Dating and different religion don't always mix!

MaryBeth from Mill Valley have been dating her boyfriend for over a year now. They are very much in love and have recently begun discussing marriage. While he isn’t religious, he was raised Muslim. She was raised in a very traditional catholic home and have been formally educated in religious schools all the way through her college years. Her boyfriend doesn’t seem to have a problem with their differing religious backgrounds, but they haven’t discussed it at length. She asked me how important is religion in marriage. Apparently it hasn’t had any significant impact in their relationship so far, why or how would it be any different in marriage?

MaryBeth, this is not a simple question, thus I had to think very carefully how to answer it. Based on my knowledge of people, if you want a cohesive family unit, it is better that you stick to your own kind. If you want a Catholic home, then marry Catholic. If you can’t find Catholic, at least marry into a religion that resembles yours a little more closely.  I tell my Catholic friends and clients, if they must date outside their religion, to favor men who are Lutheran, Christians, Methodists or Protestants.

I tell them to steer clear of Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jewish. It is NOT prejudice, they are not bad, it is just that these religions are very different than Catholicism and when you marry into the same type of religion, it is better for the family unit because it is not divisive. If you marry into the same religion or close to it, chances are that the family will be able to worship together if it chooses to do so.

Note that one of my good Jewish friend has been married to her Palestinian husband for 26 years and in order to keep the peace in the house, neither of them taught their three children about their different religions. They decided that the love they feel for each other transcend their religious ties/beliefs, so much so, that they both left Israel to another country in order to live in peace. Also my neighbors, who’s been married happily for 20 years, she is Lutheran and he’s a Muslim. She made sure never to have children though. He goes to his Mosque and she goes to her Church and they have an unspoken rule never to talk about their religions. These two cases are very unusual, people by in large don’t behave this way, they say they are not very religious but then, once married, when the children come, that’s when the problems arise. I have seen this scenario too many times to count.

If you insist on marrying this gentleman, take your time and start going to his religious services. Go to the Mosque. Get familiar with the way they worship. Go for half a year and then you will have an idea of what his religion will mean to you and your children if he decided to change his mind later and become very religious.

Don’t make an impulsive decision. Think things through, carefully. Love is not everything. Be pragmatic. Have conversations with him about religions. Talk, talk, talk about it, do not avoid the subject because it will not go away. Get to know his ideals and goals where his religion is concerned. Ultimately, think about the impact that this mixed bag of 2 totally different religions is going to have on your future children.

That’s my answer, you don’t have to continue reading the rest of the post but if you do have time, continue reading below. These are people I personally know. Look what happened to their lives when they didn’t do due diligence when they decided to marry outside their Faith.

1 – A good friend of mine who is Greek Orthodox started going out with a gentleman who was a Muslim. I told her right off the bat that she was making a huge mistake. I told her she was a lithe 5’9”, vivacious, full of life, blond with an attitude. She loved to have fun, loved to wear sexy clothes and she had no business going out with a Muslim. She assured me that he wasn’t religious at all. She went on to marry him and bring a little girl into the midst of an already tense marriage. The tension had grown because, after marriage, her husband started going to the mosque just to see some friends and, after the little girl was born, he became a full fledged Muslim.

Fast forward 7 years later and countless trips to court. A 6 ½ year old girl, who has shown signs of physical abuse by him, who is now calling her mother names that only the father could have taught her, has developed anxiety and often picks at her skin. All those trips to court and seeing her child hurt has taken a toll on my friend. The California courts are not protecting her child because he is the father and he has rights. The last time I saw my friend, the stress of it all had left her finances drained. She had developed a habit of pulling her hair and her beautiful tresses were no longer there but a few strands that she hides under a hat.

2 – A former Catholic client met a “woooonderful” man who met every requirement that she could ever want in a man, with the exception that he was Jewish. Then I asked her what a nice Catholic girl was doing with a Jewish boy? “You do know that he, as a Jew, does not accept Christ as his savior. Right?” She laughed and said he wasn’t religious at all. They went ahead and got married. Yes, he wasn’t religious at all until she put up their first Christmas tree for their first Christmas together as a family. She called me and told me how he threw a fit over the Christmas tree, he was sullen and unpleasant until she removed the tree. Not religious, huh?

It was a battlefield with two children caught between the crossfire. Today, they’re divorced. When the boys are with him, he takes them to the synagogue, makes sure they eat kosher and observe the Sabbath. When they’re with her, she takes them to the Catholic Church and she has all the religious holidays that she celebrated while growing up. What do you think this is doing to the kids caught between their parents’ religious shenanigans? I can’t tell you what the outcome is going to be, but I have a good guess, and neither parent will like.

I could go on and tell you about the others that I know: the Jewish girl who ended up with the Jehovah’s Witness, the Lutheran who ended up with the Muslim, the Jewish boy who ended up with the Christian Orthodox girl, and others. None of those worked out and now there are children left to deal with the aftermath of their parents’ ill decision.

3 – My friend G, who ended up marrying a Hindu, says that her husband didn’t become more religious after the birth of their twins but he still goes to his religious services as before and lets my (non-practicing Catholic) friend do whatever she wants with the twins. The fly in the ointment is that his family are the ones who drive her wild and treat her like garbage. First, because she is not an Indian, second, she’s not Hindu and third, she doesn’t let the children practice Hinduism. They treat her so badly that she doesn’t visit his family. However, he visits them and brings the children to see them. While they are there, the children practice Hinduism. She hates it, but there is nothing she can say.

Her husband doesn’t say anything to his family to protect her. He wants to have a relationship with his family, so he let’s his family say whatever they want to the kids about their/his religion and allows the children to attend their religious services, too. She feels powerless but can do nothing because as a father he also has the right to take their children wherever he wishes. There you have it.


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