which opportunities feel right to you. God will bless your decisions – especially if you take time to listen to His guidance when you’re deciding if you should have a relationship with someone outside your faith.
4. Trust your God-given instincts
RosyBelle said she’s scared. Fear is one of the most important warning signs of bad relationships! If you don’t feel right or good about your relationship – even if you’re dating someone who believes in God – then you need to slow down. Pay attention to your instincts, because they’re telling you Something Important.
You are smart. When you don’t feel right about a relationship, you are picking up on important subconscious clues that something is wrong. This is God! This is one of the ways He is speaking to you. Feeling fear doesn’t necessarily mean you should end a relationship, though. It may mean you need to change something about how you’re dating a guy (eg, are you moving too fast?) or what you talk about (eg, do you tend to argue about religion or spirituality? is your faith in God causing problems in your relationship?).
5. Use your God-given brains
What is your logical, rational mind telling you about your boyfriend? You were given free will, not a robot’s manual. You were given a beautiful, mysterious, complicated brain that God expects you to use! You were given wisdom in the form of Scripture, other people, books, pastors, sermons, Christian blogs, spiritual writers, your parents.
Take a step away from your relationship. Look past your natural longing to love and be loved. Would you advise your sister to date your boyfriend – or any guy outside her faith? Would you tell your best friend that it doesn’t matter if she has a relationship with someone who doesn’t believe in God?
One of the best ways to figure out what you really think and how you really feel is to write in a journal. Answer the questions I ask below. Talk to God. Ask Him what He thinks about you having a relationship outside your faith. Maybe you could even ask Him to speak to your boyfriend, to draw him closer, or even to help him believe.
6. Pray with your boyfriend for wisdom and guidance
Do you and your boyfriend pray together? That is one of the most important ways to decide if you should date a guy outside your faith. Praying can be one of the most intimate, close things you can do in a dating relationship. Your prayers as a couple can strengthen your relationship with each other, and with God.
Not praying together is one of the downsides of being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t believe in God. Praying is unity and connection for believers; not praying is walls and obstacles. If you’re dating outside your faith, then you aren’t on the same spiritual plane. This will be a constant source of friction and conflict. And so it should be! Jesus told us not to be yoked with unbelievers not because Jesus was a farmer, but because it’s actually harmful to us to marry men who don’t share our faith.
7. Consider your boyfriend’s spiritual growth
If your boyfriend believes in God, how is he growing in his faith? If he’s not a believer, is he willing to talk about faith, spirituality, spiritual growth, and God?
Here’s a wise insight from Matt Chandler, author of The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption.
“What you are looking for is seriousness about growth in the person’s faith,” he says 10 Questions on Dating with Matt Chandler. “And so I think the church really serves and helps Christian singles consider marriage and consider dating. Within the covenant community of faith, there should be those around a person that can speak of their reputation and whether they are serious about growing in the Lord and putting sin to death in their life. And that’s what you are looking for. Is there seriousness in your boyfriend to grow in his relationship and understanding with the Lord?”
Matt adds that he has sadly found that single Christian women (and men) hit an area of desperation. They may be committed to dating Christian guys, but they don’t look at the spiritual growth of their boyfriends. A Christian woman who wants to be in a relationship may ignore the signs that their boyfriend isn’t a strong believer, or doesn’t believe in God at all. A Christian woman who really wants to be in a relationship may date and marry outside her faith because she really wants to be loved. This is natural and normal! But, don’t let your God-given desire for love and unity blind you.
“Many Christians will say, ‘Yeah, [my boyfriend] is a Christian, he comes to church,’” says Matt. “And really what they’re saying is this guy comes to church a couple of times a month, but outside of attending a service, he doesn’t have a real seriousness about growing in his understanding of the Lord, growing in his understanding of the Bible, being a prayerful person, no vivication or mortification that can be spotted, and no one who really knows them enough to speak to the growth in their character.”
8. Stay focused on your own spiritual growth
I always, always encourage women to get emotionally and spiritually healthy – whether they’re dating outside their faith or married to a husband who believes in God more than they do. The key to a strong, healthy relationship is to grow in your faith. Then, you’ll be better able to make good decisions about all aspects of your life.
Don’t let your boyfriend or husband’s spiritual beliefs separate you from God. It’s easy to prioritize a man over our Father, but it’s so unhealthy and damaging. Stay strong in your faith by listening to Christian podcasts about God, reading books about Christian marriages, and learning how to navigate relationships with people who don’t believe in God. Even if you’re married to a man who refuses to believe in God, commit yourself to daily learning. Walk with your Creator, your Father, your comfort and shelter. Accept His love and healing, His joy and peace. Rest in the knowledge that you are fearfully and wonderfully made! He has a purpose for you.
God has a purpose for your relationship, even if you’re dating outside your faith. This doesn’t mean you have to marry the guy you’re with or even stay in an unhealthy or unhappy marriage. It just means that there is a reason you are here today, and God will redeem the mistakes and heal the wounds.
9. Remember that faith alone doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage
On the Focus on the Family website, Carol Heffernan wrote a wonderful article about God and married couples:
“It’s easy to think that only ‘other people’ get divorced,” writes Carol on God’s Design for Marriage. “That your own marriage is somehow immune to heartache, infidelity and fights over who gets the house, the car, the dog. After all, how many of us would walk down the aisle if we believed our relationships would end up in divorce court? The truth is, no relationship comes with a lifetime guarantee. Even men and women who grew up in stable homes, who attend church and consider themselves Christians, who promise “until death do us part,” can have it all fall apart.”
So, what makes a marriage or dating relationship ‘Christian’? We know that if a Christian couples read the Bible, go to church, and grow stronger spiritually then we have a strong foundation for marriage. But, according to author Gary Thomas, our marriage is more about us and God, not us and our husbands.
A huge part of growing stronger in your walk with God is to commit yourself to a guy who not only believes in God, but encourages you to prioritize God above all else. If your boyfriend thinks he should come first in your relationship, then he’s leading you down the wrong path.
Dating Resources for Christian Women
In The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?, Gary Thomas What if you stopped looking for a “soul mate” and started looking for a “sole mate”—someone who will live out with you the great purpose of God? What if dating isn’t about finding “the one” but making a wise choice so you can better serve the One who loves you most? What if God didn’t design relationships to make you happy but to make you holy?
In The Sacred Search, Gary Thomas will transform the way you look at romantic relationships. Whether you are single, dating, or engaged, Gary’s unique perspective on dating will prepare you for a satisfying, spiritually enriching marriage even before you walk down the aisle. As Gary reminds us, a good marriage is not something you find—it’s something you make.
In You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity, Francis Chan joins together with his wife Lisa to address the question many couples wonder at the altar, such as how do we have a great marriage? Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.
In the same way Crazy Love changed the way we saw our personal relationship with God, You and Me Forever will radically shift the way we see your marriage. “Jesus was right,” says Frances. “We have it all backwards. The way to have a great marriage is by not focusing on marriage. It’s by focusing on God.” Whether you are single, dating or married, You and Me Forever will help you discover the adventure that you were made for and learn how to thrive in it. And, 100% of the net profits from this book will go towards thousands of orphaned children and exploited women around the world.
I welcome your comments on my “relationship advice” for Christian women who are dating outside their faith or in relationships with men who don’t believe in God. Don’t take my word for it, though! If you’re dating a guy outside your faith, take it to God. Ask for His guidance, wisdom, and peace.
Listen, and you will Blossom.