How to get the Christian girl?
August 24, 2008 7:10 PM   Subscribe

What do I do about crushing hard on a girl who is my spiritual opposite and my emotional match?

I work with a woman who I am beginning to crush hard on (and yes I understand relationships at work are a whole other can of worms). Not to recently I became single and she has been single the whole time I have known her and thus now we seem to be speaking more at work. We talk about all range of things and everything we say seems to just click and work together. Speaking to her seems so natural and there is a chemistry present between the two of us (others have commented on it so not just me imagining I don't believe). The topics of talk have moved more towards relationships, questions between the two of us more just feeling out each others opinions on the matter. To sum up it all feels right.

The issue stems from the fact that I am an atheist and she is fairly devout and adamant christian. It is the center focus of her life (outside of her daughter) and it means the world to her. We have talked about my beliefs and about hers and she has made it known she could not date anyone who was not a christian while of course I don't care what religion or belief system you are so long as you are happy and it makes your life better. She has asked what seem to be feeler questions about how open I am to church and Christianity in general, which is not very. I am happy in my beliefs and do not want to change that part of my life and I would never ask her to change her beliefs (in many ways her devoutness intrigues me and endears her more to me).

So my question is this really, sorry to ramble, what do I do? Pursue this? Give up? How do I handle the difference in spiritual beliefs? It is not like I am a moral deviant or a bad person, I just have formed my own beliefs. I am a good guy and if there is any chance at all it would be worth it with her I am sure.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The solution, of course, is to ask her.

The hang up here isn't you, it's her. If she's willing to make an exception to her rule of only dating Christian men, she'll say yes. If she's unwilling, she'll say no. Doesn't get much simpler than that.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:17 PM on August 24, 2008

she has made it known she could not date anyone who was not a christian

you've got your answer's there. unless are you willing to convert in order to date her. you've found a friend, it's cool. a girlfriend? not really.
posted by matteo at 7:20 PM on August 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you do date her she'll spend much of the time working on converting you. (that is, if she agrees to go out with a non-christian to begin with.) She's already starting to work on you, by your own admission. (I'm not saying these relationships, or any with a faith difference are doomed... just that if someone is dropping hints about church to work friends they're probably not the sort to live and let live.)
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:21 PM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Well, if she won't date anyone who's not a Christian, and you're not going to convert to Christianity, then, yeah, there it is. Maybe one or both of you will change your minds, but it doesn't sound like either of you would be entirely happy with that decision, and so, frankly, I wouldn't expect the relationship to last very long.
posted by box at 7:23 PM on August 24, 2008

The hang up is her religious belief...if she is as you say devout then you have zero chance of forming a relationship beyond your working/casual relationship. The most important thing in her life beyond her daughter would be her relationship to her God....since you have opted not to 'believe' and have stated so....there you are. Sorry....but go out and find someone who is not so devout and who may believe what you believe (or don't believe in).
posted by malter51 at 7:24 PM on August 24, 2008

she has made it known she could not date anyone who was not a christian

And maybe it's true. But a lot of people have very clear ideas about who they would hypothetically date that go out the window when confronted with an actual person. For all you know she could be conflating "christian" with "good" or "reliable" or "moral" or "family centered".... or, of course, she might already recognize that there a lot of great non-christian guys out there but believe strongly that she can't get "unequally yoked" to a non-believer. So I wouldn't quit now - just be honest with her, and see what happens.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:25 PM on August 24, 2008

Been there, done that, got the heartbreak.

she has made it known she could not date anyone who was not a christian

This is your brick wall. Sigh mournfully, drink yourself into tears a night or two, and move on.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:25 PM on August 24, 2008

The hang up here isn't you, it's her. If she's willing to make an exception to her rule of only dating Christian men, she'll say yes.

