According to Naomi Schaefer Riley, a journalist from Fox News (2013), approximately 40% of marital unions, in the United States, are interfaith ones. Moreover, it appears that marriage between two people of different faiths are steadily becoming more common as times goes on. Income level, race, gender and/or educational status do not appear to be factors in these unions. Riley also points out that as a person ages, he/she is more likely to marry outside of their faith. In fact, approximately 60% of the people that marry outside of their faith are between the ages 36 and 45. It appears, in some cases, that once a person matures, he/she starts to form his/her own opinions about religion (sometimes moving closer to it and sometimes moving away from it) and place less emphasis on faith when selecting a lifetime mate.
It is also important to note that couples who do not share the same religious belief system may find it especially challenging to parent children, assign household responsibilities, celebrate holidays and special occasions and prepare foods to eat. In addition, interfaith marriages are three times more likely to end in divorce then same faith marriages. Although it may seem like the odds are against you, if you decide to marry outside of your faith, the truth is that you can still have a successful marriage. If you are wondering if it is possible to make an interfaith marriage work – you have come to the right place. Listed below are valuable tips that can help you have a happy, healthy and long-lasting marriage.
Helpful tips that can help you have a successful interfaith marriage:
Learn about your partner’s faith
If you want to make your interfaith marriage work, you will need to learn more about your partner’s faith. Why? Well, a person’s belief system (religious background, experiences and/or traditions) plays a significant role in who he/she is as a person, friend, son or daughter, parent, wife or husband and mother or father. In other words, your partner’s religious beliefs can play a huge role in his/her life. It is important to learn about your partner’s religion because it will give you insight into his/her thinking patterns and behaviors.
Talk about your differences
Discuss the role faith plays in your life and how it influences your thoughts and actions and ask your partner what faith means to him/her and how it influences his/her decisions and behaviors.
Some of the questions that you may want to ask one another include:
• What are your beliefs when it comes to childrearing practices, holiday celebrations, religious customs and family/household responsibilities?
• How important is it that your children being raised in your faith? Is it possible for them to be exposed to both faiths?
• How do your parents and other relatives view interfaith marriages and how will they treat me and the children?
• How involved are you in your faith/religious practices and will you expect me and the children to participate?
It is important that you always show respect to one another, regardless of your beliefs. It is easy to become enraged, upset, frustrated and/or disappointed during a heated religious or faith-based argument/disagreement with your spouse. The worst thing you can do is be disrespectful towards one another, rather it is important to remain calm, open, respectful and honest with each other, especially during challenging and/or difficult times. Whenever you feel overwhelmed and/or stressed, it is important that you remember that your spouse’s faith helped shape the person you fell in love with. In other words, your partner’s religious beliefs are integral part of who he/she is today. Furthermore, although you may disagree on religion/faith beliefs and practices, there are probably 1,000 other things that you agree on. Focus on what you share in common.
Connect with other couples
A good way to get a good understanding of interfaith marriages is to connect with other couples in a similar situation. In other words, seek out other interfaith couples and pay attention to their problem-solving strategies. How did the couple resolve their issues? Did the couple resolve their issues? What are some other ways that you can resolve your issues? What did you like about the other couples’ problem-solving strategies? What would you have done differently? How likely are you to resolve your issues in the same way? What have you learned from listening to other interfaith couples? Talking about your issues with couples who are in a similar situation can help you work through your own issues and a healthy and productive way.
Seek Marital Counseling
If you have tried everything and nothing seems to help, it may be time for you to seek marital counseling. It is important to note that there is no shame in asking for help with your marriage. In fact, the best thing you can do to save your interfaith marriage is to seek help from a trained mental health professional (family counselor, marriage and family therapist, family psychologist, couples/marriage counselor, etc.) who can help you navigate through your conflicting emotions. This professional can help you resolve your issues by teaching you effective problem-solving and coping strategies in a non-judgmental, safe and supportive environment.
Dr. R. Y. Langham
Berger, J. (2010). Interfaith marriages stir mixed feelings. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/us/04interfaith.html?_r=3&
Riley, N. S. (2013). Seven things you don’t know about interfaith marriage. Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/04/19/seven-things-dont-know-about- interfaith-marriage/