Inter religion relationships
Couples With Different Religions - How to Date Someone With a Different Religions
If romance movies have taught us anything, it's that love conquers all—even for people with extreme differences. But in the real world, where you may fall in love with someone who believes something different than you, how easy is it to actually navigate those discrepancies?
Bluntly put: not easy. Couples currently in interracial relationships and interfaith relationships agree. But they also say it's worth it.
To paint a better picture of the realities behind an interfaith relationship, I spoke with seven couples about how they make a relationship work with someone who may have a different religious view. Here's what they have to say:
(Oh, and the overarching theme: No matter how different your upbringing was from your partner, communication and consideration go a long way).Jasmine Malone, 24, and Sufian Shaban, 25
CourtesyWhat role their differences play in the relationship:
"On many occasions, I have had to discuss my relationship in religious spaces and defend both being a Christian and being with Sufian. It’s really hard. I am a Christian and unashamed to say that. Sufian is a Muslim and unashamed to say that. We both have such great respect for each other’s spiritual beliefs that we are able to have these difficult conversations without feeling like one is belittling the other’s faith." —JasmineHow they make it work:
"We both are still growing and learning in all aspects. We had to take time and be patient with each other. We can all slip up – the most growth we have is when we can be uncomfortable and question our own biases and discuss them together. We hold each other accountable." —Jasmine
"I understand that some members of her family would ideally like to have a Black Christian man for her to be with, as opposed to a non-Black, Libyan Muslim. Yet that does not stop me from loving Jasmine and being committed to the fact that I will marry her, InshAllah. I love Jasmine’s identity; I defend and cherish her, and I respect her faith. We never try to change each other’s identities and that’s one way to begin to understand the cultural differences. If we were focused on changing each other, we wouldn’t have time to be interested in each other’s identities and cultures." —Sufian
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CourtesyTheir biggest challenges:
"Initially, things were fine because we were both very open to the traditions of the other’s religion. The problems began when Thomas decided he was atheist. As a non-believer, he felt uncomfortable in religious settings because it felt disingenuous for him. It was hard for me to not take it personally when he would speak poorly of people’s faith in prayer and belief in biblical stories and religious traditions." —BridgetHow they make it work:
"It took a lot of time and communication for us to get past that prickly time. It’s kind of 'live and let live.' I respect his non-belief and he respects my spirituality. I think as we lost family members and faced scary health diagnoses that we overcame, we were able to face our mortality and appreciate each other’s beliefs/non-beliefs through discussing our final wishes about terminal illness and being laid to rest. The religious difference put us at odds with one another. We had to work hard to allow each other to live and believe in a way that worked for each of us while being careful with one another’s feelings. It can be done but the key is communication. Do not let frustration, misunderstanding and judgement fester." —Bridget
Lisette Ramirez, 18, and Abdelalhalim Mohsin, 19
CourtesyHow they make it work:
"We acknowledge and accept that we grew up with different beliefs. That’s the first step to having a healthy relationship. We take the time to ask each other as much as about the other’s religion and our cultures as a whole. And I think when we do that, it’s truly beautiful because it’s a deeper love and understanding that can only be obtained from two people from two different backgrounds." —AbdelalhalimTheir advice to others:
"Step out of your comfort zone and don’t limit yourself. Yes, we understand that it’s hard to go against tradition and our parents’ expectations on who we marry, but you owe it to yourself to love someone without the fear of what other people may think." —Lisette
"Our differences are probably the best part of our relationship. We love each other for who we are, including the way we act, the way we think, and the way we speak. Our different upbringings made us into the unique people we each grew to love. We will always support and respect each other’s religion and the choices that we make that stem from our religious beliefs." —AbdelalhalimKenza Kettani, 24, and Matthew Leonard, 26
CourtesyHow they've come to understand each other:
"As a Muslim within a Muslim country, I had to teach Matt a lot of the custom of Islam surrounding relationships before marriage. I was nervous about explaining to him why he couldn’t spend the night or why my parents might disapprove of him. But we got super lucky because our parents on both sides were really supportive of our interfaith relationship. I was worried that his parents might see his relationship with a Muslim woman as a negative thing. But luckily, they were curious about the religion and eager to learn more about it." —KenzaTheir advice to others:
