We can’t help who we fall in love with or what their religious background is. Being an interfaith couple is not a new thing but is certainly more common than it used to be. In 2016 you’re 46% more likely to marry or be in a long-term relationship with someone of a different faith than you were 30 years ago. Gone are the days when your parents or social and religious traditions dictated that one should only marry within their own faith. Our modern society is much more open to the idea of interfaith couples. Still, there are challenges in religious practices, at the holidays and with child-rearing. These can cause stress in the relationship if not talked about and resolved. Successful interfaith relationships are possible. There are things that interfaith couples can do to mitigate the possibility of problems in the relationship and allow you to have a strong bond regardless of religious differences.
Ten Tips to Strengthen Interfaith Relationship Bonds
- Respect that your in-laws may have an issue with you being in your partner’s life at first and make an effort to allow them to get to know you and see why your partner fell in love with you despite the difference in your religions.
- Listen to your partner when they tell you what’s important to their spiritual life and practices. Lend your support to them and never discount what they believe. If something is important to your partner, it should be important to you.
- Share the things that are important to you about your faith with your partner and practice your values; showing by your actions what your faith means to you.
- Celebrate each other’s differences and sameness. Many of the world’s religions have the same core values but it’s celebrating the differences along with the commonalities that make for a strong inter-faith relationship.
- Integrate your partner’s religious life into yours. If your partner needs prayer and meditation time, or attends religious services or church, you can best support them by altering your schedule so that they are free to pursue these activities.
- Learn about the other’s religion, even if you don’t believe the same, or if you have no religious affiliation at all. Your partner’s spiritual life is a part of who they are as a person. In order to truly know them, you should learn all you can about their faith.
- Interact with your partner’s friends and family. Make friends with your in-laws. Be willing to attend family functions with your partner, religious holiday observances or holy days as a gesture of respect to your partner’s parents and elders.
- Encourage dialogue and discussion about interfaith issues. Talk about and plan for how you will live together in your interfaith relationship, discuss how you’d like to raise your children. Whether one or the other faith will be taught, or if you’ll encourage them to be both.
- Practice love, inclusiveness and compassion for each other, and by doing so, demonstrate your faith in action. Sometimes this means making special plans, compromising and resolving conflicts that might arise. Communication is the key here. Showing each other that nothing is more important than the love you have for one another will allow you to resolve anything together.
- Educate yourself on your partner’s faith so that you can teach your children with authority. Let your kids decide if they want to be one, the other, or both faiths and make the information and religious training available to them.
Whatever religious faith you were born to, you and your partner have an opportunity to be examples of a strong inter- faith couple. There will be stresses and challenges as in any relationship, but making your love and your partner the most important thing in your life will allow you to resolve and overcome any of the challenges that might arise for you. Stay close, stay connected and stay strong together.