And if he's willing to become a Christian (sorry I used 'convert' above--not the right word), then he'll do it. The hang up is in the combination of the two people. To quote some song from the oldies station, 'There ain't no good guy. there ain't no bad guy. There's only you and me, and we just disagree.'
posted by box at 7:25 PM on August 24, 2008

The issue stems from the fact that I am an atheist and she is fairly devout and adamant christian. It is the center focus of her life (outside of her daughter) and it means the world to her. We have talked about my beliefs and about hers and she has made it known she could not date anyone who was not a christian while of course I don't care what religion or belief system you are so long as you are happy and it makes your life better. She has asked what seem to be feeler questions about how open I am to church and Christianity in general, which is not very. I am happy in my beliefs and do not want to change that part of my life and I would never ask her to change her beliefs (in many ways her devoutness intrigues me and endears her more to me).

I'm sorry but I think there's not much chance of you two being together. And even if you could somehow get past the initial stage of courtship, the relationship probably is not sustainable in the long run ...

This is, unless you are willing to change your (core?) belief and compromise yourself as a result.
posted by joewandy at 7:31 PM on August 24, 2008

I've been both sides of this fence (when I was young and stupid).

For her to date a non-Christian would be require a pretty huge paradigm shift in her view of relationships. It could happen, but it would take an earth-moving emotional connection.

Secondly, even if it were to happen you would find the whole thing monumentally frustrating.

This is one of those occasions where you should just sit down with the person and talk honestly to then about it. It doesn't have to be an intense conversation but you need to advance the discussion beyond the purely theoretical.

You also need to be aware that, whatever her own feelings, if she's involved in any kind of evangelical church, seeing you would incur a HUGE amount of negative response feedback for her from her peer group... something that would be very hard for her to deal with if it's such a big part of her life.
posted by unSane at 7:43 PM on August 24, 2008

Pursue her. It is far better to regret what you have done than what you haven't done.
The rest is just speculation.
posted by signal at 7:44 PM on August 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

A lot of christians (I can't speak for all branches) think anyone who isn't will go to hell. Period. No clause for good behavior, no exception for being an amazing perfect human who reads to the blind after work before going home to your fifteen foster handicapped kids, and spends the weekend feeding the homeless at the soup kitchen. No Jesus=damned forever.

That's why you get evangelicals[1] who feel they should do everything they can to save people from this fate. And why someone would not want to embark on a relationship with a person they know they won't see in the afterlife. That's a MAJOR MAJOR thing for them. It can cause problems even when two different flavors of Christian get together. So think carefully about if you want to ask her to do that, since you would be asking her to ignore a major factor of her faith and face pressure from her church.

[1]no idea if she is evangelical or not, but IME Catholics will say they're Catholics, Lutherans will say they're Lutherans, Episcopalians will say they're Episcopalians, and so on, and evangelicals will say they're christian.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2008

The fact that she's a christian and you're an atheist indicates to me that you two are on two different intellectual planes that go above and beyond this one manifestation in religious belief.

I am happy in my beliefs and do not want to change that part of my life and I would never ask her to change her beliefs (in many ways her devoutness intrigues me and endears her more to me).

You have your answer.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:58 PM on August 24, 2008

So my question is this really, sorry to ramble, what do I do? Pursue this? Give up?

Something in between. I don't think you should pursue a romantic relationship with this woman right now, but don't drop her as a friend. Easier said than done, I know. The good thing about pursuing a friendship and not a romantic relationship is that you will be less likely to pretend to be who you thinks she wants you to be. When discussing religious topics (or any topic, really), say what you really think, and not just what you think packaged up in the way you think will be the most attractive to her. It's possible this wide open dialogue will reveal the deal-breaker differences and kill your crush, which would be good if a romantic relationship is never going to happen.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:58 PM on August 24, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm an atheist and my wife is a church loving fool, as I like to say, so the dynamic can work, but not if one party is firmly set on not dating someone outside their sphere. We didn't have that problem.

