Common Interfaith Marriage Problems

And how to fix them

married couple
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When you enter into an interfaith marriage, you are likely aware that you may face challenges. Being aware of mistakes that interfaith couples make might help you avoid them, and keep disagreements over religious differences from derailing your partnership.

What Is an Interfaith Marriage?

Interfaith marriage is a marriage between people who belong to different religions. Research suggests that nearly 40% of people who married after 2010 are in an interfaith marriage.

Mistakes in Your Interfaith Marriage

When committing to an interfaith marriage, or even if you have already been in one for awhile, you will need to consider the challenges that can crop up. Some common mistakes couples make when facing these situations include:

  • Ignoring religious differences. Trying to pretend these problems don't exist often makes them grow worse over time.
  • Taking a "love conquers all" attitude and ignoring the problem thinking it will go away.
  • Believing that 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 some decisions that cannot be compromised such as circumcision, baptism, tithing, and more.
  • Believing that differences will always be irreconcilable in your interfaith marriage.
  • Failing to recognize the importance of understanding, respecting, accepting, and dealing with your religious differences.
  • Cutting ties with extended family, unless there has been parental abuse.
  • Assuming that you understand all of one another's faith issues.
  • Thinking that converting is the answer and will make things easier.
  • Dismissing your family's concerns about your interfaith marriage.
  • Believing that your marriage won't face any hurdles.
  • Failing to discuss concerns about your children's religious upbringing.
  • Refusing to discover the common characteristics your religions may have.
  • Failing to examine your backgrounds and how they have shaped your attitudes and beliefs.
  • Forcing your beliefs upon your partner.
  • Failing to plan ahead for holidays and other special life-cycle events.
  • Turning the holidays into a competition between your faiths.
  • Lacking an understanding of 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.
  • Forgetting to ask questions and be curious about your partner's heritage, culture or religious beliefs.
  • Failing to inform your families and friends of your holiday decisions in a timely way.
  • Forcing your children to feel as if they must choose between their parents' religions.
  • Making negative comments to your children about your partner's religion.
  • Hiding 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.

Are Interfaith Marriages More Prone to Divorce?

There are few statistics available on interfaith divorce rates. According to one survey, certain faith pairings appear to have higher rates of divorce. Divorce was particularly common among marriages between evangelicals and non-evangelicals (50%) and evangelicals and non-religious individuals (61%).

How to Overcome Interfaith Marriage Problems

While interfaith marriages are often faced with challenges, this does not mean that they are doomed to fail or lead to unhappiness. Research has shown that marital stability and conflict is not solely dependent on whether a married couple is of mixed faith.

Discover What You Share in Common

Research suggests that what matters more than religious affiliation is how much couples agree on important aspects of the marriage, including how to raise their children. 

Communicate

One of the major mistakes both before marriage and after involves not talking about religious concerns. Having open discussions and talking about shared values is important, however.

Look at these conversations as a chance to learn more about your partner's faith. It isn't about trying to convince one another that your religion is "right," but rather a way to celebrate the shared foundations and diversity of your religious background and experiences.

Form Agreements

Discuss ways you can agree on how you will observe religious practices in your household. This includes how you will celebrate religious holidays, whether you will attend religious services, and what religion your children will follow.

This may often involve having your children learn about and practice aspects of both faiths. Research suggests that children are able to integrate aspects of differing cultural and religious backgrounds.

Be Unified and Respectful

Whether or not a marriage is interfaith, it's important for couples to make decisions together and then present them together to their families. Each partner must decide that their spouse comes first, and protect them from family strife.

Marrying outside your faith requires both partners to be especially mature, respectful and compromising. It will take a significant amount of effort to not let external influences, such as in-laws or grandparents, cause irreparable damage between you.

Take the time before you marry to explore these concerns with each other (or a neutral outside professional). If you're already married and are having difficulty navigating this territory, seek out professional help as soon as possible.

A Word From Verywell

Some of the most common interfaith marriage problems are related to poor communication and not finding common ground. In addition to finding ways to address these problems, it is also important to consider some of the benefits of mixed-faith marriages.

In an interview with NPR, Naomi Shaefer Riley, author of the book "'Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America," suggested that one of the key benefits of interfaith marriage is increasing tolerance and positive attitudes toward other religions.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pew Research Center. Interfaith marriage is common in U.S., particularly among the recently wed.

  2. The New York Times. Interfaith unions: A mixed blessing.

  3. Chinitz JG, Brown RA. Religious homogamy, marital conflict, and stability in same‐faith and interfaith Jewish marriages. J Sci Study Religion. 2001;40(4):723-733. doi:10.1111/0021-8294.00087

  4. Roll S. Cross-cultural considerations in custody and parenting plans. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 1998;7(2):445-54.