There are so many types of romantic partnerships out there, from introvert/extrovert to outdoors/indoorsy. Judging from the seemingly vast differences between some partners, it’s no wonder that opposites can attract.
But can people from two different religions or belief systems have a successful relationship?
Interfaith relationships might be some of the trickier ones to navigate, but with these tips, you and your partner can create a loving, respectful, and harmonious life together.
The Challenges of Interfaith Dating and Relationships
If you’re dating someone who has a different faith or belief than you do, or are just wondering if these types of relationships can work, it can be helpful to have a big-picture view—which includes learning about the potential challenges.
While love can conquer a lot of things, it can’t conquer everything, so avoid donning your rose-colored glasses when it comes to understanding some of the more difficult aspects of religious differences in relationships.
Here are some of the obstacles that some couples encounter:
- Lack of emotional/mental support. Sometimes it can seem like there is a piece missing from one partner’s emotional or mental support of the other, which could be due to a lack of understanding. Many belief systems involve prayer, meditation, and other ways of feeling at peace or navigating a difficult time—and people who follow these beliefs might need a different kind of support than their partner has the capacity to offer.
- Family pressure. Many interfaith couples receive pushback or pressure from their religious community, which is common in some religions, like Orthodox Jewish dating, and even from their families (oftentimes parents) to partner with someone of the same faith. This can be an added stress to any relationship.
- Cultural differences. Quite a few religions are associated with cultural identities, whether generational, regional, or simply stemming from the rules of the belief system itself. Some couples find it hard to adjust to their partner’s religious and/or cultural customs or know how to communicate their own.
- Perspectives on parenting. Interfaith couples who have kids might have disagreements as to whether to raise their children in a certain faith, attend church, observe certain holidays, and so on.
Keep in mind that these are just examples of what some couples with different religions might encounter. Just because you might be exploring interfaith dating doesn’t mean that you’ll have these challenges in the future.
Tips for Navigating Interfaith Relationships
Now that we’ve gotten the potential challenges out of the way, let’s get to some helpful tips for navigating them.
Talk About It
If your religion defines how you live your life and informs your relationship values, it’s important to make this clear from the beginning of any dating relationship, especially if alignment on religion is a deal-breaker. Be upfront about your beliefs and communicate them to your partner. Ask them to do the same.
Even if you’re flexible on religious practices or don’t follow a belief system, be open to hearing about the other person’s faith. Talking about it speaks the difference into existence—from something that maybe you’re both too afraid to talk about to something that’s tangible and can be worked through.
Do a Deep-Dive on Your Own Beliefs
This isn’t necessarily something you have to do, but it can be helpful to take a pulse on where you are with your beliefs, if you practice one.
Ask yourself these types of questions:
- Where do your beliefs stem from (how you were raised, a life experience, etc.)?
- Does your religion/belief system impact your relationship values?
- Are there any aspects of your religion that you can be flexible with?
- What is your daily relationship with your religion? Do you practice daily or is it more in the background of your life?
- If you are agnostic toward religion, do you have an interest in other belief systems, or are you fairly set in your thinking and perspective?
By answering these questions, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your own beliefs (religious or otherwise) that you can then communicate to your partner.
Learn About Your Partner’s Beliefs
In any relationship, it’s important to show an interest in your partner’s interests, hobbies, passions, and so on. And the same is especially true for interfaith relationships.
Learning about your partner’s beliefs shows that you care for and respect them—that you’re willing to explore a perspective that might be different from your own. Take the time to ask your significant other about why they believe what they believe, their journey toward this perspective, their culture, and so forth. Ask if you can go with them to their place of worship or participate in celebrating a holiday.
Basically, show them that, because they mean a lot to you, you want to learn about the many different facets of their life—beliefs included. Plus, they might be more willing to do the same for you in learning about your own beliefs.
Respect Their Space
It can be difficult to understand different belief systems, especially if someone is a firm believer of another one. But try not to push your loved one into your religion or beliefs or tell them why one of their beliefs is wrong. This is a sure way to shut someone down.
While some religions have the goal of converting people, try not to practice this with your partner unless they show an interest in your religion. Respect their beliefs, let them do their thing, and work to understand each other.
Recognize That This Might Be a Constant Source of Disagreement
Like dating someone with different political views, interfaith dating often has the same outlook: that this will be just one of those things you’ll always disagree on.
Don’t brush the difference in religion under the rug. Every couple has one (or several) issues that they deal with throughout their relationship—you just have to learn how to handle it with respect and understanding. If you think that it will be a steady source of conflict and don’t think the other person is marriage material for that reason, that’s okay. Just make sure that you communicate your feelings in a respectful way.
Don’t Compromise Your Relationship Values
While the phrase “make it work” can definitely be a solution for differences in a relationship, sometimes it’s not the answer. Many interfaith couples do make it work—and make it work well!
However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to compromise on your deal-breakers. If one of them is partnering with someone who shares your religion, or certain values based on religious traditions, then that is something to heed. You can still remain open to other belief systems.
Interfaith Relationships Can Work
As you can see, interfaith relationships can work, but you just need to know how to approach them. Modern dating statistics do show that interfaith marriages are becoming more common, probably partly due to a shift in cultural norms and an emphasis on acceptance and the broadening of perspectives.
So, how do these couples lead a successful partnership despite religious differences? With a big batch of curiosity, understanding, grace, and respect (and our Tawkify tips, of course).