If you two didn't work together, I'd say ask her out, you never know what can happen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:01 PM on August 24, 2008

Oh, dear. I recently dealt with a similar situation (albeit with additional complications, if you can believe it). I'm an atheist and she was an evangelical Christian who attends a local megachurch. We developed a friendship over several years and finally acknowledged an intense attraction between us.

But our differences in faith proved to be a huge barrier to exploring a relationship. Her faith provides the foundation for her life and she didn't see how she could share that with a nonbeliever. I wanted to find some middle ground, but that's difficult when you're dealing with such opposing worldviews.

Your experience may be different, but it would take some major compromises on both sides to make this work. In the end, you guys have to ask yourselves whether you're willing to make those compromises. And can an enduring relationship be built on such shaky ground?

Ah, star-crossed love. It's great when it works, but it usually doesn't. Now, please excuse me while I go listen to some Radiohead and compose my own AskMeFi post seeking advice on how to best recover from a broken heart (because that question doesn't get asked nearly enough here).

On preview: what unSane said.
posted by wintermute2_0 at 8:11 PM on August 24, 2008

If your atheism is really a non-negotiable, then give up. Religion can create many deep-seated issues in relationships, especially since differing religions often lead to differing value systems.

But yes, seconding ThePinkSuperhero, try to keep her as a friend. People you can connect with very well tend to be hard to come by.
posted by nihraguk at 8:15 PM on August 24, 2008

Just a thought, but if she's an innocent evangelical Christian, what you're seeing as friendly attraction may be a mixture of obliviousness to flirtation and an attempt to reach out to you and convert you... nothing more. Many times at churches christians are encouraged to think of specific non-christians in their lives they could target for conversion. Maybe you are one of those targets.
posted by visual mechanic at 8:25 PM on August 24, 2008

echoing visual mechanic- my cousins were raised evangelical, their youth group encouraged them to seek out and date nonbelievers with the intent of bringing them into the fold.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:31 PM on August 24, 2008

She has a daughter. A DAUGHTER. I really don't think you comprehend fully what you're really asking. It's not that you have a different set of beliefs that you're hoping you can work past (and if you really only recently became single, it's a good chance that you're interested in any woman who will pay attention to you) - this woman has a family that she is trying to raise with a certain set of beliefs, structure, morality, etc. When someone has a family, crossing paths romantically with another person no longer is merely a simple "adventure" but now becomes "this is someone who could become a part of my family and influence my child". This woman you are crushing on is not able to look at you as you look at her - she is looking at you in terms of not only how "good" you are but also how you'd interact in the family structure that she supports and is a part of.

Whether you are a good guy is a moot point. Whether you are open to other people having different beliefs is a moot point. What matters is what she wants and what she wants to have in her family and, if you really do care about her, you'll back off (because you are totally coming off with the 'i-want-to-get-to-the-3rd-date' vibes) and let her make the choice. She knows your beliefs, she knows where you're coming from, and she knows that you're not going to provide the family structure she's looking for.
posted by Stynxno at 8:32 PM on August 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Converting your entire worldview for somebody else's benefit? That's a bad idea and you would be doing yourself a disservice, which you realise already. But "adamant" sometimes segues into "tolerant" so I see no real harm in continuing to test the waters.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:36 PM on August 24, 2008

Obviously, relationships between people of such very different faith perspectives can work; I know a few that (like Brandon Blatcher's) have. I also know many, many that haven't. She's your coworker, she has a child, and you're recently single. Those things are all sizeable added difficulties on top of the real work that must be done to make that kind of relationship work.

There's some (certainly fair) supposition in this thread that she's an evangelical/megachurch type christian. If that's true, to me that sounds like a nearly unbridgeable gap, but even if she's a looser sort of christian, it could still be an issue.

