Religion plays an important role in many people’s lives. It is a major part of how they define themselves and when looking for a potential relationship partner, many will seek out someone who has similar views when it comes to religion. However, there are others who will consider a relationship with someone who is of a different faith and with that comes a set of circumstances that will challenge both individuals. People of different faiths will have different viewpoints on many issues which can incite disagreements and possible conflict when trying to resolve. Core values, such as the meaning of faith and prayer and how to deal with the raising of children, dealing with celebration of holidays and other family events are just some of the choices that couples will need to face when involved in an interfaith relationship.
A person’s religious identity can be molded at a very early age whereas some people don’t develop an identity until later in life. When a religious identity is established, it can naturally develop an obstruction between their religious beliefs and the beliefs of others. Those opposing beliefs can create contention whereby one person’s religious beliefs may be viewed as being “superior” to another. This can make problem-solving within the relationship difficult because there is less room for open-minded resolutions. “According to calculations based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages (Riley)”. Similarities in beliefs and values can be a major factor in determining long term success in a relationship.
There are fundamental beliefs and values within every religious sect, some which are more resistant to change and adaptation of standards from other faiths. How couples work through those distinct differences and how they compromise what values they wish to incorporate are important factors that can affect the longevity of the relationship. If there is one person within the relationship that may have a religious affiliation but is not a devout practitioner, he/she may be open to integrating more of their partner’s religious beliefs into his/her own life. If the relationship is a long term one and marriage is being considered, he/she may even be willing to convert to his/her partner’s religion to satisfy their religious requirements. However, if both parties feel equally as strong and committed to their religious beliefs, finding a mutual agreement could be more burdensome and could be a potential deal-breaker.
Problems within an interfaith relationship may certainly arise when discussing the topic of children and raising a family. Each person may want to have their children grow up having their religious beliefs instilled in them. Other religious rituals and ceremonies may also be questioned, for example, if a Roman Catholic woman decides to marry an Islamic man, she may firmly believe that child must be baptized based on her Catholic denomination. He may disagree and want to hold true to his Islamic faith, believing that his children are to be raised under Islamic doctrine. How couples resolve differences such as these can decide how successful their interfaith relationship can be.
Couples willing to pursue an interfaith relationship may want to seek advice from a professional in the field so they can formulate how they can work to overcome their religious differences. Having a plan on how to deal with situations such as raising children, family leadership, personal identity and traditions can help assist when these complications arise. More important, relationships built on compromise and communication, have a great chance of overcoming obstacles, especially if involved in an interfaith relationship. By learning to compromise and respect each other’s religious beliefs, it is possible to sustain a happy relationship. Also, an interfaith relationship can lead each person to new ideas and appreciations that can be fulfilling. Learning about your partner’s belief system, attending their religious services and participating in their traditions can be valuable to your own life as well as to the cultivation of the relationship. However, the ability to be honest with yourself and full understanding of your own religious beliefs is key before deciding how they will connect with your partner’s.