Need help breaking free from addiction?
1-888-993-3112
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

Love But Different Religions

Question:

I like this girl. She is catholic and I am Muslim. What do I do I can’t take her off my mind?

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Schwartz intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Schwartz to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Schwartz, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Schwartz and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
Answer:

Your question is deeply important for yourself, this girl and many other people today. The reason it is important is that in the modern world it is more common than ever for people to meet and marry across ethnic, religious and racial lines. The decision to marry or not when there are very great differences in religion should not be made easily or lightly. The consequences for yourself and the girl you love can have reverberations that can impact the happiness of each of you.

The major issues for each of you to think about:

The old romantic idea that "love conquers all" does not hold true in the real world. If it did the world rate of divorce would be a lot lower. When you weigh the fact that most of the couples who divorce come from homogeneous religious and ethnic backgrounds the entire issue of marriage and religious differences take on a whole new meaning. If people who come from backgrounds with shared values cannot save their marriages is there any hope for those who come from different backgrounds?

Actually, people who come from different faiths, nationalities and races can have successful marriages if they completely explore the important issues before they make the final decision to wed. The process of exploring these important issues has to do with what each considers to be of such great importance that they cannot compromise. For example, if you marry this girl with the expectation that the children will be raised Muslim she must completely agree or there will be major conflicts between the two of you in the future.

Generally speaking, people from different faiths can marry and succeed in staying together if they each agree on the religion they will practice or if they agree that they are not religious and do not consider themselves to be of any religious persuasion. The key words are "if they each agree." In other words if you each want to be Muslim, practice that religion and raise your children Muslim there will be no difficulty.

It is much easier for couples to agree about religion if the one individual feels a lot less strongly committed to their religion of origin. For the individual who is not committed to a religion there is often a willingness to convert for two reasons: 1) A wish to convert due to interest in the new religion and a wish to be connected to a new type of thinking and, 2) A wish to please their partner by doing something that they feel willing and interested in doing out of a sense of real belief.

However, if two people each feel strongly committed to and identified with their religion of origin there is a good chance that there will be nothing but grief between them in the future if they attempt to ignore their differences. Strong commitment on the part of each complicates the questions of how to raise the children, what to do on important holy days, who will go to services and how often and, etc. This type of gap in thinking and believing complicates relationships with extended family members such as in laws, grand parents and parents. There are tragic cases in which deeply religious families refuse to accept a new member from a different faith.

There are those situations in which each person decides to keep their religion of origin but raise the children in both faiths. In these situations, children and family celebrate all the holy days, learn about each faith and attend all the services. The idea behind this solution is that partners will respect one another’s convictions and allow the children to make their choices upon reaching adulthood. I have seen many of these types of arrangements succeed quite well.

In answer to your question, you and this girl must decide what you each can and cannot live with. Each of you must understand that no one can be coerced into changing their religious affiliation and practice. Each of you must also decide whether or not you can tolerate your family member’s reaction to bringing a person from another faith into the family. Neither one of you must have any illusions about how difficult this process of inter faith marriage can be. However, I can report to you that if you are each clear headed about what you do and do not want then this can succeed. You must begin to talk to this girl and learn where each of you stands on the issue of religion.

Lastly, please remember that, besides the issues of faith and religious practice, you each need to learn about each other and discover whether or not the love you feel is something passing and temporary or is real and the basis of a life-long relationship.

Best of Luck

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists

Close

Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.

Close

Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand