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Interfaith Relationships

How to Survive Them and Not End Up Hating Each Other

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Couple

If you're in a relationship, it's time to learn to compromise... even on matters of faith.

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"Your religion is dumb.""No, yours is."

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With a little effort, you can make an interfaith relationship work.

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So you’re Wiccan or Pagan and your spouse/partner/lover/significant other/fiancé is ... something else. Is there a way the two of you can manage to find balance? Or are you doomed to a lifetime of worrying whether every little disagreement will end with someone throwing out the “Oh yeah? Well, your beliefs are STUPID!!” trump card?

Fact is, in every relationship there are things that couples may not agree on. The trick is in finding a way to meet halfway. While you don’t have to nod your head and say, “Why, of course your religion is better than mine, how silly of me,” you do have to find some sort of compromise. Here are some tips on ways to make things a bit easier when you’re married to/engaged to/dating someone of a different faith than your own. I should point out that although I use the phrase “he” to refer to the spouse or other person, obviously this could apply to women as well – it’s just awkward to keep using “he or she” and "his or her".

First of all, understand that if it’s early in the dating phase, where you’re still testing the waters, you may want to bring your beliefs up casually, just to see what sort of response you get. If you’re just in a casual relationship with someone you have no intention of spending your life with, it’s probably not important to mention religion at all, unless a night of no-strings-attached sex is followed by a “Hey, want to go to church with me?”... but that rarely happens, so rest easy.

Once you’re in a serious relationship with someone, things change a bit. Expectations are different. The first thing that needs to be established is what you each expect from the other person. Do you want your partner to attend open rituals with you? Does he want you to go to church with him on Sundays? What about kids? If you have them, what sort of spiritual upbringing will they have? In many mixed-faith relationships, the goal is often just respect and understanding. In other words, your spouse doesn’t have to believe the same as you, but they do need to respect your choice to believe differently from them.

Second, you should take the time to become educated about each others’ faiths. While that doesn’t mean you have to go scampering off to Bible study, perhaps your partner can recommend some reading material for you. Maybe you can sit down with him and say, “This is what my belief system means to me.” If you don’t even have an understanding as to what each other believes, then it’s going to be awful hard to come to any agreement based on respecting each other’s spirituality.

Accept that the other person’s belief system may well be valid for them, even if it’s not the right path for you. Okay, so you were maybe raised Christian and you think it’s illogical – clearly it wasn’t the right religion for you. But that doesn’t mean your spouse isn’t in the right place spiritually. In fact, he may think Wicca makes no sense because you honor a whole bunch of gods and goddesses, instead of just one. Respect the idea that religion is a very personal thing, and that each person will eventually find the path that is right for them – even if it’s not the same as yours.

Discuss whether or not various aspects of your beliefs make the other person uncomfortable. Do you cast spells or read Tarot? Does your partner’s faith have some sort of injunction against those things? Is your lover concerned that he might not see you in the afterlife, because you’ll be burning in a fiery pit of Hell while he sings with the angels on high? Talk about these things – they’re important. Likewise, if there’s something your partner does that you find unnerving, let him know. Again, do so respectfully. That means you aren't allowed to say, "Eew! That wafer thingie is the body of Jesus -- gross!!" At least, you shouldn't be saying that if you want any respect in return.

Finally, understand that you need to avoid trying to convert the other person. Don’t tell him, “Well, maybe Wicca would work for you if you just tried it for a while.” That’s rude, offensive, and condescending. Think about how you’d feel if your fiancé said, “You’d probably love being Christian if you just gave it a chance.” Statements like this indicate a fundamental lack of respect for peoples’ beliefs – not a good thing in a close, loving relationship.

Just like any other social dynamic where two people are different, interfaith relationships can work. They require commitment and communication. With some effort, you can make things work out for the best, and have a happy and healthy life together.

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