"The key to an interfaith relationship is the key to any relationship. Be patient, loving, and understanding. Notice the differences but look for the similarities. If you do just that, you should be able to build a strong and healthy relationship. We used this exact advice for ourselves when we started dating. Although it was not always easy learning how to communicate about our faith and different cultures, we figured out how to be patient and kind to each other, always focusing on our similarities rather than the differences. " —Kenza
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CourtesyTheir biggest challenges:
"The biggest challenge we found was trying to find someone to marry us. Gary contacted a priest, and he wanted me to convert to Catholicism before he’d consider marrying us. I also contacted a Rabbi, yet he preferred that we were both Jewish. After several unsuccessful attempts to find a clergy person, we finally found a Methodist Minister who not only consented to marry us, but also agreed to our request for an outdoor ceremony. We had a beautiful July wedding in a gorgeous outdoor garden." —DonnaHow they make it work:
"Gary and I were never staunch church attendees. We tried attending several churches yet found the sermon's messages were too judgmental. The members of the churches were trying to indoctrinate rather than befriend us. We may not always agree with each other’s religious differences, yet we try to listen and accept each other’s beliefs without being critical or judgmental. We’ve been together now for 47 years, so we must be doing something right!" —DonnaJayne Sneath, 47, and Christine Redfield, 48
CourtesyTheir biggest challenges:
"At first, Christine was leery of my choice to be a grey witch. She, like many others, thought that I worshipped the devil and my core beliefs were evil. Lucky for me, Christine is very open-minded, and we talked a lot about what it was that I believed and why. Why I had turned my back on conventional religion and that most of my practice was manipulating energy to help and not harm. In time, she realized that the core of our beliefs weren’t so different from one another and we are still learning from each other every day. " —Jayne
"Family members have voiced their discontent with my religious choice my entire life. My family turned to Christianity by the time I was nine years old. I think my family secretly hopes that Christine will convert me. Christine’s family and friends have not given us any backlash, they approach the subject with curiosity." —JayneHow they make it work:
"Communication, communication, communication. We accept one another’s beliefs and respect the core principles that goes along with them. For example, Christine came across an article about a lesbian minister who was removed from the church she had worked at for years due to her sexual preference. This began to create doubt in Christine, whether she as a baptized, life-long Catholic was no longer accepted into the church because she is marrying a woman. I was very encouraging to her when she decided to write a letter to the Pope asking for his blessing. " —JayneTheir advice to others:
"While you can—and should—hold tightly to your religious beliefs, keep an open mind. What is right for one person, may not be true for another. Allow your partner the freedom to be their best self. Always ask questions, you can’t truly understand something that you are not educated about. While Christine and I hold very different beliefs, we respect each other. We hold fast to our individualism while loving each other whole-heartedly." —JayneYanatha Desouvre, 42, and Amy Ann Desouvre, 43
CourtesyTheir biggest challenges:
"Our parents weren’t too keen on our relationships, and they often questioned how we’d raise our children. But as parents, we seek to understand the best parts of each faith and teach it to our kids. We embrace the parts of both religions that are hopeful and inspiring. " —YanathaHow they work to understand each other:
"We come from two different religions as well as two different cultures. Amy's Judaism is not just a religion, it also comes with a deeply-rooted culture. I am Haitian. The roots of my culture run deep as well. Our cultures both share a spirit of resilience, overcoming hard times, perseverance, and much more." —YanathaTheir advice to others:
"Seek to understand each other's faith because they’re a huge part of your identity. Embrace the differences, but at the same time, focus and build on the similarities that you share." —Yanatha
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Syeda Khaula Saad
Syeda is a writer for Cosmopolitan who likes to analyze and improve the way we look at sex as a way to topple the patriarchy. She also writes for Bustle. com, Muslim Girl, and Muslim.co. You can follow her on Twitter here and Instagram here.
Communication Tips for Interfaith Couples
Are religious differences causing strife in your relationship?
Are religious differences causing strife in your relationship?
