24 Iyyar 5774
So my partner told me today that he’s a little worried about my conversion changing me or making me want to leave him.
It’s a normal fear, I suppose. I just don’t quite know how to address it. And this isn’t the usual fear that converts face: my partner and I are queer. That does make it different, because there’s so few resources out there for people like us.
Now, I can’t imagine a future where I would leave him, for any reason. From my conversations with the people at the local temple yesterday, I don’t think that they would make him uncomfortable, or me either, just for being GLBT or for being an interfaith couple. When I brought it up last night, the rabbinical student said, “You will not be the first ones here.”
He was also worried that I was going to start keeping kosher, but I reassured him that that’s not going to happen, because of my own current dietary restrictions. But I can see his point. I will be praying a lot more than I have been, which up until I decided that conversion was right for me, was zero times per day. I’ll be wearing a kippah most of the time, so it will change how I look. And those are mostly just surface changes.
Frankly, I think that he will enjoy some of the other changes – like the fact that I won’t feel the need to talk religious people down (although I still reserve the right to call certain religious people out on their bad behavior, but that’s a different thing). I’m already calmer than I was, and I think I’m happier. And I think he sees that. He’s already said he thinks this is a positive change for me.
I’m sure that part of his worry is: what will me being Jewish do to our sex life? And I’ve been wrestling with that in my own time, with a few trusted correspondents. Let me put it this way: I’m not going to let it damage our sex life.
But I think most of what he’s worried about is just the changes he can’t predict. The unknowns. And I can understand that.
So, since there are so few resources out there for queer people in this situation, I could use some help from my readership. Is there anything that you can think of that might make him really uncomfortable, that I can address now, to make it less scary? Any ways in which I can help him so that he doesn’t feel so threatened? Any heads-ups I should be giving him now?
And, while I’m at it: does anyone have any advice for me? I don’t mean just about my partner’s worries, but about my own coming out process as I begin to tell friends and family members what I’ve chosen to do. Really, I think one of the things that is stressing me out the most is that so few people that I care about know that I am moving towards conversion to a religious path, after being so vehemently atheist for so many years. When I came out as queer, there was one friend who was very dear to me that completely rejected me and never spoke to me again. That still hurts, and it’s been 14 years since it happened. And just in the last week, reading Facebook and another blog site that I’m part of, I see my atheist friends running down religious people simply because they’re religious, making really nasty and hurtful comments, and just generally being as intolerant as fundamentalist religionists are of anyone who isn’t exactly like them.
It took me over 20 years to understand that I can’t measure spirituality using the same tool as I used and still do use for the material world. I can’t expect my atheist friends to make the same shift as I have.
But it occurs to me I should probably document why I have.
I’ve mentioned the helicopters before. One of them was an article about near death experiences. What convinced me that they have to be the real thing – which means there has to be a soul or something beyond what our material self produces by electrical flashes in the brain – was that the people who went through the NDE could independently verify things that happened while they had absolutely no brain activity. Their lack of brain activity is a matter of medical record, and yet they knew things that they could not possibly know, if the “personality and self are entirely made up of electrical flashes in the brain” school of thought is true.
I am a scientist. At this point, the only explanation that fits the evidence is: there is a soul. It is independent of the body. And we don’t understand anything about it.
Another helicopter is one I’ve talked about at length here: the fact that I equated my mother’s abuse with how G-d operates. When I realized that my view of G-d was based largely on a faulty filter system, that changed everything for me.
But do I expect these helicopters to mean anything to my friends who are atheist? No. I will be pleased and surprised if they do, but I expect to lose quite a few friends when I come out and say, “Hey, guess what? I’m converting to Reform Judaism.”
My partner is much more understanding than my atheist friends will probably be. For one thing, he believes in G-d. But he still has fears and I can understand that. So please, give me some ways to help him deal with the fears that he’s going to have.
8 responses to “Ch-ch-ch-changes… and an appeal to my readers.”
