Most days, it isn’t a big deal, but some days it seems like you and your partner don’t connect at all spiritually. You both wonder how you will make it when times feel tough. If this situation sounds familiar to you, then maybe you will find some peace today by reading this article and getting a better understanding of how you can make your interfaith relationship work.
Now that you are committed to your partner and have noticed the differences you both may have spiritually, you may be wondering what to do next when situations arise around each of your individual faith belief systems. The differences may be small and minor or large and major, so their presence in your relationship may be causing you both some pain.
Questions to Ask Your Partner
Often times we do not understand the differences between ourselves and others so we become afraid or angry, but really we are confused and should ask questions because we are curious.
What would asking questions about your significant other’s spiritual beliefs look like? Here are some sample questions to try as you begin dialoguing with the one you love.
- What were some of your family’s traditions when you were growing up?
- Did you and your family have a place of worship when you were young that you went to together?
- What does your family think about you being in a relationship with someone who has a different faith system than you?
- What from your faith system is most meaningful to you? Why?
- How does your faith play a role in your life?
- What does your faith system say about relationships?
- Are you open to learning about my faith system?
- Do you have any questions about what I believe?
- What are some things that you believe are mandatory for our family to do that are based on your faith system?
- Are you okay with our children being part of both of our faith systems? Are they allowed to make the decision on their own?
Those are a just few basic questions you can ask your partner as a way to better understand what they believe, why, how it affects their life, and how it will affect your relationship. It is important to understand what is meaningful to them so you are not acting out of fear, but rather acting out of love and embracing their differences.
The same applies to your partner, as you are asking them questions and gaining knowledge, they should be also, since the goal is to have both people in the marriage embracing the differences and respecting the faith system that their spouse is a part of. Through the question and answer process, some things may be surprising and opposite of your belief system. Then what do you do?
When Two Faith Systems Meet
When you and your partner sit down and talk about your faith, you may initially want to prove the ways that your faith is right and theirs is wrong — but is that the best way to respect differences and show love?
It is probably not wise to discredit something that is so meaningful to someone else, so the best way to approach the differences between you and your partner might be to try to match the similarities and be open to experiencing the unfamiliar with them.
Here are a few ways to meet your partner’s faith system without abandoning your own and find peace while doing so:
- Invite your partner to worship with you and be open to worshipping with them if invited. Be curious and ask to join in.
- Do studies together that incorporate values from both of your faith groups.
- Understand the meaning behind the traditions they celebrate and explain the meaning behind yours. Be creative and celebrate together.
- Ask spiritual leaders from both faith groups to assist you two in becoming one spiritually.
- Share your feelings openly with your partner as you two try new things and ask them to share theirs with you also.
By joining with your partner and connecting your faith systems you two also are growing your marriage and love for one another. There are many things that will feel new and maybe even scary as you open yourself to your loved one in this way, but part of your vow to love your partner might include loving them completely, and that includes their faith also.
Embracing your partner’s faith does not mean that you have to leave your own behind. As humans, we are always learning new information and using it in addition to what we already know. If you are solid in your own belief system, incorporating new things into your life does not have to feel threatening since you are not replacing what you know, but instead enhancing what you know.
It is the same for your partner, as it would not be fair to expect them to change what they believe completely, but it would be nice if they also enhanced their life by including some of the things they have learned about your faith system too.
Most faith groups have some language in their belief system that speaks to loving others and achieving peace. Those words may be where you begin your spiritual joining with one another, as you cannot go wrong with having love in the center of your actions.
No One Wants to Change
Sometimes, even with effort, we still are unable to produce change. Change in the area of faith may look different for each individual. When we think about the ways that we change spiritually over time based on our own experiences, we recognize that we can even become stuck in our thinking and need help understanding the areas we need to grow out faith in.
Most times when we start to resist change, it is based on fear. We are afraid of what life will be like after the change happens. Even in the moments where we may be struggling or in pain, we almost believe that the change to reduce these realities will be much worse. We have to ask ourselves a few questions to move us from fear to action.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you are stuck or unwilling to move.
- What am I afraid of? Why?