For a different christian perspective, I was raised as evangelical but have evolved into a much, much less legalistic person of faith. I don't attend church very often, have never tried to convert anyone in my life, and passionately believe in just about every liberal and progressive political ideal out there. I don't think non-christians go to hell. (Hell, I'm not convinced in the least it even exists.) Virtually none of my friends are religious and it has basically never come up. At the same time, my relationship with God is very, very important with me. It's a major source of comfort when I'm in pain and a major source of contemplation, study, and discussion the rest of the time.

It would be hard for me not to be able to share that comfort and have those discussions with someone I was in a relationship with. I could probably make it work with a thoughtful agnostic, but can't imagine sharing my life with someone who was totally convinced something so important to me and the way I look at the universe was totally untrue. If I was raising a child, that would be even more important to me. So that's just something to think about.
posted by mostlymartha at 8:52 PM on August 24, 2008

If she is a serious Christian, it would be a sin for her to be "unequally yolked." So if she can't marry you, and she can't just go to bed with you, it would be unkind of you to pursue this. She very well indeed might be attracted to you, but she'd be violating a lot of her convictions to do anything with it.

And for the sake of argument, even if you were interested in "converting" it would be just so you could be with her, not because you wanted God for yourself...chances are you'd wake up one day and decide that no, you really don't want to be a Christian after all, and then she would be stuck with someone who did not share her values and did not share her faith.

If you really like this woman, back off and just be friends.

And yes, I know this stinks, it stinks for both of you, but please do consider the long view.
posted by konolia at 9:00 PM on August 24, 2008

yoked, not yolked, altho I am sure both of you are good eggs...
posted by konolia at 9:01 PM on August 24, 2008

I was in the exact scenario years ago; a girl I really dug--who also dug me--was a devoted Catholic. Me, a lapsed...Presbyterian. Kinda. Agnostic at best. We were friends and due to other factors never started actually dating, but she did say a few disparaging comments about atheists, though half-joking.

The fact that she says she could never date a non-Christian speaks volumes. Sounds like you're barking up the wrong tree. On the other hand, views can change and maybe you're just the guy to show her the error of her religious ways. The only way to know is to go on dates with her.
posted by zardoz at 10:00 PM on August 24, 2008

This depends on a lot of factors, including what kind of Christian she identifies herself as. I strongly suggest you suss out as much as you can about her belief system - she's likely eager to share. :)

If she is fundamentalist or goes to a conservative evangelical church, it's bad news. FWIW, I was once one of 'them', and probably led many guys on - having long philosophical conversations, debating endlessly, and yet as friendly as possible, in hopes of winning souls. Later on, during a crisis of faith, I met a very charming agnostic guy. While I was still saying the 'right' things, I was honest with my doubts, and was really open to a new perspective. That kind of relationship can work, even thrive.

But chances are, as Kellydamnit said, she's hoping to convert you. At least this was a big drive of the churches I went to. Be a witness, show outsiders how great Christianity is! Win them for Jesus! Here's a list of canned responses to their doubts! Invite them to church! They'll see how awesome we are!

She probably likes you, but unless you're in that world, you can't understand the pressure she is likely facing; if she dates you, a sinner, that makes her a backslider, maybe even a slut! - which means major judgment from her Christian friends. And with a daughter, she's likely looking for a husband anyway, not a boyfriend.

There were many women in Bible study that were married to "sinners", and the sick group therapy consisted of: tears over Sinner's Hell-bound status, recounting his every un-Christlike action, scrutiny of any hint of change, fervent prayers rebuking Satan's grip on him, and treacly sympathy (read: cloaked judgmentalism) from the other women. Ick.

On preview, what everyone else said. I need to learn to start writing faster!
posted by for_serious at 10:10 PM on August 24, 2008

she is fairly devout and adamant christian.

In my experience, those are the real hellcats in bed. :)

Seriously, since she already seems to be sending out "no thanks" vibes, it sounds like you need to slam the door decisively, so I'll nth those who have said "Ask her, already."
posted by rokusan at 10:20 PM on August 24, 2008

Been there, done that, asked the anonymous askme about how to deal with the fallout.

