Spirituality in Your Relationship
No matter how fabulous your relationship, in the beginning, to keep that spark you know you need to work at it long term. When it feels like you ‘think the same’ on major topics, it can be a trap to losing communication with your partner. As difficult as interfaith relationships can be there is one added bonus. If you wish to pursue a relationship with someone of a different religion or who just has different spiritual beliefs than you, it means the lines of communication have to be kept open. Not just at the beginning of the relationship, but all the time as you negotiate all the differences and how they impact on each other, your family and your children.
In my experience as a psychologist, I have seen couples who have had good relationships fail because of an inability to compromise their spiritual beliefs. However, I have also seen couples who have managed to negotiate their religious differences with ease, only have another issue in the relationship cause them difficulties.
If you are planning to have a relationship with someone who has a different belief system to you, it is important that you are aware of what you need to do to make an informed decision about whether you want to move forward with the relationship or not.
This is an important phase of contemplating being in an intimate relationship with someone who has a different belief system to you. In order to know what to expect and what to negotiate, you need to have knowledge. When you know what to expect, you can then make decisions about your boundaries about what you do and don’t want. It means you can ask questions, and understand more about your partners understanding of their own belief system. It means you can make an informed decision about whether you want to progress with the relationship or not.
We all know communication is important in a relationship. However, if you are contemplating a relationship with someone who has different beliefs to you, it is imperative that you are clear about what you both expect. If you aren’t able to be clear and honest with each other right from the beginning, it makes it very difficult to navigate differing ideas, and the success of the relationship is probably limited. Communication is the process where you can be vulnerable with one another and share how you really feel. As you discuss your differences, it is the process whereby ideas form about a way forward together.
Plan Your Future
Spiritual belief and religion have an impact on virtually every aspect of your life. Couples who have the same beliefs can fall into the trap of failing to talk about important issues such as raising children and managing family expectations. This is because they believe that there is nothing to talk about because they both feel the same. However, when your expectations are different, it is important that you talk about how these differences will be navigated. This is particularly important, not just for managing family expectations but for parenting children. As you plan your future more will become clear about whether your relationship is going to work in the long term. Although it might feel strange having these serious conversations early in your relationship, it is critical to preventing heartache at a later stage.
Inform your extended families
This may seem like you are being incredibly serious, especially if you haven’t known each other long. However, if your interfaith relationship involves two religions that are very different the opposition of family can set up a Romeo and Juliet scenario that can cause problems right from the beginning. Families anxiety often comes from concern about how you would raise your children to accommodate differing beliefs. If you can assure your families that you have managed to negotiate these differences by keeping them informed of what you plan to do, then you are more likely to go some of the way towards getting their support for your relationship.
If you find that your partner’s family or even your own is absolutely oppositional to your union, you need to make sure that you and your partner have a united front about how you will approach this. You need to have firm and clear boundaries about what behaviour you will and will not tolerate from your families towards yourselves and your children. You need to think very carefully about whether you can continue with a relationship where families are hostile as this sort of problem can create a lot of conflict in your relationship and years of upset. Only you can decide whether you can cope with such hostility long term.
Expect there to be changes in your plan, it is incredibly difficult to anticipate every eventuality in how you will manage every situation. In order to interfaith relationships to work there must be a good sense of give and take on both sides and that this is fair and balanced between you. This is where good communication between you is vitally important and a willingness for both of you to compromise. For example, it might be that you agree to celebrate all the main religious occasions in both your religions to enable both of you and your families to do what is important for them in their respective faiths.
This is probably the most important aspect of the whole process of contemplating an interfaith relationship. Sometimes when we are desperately in love with someone and face fear of loss, we will say and do things that are not exactly congruent with what we really think. This is where watching what you partner does, as well as what they say they will do, is so important in informing your decision as to whether you will move forward with the relationship or not.
Spirituality is an important component of any relationship, even for people who say they have no belief and are not spiritual. Your religion/spirituality dictates your moral code, beliefs and values around your own boundaries, family and children. Knowing whether two differing belief systems can successfully blend for you is the answer, and this can only happen through careful communication, planning and observation. Always remember everyone’s situation is different and just because one couple has been able to negotiate their differences doesn’t you will be able to. Interfaith relationships face the most challenges so think carefully before proceeding.
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