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Things to know before getting into an interfaith relationship

 Things to know before getting into an interfaith relationship (Photo: iStock)

Religion is a big part of relationships. The whole issue of whether interfaith unions work is still under debate.

In previous generations, religious beliefs were very rigid. Most people believed that if you were of one religion, you had no business looking for a partner of another religion.

We cannot ignore the aspect of religion and relationships because it shapes a lot of things in society. It shapes how you think about certain issues, what you do and your outlook in general.

The fact remains that interfaith marriages are happening and they come with their own set of benefits and challenges.

If you're thinking about having one, or are already in one, here are six things you need to know about it:

You need to have the conversation

Today, more social barriers are being broken down than ever before. The world is becoming one global home, where we learn to love and treat each other well, regardless of religion, race and other differences. Still, you'll need to discuss the different views you may have with your partner so that you know how to move forward. This conversation will help you answer questions about sex, marriage and other areas that may cause conflict in the relationship. This is the time for open and honest communication before you decide to date.

Your perceptions of each other's religion will change

It's natural for loving partners to adapt to each other. The more time you spend with someone, the more you appreciate similarities and differences. The same applies to your different religions, in the sense that you'll learn to appreciate many things about their way of life. Your view of their whole religion will change, so don't be surprised if you decide to convert at some point.

There will be backlash

More often than not, interfaith couples face a lot of backlash. This can come from members of the community or, even worse, from their family members. There is still a large part of society that believes that two people from different religions shouldn't marry, and this can put a strain on the relationship. In some cases, family members may ostracise you and cut off all communication. This can be frightening and you'll need to be mentally prepared for this backlash.

Interfaith marriages are generally difficult

Statistics show that there is still a high rate of divorce and relationship breakdown in this type of arrangement. For many couples, the challenges involved are too much to cope with. Many couples clash because of their own religious biases, conflicting views on certain issues, or even the issue of being forceful with their beliefs. Although many of the challenges arise from religious issues, a large proportion also arise from a lack of proper communication during the courtship.

Your faith doesn't have to be a barrier

As much as many interfaith couples struggle, there are quite a few who are in happy and healthy relationships. Many couples report that religion hasn't caused major arguments and fights in their relationship and that other aspects such as trust, honesty and similar values have been more important to their relationship than issues related to religion.

Their children's faith is a big issue

Children in interfaith relationships or marriages are a big issue. Many issues such as 'which religion will they belong to', 'which schools will they go to' or 'which holidays will you celebrate as a family' need to be thought about and discussed beforehand. Another thing is, when they get older and have their say, how will you deal with that?

However, at the heart of interfaith relationships is the early discussion of differences. This avoids unnecessary conflict that could lead to separation or divorce in the future.

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