Religious differences are not something that will disappear with time or go away simply because we want to focus more on how we are similar to our partner rather than the differences. Truthfully, though, these differences are a good thing. They help us to see the world in a new way and learn more about our partners and ourselves.
But, navigating differing faiths or religious beliefs can be challenging — especially if you feel that your beliefs tend to clash with one another. Luckily, there are plenty of ways that you can work through these challenges and build a strong and resilient bond with one another founded on a better understanding of the other person.
Today, we’re going to address some of the most common issues interfaith couples face, as well as how you can work through these challenges together and forge a stronger connection to each other and maybe even your beliefs as well!
Common Issues Interfaith Couples Face
Faith and spiritual beliefs can be an incredibly personal as well as communal part of our identities. Many of us grow up in families that share their beliefs with us, and as we grow, we build on them but stay true to those ideals and principles that we were raised with.
This can make entering a relationship with someone of differing beliefs intimidating, and you may find yourself running into some of the following issues within your relationship if you do not communicate clearly about these differences early on.
Some common issues that couples face in interfaith relationships are:
- Feeling like you need to change your beliefs to have a good relationship (or feeling like your partner needs to change their beliefs).
- Competing for attention to holidays or religious observances.
- Facing disapproval from family or friends based on your partner’s differing beliefs.
- Ignoring the topic completely to avoid uncomfortable conversations.
- Feeling as if you are unable to talk with your partner about your beliefs.
- Wondering how you and your partner will raise children with different faiths.
- Imposing your beliefs on your partner because they “don’t have as strong values” or are less open about their beliefs (or vice versa).
- Assuming that you understand your partner’s beliefs and that they understand yours.
How to Work Through These Issues
Truthfully, coming to any of the issues mentioned above with a mindset of an open and honest desire to better understand your partner is the best way to work through these differences and cultivate that strong connection in your relationship. This allows you to focus more on understanding your partner’s point without constantly feeling like they are trying to force you into their faith and not forcing them into yours.
Now, there are a few ways to approach this challenging topic of differing religious views, but here we are going to focus on the ways that can best help you facilitate good communication with your partner about this topic. After all, healthy communication is the key to success in any relationship, romantic or otherwise!
So, without further ado, here are a few things you can do to navigate the challenges of being an interfaith couple in a healthy way that strengthens your relationship (rather than harms it)!
The first step you can take to work through any issues you have as an interfaith couple is to acknowledge the issues. Recognize that something is making you (or your partner) uncomfortable or unhappy when it comes to beliefs and spiritual practices. You cannot take any steps to heal and grow without first acknowledging the issues at hand.
This is especially important in recognizing the ways in which your differing beliefs may impact your relationship and life together. Often, there will be no way to “fix” the issue or eliminate the difference, and this is okay. You cannot expect your partner to change their beliefs to suit yours, and they cannot expect that you do the same. There are plenty of ways to be a happy and functioning couple without sharing the same faith. So, rather than describing these issues as a problem to solve, think about them more as opportunities to learn about each other — and it all starts with acknowledging your differences.
Think About Your Own Culture and Identity
As mentioned above, many of us grow up with beliefs and ideals because they were what our families taught us. But, many of us may not explore our identity within a faith outside of this. This can make it difficult to communicate your beliefs (or lack thereof) with your partner, leading to more confusion and unease within your relationship. After all, you can’t ask your partner to change something about their beliefs if you are hesitant at best in your beliefs on the subject.
So, spend some time really thinking about your own beliefs. Think about how your spirituality affects you, how it impacts your life, how your beliefs may have changed over time, and how you draw value from them (or if you don’t, that is okay too!).
Learn About Each Other’s Beliefs
Let’s do a quick thought experiment to illustrate the importance of embracing different beliefs, especially those of the people you love.
First, think about a life where we all had the same beliefs, identities, ideals, and thoughts. Where no one ever differed in opinion or point of view. Where all stories, studies, and other methods of learning about the world, each other, and ourselves were the same.
Now, think about a world where we get to learn from each other. Where we can experience something we have seen day-by-day in an entirely new light simply because we are looking through someone else’s eyes. Think about how you and your partner can learn from each other in your relationship because of these differences. How you can deepen your bond by learning to understand each other’s views and beliefs rather than simply pretending they don’t exist.
The simple truth is that life without difference is boring. Our differences are what make us unique. They are what make having relationships so incredibly important and so rewarding. Embracing these differences, taking the time and effort to learn about them rather than ignoring them, is how we learn more about the people we love and how we learn more about ourselves.
So, show your partner that opens mindset. Show them that you are willing to and actively want to learn more about their beliefs and experiences (and they do yours) so you can grow together.
Own Up to Mistakes (and Apologize!)
Let’s face it, none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes; when we do, the best thing we can do is apologize and learn from it. Focus on what went wrong and work together as a team to address the concern rather than blame each other.
Seek Out a Couples Therapist
Sometimes talking about your beliefs can be uncomfortable or scary, especially when you know that your partner does not share them. If you and your partner want to start this conversation but haven’t yet found out how, consider finding a therapist who can help you facilitate this critical discussion. Therapy can provide a safe, judgment-free space where you and your partner can discuss your beliefs and challenges and come up with solutions together.
So, if you and your partner feel that you could use some additional guidance or support, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Love Heal Grow to get in touch with one of our couples therapists.