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Copyright 2007 by PartnersInLife.org All rights reserved.
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This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI 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
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?
Joe responds …
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.
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
PartnersinLife.org, is a resource for couples offered by Relationship Coaching Institute, a worldwide relationship coaching organization dedicated to helping singles 'find the love of your life AND the life that you love'; to helping new couples 'make a wise choice in a life partner'; and to helping any couple 'fine tune and keep their relationship healthy and fulfilling.'
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Linda Marshall, M.Div. | Director of Couples Programs Linda@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
Tara Kachaturoff | Editor, PartnersInLife.org Couples News Tara@relationshipcoachinginstitute.com
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Copyright 2007 by PartnersInLife.org. All rights reserved. Feel f`ree to share this with others as long as our contact information and authorship is included.