Telling Your Family
Once you've decided to leave the faith of your own family, there other decisions to be made, like what to tell your family and how to handle holidays. Rather than declining invitations to religious holidays, be honest with your family. Rabbi Reuben says that "everyone wants their loved ones to be happy and fulfilled in life, and finding a spiritual path is a blessing. When it is presented in that light, it is much easier for those who love you to accept your choices." He warns that you mustn't criticize your family's beliefs, which could alienate them.
If you've really thought the decision through, explain to your family why you made this choice, and why it's right for you. Don't present the religions as either/or; stress their compatibility when possible, and try to indicate that you're not abandoning your old religion. You're simply opening up to someone and something new. Help your family understand that you are bridging your former beliefs and your new ones, and that there's room in your heart for everyone. And then say that you hope they have room in theirs for everyone, too.
More from YourTango: A Mistress Speaks: 'The Broadwell-Petraeus Affair Was Inevitable'
Conversion's Impact On Your Marriage
How conversion affects your relationship will, of course, be different for everyone. The best-case scenario is that a shared faith will make your marriage stronger. On the flip side, if things aren't going well, Charnofsky warns against the impulse to throw it in your partner's face and say, "You made me convert!"
Negotiating the "how will we raise our children?" question can be difficult, and some kids later regret being raised in multi-denominational homes. Robin Kelman, 38, of Philadelphia, who converted to Judaism, says her decision was spurred by the fact that her mother was Catholic and her father was Jewish, and that she didn't want the combo package for her own family. "I converted [because] I felt my children should have a more solid background than I did growing up."
Magazine writer Mary Talalay, 44, of Baltimore, Maryland, meanwhile, did not convert, but agreed to allow her daughter to be raised Jewish—which was important to her husband. However, now her daughter brings up the subject: "My daughter really wants me to convert so we're all the same. That would probably be the only reason I would consider it."
You don't need to discuss religion on your first date, but all potential deal breakers should come up early—and certainly before you're engaged. "When you're courting someone, find out how important [faith] is in that person's life. You don't want to be hit with that after you fall in love and then realize your partner is inflexible about certain things," Charnofsky says. Finding Religion After Finding The One
There Is Common Ground (Even If You Don't Convert)
Therapist Paul Hauck, Ph.D., advises potential converts to ask themselves if there's any leeway in practicing your faith. "Some people will say 'As long as we celebrate some of these holidays and our children are raised as Jews, that's fine,'" he says. Hauck stresses the power of communication: "You must talk about it and define the limits. Ask: 'Could you be happy with me under those circumstances?'"
More from YourTango: Are You A Nag? 9 Signs The Answer Is 'Yes'
The decision can be tough, but if you don't want to convert and "your partner cannot live with you not formally converting to his religion, then it isn't the right partner for you in the first place," says Reuben. And if you agree to disagree, you need to be able to respect his or her religious convictions. A healthy respect for differences is essential in any marriage, regardless of religion.