According to Statistics Canada, most mixed unions are more likely to be young, highly educated, higher median income, and live in major census metropolis areas.
(Hey, that’s us!)
They also found that roughly 26% of these mixed unions expressed partners having different religious affiliations.
(Hey, that’s also us!)
This statistical picture is on the rise and not only represents our marriage, but many other relationships out there.
With Canadian divorce rates hovering around 40% it made us wonder–
Are our chances of separating higher as a mixed, interfaith couple?
Well the short story is; maybe.
We’ve found many articles and resources shouting from both sides of the fence on whether interfaith marriages are successful or not. (There will be links to them below if you want to zoom there now and explore.)
But from where we balance on that fence, we want to whisper our story and practices to you.
But first, here’s some background info:
Jake is Filipino-Canadian, born in Manila, he immigrated to Canada in 1994 and got his citizenship shortly there-after. He was raised Roman Catholic.
Taylor is Canadian (2nd/3rd Generation European Dissent), born and raised in Alberta.
She was raised with loosely Christian, mainly Agnostic beliefs.
With these differences, our paths crossed in Alberta where we met through Hip Hop Dance and began our relationship. As the years went on, we realized the extent of the differences in our faiths.
Over those years, our views on religion and marriage have been dynamic, adapting and open minded. This has really been the key in helping us create a union that works for our mixed ways. Many years later, we’re now married and live in British Columbia, Canada and we’ve created a faith mash-up that works for us.
We now identify our faith as Catholic-Spiritual-Being-Good-People.
Now that you’re caught up, let’s dive into the specific tips we’ve personally found to make an interfaith relationship work.
1. Distinguish Religion, Identity, and Culture
Determine the difference between the religion you practice, how you identify yourself and the culture you live by.
Religion meaning what faith practices bring you closer to your higher power? What religious or non religious observances do you live by?
Identity meaning how do you define who you are? Do you identify with your faith or is it just a part of your life, or both?
Culture meaning gender roles, expectations of spouses, familial projections. Does religion predict those components, or not?
Knowing the differences between how you live your life, who you are, and the religion you practice,
makes it easier to find open areas and boundaries. It gives you a path to start walking to learn more about yourself and each other, and how far religion may reach into the different areas of your lives.
2. Be Unconditionally Experimental
This tip is inspired by one of the articles cited below, and it’s really a winner.
Experiment with your partners faith and practices. Pray with them, attend services with them, read the books they read, write in the journals they do. Learn the customs and observances, experiment without the expectation of change or reward. (Unconditional, remember?)
Now this doesn’t mean you need to convert, or convert your partner.
But it means being open to experimenting and learning about your spouses faith and beliefs. And not just one time, but often. Be the husband that reads your wife’s spiritual books, be the wife that goes to church with your husband. Pray together, create good Karma together. You catch our drift?
3. Find Out Why
Get to know your partner’s why.
Why is this important to them?
Why do they practice this way?
What does it signify?
What meaning does this hold for them?
Share your histories and stories. Learn how their religion shaped who they are.
For us, this was huge. It allowed us to see how the values and qualities we love in each other came to be, through our different faiths. We learned the significance of the holidays, practices and traditions. When we understood “why”, we could then gauge the meaning for our partners and it made the next step (compromise) easier.
4. Be Willing To Bend
Ultimately we deem our success in blending our faiths on the fact that we were both willing to
Neither one of us were completely set in every aspect of our faiths. In certain things we were set, but not everything. We had room to bend, and where there was little room, we made some.
We also see our relationship in two ways.
As a long term partnership and as what we were willing to give. Both of which helped in the way of compromising.
What one conceded in one instance, the other has conceded in another. Compromise doesn’t end with daily practices, or the wedding, there’s many times where we can trade one compromise for a future one. For example, getting married outside the church being traded for baptizing children later.
Looking at the situation in terms of what we would be willing to give up, rather than what we wanted to keep, changed the game. Instead of locking us into what we were desperate to hang on to, we shared what we were willing to release. We asked ourselves, is this something I need or want?
This combination of thinking and compromising really worked well for us.
5. Create your own Relationship Religion
Who says you can’t create something unique that works for you?
That’s what we did.
This will look a little different for each relationship, and it might take a lot of open-minded communication to discover the mash up that works for you.
In our relationship, we’ve combined some practices of Catholicism that are crucial to Jake and some Spiritual practices that are crucial to me. We’ve been open (through learning the why’s) to each other’s practices that are important to each of us and created a combined solutions. Instead of choosing one or the other, we choose to celebrate both of our faiths, traditions, and practices.
6. Get Outside Help
Whether it’s from each of your places of worship or a professional, couples therapy is a great idea before your relationship is on the brink. But it’s never too late to learn tools to navigate your specific situation, increasing tolerance, and adjusting adaptivity.
Having an objective source of help is invaluable when it comes to topics that can be so close to heart. Seeking help from those that have the knowledge and experience in these unique situations will be immensely helpful.
So there you have it.
Our tips to easing the unique struggles of an interfaith relationship.
There’s still things we don’t agree on, or see the exact same way, but we are open to each other’s ways of seeing the world. And, most importantly, we are both open to compromise and boundaries. We value our relationship enough to make them and respect them.
We use the tips above to learn and understand (not preach) to continue the compromises that keep our interfaith marriage strong. Good luck to our fellow interfaither’s, if there’s any tips you’d love to share, let us know below!
Check out the links below for sources cited in this article:
Here’s some articles shouting on either side of the fence:
Here’s some great reads if you’re looking for more info: