Fixing Common Interfaith Marriage Mistakes

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If you and your spouse are an interfaith couple, you may be making some critical mistakes that could harm your marriage. These missteps will have you setting yourselves up for festering bitterness, nagging tensions, and continuing arguments about your religious differences in your interfaith marriage. We've compiled a list of mistakes that those in interfaith marriages make.

Mistakes in Your Interfaith Marriage

  • Ignoring your religious differences.
  • Taking a "love conquers all" attitude and ignoring the problem thinking it will go away.
  • Believing that your different religious affiliations are unimportant in the long term.
  • Thinking that a sense of humor is all that you need to survive the religious differences in your interfaith marriage.
  • Discounting that there are some decisions that cannot be compromised such as circumcision, baptism, bris, tithing, and more.
  • Believing that differences in faith will always be an irreconcilable problem in your interfaith marriage.
  • Failing to recognize the importance of understanding, respecting, accepting, and dealing with your religious differences in your interfaith marriage.
  • Unless there has been parental abuse, making the decision to cut ties with extended family.
  • Assuming that you understand all of one another's faith issues.
  • Believing that your love for each other will conquer all your interfaith marriage problems.
  • Thinking that converting to your spouse's faith will make things easier.
  • Dismissing your family's concerns about your interfaith marriage.
  • Believing that your interfaith marriage won't face any hurdles.
  • Not discussing, prior to your interfaith marriage, concerns around your children's religious upbringing.
  • Refusing to discover the common characteristics your religions may have.
  • Not being open to examining how your backgrounds, religions, and cultures have shaped your attitudes and beliefs.
  • Failure to plan ahead for the holidays and other special life-cycle events.
  • Forcing your beliefs upon your partner.
  • Turning the holidays into a competition between your faiths.
  • Not understanding your own faith.
  • Continuing to push hot buttons about faith differences.
  • Letting family and friends get in the middle of your interfaith marital relationship.
  • Having a lack of respect for each other's heritage.
  • Not being curious about your partner's heritage, culture or religious beliefs.
  • Failing to timely inform your families and friends of your holiday decisions.
  • Forcing your children to feel as if they must choose between their father's or mother's religion.
  • Giving your children negative vibes, attitudes or comments about your partner's religion.
  • Privatizing your religious belief and not claiming or talking about your faith with your spouse.
  • Giving in so much that you lose your own traditions and ultimately, your own self-respect.

Being Unified and Respectful as a Couple

According to Luchina Fisher's 2010 article, "Chelsea Clinton's Interfaith Marriage Challenge: Kids, Holidays, Soul-Searching," Susanna Macomb said one of the biggest mistakes interfaith couples make is not presenting a united front to their families.

It's important that couples make decisions together and then present them together to their families.

"It's easy to blame the newcomer in the family," Macomb said. "It's up to you to protect your spouse from your parents. Make no mistake, on your wedding day, you're choosing your partner. Your marriage must now come first."

Marrying outside your own faith requires the two of you to be especially mature, respectful and compromising to have a successful long-term relationship. It will take a significant amount of effort to not let external influences cause irreparable damage between you both, such as in-laws or grandparents, along with your internal differences in religious backgrounds. Take the time before you marry to explore these concerns with each other, (or a neutral outside professional), that may come up. If that's too late already and you find you're having some difficulty navigating this territory, seek out professional help as soon as possible.

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  1. Fisher L. Chelsea Clinton's Interfaith Marriage Challenge: Kids, Holidays, Soul-Searching. The obstacles Chelsea and husband Marc Mezvinsky can expect to face. ABC News. Updated August 2, 2010.

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