“Love has no age, no limit; and no death.”
– John Galsworthy
Some of my friends recently asked me about my marriage and how we make concessions when it comes to our religious differences. I’m a cradle Roman Catholic while my wife is a Buddhist. Born and bred in a cosmopolitan city, I’ve noticed that it’s a common recurring topic that many couples might discuss at some point in the relationship. Especially when the relationship gets serious and progresses from simple infatuation to marriage and starting a family.
Undoubtedly, many would contend that there are numerous advantages in a same-religion relationship. Spiritual connection is a commonly touted example, where a couple is able to connect well by sharing common beliefs and principles about living life, embracing death and the afterlife. There’s also the practical aspect with regards to attending church or temple services together, as well as raising kids in the same faith that have permeated and guided the couple’s lives.
On a few occasions, I have witnessed a few friends citing religion as a deal-breaker in a relationship, and immediately weeding out potential suitors by virtue of differences in religious beliefs.
Yes, I myself agree that there are advantages in a same-religion relationship. But on some occasions, it may never quite be perfect for every single one of us. You MAY never meet someone from the same religion that you happen to be remotely attracted to. Conversely, you MAY meet someone from the same religion that may also possess a similar degree of observance towards the faith, but yet fail to achieve any compatibility on the fundamental side of things – mismatch in personalities and interests just to name a few.
Here’s my take on this subject and why religion alone may not always be the only answer to success in a relationship.
A couple with the same religion may still observe the faith in varying degrees
Even if there is a match in terms of the religion practiced by both parties in the relationship, this may not necessarily translate to a successful relationship if both parties possess varying degrees of observance towards the faith. Being a Christian by virtue of being born in a Christian family for example, is vastly different from being a staunch follower of the faith and religiously following its practices.
A religion preaching a certain value will not necessarily translate to all followers of its faith interpreting and adhering to it in similar degrees. An extreme example would be religious fundamentalists who use the same words of scripture as a premise to justify violence and war. In other circumstances, the same bible may be interpreted in different, possibly even polarizing views on the same topic.
Relationships cannot succeed without compatibility in personalities, personal values and principles
Admittedly, a couple who prays together to the same God may find many similarities in terms of their beliefs in the spiritual sense. However, this alone may not always be sufficient in the grand scheme of things. I knew a couple from church who were fervent followers of the faith and often participated in numerous church activities to grow in their faith. The activities that I am alluding to refer to communities which congregate to pray, discuss and internalize learning points from the bible, not those that get together to organize fun fairs.
But there were massive mismatches in their personalities and what they each wanted from the relationship. Before long, separation was imminent albeit not unexpected.
I am for the view that compatibility between two people boils down to a lot more than similarity in religion. It goes beyond sharing common interests, educational backgrounds or political ideologies as well. The strongest connection occur when you both realize you share the same values and principles. They could be secular values for instance the way you perceive human relationships, the pursuit of wealth, outlook towards life, future and ambitions etc.
One might argue that religion plays a huge factor in influencing these values, though it can also be contended that these values could be heavily influenced by non-religious factors including family upbringing and other social environmental factors.
There are some similar values preached across most religions
Sometimes we may fixate on the subtleties and amplify the numerous differences between religions. If we could focus on the overall big picture, some might agree that many religions preach many common, good values. Call it simplistic if you wish but one can’t deny that many religions generally seek to make us better people in general among countless other values, whatever name you wish to call your god or the afterlife.
An example for thought – Catholics aren’t supposed to judge people of other faiths, and also do not believe that non-Catholics will go straight to hell. (Catholics do not subscribe to the doctrine of sola fide) In similar vein, my wife tells me that Buddhists are taught not to judge others too, be it their faith or other numerous differences. There is an overarching similarity in this regard therefore.
Love is a great deal of Acceptance, Understanding and Compromise
A relationship mandates the above to progress and succeed, whether it ranges from aligning or tolerating differences in living habits or making plans on relocating abroad for career advancements.
Now, I’m gonna put forth a view that may ruffle some feathers. Wherever possible, barring circumstances including being strictly prohibited by the religion from marrying outside the faith, these acts of love through acceptance, understanding and compromise could also be extended to religious differences.
Between myself and my wife, we agree on many things pertaining to our individual faiths. We do not impose our beliefs on each other wherever differences in the teachings occur. We embrace whatever similarities that our religions preach, including but not limited to the point I mentioned above. I followed my then-girlfriend to the temple on one occasion while she prayed. She followed me to the church once when I was going through a rough patch and watched me pray. We both didn’t adopt new religions, but merely gave respect to the faith that our partner believes in. We do not discourage each other from observing our faiths.
Nobody said it’s gonna be easy. But then again relationships aren’t easy to begin with. We make compromises. We try to be open and receptive. This still holds true in the absence of religious differences.
For those who believe in only having potential partners from same religion, it’s your prerogative. It’s always a personal choice and there’s nothing wrong with any choice made on this. For those who are in love with partners who practice a different religion, trust that it can work and I really hope it does for you 🙂
I prayed to meet the right person and allowed my God to lead me to who he wanted me to meet. He didn’t lead me a fellow Catholic, but that wasn’t important. He led me to a person who loves life, her family, and me. He led me to someone who respects my faith and works things out with me.
It’s love. Love is unconditional after all. Let it transcend all boundaries. Religious boundaries in this case.
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