By Erika Hymowitz Vujnovich
Chelsea Clinton/Mark Mezvinsky, Naomi Watts/Liev Schreiber, Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes and even Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie are among the numerous celebrity couples attempting to make an interfaith relationship work. While it’s nice to believe the old saying “love conquers all,” there are often many challenges an interfaith couple faces. Speaking from experience, I entered into an interfaith marriage five years ago. It has taken a tremendous amount of respect and understanding between me and my husband to make our relationship work and to be able to provide a stable foundation for our children.
ABC News says that one in three U.S. couples is in a religiously mixed marriage. However, back in June, the Chicago Family Law Blog highlighted the issue and cited data taken from a 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, which show couples in mixed-religion families were three times more likely to be divorced than those who were of the same faith. The New York Times also wrote on the issue this past summer, following the high-profile marriage of Chelsea Clinton and Mark Mezvinsky. Clinton, a Methodist and Mezvinsky, who is Jewish, pushed the issue of mixed marriage into the spotlight again.
Whether mixed-religion marriages are becoming the new norm or not, if you are in such a relationship and are questioning whether or not it can work, here are a few things to consider:
1. Don’t ignore the differences: Religion often contributes to who we are. As such, it’s crucial not to disregard religious beliefs. One of the top mistakes that couples make is that they believe their love for one another will conquer all interfaith marital problems. This is not always true. Take the time to discuss your beliefs. You may find that your partner feels the same way, or you may realize you come from completely different backgrounds.
2. Look for clergy counseling: If you’re looking for that mixed marriage blessing, you’ll want to consider speaking with clergy from your place of worship. When my husband and I first considered getting married, we immediately went to meet with my Rabbi. He was very open to the idea of us getting married, with the understanding that we will raise our children in the Jewish faith. A member of the clergy will help outline the challenges you may face as a couple as well as give advice on how to best approach your respective families, who may not be as accepting.
3. Think of the children: The last thing you’ll want to do is make a child decide which religion they want to follow. Before you even have children, you and your spouse should decide how you want to raise them. Lay the foundation from the beginning, and be honest with each other about your wishes. You don’t want to confuse your child, but rather give them a solid sense of faith and culture. There is nothing wrong with celebrating all holidays, but make sure that as your children get older, they have a belief system.
For more on some other interfaith celebrity couples, check out The Frisky.