Interfaith relationships require agreement, compromise and mutual respect. With these fundamentals, relationships between people of different faiths might be no more prone to failure than relationships between people of the same faith. However, according to an American Religious Identification Survey, interfaith marriages are three times more likely to end in divorce than marriages between people of the same faith. People in interfaith relationships face many challenges that people in same-religion relationships do not.
The biggest challenge to interfaith relationships arises when a religion prohibits such relationships. For example, in Islam, men are allowed to marry members of other religious communities, but women are not. Jewish law states that all Jews must marry someone of the same faith. However, this law is often only recognized and enforced by more traditional denominations, such as Orthodox Judaism. Although the exact impact of religious restrictions is unknown, a 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape survey showed interfaith marriage rates tend to be lower for members of religious communities that prohibit or discourage interfaith marriage.
Religious Conversion: A Solution?
Converting to another religion can reduce the conflicts that arise with interfaith relationships. However, this is not a simple procedure in many religions. Conversion requires studying a religious text, accepting new beliefs and adapting new rules regarding behavior and actions. Ultimately, converting to a religion while in an interfaith relationship has the potential to make the relationship more successful, but it is a significant commitment. In a 2010 YouGov survey, many of the participants who were in an interfaith relationship expressed confidence that their partner would convert to their religion. If this expectation is unmet, it is likely to strain a relationship.
Parenting with Conflicting Beliefs
Parenthood puts a strain on many relationships, and it often presents a challenge for people in interfaith relationships. Several religions prohibit interfaith relationships specifically because of the affect it has on children. For example, the Torah, the Jewish religious text, states, "you shall not intermarry ... you will turn your children away from me to worship other gods." Since most religions have very different beliefs, it is difficult to teach children two different belief systems. However, according to a "New York Times" poll, more than half of the interfaith couples surveyed did not discuss before marriage which religion would be taught to their children.
Role of Family
Another aspect that often influences the success of interfaith relationships is the support of families. For example, it is common for Muslim parents to be involved with arranging potential relationships, although the consent of the individuals is necessary. Without the acceptance of parents, a person is forced to choose between their significant other and their family. Interfaith marriages may even result in a person being excluded from family gatherings and losing friends, which takes a toll on any relationship.
- Chabad: Prohibited Marriages
- British Broadcasting Corp.: Islam: Marriage and Divorce
- Interfaith Marriage Network: Marriage -- Wedding FAQs
- The New York Times: Interfaith Unions -- A Mixed Blessing
- The Washington Post: Interfaith Marriages are Rising, but They're Failing Fast Too
- Pew Research: Brides, Grooms Often Have Different Faiths
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