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Interfaith, Intercultural and Interracial Marriage


Interfaith, intercultural and interracial marriages are subject to special stresses and strains beyond those experienced in most marriages. That's because such marriages have a built-in difference in areas that can be especially sensitive.


Sometimes interfaith, intercultural and interracial issues are apparent from early in the relationship. Differences often emerge during wedding planning, and these can involve the expectations of partners' families of origin about the wedding ceremony, etc. Child rearing can also bring religious, cultural and/or racial issues to the surface as decisions about religious practices and education are confronted for the first time.


Of course, all couples have some differences and couples can learn to manage and resolve these differences. When a relationship has interfaith, intercultural and/or interracial issues, learning to approach difference in a constructive way is especially important.


For your marriage, the three most important things to know about cultural, racial and religious differences, issues and influences are:


1 - Problems and conflicts often involve assumptions and expectations that are so much a part of the fabric of your background and identity that you aren't even consciously aware of them. Partners must explore their core beliefs and first feel clear about their own identity before deciding how these beliefs will mesh with those of a partner. All couples negotiate differences when marrying. Two individuals from two different families form a new identity and must choose what traditions, habits and beliefs to bring into their marriage. This process is more complex for couples who are from different cultures, races and religions.


2 - Successful intercultural, interracial and interfaith relationships have special challenges, but also special rewards for those who are willing to manage differences in core beliefs not only with their partners, but also with their families, communities and society at large. This doesn't happen automatically. It will take work and sensitivity to self and others.


3 - Whatever decisions and choices you make as a couple about resolving and managing your cultural, religious and racial differences will affect your children. Their reactions to these issues and the reactions of others to them will need your attention throughout their childhood. This is true whether your children look different from one or both of you and other kids they know - or whether the differences are more internal. While our society is becoming increasingly multicultural and mixed, kids are sometimes much more confused and less tolerant of differences than adults are.


It is also important to know that there are five basic patterns for managing cultural, racial and religious differences that can be successful:


Transcendent: Couple adopts beliefs, traditions and rituals from multiple sources, including ones outside the cultures, races and religions of origin. Spiritual practices may be nontraditional.


Secular - Couple takes a nonreligious approach to life and is minimally involved in the practice of cultural and religious beliefs, rituals and traditions.


Bi-cultural- Couple tries to balance the beliefs, traditions and rituals from each partner's cultural, religious and racial backgrounds. If there are two languages, the children will probably speak both.


Modified Bi-cultural - Couple adopts a single religion - either from one partner's background or a mutually agreeable "compromise" religion - yet tries to honor the beliefs and traditions of both partners in a selective, but relatively balanced way. If there are two languages, the children may or may not speak both.


Assimilated - One partner assimilates and converts to the beliefs, traditions and rituals of the other partner's cultural, religious and racial background.


Many of these ideas are adapted from Mixed Matches: How to Create Successful Interracial, Interethnic, and Interfaith Relationships by Joel Crohn, Ph.D. We recommend reading this excellent book to learn more about interfaith, intercultural and interracial marriage issues.

Click here to learn more about or buy this book through our bookstore link.


Mixed faith, cultural and racial couples find that MST marriage preparation helps to address the special challenges that such relationships can pose. MST includes an special optional seminar section to help couples begin to specifically address interfaith, intercultural and/or interracial issues.


MST functions as an immunization that boosts your capacity to handle these potential difficulties. It fortifies your marriage immune system by giving you an early alert to potential areas of challenge and providing you with the skills and opportunity to resolve and manage these challenges before stress and conflict emerge.


MST pre-marriage preparation seminars are designed to help couples build the skills and understanding that they will need to succeed in interfaith, intercultural and/or interracial marriages. They'll also get help to overcome all of the other issues that challenge couples in modern marriage. MST is religion-neutral and based on the latest marriage research.


Don't wait for problems to emerge, take preventive action to promote the happiness and success of your marriage.



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Copyright 2003, Patricia S. & Gregory A. Kuhlman. You may copy this article for non-commercial use provided that no changes are made and this copyright notice, author credit and stayhitched.com source citation are included.




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