Exploring the impact of an interfaith marriage on your faith
Religious belief and values affect our lives in all kinds of ways, and when you are in an interfaith relationship they affect someone outside the faith too. In addition your partner’s faith tradition will almost certainly have an impact on your faith. You may find that because someone is asking questions –perhaps for the first time-about why do you believe and do certain things, you begin to question and explore your faith too.
Will an interfaith marriage weaken your faith?
Religious leaders often worry that mixed marriage weakens a person’s faith, and sometimes people in interfaith relationships do indeed suppress their own beliefs. This may be because they have agreed that the children will be brought up in their partner’s faith and only one faith will be practised in the household. But their beliefs do not disappear, and they can be surprised by the strength of their feelings when something happens to arouse them. Some people find it difficult to practise their faith – either because their partner isn’t comfortable with it or because their shared life isn’t organised to include it. Less involvement with a faith community may in turn mean less commitment – or finding other ways to express it.
An interfaith marriage exposes you to different and sometimes conflicting beliefs, and it’s only natural if it makes you think, question and compare. Inevitably for some people that will mean a loss of faith or change in how they think about it. But this kind of experience doesn’t just happen to people in interfaith marriages. For centuries people in each of the world faith traditions have been responding to and learning from the challenge of other faiths; and some very important works of faith and philosophy are the result of just this.
Some couples agree that each will stick to their own beliefs and practice, and have clear boundaries between them. While this works for some couples, they miss the chance to share spiritual insights and a range of faith-related experience. Some couples find their own faith enriched by learning about each other’s beliefs and traditions. This is most likely to happen when there is an atmosphere of mutual respect and each partner is concerned to give the other spiritual ‘space’.
Some interfaith couples begin married life feeling that they have no particularly strong beliefs, but discover that they care more than they realised. When people in interfaith marriages experience a renewal of faith, something which seems to happen surprisingly frequently, then it can upset a carefully won balance in the relationship.2