- What do I think other people will say about me?
- What do I think I will lose if I try something different?
- Do I need someone to support me through the change?
- What small step can I make today to start in the direction of change?
- Am I mad that someone is asking me to be different?
- Do I think that I am right all of the time? Do I need to be?
- What will my life be like after I change? Will the change last?
Time to Get Relationship Counseling
You and your partner have tried to make things work on your own but still feel like there is a disconnect or a misunderstanding between you two. You have tried to ask questions to gain an understanding about the differences. You have tried to connect your faith systems.
Each of you have even tried to self-reflect and figure out how you can make a change, but nothing has led to success in the area of making your interfaith relationship work well.
What do you think you should do next? Do you think it is time to bring in an outside person who can help navigate the system you two have already created, although it does not work well, it does exist and looking at it deeply may be helpful.
As you and your partner enter into conversations with one another, you may realize soon after beginning that you need someone who can help you both hear what the other person is saying. It is interesting how sometimes we engage in conversation with others, but do not actually hear what they are saying. A counselor who is trained to work with couples may be able to hear what the other person is saying and repeat it back in a way that their partner understands.
Sometimes there are personal things that an individual may be dealing with that stop them from being able to join with their partner completely. A person may be dealing with trust or abandonment issues from childhood or previous relationships. They may struggle with managing their anger or anxiety symptoms.
There are a lot of things that a person brings to the relationship that has nothing to do with their partner. In these instances the faith differences may not be the main problem in the marriage, but because of other struggles it can appear to be.
Working with a counselor on personal issues with your partner is beneficial because each person in the marriage can gain a better understanding of what is going on and how to be helpful in the future. This type of support will likely lead to an increase in acceptance of differences, which will then lead to a positive integration of each person’s faith system in the relationship.
Disagreements may come up around the topic of faith and two people may need someone to help mediate the conversations. A counselor can stop the arguments in session between you and your partner and bring attention to the way that the couple is responding to one another.
Through arguments, you and your partner may forget what you are even arguing about and the conversation leads to bashing one another in a way that leads to hurt and pain. The hurt and pain that you both feel may be because something you love dearly, which is your faith, feels like it is causing the person you love dearly to pull away from you and the relationship.
The confusion can be met with ways to shift your thoughts from negative to positive and you and your partner can get back to what matters by processing real information instead of false information that comes with the automatic negative thoughts you both may be dealing with. Some of those automatic thoughts may be directly related to your partner, but they may also be directed at yourself.
Here are a few automatic thoughts you may experience that a counselor can help you regulate and reverse:
- I am less of a (fill in the blank to match your faith group) because I am in this relationship with someone who is not.
- I should have known this relationship would never work.
- I don’t even know what I believe anymore spiritually.
- I probably will suffer consequences for my behavior.
- I would be better off alone.
- I am the worst person ever.
- I know my partner doesn’t love me anymore.
- I never loved my partner.
Through the negative thoughts, you and your partner may feel hopeless and question your whole relationship. The counselor will use several different tools to bring awareness to what is happening and help you and your partner recognize that the thoughts about your relationship are not true and there is a way out of the cycle of negative thoughts.
At this point in your journey to having a healthy interfaith relationship with your partner, the counselor may bring you both back to what you believe is the biggest part of you, and that is your faith. Your counselor may encourage you to lean on your faith to find truthfulness, peace, and joy. It is in these moments that your faith can carry you through and you and your partner will be able to express how important it has been to you when you felt hopeless.
Through witnessing your partner find the peace that they longed for through the practicing of their faith, you may have found the easiest way to understand why you both need to remain spiritually in tact and embrace the differences. You will see how important it was for you to go back to the thing that caused the disrupt in your relationship to begin with through the power it proved to have.
If you and your partner are in need of some extra help around understanding how to make your interfaith relationship work, feel free to contact me.
“Hold Out Till the End,” courtesy of Billy Pasco, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hold the Light,” courtesy of Josh Boot, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Bible,” courtesy of James Coleman, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pray,” courtesy of Igor Rodrigues, unsplash.com, CC0 License