Navigating Inter-Faith Relationships
It’s a very taboo subject. Many faiths forbid such relationships by default, while others take a more nuanced approach. I’ve been in an inter-faith relationship for the last several years and will be tying the knot in January, so I like to think I’ve learned a few pointers along the way. Disclaimer: This Hub is aimed at those who have already decided to pursue a relationship with someone of a different faith, not those who are opposed to the idea altogether.
1. Be sure of what you’re getting into.
Love can conquer all, but blending two lives based on differing belief systems does come with its challenges.Like anything else, you want to be sure that you’re both up for those challenges.
Blending Faiths in Marriage
2. You should have more similarities than differences.
It’s true that just about anyone can find common ground, but not everyone can find enough of it to maintain a healthy relationship. Two people may successfully merge lives without sharing the same faith, but it’s nearly impossible to do so without sharing the same values.
It doesn’t really matter how different or how similar your religious backgrounds are. If the issue of faith in a relationship isn’t approached with the utmost respect on all sides, as with every other relationship issue, it will never work out well. Disrespect can come in many forms, ranging from subtle jabs and comments, or even a roll of the eyes when discussing religious topics, to outright slander of the other person’s beliefs.
4. Mutual understanding.
I’m of the belief that it doesn’t hurt to understand a variety of religions, and this goes especially for inter-faith relationships. You may not share your partner’s belief, but showing them that you’ve made an attempt to understand the core principles, texts and practices of their faith goes a long way. It will also help you to be more patient when (not if) you encounter something they do or say because of their religious beliefs that you may not agree with or understand.
Dating someone of a different faith.
5. Limit debates.
Yes, we should all be able to discuss a variety of topics with our chosen mates, but there’s a difference between heartfelt discussion and hosting debate team at the dinner table. For some Type A folks it may work, but chances are that it will leave anyone else feeling as though they always have to be on the defensive. That’s not a good mood to set in a relationship. Both parties should feel free to discuss and explain the beliefs that are important to them, but when it comes to such discussions I prefer to keep a ratio of 10 genuine questions for every opinion on the other person’s faith.
6. Negotiate logistics early.
The times when faith has the most potential to become a point of contention include child rearing, holidays, family gatherings and religious services. Limit the potential for arguments by planning out these situations with your partner in advance. If Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Christmas is an important occasion for them and you’re an atheist who couldn’t care less about the holidays, that’s something to work out well before the date rolls around.
The issue of how children will be brought up is perhaps the biggest thing that couples worry about when entering into an inter-faith relationship, and rightfully so. There are many different approaches that parents can take in this matter, and that’s a Hub for another day, but again the best solutions will always return to a foundation of respect and honest discussion. Don’t wait until you’re pregnant to find out that your partner is dead set on a Christening! Have that discussion sooner, before things are set in stone.
Working it out.
Navigating an inter-faith relationship isn’t easy. No relationship ever is, even if you seem to have everything in common. It can be done, though, as long as both parties maintain a sense of humility, a willingness to learn, and remind themselves of the love that brought them together in the first place.