About two years back I’d written a post on intercaste couples. Recently someone asked me whether there are any challenges specific to inter religious couples apart from the ones already discussed there. Let’s look at that in today’s post.
Unlike a caste, a religion is a way of life. A religion has far deeper and broader effects on how you lead your life, how you think, how you perceive others etc., than castes. The challenges of inter-religious couples are therefore a lot more complex, running a lot deeper. After some research and analysis, I could finally boil down the often not so easy to define range of possible challenges of inter-religious couples to these fundamental five.
- Lack of support from friends and family: According to sociologist Lynette Clemetson, the relative lack support that inter-cultural couples might receive from friends and family in the initial period of their relationship, can give rise to trust issues between them later which makes the relationship difficult (Clemetson, 2000). The same is applicable to inter-religious couples also. I’d suggest you take time to understand each other fully, gain confidence in your commitment and only then introduce each other to your families, so as to earn more of their support.
- Challenges understanding each other: As you know, a religion is a way of life. For example, I’m a Hindu – I’m used to seeing idols worshipped every day in my home. If you’re a Christian this might come across as blasphemous to you. Religion shapes everything from lifestyle (consider the strict vegetarianism practised by Jains), to philosophy of life (think Muslims having their own legal code). Two people coming from two different religious backgrounds, thus, need to make extra efforts to understand each other. Fun activities like picking up a children’s book on the history of each other’s religions, or participating in religious holidays can be powerful first steps in the lifelong journey of overcoming such barriers.
- Patience and acceptance: There are always moments in an inter-religious marriage when differences in beliefs are probably really irresolvable. Such situations are inevitable. It’s not always easy to think outside the box you’ve lived in since birth. Being conscious of such a possibility and having the patience to accept differences and yet love each other for who they are is crucial for success of the relationship.
- Children: The most challenging aspect of inter-religious marriages is probably handing down beliefs systems and life philosophies to children. However all religions have the same values and spiritual aims at their core. It’s the practices and traditions which differ. You need to inculcate this basic understanding in your children early on and help them see each of your religions as just one more way to spiritual enlightenment. If you as an inter-religious couple can do it right, your children have the potential to grow up as more aware, more conscious people than children of same-religion marriages. The inter-religious family will also help them develop a truly open outlook of the world and treat human beings as human beings, irrespective of their caste, creed, race and religion.
- Parents: Some of you might think this should’ve been my first point, but I’ve deliberately moved it to the last. On the basis of my own experience I believe that in terms of gravity, outside challenges to a relationship can never even compare to the challenges any couple faces between them, to make their own relationship work. So far as your parents are concerned, you’ll convince them. Here are a lot of strategies to get that in line: Convincing Parents for Intercaste Relationship.
Are you in an inter-religious relationship? Do you know someone who is? What’s your experience of the joys and pitfalls of such a relationship? Make use of the comments section to let others know.