Resource: Faith in Your Marriage

When I ask couples about their Faith, I generall get the same answer. “We grew up going to church, but haven’t gone in a while. We like tradition, but don’t know what we really believe anymore. It would be nice to find a community but not have to be so strict about certain things.” That is a huge sign to me that we all need a “spiritual update”, especially when it comes to marriage and family.

Whether you each share the same background, or are trying to blend your faiths into your own unique family customs, one thing is certain. We all call out to God sometime or other in our lives, whether we are “religious” or not. And usually it is when we are most desperate and then also feeling guilty for asking for help since we haven’t been to church in a while.

I’m here to tell you that you can build faith in your marriage without feeling like you’re …..

1Figure out your own personal beliefs.

You may think religion isn’t that big of a deal to you. Then when you find out your spouse to be is a staunch atheist, suddenly you have all the feelings! It’s really important to get real with yourself about your beliefs, and how you those beliefs to coexist with those of your future life partner. Do you expect to work toward eventually sharing the same beliefs as your partner? Or do you think you’ll be cool having your separate beliefs and respectfully disagreeing in that way? What matters most to you and what matters less when it comes to your religious beliefs (or lack thereof)? You need to know that you deserve to have these beliefs respected, and you need to know you can respect someone else’s, before you enter into a lifelong commitment with a partner.

2Figure out where you stand with your partner.

If after checking in with yourself you come to the realization that religion (or being nonreligious) is quite important to you (or, not not important), you need to think about how to talk about religion and have a serious conversation with your partner about where they stand, and how you’ll both move forward. Maybe you don’t make a plan right away, but one big initial convo and regular check-ins are all important to getting to a good, comfortable place with religion in your relationship. It’s the same with talking finances! If you don’t have these conversations early and often, you’ll be preventing a deeper, closer relationship with the one you love. Finally, if you plan on marrying this person, and either of you expect the other to take on their religious beliefs, that expectation needs to be laid out early enough for all the right things to happen in time for the wedding.

3Be open and respectful.

No matter what—even if you discover that you and your partner fundamentally disagree over your religious beliefs—you still love each other, and that can overcome almost anything! As long as you’re open and respectful and willing to work together to find an arrangement that works for you both, you’ll be successful. Remember, being an interfaith couple is an exciting opportunity for you both—a chance to see the world differently than you may have growing up. And, a chance to start a new generation of faith, if you choose to have children. This is not a time to pit your beliefs against one another—it’s a chance to learn and refresh your perspective! You can even use an app like Lasting to help better communicate to ensure a successful conversation.

4Decide together how religion will fit into your wedding day.

It can come as a shock when your new fiancé(e) reveals they want a church wedding after you’ve dated for years assuming you’re both atheists. Weddings are momentous occasions that can bring out emotions in us we don’t expect—like wanting to have a religious presence at one of the most important days of your life. When considering how to talk about religion with your future spouse, work together to decide how religion will (or will not) inform your wedding day. Be flexible and remember to compromise. If one of you wants a wedding in a house of worship and one of you is not interested, maybe meet in the middle and have your ceremony somewhere neutral but work in a religious reading and blessing. Also make sure you’ve discussed how your families expect you to incorporate religion into your big day (obviously you both have the final say, but knowing the expectations of your families early on and deciding what to do with those expectations will save you a lot of strife later on). 

5Give yourselves time and space.  

If you’re an interfaith couple, you can’t expect one conversation to put you on the path to make you both understand one another’s religious beliefs completely. And you can’t expect your partner to drop their religious beliefs overnight just because you asked them to. This is sensitive territory and it will take time, space and a lot of love and compromise to feel fully at ease. It might even take up many years of your marriage. But that’s the beauty of being committed to someone: you commit to work together on everything, always, without giving up. Don’t feel dismayed if you can’t find religious common ground right away, or even by your wedding day. It’s a journey, like so many parts of blending two individuals into one new family, and there’s no deadline to get to the finish line.

6If you’ve never practiced a religion, consider giving it a try.

Although becoming more spiritual is a value for anyone, styles of worship vary as much as the unique people who are seeking the meaning of life. Try out more than one place of worship. If the first one doesn’t fit you, try again. It’s worth the effort.

7Visit each other’s church/synagogue/mosque.

If each of you belongs to a different faith tradition, learn more about the beliefs of that religion. You’re not trying to convert the other but to understand what shapes your partner’s values.

8If you are getting married in a religious ceremony, use this opportunity.

If you are getting married in a religious setting it means that faith is important to at least one of you. Use this opportunity to discuss questions of faith with your spiritual leader. These are the kind of conversations that you may have intended to explore some day, but you’ve put it off. Now your life is about to change. Use your contact with the priest, minister, rabbi, or imam to go deeper.

9Become a grown-up person of faith.

Often people are raised in a religious home. They attend religious education classes, and maybe even Catholic or other religious schools for 8, 12, or 16 years. But their faith formation got stuck in childhood. If you have grown distant from the faith of your childhood, check it out again on an adult level. If you were a lawyer or doctor you wouldn’t think of practicing your profession based on high school information. Update your knowledge of your faith. You don’t have to have a degree in theology but you should not rely on childhood explanations in an adult world.

10Make your home a place of unity.

Even if the two of you come from different faith traditions and are committed to continuing them, make your home a place where you merge prayer, rituals, and religious traditions. Since prayer at home is less formal, you can develop creative, inclusive times of prayer and faith devotions together. Experiment with the rituals of each other’s faith and blend them to fit your family. The point is not whose church you go to, but rather that you bring it all home.

11Don’t wait until you have a child.

It’s tempting to put off decisions about how you will share your faith (or ignore it) until you have your first child. Don’t! A child is too important to become a battleground. If faith is important to you, discuss how each of you wants to share your faith with any children you may have before you are married. If you are Catholic, this question will be part of your marriage preparation. Discussing how you will raise your children can clarify how committed each of you is to your faith and beliefs.

Resource: Faith in Your Marriage