It's only an "awkward conversation" if you make it so.
"Spiritual but Not Religious" ... 37 percent of Americans now describe their religious affiliation as SBNR.
And this is showing up on dating sites as more and more singles openly describe themselves in this way.
But is a "SBNR" mention in a dating profile an invitation to talk with your date about a higher power? Or is it their "don't bring religion up" preemptive road block on the topic?
Clients often ask us — "Can I talk about faith or spirituality on a date?"
After all, on a first or second date, people feel nervous and don't want to say the wrong thing or scare off a potentially wonderful partner. But, they also want an authentic read of the other person — to find out what drives him or her — to know what this other person values.
Starting a long-term relationship means building a strong foundation. Shared values and concern for others create a bond that helps couples survive bumps and conflict.
So, you and your partner are open and honest about sex, money, dating pasts and just about everything else ... why exclude this core human topic?
The problem is, most people don't know how to start the conversation (or if they even should). We say spirituality is far too important in relationships to leave out of getting-to-know-you conversations.
Not only is it OK to talk about your spirituality ... you must!
We reflect spirituality in our values and behaviors. Part of getting to know someone on a date is sharing your values and beliefs about the world — in addition to what you like to do for exercise and entertainment.
Though others advise you to leave the topic of spirituality or faith OFF the table the first few dates — we've found in our professional experience that being open about who you are and what you value invites that same response from your partner, creating real conversation.
That said, remember — sharing your spiritual self does not mean "converting" anyone or criticizing someone else's spiritual beliefs. THAT is definitely not your place ... on a first date, or any other. We're each spiritual in unique ways and a real dialogue occurs when both parties show respect for and interest in someone else's point of view.
So, how do you initiate a meaningful conversations about spirituality and personal beliefs in an open and non-judgmental fashion?
Try saying something like this: "I find it so interesting that so many people fill out their online profiles with 'spiritual but not religious,' I think that's the new 'safe' way people hint that they've had experiences pertaining to something larger than themselves. I know, for me, spirituality is something I see in the way we treat other people. How about you? What do you consider a spiritual experience?"
This kind of communication is irresistible because it leads with respectful curiosity and invites a thoughtful response from your date.
A conversation like that gets you and your date talking about things that matter to both of you, creating space for an interesting — perhaps even enlightening — time together.
Take the PsychoMatrix Spirituality Inventory™ for a free 3-page confidential report about your spiritual experience and values [Enter "YourTango" as the group code].
Dr. Richard Wolman is a Harvard psychologist and author of Thinking With Your Soul. Richard works with his wife Peggy, a coach and matchmaker, and together they help singles of all ages find (and keep) true love.