Several years ago a new client arranged a free consultation with me. Normally this involves a brief discussion about what has brought the person to counselling and sometimes a few questions about my approach and qualifications. However, in this case, my potential client said: “I only have one question for you….Do you believe in God?”. I had never encountered this question before from a new client, so I answered truthfully saying; “Yes, I do believe in God, but probably not in the same context that you do.” He went on to say that the context or religion was not important and all that mattered is that I had a belief. This was to be the first of many cases involving interfaith marriage. Since that time I have worked with couples of many faiths and combinations of faiths, including Christian (Catholic & Protestant), Jewish (Reform & Orthodox), Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist. I have also worked with couples where one is atheist, agnostic or spiritual, but not associated with any religion and the other is aligned with a religious faith. In addition to matters of faith, I often encounter intercultural couples, who are dealing with different cultural rather than faith issues. Of course, often the situation is a complex mixture of all of the above.
Marriages between people of different faiths and cultures are becoming increasingly common. I’ve seen figures that suggest between 30-40% of all marriages are interfaith or intercultural. These couples share the same issues as any other couple navigating the complex roadmap of a relationship. However, they also face an extra layer of issues, especially around sexuality, raising children, household responsibilities, celebrating holidays, diet, family traditions, just to name a few. I am deeply familiar and respectful of all of these issues and how each faith or culture approaches them. I’m also aware of how important it is for interfaith and intercultural couples to seek help to work through and resolve how you can draw on these qualities to enrich your life together.
It takes a deep and respectful understanding of your partner’s faith and/or culture and how that is different from your own. You certainly each need to be exposed to the other’s faith and/or culture through family and friends, but that is only the start. Sometimes it seems, especially early on in the relationship, that the interfaith or intercultural differences are less important than the love and commitment you share. However, that can change over time as you come to see that these differences are much more significant than you first imagined. Whether you are at the start of your journey or much further along, I can help you to discern and appreciate the spiritual and cultural strengths you each bring to the relationship. I can also help you to learn effective problem solving and coping strategies in a non-judgemental, safe and supportive environment.
You are not alone! Many couples have struggled with interfaith and intercultural marriage and resolved the challenges to experience a successful, intimate family relationship. It is possible to create a home and family that embraces more than one faith and culture. Let me show you how.