The globalized village is a rainbow of people from all religions. In 21st century, most people have learnt to deal with religions in a balances perspective. No surprise then that interfaith marriage is becoming more and more common, while the institution of marriage itself is losing much of its significance. The question is, whether interfaith marriages can really survive?
Marriage is always a greater challenge for the two individuals joining hands to live a lifetime of togetherness. In particular, the challenge of marital sustainability has attained even greater proportions in the age of individualism, material definition of success and diluting role of families in our lives. Thus, the challenge of maintaining this relationship between two individuals of differing religious faiths becomes even more daunting, especially if either or both of them are deeply committed to the practice of their faith, or where they are too rigidly involved with their respective communal identities.
Interfaith marriages per se are not destined to fail any more than if both partners follow the same faith. The real challenge comes only when one of the partners is too loyal to his community, while the other is not, giving rise to an expectation on the part of the former that the other person will accommodate his or her religious idiosyncrasies, allow children to follow them and may be, even agree to convert some time in future.
Please note that I use the word 'community' rather than religion, because very often the bone of contention is not so much the actual religion, but the superficial practices of living one's life which have somehow been given a religious colour, and are often identified with religion rather than culture as they should normally be. Take the example of food. Buddhists in some countries do not eat beef, in others they do.
Or take the example of 'burqa' or the veil that is worn by Islamic women in many countries, but not in all.
All religions lead to the same Lord, so if we were behaving rationally, interfaith marriage would never had a problem. Unfortunately, that does not usually happen. Interfaith marriages still work, but they require to be worked upon. Both partners need to put in their most accommodative front forward when dealing with it.
The first recipe of success is to make things clear as to what should be the expectations. Preferably, it should be done even before marriage, but if that has not happened, it is still not too late. Talking about it with your partner or even better asking him as to how he expects to deal with it is right option provided you do not try to fix every difference there and then. The recipe for disaster would be to begin by putting your rigid side forward. Anything like "Don't expect me to do this" or "I hope you are not wanting me to do this" can only make your partner defensive. So you need to be open and relaxed when dealing with this matter. Remember, anxiety will breed anxiety, and a relaxed attitude will breed accommodation.
Usually the problem areas are food, tradition and children. So, make sure as what are your priorities. Food should generally not be a problem, but what you need to remember is to be sensitive. If you like pork and your partner's religion prohibits it, do not make a comment about it when discussing your menu. Similarly, be careful not to hurt his sensitivities even by mistake, especially during the early days of marriage. Traditional practices are somewhat more difficult to deal.
You cannot walk away from family practices and hope to have a happy married life, so try to be participative and adopt practices as a means to improve understanding and belonging. This is true of both partners, and both need to be sensitive of the family members of the other. Actually, if you can participate as a member in family functions including those that have something to do with religion, most of your problems will be over, as the perception that you are an outsider will weaken.
The religion of children is usually the most difficult part to deal with. Often, in paternal families, children take the religion of the father. However, it is a matter of choice. So you can also leave it to your children to adopt the religion they want to adopt once they grow up. If you are both immigrants living in another country, then it is easy. If you are living with the family of one of the partners, then it can be difficult. There are no easy answers, and you need to sort the issue between the two of you. When doing so, make sure that irrespective of the decision, you give adequate recognition to the effort your partner is making in adjusting his or her wishes.
Very often in marital life, the thing that matters most is the distance your partner will go to make you happy. Once you know that, often you will be willing to cross more than half of that distance yourself. The same is true of your partner. So the key to obtain adjustment is the willingness to adjust. Just make sure that you do not rush in with a sacrificial attitude that will raise the expectations of your partner, who may then take your accommodation for granted.
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