In the past, I have committed the horrible faux pas of referring to my husband as â€œyou peopleâ€ (Christians) when arguing about religion. I have lumped him in with his mother, who tells him I am evil. I have accused him of trying to push his faith on me.
When a relationship with someone is new or when there is trouble, it can be easy to do these things. Because religion is such a major part of life, it can be difficult to remember the common ground that brought you together in the first place. My husbandâ€™s plea for peace was always â€œI donâ€™t want to start a holy war,â€ and I had to laugh at that because I agreed.
So it came to the day when we actually sat to face one another across the kitchen table, and my husband asked, â€œWhat are you, what are your beliefs, and what does it all mean?â€
Sixteen years after a naÃ¯ve 18-year-old and hesitant 26-year-old married, we are still together. Through adventures in Christianity (me getting sick after a church service in Maryland that made me feel like I was surrounded by witchhunters) and forays into Paganism (my husband taking on the part of High Priest during a Mabon ritual), we have bonded and grown stronger in our separate faiths.
Now my husband refers to himself as a Unitarian Universalist and feeds my ego such calorie-heavy fare as â€œIâ€™ve learned so much from youâ€ and â€œNow youâ€™re the one who seems to be right all the timeâ€.
In other words, we found a way to share spiritual and intellectual experiences (through the UU), and my husband has mellowed through the years.
Never let anyone tell you â€œit wonâ€™t lastâ€ if you have fallen in love with a non-Pagan, and vice versa. Finding a balance is difficult, I wonâ€™t lie to you about it, but it can be done. We tend to find our balance in shared humor, such as:
Wendy murmurs, â€œCome to the Dark Sideâ€ to David after his mother has said grace
Davidâ€™s mother says to him about Wendy, â€œYour wife is the devil!â€ Both of us giggle about it every time we watch â€œThe Waterboyâ€.
Other times, itâ€™s all about sitting and talking, discussing your beliefs, contrasting and comparing, expressing points of contention in a civil manner, and exploring similarities. In Paganism, we often see the masculine married to the feminine, light to dark, the sky to the earth, to create a perfect blending of these characteristics.
Or, to put it in less mystical terms, opposites attract. What one lacks, the other makes up for, to create balance and harmony. My sociability makes up for my husbandâ€™s reticence, while Davidâ€™s need to know all the facts balances out my passionate opinions. Even better, my husband and I have no problem in agreeing to disagree.
Sometimes itâ€™s tough to do that, though. I am liberal and he is conservative. I was raised by my father and he was raised by his mother â€“ yes, this DOES result in very big differences, since my personality was molded by a masculine influence, and his was molded by a feminine influence. Letâ€™s just say, Iâ€™m the one who â€œswears like a sailorâ€ and my husband is the one who complains that it is unladylike. But it can be easy to compromise here. We both have discussed our political views and, in many instances, we understand and accept the otherâ€™s point of view.
So, with the biggie â€“ the Christian and the Pagan â€“ we had to learn an even more precarious balance. People take their faith very seriously. Those who can truly call themselves Christian or Pagan are those who actually walk the walk. Religion is not just something you do. It is something you ARE.
Before the UU became our spiritual home, a place that accepts both of us just as we are, David did his best to attend the Lutheran church (the faith in which he had been reared), to socialize with others of like mind, and to say grace over his meals. I tried to infuse everything I did with magick, such as projecting thoughts of love into my home cooking, tossing negativity out the door along with the trash, and thanking the Goddess for all the wonderful things in my life.
David listened while I babbled about how to fit all of my circle work into my week â€“ planning meetings, Pagan Pride Day, writing for our newsletter and other publications, just to name a few. I always asked him how he enjoyed church, was willing to listen when he discussed the sermon or his thoughts on his faith, and encouraged his participation in activities such as choir.
We observed our holidays, both separately and blended. I wished David a Happy Easter, while he bid me a Blessed Ostara. He even gave me Yule gifts in addition to Christmas gifts. The â€œmainstreamâ€ holiday names still dominated, but we explored the differences and similarities between these holidays, and embraced one anotherâ€™s traditions.
In the evolution of our relationship, we found a way to blend even more seamlessly through the UU, while still holding on to key personal beliefs.
Not every couple needs to or will meet in the middle as we have, but an interfaith relationship can succeed regardless. The odds that your significant other will be non-Pagan are fairly high, so how do you meet the challenges of couplehood?
Love, mutual respect and honesty are the keys to making an interfaith relationship work. Being up front about who you are from the start, or explaining that you are exploring something new and feel it is the right path for you, are important. The second â€“ discovering Paganism when you are already in a relationship â€“ can be more difficult to deal with than the first. If your mate knows that you are Pagan from the start, then that will either make or break the relationship in some instances. However, after a three-year marriage or partnership, if one of you comes home with â€œwitchyâ€ books and a newfound interest, this could cause some tension.
The way to handle this particular situation is to open up to your mate from the start. Explain what brought you to it (a friend, a television show, a book that caught your eye, etc.) and that you have begun researching Paganism to get a better understanding of it. Share your findings with your mate, and I donâ€™t mean that you should let them come home on Beltane to a full-blown ritual with an elaborate altar or you dancing skyclad beneath a full moon. Ease them into it.
It is not this simple for everyone, but with respect, patience and love, you can make any of your differences work to enhance the relationship. Thanks to my husband, I know what Christianity is, and thanks to me, he knows what Paganism is.
The added dimension of having a son complicated things for a short time, however. We both wanted to observe certain rituals â€“ a baptism to make my husband happy, a Wiccaning to make me happy. And then, of course, there are the Christian in-laws who are utterly fearful that our child might learn some iota of Paganism from his mommy.
This is when teamwork and compromise are absolutely crucial. My husband and I both agree that our son will be permitted to find his own spiritual path. Our job, as parents, is to give him the information he needs to make his own decision. At the moment, he attends the UU Religious Education classes, enjoys lighting candles for Sabbat rituals, and checking out all the wrapped goodies beneath the Yule/Christmas tree. Our son does not seem confused or concerned about the entire religion issue, and we are both open to responding to his questions.
If you are attracted to someone of another religion, do not take it for granted that the relationship will fail. An interfaith relationship CAN work, no matter what the odds. But it takes effort, patience and perseverance from both partners to make it work.
Tips for the Interfaith Couple
- Be honest about who you are. Lying will set you up for failure.
- Arguments about religion can be brutal. Step back and cool off before discussing any disagreements.
- Try not to insult your partner’s beliefs or lump them in with the “bad seeds” of their religion. Stereotyping is not only wrong – it is hurtful.
- Keep a sense of humor.
- If the opposition comes from outside the relationship, enlist your partner’s assistance. Be loyal to one another and defend each other.
- Empathize. Try to keep your partner from feeling alienated by family or friends who may pose a problem.
- If you can’t avoid a certain situation that is important to your partner (a church wedding, a baptism, etc.), but may not fit in with your beliefs or may even make you feel uncomfortable, discuss it. You should never be made to participate in anything that is against your beliefs, but at the same time there is usually a way to compromise.