When couples marry, they marry each other’s religious heritage. This can a source of great richness and strengths or one of great tension and conflict. Like everything else in a new marriage, it requires talking and listening and compromising. It’s up to you.
The Forum for Interfaith Marriages with Equality report that 50% of all U.S. marriages are interfaith marriages. Given the rapid diversification of the U.S, blended marriages are only going to increase.
In an interesting eHow article titled How to Marry a Person of a Different Religion, we hear five great recommendations on how to manage the complexities presented by your partner’s different religious traditions and beliefs. These include the following:
1. Study, study, study. If your relationship is serious, or even if it’s only beginning, read everything you can about your significant other’s religion. Find out how does it differs and how it’s similar to your own. Investigate whether it’s an inclusive and tolerant religion, or more orthodox.
2. Learn early on how important your partner’s religion is to him or her. If each of you feels that yours is the “only true religion,” this philosophical difference could become the deal-breaker. Deep seated beliefs are far more serious and important than simply celebrating “Christmaskkuh” or decorating a Hanukkah bush. On the other hand, one of you may be more observant and religiously committed than the other. In this case, the more observant member of the pair should be able to continue to practice his or her religion without too much conflict.
3. Ask yourself how your friends and family might react. Even if you are fully-grown and independent, your family may still be uneasy. Decide how important their reaction and approval are to you. Remember that although their opinions are important, it’s your life, and the ultimate decision is yours. Make it clear that you are not rejecting them and their beliefs, but also stress that you expect them to welcome your spouse, no matter how his or her beliefs may clash with theirs.
4. Plan for children. Such planning may seem premature if you have just met and are casually dating, but it shouldn’t be difficult to sound out how your partner feels about children and religion. He or she may not seem strictly observant, yet may become surprisingly adamant when it comes to bringing up children in the faith.
5. Study some more. Once you have made a commitment to marry, do everything you can to immerse yourself in your partner’s culture. Learn the traditions, cook the recipes, talk the talk as much as possible. You may find the new beliefs appealing and interesting.
Takeaway. Interfaith marriages can be a wonderful source of strength and richness. I’ve had the opportunity to marry many interfaith couples. Christian-Jewish, Catholic-Hindu, Catholic-Muslim, and Christian-Agnostic weddings are rich and wonderful traditions. Whether these marriages are a source of tension or celebration is totally up to the couple. Make the choice! Let these differences be a source of welcome for a world so in need of religious understanding.