Hello John Doe, I have been experiencing something similar, my partner is afraid I will change enough for me to want to be with a Jewish partner. When we met we were in a similar spiritual state (seculars) but since then a lot has changed and he is afraid and I understand his fears because until certain point is a fear share because I also feel it.
I think is not a bad fear is just a fear of the unknown (a fear that we would also feel if for instance we were moving into a new city), but I reassured him telling him it is ok to be, we come from different backgrounds and so far we haven’t had any issues with that. Of course things would be easier (or not) if I were dating a Jewish guy or I was dating someone who speaks my mother tongue (his is Arabic) but that doesn’t necessarily mean is what I want plus he knows I am mature enough to love a person for who they are and not for what they are and he is a wonderful human being regardless of his religious practices so he shouldn’t be afraid and although Judaism is becoming more and more part of my life, he is also part of that life and we will work together to make it work as we have been doing so far.
I have been thinking in some measure that might help my religion practices with my personals life maybe they will be useful to you.
– Due to work reasons Friday’s evenings I am not always with my partner but if we are together I am planning of having a more “couple time” Shabbat, What I mean is to have some quiet couple time with the candles, some wine, break and cheese.
– Once I feel more part of the community, I will bring him from time to time to the synagogue and as a reward he will get amazing sex (just kidding) and after the service we can go for a nice dinner to a restaurant so we can have a service/dinner date, kind of like parents do with children when they bring them for Ice cream after church.
– I try not to pray in front of him, for now, that’s my own personal time and I believe he should be involved (or present) in that. At least not for now.
– Judaism is based in family life/values and we will build so I want him to be as much as possible part of the holidays.
– I will also try to include him in my decisions regarding which Mitzvah to I will observe, at minimum I will ask his opinion and he doesn’t agree I will explain the reason why I am deciding to observe it.
I hope it will all work out well for you guys (and for us).
I hadn’t thought of the worry that I might prefer a Jewish partner one day, but you’re right; it’s a valid worry. (By the way, my name’s Adam, so you can call me that.) I’ll talk with him about it. Thanks!
Have you tried asking him what exactly are his fears? Unless you know what he’s actually concerned about, you’ll possibly be addressing things that aren’t amongst the things that concern him. Which will waste time and energy for you, and possibly be counter-productive.
What comes to mind here is a Milk commercial a few years back, where the woman said “there’s something we need to talk about,” and the man then started asking is it this, is it that… including saying stuff like “cubic zirconia looks just like real diamond!” and generally getting himself into hot water… when all the while she was just annoyed that he’d drunk all the milk! So don’t make things more difficult on both of you than necessary, and ASK him what his concerns are. 🙂
If you don’t know how to address his concerns off the top of your head, then say “I don’t know, and I’ll get back to you after I’ve thought about it.” There is no shame in not knowing, and in getting help sorting things out.
Like, for instance, querying your blog audience…. 😉
And you can also have him contact me, to do the ongoing discussions we’d talked about some months back. I’m happy to negotiate a win-win that would help get you both some support. And if it would help for him to have someone else to talk to, I’m happy to be that person.
He’s probably not sure what the fears are, specifically. Like I said, “fear of the unknown” is the biggie. But I’ll talk to him about it. 🙂
The future is always unknown until we get there. 🙂 We can make some GUESSES about the future, but we can never actually KNOW. Can you make an agreement to face unknowns together? Might that help?
Some reform synagogues offer classes about Judaism, which are NOT conversion classes but general knowledge classes open to the public — Jew and non-Jew alike. You might ask your rabbi if they know of any, or perform a Google search yourself and see if you can find one. I suspect your partner is less worried about you keeping kosher and more concerned about the unknown, so these classes can be a good way to learn more about Judaism and be in an environment where asking questions is encouraged and much easier.
Thank you for this suggestion! I talked it over with him a little last night before bed, so we’ll see what comes of it.
Given the number of GLBT poly kinky etc etc Jews I know, I don’t see a need for any fears about your sex life 🙂
Less silly thoughts later.