Over the past eight years of writing this column, I’ve addressed a fair amount of issues around mixed-race/religion relationships. Often, it has been from an outsider’s perspective, but now I have actually found myself in a serious relationship with someone from a different faith. When you find yourself in that position, you start considering the future and realising what’s important for you right now, and in years to come. Not just for yourself, but for your partner, family and children.
Recently finding myself in such a situation, I began to wonder what the future has in store for an interfaith couple. The first thing that came to mind was the need to set some expectations in the relationship. If someone is asking you to convert, it’s absolutely your choice and you shouldn’t feel forced to do something. No one should ever ask you to convert against your own will.
It is great respecting the other person’s beliefs and being involved as much as you can. I have grown up watching a number of extended family members marry partners from diverse races and religions. For example, my family is Hindu Gujarati and my brother married a wonderful Sikh girl last year. My family are not super religious, but my sister-in-law wanted a Gurdwara wedding and so we had one. We got involved fully and my brother wore a turban. It was about respecting the other’s beliefs and making his partner’s family happy. She was happy not only because she got her Sikh wedding but also realised her partner respected that side of her life.
So what happens when religions divide and you start having to compromise certain things in your relationship? In my opinion, it’s important to firstly talk about what is really important.
Do you want your partner to pray with you or is just being by your side enough? Also, address how your children will be brought up – both religions or do you wait until they’re old enough to choose their own paths? What happens when someone dies? Do you have a cremation or a burial? These are all valid questions that should be asked once you start thinking about a future together. Work out the non-negotiable aspects and make a plan about how you can move forward.
All relationships require work, but just by understanding, compromise and love, there’s no reason you can’t make an interfaith relationship a successful one.
I will leave you with an anonymous quote, “Caste and religion are used only to divide people. It’s only love and friendship that unite the souls.”
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