As beliefs change, so do relationships…

CatBookshelf

I don’t really have a photo for this post so… here’s my cat. On my bookshelf. Lurv. I guess since she doesn’t have beliefs (other than the importance of being pet at all times), our love will never change? As long as I keep delivering the pets, that is.

I’m realizing how much the depth of our relationships depends in large measure on the beliefs we share with others. Our beliefs cover everything. They are the lens through which we see the world and the very way we interpret the world. As we are part of the world, our beliefs are how we see others and ourselves, and reflect our evaluations of others and ourselves. It’s really no surprise and not pejorative to say that shared beliefs dictate the intimacy in relationships.

We have to have some beliefs binding us together. These beliefs can be as simple as “I believe you are a good, safe person and worth loving.” But as simple as that belief is, it implies or contains many other beliefs, like about what makes a good person, what makes a safe person, and who is worth loving intimately (on an individual-to-individual level).

I think about this a lot lately because of how my beliefs about what makes a good person have changed over the years. I used to be a super conservative evangelical Christian and all my closest relationships were in that demographic. Then I fell in love with an atheist and I had to evaluate what was at the core of what I believed made people good.

Then this political climate… happened. Solidified. Became real to me (yes, I know how privileged that is — but it’s true). It made real and solid a lot of what I have been suspecting and moving towards over the years.

This leaves a lot of my past relationships… something. Under question? And I mean on both sides. I have changed in ways that are uncomfortable to my friends just as they have not changed in ways that I am now uncomfortable with. Most of it may not matter for much in the day-to-day, but the gap does creep in. My new words of encouragement, spoken with as much truth as I can muster, are no longer encouraging because they aren’t what speaks to them. Their words of encouragement, the ones that used to mean to much, now ring hollow for me. Is it better to speak someone’s language than be truthful, if the goal is to comfort? What is “true” in there, and what is our responsibility towards truth in relationships? I suppose that is determined by the value someone places on relationships themselves and how someone defines our larger responsibilities in them….

It leaves me to wonder if this difference precludes intimacy with some people. Certainly not all — I share many, many ethical and moral values with people who otherwise have totally different beliefs from mine, and I genuinely love people with whom I strongly disagree. But it seems like it will preclude intimacy in some relationships. Not as a matter of imposition and choice, but as a natural consequence of having different convictions about what makes a good, safe person; what a good, safe world looks like; and what our ethical responsibilities to others are.

I am also very, very, very glad I got married at 30 and not 23. Holy cow. Saved myself a divorce and/or a crap ton of money on selective-serotonin-reuptake-inhibitor pharmaceuticals.

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