Getting married comes with quite a few benefits, but that doesn't mean that joining your life with someone else's is going to be easy. Having a partner who practices a different faith can add both an extra layer of intrigue and additional challenges. Good advice helps you work through difficult issues to help make your union a success.
Communicate Early and Often
Communication is one of the bedrocks of any healthy marriage, but it is particularly important when you and your partner observe different religions. During the early stages of your relationship, the giddy feeling you get from falling in love may mask potential difficulties down the road. The earlier you acknowledge your differences and start working out how to navigate them, the better chance your partnership has to endure the test of a lifetime. If you are considering marriage to a person of a different faith, there are several things you need to discuss:
- How your faith shapes your worldview
- How your faith influences your views on gender
- How (or if) you plan to raise children
- How you will celebrate holidays
You don't have to resolve every minor issue with one conversation, but make open communication a priority. It may be helpful to talk to a counselor who specializes in interfaith relationships and can guide you through some of the more challenging topics.
Learn About Each Other's Faith
It is perfectly healthy for each person in a relationship to have his or her own pastimes. After all, part of keeping the spark alive is realizing that your significant other cannot fulfill every role and need in your life. It's likely, however, that your faith isn't just another hobby to you. It's important, therefore, for you and your spouse to learn about each other's belief systems. In addition to talking about the specific ways your faith affects you, you can read books together and discuss the ideas in them. If you are open to attending services, that can also help each of you understand the meaning behind what the other believes.
Talk to Your Families
No couple exists in a vacuum. Even if the two of you learn how to navigate your different beliefs with ease, your families' expectations may add some complications to the mix. Resolving potential conflict starts with setting clear boundaries that communicate mutual respect. Extend your commitment to open communication to your family members, making a special effort to keep them in the loop when your decisions affect the time you spend with them. Ideally, each partner's family will embrace the other as one of their own, and it's vital to let them know that this is what you want from them. Talk to your partner and come up with a plan for how you will respond if either family refuses to accept the union. Working together is the key to dealing with any obstacles that come your way.
Find an Interfaith Community
Many couples who have different faiths are happy practicing their respective traditions on their own. Another option is finding a way to worship together. This can be especially appealing if you plan to have children, as it gives them a broader way to learn the beliefs of both their parents in an accepting, loving way. You may choose to join two different faith communities and practice both religions. A unitarian fellowship that embraces all faiths as valid may be a workable solution as well. Talk to trusted clergy for guidance on how to respect and practice your faiths together.
A strong marriage is built on both shared values and complementary differences. Even if your faiths do not mirror each other, you can still create a loving home where both of you can thrive.