Marriage is hard work.
And when you are in an inter-faith marriage, you have to work that much harder to overcome the complexities that come along with differing religious beliefs. Being part of an inter-faith couple is certainly not a new thing, and it's now more commonplace, but it still comes with its challenges. A 2016 study showed that we are now 46 per cent more likely to marry or be in a long-term relationship with someone of a different faith than 30 years ago.
While society is much more open to the idea of inter-faith relationships, there are still challenges inter-faith couples face.
My personal take on keeping the faith
I have been married for six years. I am Hindu and my husband is Catholic. We have both had fairly religious upbringings. I attended Bal Vihaar (religious Sunday school) at the Hindu temple weekly as a child. My husband went to a Catholic school from his primary years through to high school. We are both well versed on our religions. However, we are also both very open to other religions, and that has been a major factor in making our relationship work for us.
Five key factors in the success of an interfaith relationship
This is huge in any relationship, but especially important for interfaith relationship. You have to have a genuine respect for your partner's religion and belief system, along with their traditions and values. Most importantly, your values have to align even if your faith doesn't. You also have to understand that your in-laws and extended family may not accept your relationship at first. Make an effort to allow them to get to know you and see why your partner fell in love with you despite the difference in your religions.
2. Communicate and over-communicate
Listen to your partner when they tell you what's important to their spiritual life and practices. Lend your support to them and never discount what they believe. Share the things that are important to you about your faith with your partner and practice your values; showing by your actions what your faith means to you. You have to have dialogue and discussion about interfaith issues. Talk about and plan for how you will live together in your interfaith relationship, discuss how you'd like to raise your children. Whether one or the other faith will be taught, or if you'll encourage them to be both.
3. Celebrateeach other's differences and sameness
Many of the world's religions have the same core values, but it's celebrating the differences along with the commonalities that make for a strong interfaith relationship. Keep holiday traditions. Be willing to attend family functions with your partner, religious holiday observances or holy days as a gesture of respect to your partner's parents and elders.
4. Practice love, inclusiveness and compassion for each other
By doing so, demonstrate your faith in action. If your partner needs prayer and meditation time, or attends religious services or church, you can best support them by altering your schedule so that they are free to pursue these activities.
5. Educateyourself on your partner's faith
Learn about their faith so that you can teach your children and other family members with authority. Your partner's spiritual life is a part of who they are as a person. In order to truly know them, you should learn all you can about their faith.
When it comes to children, the religion of LOVE is overarching.
Interfaith marriage and raising children
When it comes to raising children, the most important advice I could offer to interfaith couples from my personal experience is to keep a united front.
It's pretty simple when it come to children. If the parents are confused, the kids are confused -- and when parents are not confused, the kids are not confused. Children need emotional stability and you have to show a united front that both of these religions are important, are accepted, celebrated and part of the child's identity.
When parents cannot agree upon how or what to celebrate in their home or even the religious identity of their children they are running the risk of communicating that same ambiguity and spiritual insecurity to their children as well.
In our home, we are teaching our children about both of our religions, and as they get older we reinforce the messages and commonalities behind both. This makes up our core value system of LOVE. Essentially, we are teaching the fundamentals of being a good, kind human being.
The religion of love
For us, when it comes to children, the religion of LOVE is overarching. And so the fundamentals of being a good person are paramount above all. Be good. Be kind. Do good deeds. They are the principals which guide what we teach our children. And we explain that there is only ONE God, and while we may pray in different ways and sing different songs, go to different places of worship, be it church, mandir, mosque, temple -- God loves us all and wants us all to do the same basic things, which is to be good people and LOVE each other.
Embrace the responsibility and privilege of teaching tolerance
Interfaith parents have a particular responsibility and privilege to teach not merely tolerance, but non-judgmental acceptance of the idea that there are many different legitimate paths to experiencing God in our lives. It is important to teach our children that no one religion is the "right" religion, with all the others wrong. After all, if that were the case then most people in the world would always be wrong.Interfaith families above all others have an opportunity to experience and teach the lessons of inclusion and acceptance of differences.
Being in an interfaith relationship is not for everyone. If you are not open to other religions and if you do not have that mutual respect -- and you know in your heart if you do or not -- you have to be honest with yourself about it. Do not pursue a relationship with someone of another faith, because it's not fair to either of you.
You have to have some difficult conversations with yourself, your partner and family members, but if you are committed to your relationship and respect each other's values, you can certainly make it work and live in harmony.
Meera Solanki Estrada is a Fashion & Culture Expert. Follow her on Instagram @meera_fusia and Twitter @MeeraEstrada.
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