Love Beyond Beliefs | Making Interfaith Relationships Work

interfaith relationships

As a child of an interfaith marriage, I can tell you that cross-faith relationships can be a challenge. Now, it wasn’t a problem for my parents—my mom is Jewish, and my dad was raised as a Catholic—they were brought up in religious homes, but they weren’t “practicing.”

They loved each other, and their respective religions didn’t even factor into it, but the same couldn’t be said for their parents. Of course, my mom’s parents would’ve loved it if she’d married “a nice Jewish boy,” but they adored my dad, and as long as my mom was happy, it didn’t pose a problem.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of my dad’s side of the family, and although I’ll keep those details to myself, it def caused tension and some heartache. My parents are far from being the only couple to deal with issues when it comes to interfaith relationships; they weren’t the first, and they won’t be the last. In fact, it’s quite common, as it’s not a shocker that what you believe shapes how you see the world.

Your take on things is mostly shaped by your religious and spiritual views. This also means that when you decide to do something, it’s usually based on what you value most. When tough times come, you lean on what’s important to you to make sense of what’s happening and decide how to react.

So, if what you think, feel, and do comes from your beliefs, then it’s clear that your beliefs play a big part in your relationship every day. This is true whether you both believe in similar things or if you’re in a romantic partnership where you both have different religious beliefs.

Marriages and relationships between people of different faiths are becoming more common, with about 40% of couples married in the last 10 years having different religious beliefs. This difference can sometimes cause tension, but many healthy relationships have partners with different values. Every marriage is unique because every person is unique.

Even though marriages between different faiths can face some common problems, being aware of and working through these problems can help make the marriage strong. Find out more on how to keep your interfaith relationship strong below!

communicate openly

Communicate Openly

A usual way people handle not agreeing is by ignoring or making light of the differences. But pretending these differences aren’t there doesn’t make them go away. Actually, it often makes things worse. Stress keeps building up, and after a while, it can get too much to handle.

So, admit to your differences. Chat about how you are alike, and identify how and why your beliefs are different. Being open in talking is the best way to steer clear of misunderstandings.

couple working together

Work Together

Avoid getting caught in an endless cycle of disagreements. Rather, discuss problems and make joint decisions on how to tackle various situations that come up. When dealing with family and friends, show a united front. Having differing core values can add some tension and require extra effort to work through. The least helpful thing to do is to shut out your spouse and talk about your grievances with others—go to the source and talk about it. While it might feel cathartic to vent your frustrations, talking about your problems with someone else will only drive a wedge between you and your partner.

Often, unity is achieved by discovering shared interests. So look for something you both enjoy. Highlight what you have in common and shared hobbies. It could be as simple as learning a new skill together and doing it together.

skill building

Embrace a Learning Mindset

A typical problem in interfaith marriages is when partners stop talking about their beliefs. If sharing your beliefs causes tension or disagreements, it’s time to change things. Instead of letting your different values separate you, use them as a way to come closer. This can be done through regular talks and having an attitude of learning from each other.

Taking an interest in the beliefs your partner holds—gaining more knowledge about them is a beneficial endeavor for both of you! The goal of listening and learning about your significant other’s beliefs isn’t to alter your own but to attain a deeper understanding of them as a person and their genuine identity.

Ask questions, have open discussions, and continually keep the communication channels open regarding your partner’s beliefs—ignoring differences will only divide you. But engaging in open dialogue will foster a feeling of contentment and connection in your marriage, regardless of your differences.

life changes

Avoid Attempts to Change Your Partner

A crucial aspect of ensuring an interfaith relationship thrives is to embrace your partner as they are now. If you are perpetually in a state of waiting, hoping to find happiness once your SO changes, you’ll end up waiting a long time. It’s essential to accept your partner just as they are—your affection shouldn’t be contingent on them sharing your viewpoint. If your sole focus is on changing your partner, your relationship is most likely to suffer.

Expectations graphic

Avoid Turning Appreciation into Expectation

When your partner surprises you with a romantic gesture or shows unexpected support, it feels amazing, and you’re filled with gratitude and love. However, if they keep doing this, what was once appreciated can morph into expectation. Then, if they fail to offer this support at some point, disappointment sets in.

This pitfall is easy for interfaith couples to stumble into. If your partner accompanies you to religious services, engages in a related activity, or attends a church group with you once, the support and recognition feel wonderful. Yet, if you start expecting them to accompany you every time, it can lead to conflict. It’s better to cherish the support when it’s given rather than always expecting it.

be flexible

Be Flexible

Your relationship will change with unexpected issues and events, and your beliefs might also change as you experience new things! It’s important to accept that changes will happen, so always talk with your partner about your feelings and keep them in the loop when things change.

So many couples are in happy interfaith relationships! But a lot of these relationships experience escalating tension over time, which can lead to their eventual breakdown. However, many couples, by utilizing the tips mentioned above, manage to nurture thriving relationships. The effort and work you both put into it is both required and worthwhile in the end!

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.