In our societies marriage is a family matter. In the West people marry who they want or just live with them and it’s no one else’s business, not their families’ or parents’ or anyone. But for us you get your identity from your faith and your family. In the West you make it up for yourself.
In families with ancestral roots in countries where marriages were traditionally arranged by parents, there is still a lot of emphasis on family identity rather than individual choice. In these communities interfaith marriages are often seen as particularly troubling and there are folk stories and art forms built around the experience of romantic and unsuitable love.
But religious people in the West often find ‘out-marriage’ a challenge, too. And now that cultures and religions meet on every continent the old divisions in ways of thinking about identity and marriage are even less clear-cut. Nowadays it’s increasingly common to find members of the same family having very different opinions about expressing identity, and making their relationship choices in very different ways.
Growing up, a lot of people would ask: are you having an arranged marriage? They asked because they wanted to learn about the indian culture and we aware that is how marriage was traditionally done. I’d always say no way! I’m lucky to be in the generation where it’s acceptable to choose your partner. My grandparents were ‘fixed up’ (kind of like engaged but their parents arranged for them two to be married) when my grandma was 10! TEN YEARS OLD! How crazy is that?! I saw one photo of their wedding – she was 15/16 and had her head covered standing next to my granddad. They both had no say in the marriage but are still happily married 60 years later.
Fast forward to today and my freedom when it comes to choosing a partner. Well I’m lucky enough to fall in love as opposed to having an arranged marriage like my grandparents. My parents story was slightly different – you can read about it here.
As the older generation had no choice and were expected to do what their parents told them, the idea of interfaith marriages are difficult for them to comprehend. Sure, they’re on board with falling in love, but the notion of staying in your own faith is still ingrained. I can see their views completely, I honestly understand it.
However, as I’m a free spirit and like to do what makes me happy, falling in love with someone outside your faith can’t be helped. It really is love as you love the person for who they are, NOT based on their faith. This is the reason of sharing these interfaith marriage and interfaith relationship segments to help those who need some advice, extra reading or hope that interfaith marriages can work.2