Advice on How to Handle Religious Differences In Relationships
Tips for Maintaining a Relationship with Someone who Practices a Different Religion Than You
Dear April Masini,
I just started dating the most fabulous man ever. The only problem is...he's Jewish and I'm Catholic. Since we've only been dating a short while, we haven't talked much about our different religions; but because I can really see this man in my future, I'm starting to get worried. I know my religion is a really big part of me and I'm pretty sure his is a big part of him. I highly doubt either of us would be willing to convert and I'm wondering if we can make our relationship work with completely different religious beliefs. Do you have any tips on how a couple with different religions can continue their great relationship?"
Sincerely, Two Religions, One Love
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Two Religions, One Love,
When dating or marrying someone who practices a different religion than yours, the three most important things to practice are:
April’s Big 3 DOS:
1. Tolerance of differences
Try it – you might like it…
If you've always celebrated Easter and you're dating someone who is Jewish, you should continue your own religious practice, but invite your date to participate in whatever way they are comfortable. You can suggest a few ways, like inviting them to an Easter meal, exchanging or giving holiday gifts, decorating eggs with your nieces and nephews, or even going to church. Ask if you can come to a Passover Seder in return.
April’s Big 3 DON’TS:
- Don’t criticize another religion. If you don’t agree with the practice of taking communion, kneeling in worship, or saying prayers, then don’t – but be quiet about it, and allow other people to practice their religion as they normally do.
- Don’t disrespect another religion. Some places of worship have a dress code that is designed to show respect. It will usually involve covering parts of your body – from a bare midriff to your bare arms. If you’re visiting a place of worship that you’ve never visited before, don’t wear jeans or ratty sandals. Dress up a little in a conservative way.
- Don’t experience another person’s reticence to join in as rejection of your faith. Be tolerant if your date or spouse is not ready to dive into your religion with gusto. It takes time for some people to adjust. Don't expect people to have the same ability to adjust that you do to embrace new things -- and vice versa. Be prepared for them to want to celebrate the cultural differences quicker than the religious differences.
- If you are the one who is uncomfortable, figure out where your boundaries are by asking yourself exactly what you are okay doing, and what you are not okay doing. Respect your own journey. Take baby steps when exploring something new that feels a little odd at first.
3 Things to Think About:
If you are considering marrying someone who is a different religion than you are, absolutely talk about the following three topics before you are married, and even before you are engaged:
- The wedding. Will you have a wedding conducted by a religious figure – or more than one, representing both yours and his faith? Will you do something completely "out of the box" like choose a religion neither of you belongs to, but you both admire? Or will you have a non-religious ceremony performed by a Justice of the Peace?
- Having and raising children. Ask the hard, specific questions, like whether or not you will have a circumcision ceremony if you have a boy and one of you is Jewish, if you will have the child baptized or christened, and how often you want the child to go to church or religious school -- if at all. You will save yourself a lot of time and energy by doing this now. If things get heated, don’t panic. Do seek counseling from a professional or a member of the clergy.
- The rest of the family. How will you handle those members of the families who may object to your marrying or dating someone outside your faith? How will you handle a relative who is prejudiced? The more prepared you are the less likely a family fight will harm your relationship.