Thankfully, society has made it easier for couples of different backgrounds and religious beliefs to come together under the union of marriage. Not only are we more accepting of interfaith marriage as a whole, but the divorce rate has shown that a successful marriage requires far more than being on the same page of the same sacred texts and scriptures. “With more and more people leaving the area in which they were raised it is definitely more common to have bi-religious households,” life coach and author, Sarah E Stewart, says. “It is also common to see one partner convert to the other’s religion.”
But this doesn’t mean it’s always easy for couples from different religious backgrounds to find a happy medium when it comes to following, practicing and celebrating their varying religious beliefs—especially when children are involved.
If you’re one of the almost 40 percent of married couples dealing in an interfaith marriage, here are four expert-approved strategies for satisfying both you and your partner’s religious values and beliefs.
Communication is important in any marriage, but having two varying religious beliefs in an interfaith marriage is another layer you’ll have to get through. Making sure that you and your partner fully understand where each other is coming from and how each of you feels about is key,” Stewart explains. If you are celebrating your first holiday, acknowledge that it may be one that your partner has never celebrated. In this case, Stewart suggests having an open-ended conversation before the holiday or big family gathering, so your partner feels as informed as possible before partaking in this event for the first time. “Support your partner, even if it may be a little awkward, that is a marriage.”
Even though you’re lucky enough to avoid the time-old debate over which family you’ll spend Christmas, often holidays from two separate religions fall on or around the same time. In this case, compromise is essential. “Perhaps you are celebrating the same holiday, only differently,” Stewart points out, for example if your religions are very similar, but have different sects that make them uniquely different. “Figure out what’s most important from each of your celebrations and combine those things,” suggests Stewart. “Consider which aspects can fall by the wayside.”
If you’re in an interfaith marriage, instead of sitting down to discuss details in the weeks ahead of your religious holidays, try anticipating that this may not be a 10-minute conversation. Additionally, as Stewart points out, these discussions tend to involve each of your families, too, which means it could really take months for everyone to be on the same page. If you and your partner have already talked about spending the holidays together, set aside some time, either during a date night or over a weekend, when you can discuss the details and decide how you should best broach the topic with your families.
Try as you might, even the best-prepared and sincerely attempted plans don’t go smoothly. You can’t anticipate how your families will respond. You may have to readjust or rethink what would be best depending on how strongly—or not!—your families feel. Maybe your family doesn’t mind that you skip this year’s celebration, so long as you celebrate it in your own special way with your partner. The bottom line is that it has to make sense to you. You both need to feel comfortable with where, how and when you celebrate the holidays to make it work.