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January 2007

Couple holding hands

In this issue:

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Conscious Relationship Resources

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David Steele
Founder and CEO,
Relationship Coaching Institute

Frankie Doiron, President
Relationship Coaching Network

Linda Marshall - Photo
Linda Marshall
Director | Couples Programs

Tara Kachaturoff - Photo
Tara Alexandra Kachaturoff
Editor | Partners in Life Couples News

Copyright 2007 by All rights reserved.

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This newsletter is designed especially for YOU if:

  • You have met someone and are wondering if s/he is the "Love of Your Life"
  • You are about to get married and want to co-create a fulfilling life partnership
  • You have a good relationship and want to make it great!

Ask Our Coaches:
Should I Marry Within My Faith?

He meets all my requirements except one. I’m Christian and he's Jewish...

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches, 

I met the most wonderful man at a business seminar. We’ve been seeing each other for three months and we really enjoy each other's company. He, too, thought he would never find someone with whom he would want to spend the rest of his life. He says I’m the first woman he’s met that he is considering marrying.

I’ve been paying attention to see if he meets my requirements and he meets all of them -- except one. I’m a Christian and he is Jewish. I always thought I would marry within my faith and my husband, children, and I would all go to church together. Now I am not even sure I want to have children at this late date. He's not so sure he does either.

Both of us have rather demanding and fulfilling careers, so it is not so important to us now. And, we think more closely alike about spiritual matters than I experience with many Christians. He has what I would consider a very Christ-like spirit. In fact, it is one of the things that really draws me to him.

We have not involved our families yet, but I plan to introduce him to my family at our Christmas gathering. I think my family will be OK with it if I married him. They'd probably just be happy that I finally found someone.

I'm not sure how his family would feel about me. He lives at a distance from them and doesn’t plan to spend Hanukkah with them. He did tell them about me in a phone conversation, but he wants them to meet me before he tells them that I am Christian. He says they are fairly open, but he knows his mother always hoped he would marry a “nice Jewish girl.” We plan to visit them in April.

You say requirements should be met 100%. Is this a hard and fast rule, and if so, why would you think it isn't a good idea for me to marry him? What challenges do you think we would have?

Mary Ellen from Minneapolis

Ken responds …

I see two issues raised in your question. First, is whether one must hold fast to one's requirements? Second, what is the essence of your and your potential partner's faith traditions?

As to the first question, one must hold fast to one's requirements, but only if they are truly requirements! Sometimes, when we examine things more closely, what we think is a requirement is really a need. As you describe this man who has captured your heart, it sounds like your real requirement is spirituality and a sincere relationship with God, as opposed to religiosity or a particular faith tradition. Therein lays the answer to the second question.

Religion can provide us a marvelous resource for asking the hard questions about life and its mysteries. In the end, devout Jews and devout Christians are doing the same thing--seeking to live their lives in response to the grace of a loving God.

Many of our Christian traditions have their roots in Jewish ones. One could allow the role of Jesus to get in the way, but why? Whether one views him as a wise prophet, as Jews are likely to do, or as the Son of God, the essence of his message, loving one another, is the same.

I am told that the Jewish Talmud teaches that God dwells in the space between husband and wife. If this man meets your other requirements, and you’re both willing to honor and respect the faith of the other, you will have a wonderful relationship.

When my wife met me, I was a divorced Protestant and she a Catholic -- a former nun. But she saw in me a common spirituality. She reconsidered her requirement that her partner be Catholic. Ultimately I converted, but because I wanted to, not because she urged it.

I invite you to go to services with this man, to learn about his faith as much as you can, and to invite him to learn about yours. If you respect each of you are on the same journey, seeking to respond to the goodness of the same God, and that you merely have somewhat different symbolic and ritualistic ways of doing so, your life will be rich and full.

Kenneth A. Sprang, MA, JD | | 301.907.3377, ext. 3

Joe responds …

You should revisit your requirement regarding religion. I hear some wavering on this requirement and, perhaps, it may be more of a want, or a need.

Sit down with your potential mate and discuss what is important about your religions and how each of you will honor the other's beliefs. If you both agree on this topic, this relationship sounds like a “go” for the next step.

When talking with your families, let them know how much each of you honors the other's religious beliefs and how you will honor those beliefs in your family.

Joe Brattain |
| 512.837.8261

Feature Article:
Every Relationship has Challenges:
What will be Yours?

by Linda A. Marshall, M. Div

Something that challenges all couples is learning how to deal with their differences. That is why RCI’s “Partners in Life” (soon to be called “Conscious Mating”) program is designed to assist each partner in looking at the challenges they will have in their relationship.

This program provides them with the information they need to balance their heart with their head. They can make a conscious choice -- to choose the challenges they are willing to accept or to decide that these are not ones they want in their life.

What are some of the challenges faced by couples, especially interfaith couples?

All couples face the challenge of emotionally separating from their family of origin and creating a new family with their own values and traditions. This process goes much more smoothly if the parents are aware of this and supportive of the separation and the new traditions.

With an interfaith couple, if the parents and others in the extended family are against the marriage, it can create a lot of stress for the couple who is already dealing with a difficult situation. Furthermore, it may be challenging for the couple to talk about these issues with each other, because they may fear discovering irresolvable differences that will lead to hard feelings.