If you're really interested, ask her. However, my experience with an extremely conservative Christian who made an exception to date me was that even though she was a pretty excellent person aside from her religion, our convictions clashed in very unpleasant ways. Be true to yourself throughout all of this. Saying "I can tolerate and be respectful of another very different perspective that judges a lot of things about me very harshly" is one thing; doing it in practice is another.
posted by Alterscape at 11:18 PM on August 24, 2008

Unless she's something relatively freewheeling like a Unitarian (and it sounds like she's not) I would run, not walk, away. Sounds like even if she's interested in you, she's also interested in bringing you into the fold.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:35 PM on August 24, 2008

I'll go against the grain here. You could go for the middle path, just to explore a little more how much this is going to be a problem.

Can you do things together outside of work that are not specifically dates? How about after work, you get hamburgers together? Or, if she does charity work with her church (like, Habitat for Humanity or a feed the hungry event) you do it with her? How about meeting her and her daughter at the local park for, say, Labor Day, and have a picnic?

This is a low-risk proposition. At best, you find out more about her and the potential for a relationship -- which might be there. At worse, you get a closer friendship.
posted by Houstonian at 3:03 AM on August 25, 2008

I think a cute way to deal with this would be a little doll / puppet show (this might not be your style, but if you can imagine yourself doing it, I think it could work really well).

So you get two little lego guys, or action figures, or whatever. Take her aside and tell her you have a little puppet show for her. You tell the story of this little guy and little gal, and how they really like each other. But the guy doesn't believe in Jesus, so he's going to hell, and the gal doesn't think she can go on dates with him because of that... Invite her to ask questions, or to continue the story...
posted by Meatbomb at 3:39 AM on August 25, 2008

I would like to point out that if her religion is the central focus of her life, if you DO end up dating, she will take it as her *job* to convert you. I speak from experience - my father is a Fundamentalist Christian, and while that may not be the case with this woman, I know enough Christians to know that they see it as their mission to convert the people whom they are closest to as an effort to keep them from going to hell. That may sound extreme, but in their world view, that's how it goes. She will try to convert you. And it will be because she loves and cares about you and doesn't want to see you "in the clutches of Satan" (as my stepmother tells me at least three times a month).

Don't get involved with someone like this unless you are truly willing to convert. Even if you think that YOU can handle that kind of pressure, do not put her in the position where she feels like she has to save you. It's rather unfair to her, and probably why she only wants to date Christian men in the first place.

(Also: as I mentioned, my father is a Fundie who found Jesus behind the sofa one day. My mother, when I was growing up, was a Buddhist. This was the direct cause of their divorce.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:43 AM on August 25, 2008

She might be happy enough if you just go to church with her once a week. I mean, yeah boring and annoying but if she is the love of your life...

The thing is, a lot of hardcore Christians are surrounded by lukewarm, just living their lives Christians and they don't even know it. So it could be that you to get married, have a beautiful life together. In the absence of conversion/confrontation/etc it could be that her religion actually is a pretty small part of her outward life.

I've known a few Christians in my day. The ones who talk the most about their religion are the ones who know that I am not Christian. The ones who are pretty dang normal are the ones who for whatever reason assume I am a Christian.

Bottom line, you could at least pursue her and see what happens.
posted by ian1977 at 4:56 AM on August 25, 2008

My SO and I argue intensely about religion all the time.. which is funny because we're both Atheist. But the strong views we each hold about the things that we don't even actually believe in - are irrelevant. (Haha!) Because we agree on the most important thing. Which is - getting the last word but then very humbly and sincerely humouring each other. The aim is just to be right... not an intolerably unrelenting asshole.

But this seems to be her problem and not yours. If she can't get the jeebus pole out of her ass there's not a whole lot you can do about that. Essentially it's not a religion thing - it's an inability to compromise or see the value in anything else.

