Guest Post by Ryan Worlds from the blog FoodLoveMe/FoodHateMe
Originally I wanted to title this post, “how to succeed in an interfaith marriage” but it’s only been 7 years. And that’s the tough thing about marriage, right? It’s til death do us part. We don’t call it a success until it’s over! LOL!
I however, did date my husband for 10 years and we’ve now been married for 7 years. After all that time I do believe I’ve learned a lot about being in a relationship with someone of a different religion.
Some people would say “life is already so hard, don’t complicate it further by marrying someone of a different faith”. And you know what, in some ways, I agree. At 19 I didn’t care about that and I didn’t understand the importance of it. By the time I was thinking about marriage I was already in love with my husband and I couldn’t just walk away. I suspect that if you are reading this, then perhaps you are in a similar predicament. Maybe you are asking yourself …”Am I doing the right thing? Can an interfaith marriage really work?
I’ve thought about this a lot and I believe there are 7 major questions/ideas you should consider when you’re debating marrying someone of a different faith.
1. How religious is each person?
If one person is very religious and the other person is a bit indifferent, the household could tend to lean towards the religion of the person that is more religious. Maybe this is considered a benefit as it would minimize conflict. On the other hand if one person is just not into religion as a whole then that person might prefer that no religion be emphasized in the house. This could be problematic for the person who is more religious.
2. Discuss your religious deal breakers.
Before we got married my husband and I had a heart to heart to discuss our deal breakers, things we would absolutely not be willing to compromise. My husband is Christian and I am Muslim. My personal deal breaker was that, I don’t want my children baptized. I told my husband that he nor any member of his family should baptize our children against my will. It is critical that these type of religious deal breakers be discussed prior to marriage.
3. Attend premarital counseling.
Every couple should get premarital counseling, especially if they are attempting to enter into an interfaith marriage. We were able to get a counselor that was not affiliated to any religion or church who specialized in interfaith marriages. First she got to know us in order to assess our compatibility. Then she worked with us on communication skills giving us tools to help, when we have disagreements in our marriage. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting a premarital counselor before you get married especially if you are marrying someone of a different religion. It is so helpful to have a mediator help you discuss difficult topics. You could even choose to have your “dealbreaker conversation” with the assistance of the counselor. 6 Things You Must Do Before Marriage
4. Understand where your parents are coming from and forgive them.
All your parents ever want is to keep you from being in pain.
They want that more than they want you to be happy. If you are thinking of marrying someone in a different religion and your biggest fear is that your family or his/her family won’t be on board, this is what you need to understand. It’s not that your parents hate the other religion or think that people in that religion are bad, it’s simply that they don’t want you to be in pain.
Whether your parents are married or divorced, they know a bad marriage can be painful and they don’t wish that for their child. Even more importantly they don’t want to see you struggle in your marriage. Knowing how hard marriage already is, their thought is, “why make it harder by having two different religions?”Why do people say marriage is hard? (by the way, this thought process also applies to people considering marrying outside of their race. Your parents aren’t racists, they just don’t want you to be in pain). Intercultural Dating: Unforeseen Challenges and Expectations
Understanding this will help you to approach your parents with compassion and hopefully minimize conflict.
5. Are you planning on having children?
Honestly, this was the only reason I even ever paused on marrying my husband. If I didn’t want kids I probably wouldn’t have cared at all. Before we had a kid we basically just said, you do your thing, I’ll do mine, and we’ll meet in the middle when it works. But with a kid everything changes. Suddenly religious celebrations and family traditions play a role.
I can’t tell you what might be best for your situation but here’s what we decided to do:
We decided that we would each celebrate whichever religious holidays we valued with our children and the other spouse would be free but not obliged to participate. For instance, I will teach my children to observe Ramadan and celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. My husband chooses not to observe Ramadan. Likewise, I’m cool with celebrating Christmas with his extended family but will not participate in observing Easter. 10 Things I Want Non-Muslims to Know About Being Muslim
Another important agreement that we made is that as our son gets older and starts asking questions, we will only answer questions about our own religion. If my son comes to me and asks questions about Christianity then I will say, “go ask your dad” and if he asks my husband questions about Islam, he’ll say, “go ask your mom”. I should note that my son is 6 months old as I type this so I can only tell you our plan moving forward, we won’t know if this worked for 18 more years! My hope is that our child will believe in one God and have a deep spiritual practice. Whether he calls himself a Christian or a Muslim or something else is not my primary concern. You need to ask yourself how you feel about your child’s ultimate beliefs to determine if you can have an interfaith marriage with kids or not.
6. Your home should be the one place you can totally be yourself.
Are you giving that up by marrying someone of a different faith? This one is tough. We go to school, we go to work, we go to the gym, and to social outings, but no matter what games we have to play or what facade we might have to put up, when we get home, we can always be ourselves. That is the entire point of being home. That’s why we love to go home. This is super important!
You must be able to be at home when you’re home.
Part of the allure of marriage is that you’re done with dating, you’re done with the “games” and you can finally just be yourself. When thinking about marrying someone of a different faith you need to ask yourself, can I still be myself at home in this marriage? If Not Love Then What?: 6 Reasons Why I Married Him Other Than Love
In my house these questions came up: My husband asked, “Is she going to try to keep me from eating pork?” I asked, “Is he going to try to stop me from fasting during Ramadan?” You need to know the answers to these types of questions. You need to know before going into this that the other person’s way of living is not going to create a situation where you don’t feel like you can be 100% yourself in your own home. Love is Not a Marriage
7. How different are your religions?
Sometimes I think we allow the little things in our religions to have way more significance than they should. For instance my mother threw a fit the first time she heard I allowed a Christmas tree in my house. But who cares? A Christmas tree can not be found in either the Quran nor the Bible. It’s not religious at all. In fact I’ve known Muslim American families that put up Xmas trees because it’s more of a cultural thing than a religious thing.
At it’s core I don’t see that many differences between a good Christian and a good Muslim. Marrying a good Christian, to me, wasn’t a bad thing and it didn’t threaten my faith. If you strongly disagree and you believe that your religion is night and day from your partner’s then maybe you shouldn’t marry them because you are essentially saying that your values don’t align.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to knowing yourself, your values and understanding if they match well with your partner independent of your different religions. I wish you all the best in finding your true mates.
Have you dated someone of a different religion? What issues came up for you? Are you married to them now? How’s it going? I’d love to continue the discussion. Leave a comment below.