There are many reasons why the family may oppose an interfaith marriage. There may be pressure from both sides for converting to the faith of the partner. Even if that option is chosen, it is often a long and laborious process and not something that can be done easily. A family’s opposition or lack of support can create many painful feelings for the couple, including feelings of guilt, rejection, and hurt.

A wise couple knows these issues and what is important to them, communicates clearly and fully with each other, decides how they will support each other in dealing with these challenges, and presents a united front in the face of opposition. If they choose to marry, all of this will continue to be an ongoing challenge.

Religious Traditions and Customs

Religious traditions and customs, including symbols, food, holiday celebrations, non-verbal expressions, facial and verbal expressions are so familiar that they are often taken for granted. It may be uncomfortable to be in the company of each other’s families and not know exactly what is expected of you. At the least, it will feel like being in foreign territory. At the worst, there is the risk of unknowingly offending someone.

Communication about Sensitive Topics is Essential

Unless each partner is a skilled communicator and is sensitive to this, it may be difficult to establish the intimacy that families typically enjoy because of these very traditions and customs. This can be especially difficult when there is a death in the family. Within each tradition, each family may deal with their grief differently. It will be very important for them to discuss their religious needs and how they will support each other in having these met, especially during crises and life transitions.

Holiday Celebrations Pose another Challenge

Inviting each other’s respective families into their own home can be a challenge during holidays. While the couple will want to be faithful to the traditions they have established for themselves, they will also want to make their visiting family feel welcomed. Additionally, many couples come to depend on their faith community for support and nurture. The interfaith couple may have a difficult time fitting into either of their traditions. If that is important to them, this will also be an on-going challenge.

Child-Rearing, Parenting, Marriage, and Other Issues

Many couples neglect or avoid talking about how they want to rear their children, assuming that the children will be raised pretty much as they were. If there are vast differences in the backgrounds of the families, as there probably are in interfaith marriages, it can be a shock after the birth of a child to discover a partner’s assumptions about parenting. All religious traditions have certain ways in which they deal with children.

The conscious couple explores as many of the issues surrounding child-rearing and parenting as possible, before choosing to marry. Then, when they are fully aware of the challenges they will face, they can choose them or not. When the choice is made to move forward to marriage and having children, they will be prepared and not surprised by unknown assumptions on the part of their partner and their extended families.

If they do sort out these issues and choose to marry, they will have decisions to make about the kind of ceremony to have, what their vows will be, and who will preside over the wedding. Again, they may face criticism and opposition from family for whatever choice they make. The regulations in their respective faith traditions may restrict their choices. They will need to be prepared to deal with these obstacles in a way that honors each person’s needs and their shared values.

All couples need to talk about issues like diet, birth control, finances, sex, gender roles, communication styles, relationships with extended family, etc. It is especially important for the interfaith couple to address these issues in light of their own faith traditions.

Relationship Coaching May Be Helpful

All couples could benefit from working with a relationship coach to sort out their differences and learn the communication and relationship skills that will assist them in discussing fully the issues, establishing common ground with each other, and building a foundation for a successful long-term relationship. With the extra challenges that interfaith couples face, these benefits are especially vital.

It IS possible to learn to manage your differences, even come to love and highly respect each other’s differences, and have the relationship of your dreams. Love for each other is important, yet love is seldom enough.

Copyright © Linda A. Marshall, M. Div. All rights reserved.

Linda A. Marshall, M.Div.
Director of Couples Programs, Relationship Coaching Institute

Bonus Article:
Seven Characteristics of Spiritual Partnerships

by Linda A. Marshall, M. Div

1. Equality of partners for the purpose of spiritual growth

2. Gifting the world with your own increase of compassion and love … the diminishment of your own fear and doubt—or whatever changes you wish to see in the world

3. Valuing your partner's contribution to your development, trusting his/her perceptions and observations as being central to your own growth

4. Sharing of concerns with consideration and the intention to heal and trust the process, while approaching your needs with courage

5. Walking in the moccasins of the other … walking into their fears and returning to your own “truth” again

6. Choosing to grow spiritually through making responsible choices

7. Commitment to the growth of strength and clarity of your partner who is in his/her true essence a beautiful and powerful spirit of Light

Compiled from the book, Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav

Linda A. Marshall, M.Div.
Director of Couples Programs, Relationship Coaching Institute

Words of Wisdom

“At the core of human religious traditions is a striving for an experience of the Divine … in their core and depth we do not encounter many different religions so much as one experience that is expressed variously and with great diversity and color flowing in the name of different traditions and cultures.”

~Matthew Fox in One River, Many Wells

“I believe deeply that we must find, all of us together, a new spirituality. Work is necessary for this new spirituality to emerge … an inner work, one that develops the seeds of peace within each of us. The indispensable qualities are peace of mind and compassion. Inner work, that which learns compassion and peace of mind, is key to being human and is the key practice in spiritual traditions.”

~The Dalai Lama

F`ree Conscious Relationship Resources

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January 11, 2007: The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work

February 8, 2007: How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It

Conscious Relationship Audio Programs and Podcast

Conscious Relationship Article Bank

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