Are religious differences causing strife in your relationship?
Can an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist or an atheist and a Muslim construct a life-long relationship founded on love and acceptance?
Interfaith relationships are becoming more common in our interconnected world. Yet, for many, this is still a taboo subject. It’s hard to broach because faith is such a personal and communal part of one’s identity. Everyone lives out their faith, or lack thereof, in different ways.
You can share different perspectives on faith and still create a fulfilling life together. Many interfaith couples set themselves up for failure because they make the following common mistakes.
Common mistakes interfaith couples make
- Ignoring your religious differences because you believe that “love conquers all”
- Assuming that your differences will be irreconcilable
- Not addressing faith-based decisions that are not compromisable
- Deciding to cut ties with extended family
- Dismissing concerns from extended family and close friends
- Allowing extended family, close friends, and faith leaders to get in the middle
- Jumping into conversion as the only solution
- Imposing your beliefs on your partner
- Assuming that you understand your partner’s relationship with their faith
- Not exploring your own relationship with your faith
- Neglecting the importance of genuinely accepting your differences
- Not being open to exploring the similarities between values and belief systems
- Making a competition out of holidays
- Asking your children to choose between faiths
- Choosing not to plan ahead for important holidays and special events
Set your interfaith relationship for success
- Acknowledge the differences and what they will mean for your life together.
Admitting that you have different beliefs makes it real. Real is scary, especially for those who are afraid of conflict. Yet, it is through healthy conflict that couples evolve and learn how to love each other better.
Also, it’s never too soon to talk about your beliefs. Ask each other questions. “Where do they come from?” “What do they look like in practice?” “What do they mean to you?”
Avoidance is not a sustainable option. Don’t minimize your beliefs or assume that love will make everything okay. If your relationship becomes more permanent, you’ll have to make decisions that will be influenced by your faith (e.g., sex outside of marriage, if you even want to get married, how you will raise your future children, etc.).
- Explore your relationship with your faith.
There’s a difference between identifying with a religion or spiritual practice and how you view and engage that faith. Explore your identity as a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Christian, ect. , as well as who you are within agnosticism or atheism. What does this belief system mean to you? How does this belief system impact your life? How have your beliefs and practices changed throughout your life?
Negotiating religions and spiritual practices without having clarity of your own faith identity is unhelpful at best and detrimental at worst. You can’t ask your partner to compromise about something that you aren’t sure about yourself.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Did you grow up in a religious or spiritual household? If so, what was practiced? What was your experience like?
- What brings you peace? What helps you get through tough times?
- Have you changed your religious or spiritual beliefs throughout your life? If so, what motivated these changes?
- What aspects of your religious or spiritual beliefs do you hold onto tightly? Which ones are you more flexible with?
- How present are your religious or spiritual beliefs in your day-to-day life?
- What are your views on raising children with a particular faith?
- Has your faith been harmful to you in any way?
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3. Share stories
Instead of forcing your partner into a belief or ritual that they don’t feel connected to, share your religious and cultural experiences with them. Sharing stories is the best way for your partner to get to know this part of you and understand how meaningful this is to you. It also takes the pressure off the conversation, and it keeps partners from shutting down.
4. Participate before negotiating
It’s unfair to commit or reject something you have yet to experience. It’s important that you show genuine interest and curiosity in your partner’s beliefs and practices. Go with them to their religious services and observe them as they practice rituals.
You aren’t making any promises to leave behind your beliefs and convert. This will simply communicate that you value your relationship and you are embracing who your partner is entirely.
5. Therapy is a tool
Talking about faith is personal. It can be tough no matter how hard you try. Some differences might seem impossible to figure out. You don’t have to do it alone. You can seek professional help. Therapy is a preventive tool for couples at any stage of their relationship. There is a misconception that couples therapy is only for long-term committed couples who are miserable and on the verge of separation. That’s a lie and it doesn’t have to be that way!
If you and your partner have trouble navigating this topic, I suggest you look for a couples therapist who specializes in helping interfaith couples.
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Research shows that Americans become more religious with age, so dismissing the importance of your differing beliefs is not an option. ="wpforms-"]
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