Although she might be one of those sexless Christians and the threat of hell would be much more direct and easier to escalate to a pointed and effective level with other 'christians' than just a general "No thank-you."

The religion thing is obviously massive but the only way for you both to know how massive is to talk about it more. (Careful though any jeebus pole can be unpleasant at best.)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 5:05 AM on August 25, 2008

You could always try to destroy her belief in God... but that would be like asking someone to change their beliefs just to date you (oh, wait...)
posted by rikschell at 5:42 AM on August 25, 2008

There's 'devout' and then there's DEVOUT!!!!!!1 You didn't say what denomination she was. If she's a Lutheran or Methodist or Catholic or one of the tamer Christianities (did I just call Catholicism tame?), it might work out. If she hits the megachurch twice a week and has made it her sworn duty to save everyone she knows from damnation, then run away. Fast.

Also consider political views. Clashing religious views can sometimes be eased if you both vote for the same president.

One of the very few times I've felt better about not asking someone out was when I crushed on this hardcore-religious girl in college. I had been dragging my feet, as I am wont to do with girls. I had lunch with her at Quizno's once, and when she started saying grace in the restaurant, I knew I was smart to have kept my mouth shut.
posted by spamguy at 6:45 AM on August 25, 2008

she has made it known she could not date anyone who was not a christian

She has already made herself clear. Believe what she says about her choices.

Look, I grew up evangelical and thought this way myself for a long long time. Did it mean that I never wanted to date guys who weren't Christians? Did it mean that I had no chemistry with them? Hell no. It just meant that I wouldn't actually date them. Perhaps that wasn't fair to the guys involved (or to me, looking back on it), but it's a lot easier to be firm about it when someone is asking you out than when you're just hanging out with a friend and the chemistry is in the air.

It sounds like she does like you, but she has other priorities, and she's been clear about that. She is responsible to her God and her daughter, first and foremost. It sounds like she's willing to give up dating non-Christians for that, even if she really clicks with them.

It's not you. It's Him.
posted by heatherann at 7:20 AM on August 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

A christians priority is God first everything else second...
Furthermore, the bible does speak out about marrying someone (which I assume would entail dating) someone of a contrary belief.

If she is sincere, your not really going to have a chance unless the power of Christ compells you to change and that doesnt sound like its happeneing.
posted by TeachTheDead at 7:43 AM on August 25, 2008

Sex is a historically stronger force than faith or religion, or else the human race would have died out a long time ago. Or become so inbred we'd all have pig tails.
Go for it. As a friend said "you've already got the 'no'".
posted by signal at 8:49 AM on August 25, 2008

I'm an observant Episcopalian and my husband hates religion of all kinds, especially Christianity.

That said, I would never describe my religion as "the center of my life" even though it's very important to me.

On the third hand, although I think signal is being overoptimistic, you've got nothing to lose by asking her if she'd be interested in dating you.

If she says, "Gee, no, Anonymous, I'm only interested in dating Christian guys" you have your answer, and you're no further behind than you are now. Then your problem moves on to the "how to get over an unrequited romantic interest."
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:16 AM on August 25, 2008

The trouble I see with "good christian girls" is that they are a part of something that tells them who is going to hell and who isn't, what is acceptable behavious and what isn't, you will always be an outsider to a large part of her life, will always be suspect in the eyes of many who believe THEY know the best path for YOUR woman.

Sadly, it sounds like you are being recruited into the fold, maybe not but from your description she is open and eager to discuss religion with you, has made it plain that she could not consider dating a heathen, stay friends with her, tell her plainly that you are interested in her and would like to date but will not ask her out as she see's you as not worthy of consideration. Let her think about it for a while then gently move on.
posted by plainjs at 11:54 AM on August 25, 2008

Heh. I really love Meatbomb's idea and I think I might start using this method for just about everything.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:34 PM on August 25, 2008

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