Interfaith relationships are so common nowadays, yet there is very little written about them. In my debut novel, The Religion of the Heart, a Muslim man and a Jewish woman fall in love before realizing the difficult road which lies ahead. They must learn about each other’s culture, prioritize the importance of things and forget the lies they’ve been told.
For example, shortly after Catherine tells Abdul she’s Jewish, they have the following conversation:
“Abdul,” she began slowly, pulling away from his hold so she could look straight into his eyes. “Have you ever read the Torah? Do you know anything about my religion?”
“No, not really. I know what the Torah is, but I’ve never read it. Other than that, well… I heard something about children’s blood for matzah?” He said it in the form of a question because he knew it sounded strange.
“Abdul!” she exclaimed. “That is a lie! That’s some stupid thing anti-Semites came up with to make Jews look evil.”
“I told you, I don’t know anything,” he shook his head, defensively.
The interfaith relationship that has been most common over the last couple of generations in the United States, especially in the Northeast, has been Jewish/Christian. The following interview conducted by author and psychologist Bernard Starr with psychotherapist and author Dr. Brenda Shoshanna provides insight.
Some highlights from The Algemeiner:
Q: What role does degree of religiosity play?
A: In relationships in which one or both parties are involved in religious practice, it can be a delicate situation. Some couples negotiate for the opportunity to follow their own religious practice, even if their partners do not participate. Others want their partners to join them, or hope that they eventually will.
For example, Lanny’s deep infatuation with Helen led him to believe that she would become everything he wished for. He expected that in return for his love Helen would join him at church services. When she didn’t, and rejected involvement in his practices, he experienced a great deal of disappointment. Needless to say, demanding that someone fulfill your fantasies of who you want him or her to be, has nothing to do with real love.
Q: What about those who are in denial—shrug off “issues,” or believe that love will conquer all?
A: When two people are “in love” it’s common for the intensity of that feeling to push aside or minimize other concerns. All that matters is being with the “beloved.” While this is a very beautiful feeling, inevitably it changes over time . Sooner or later, differences between the couple emerge which can become a source of conflict. It’s almost impossible for couples to be aware of all the issues and problems which may arise.
We also have religious and cultural expectations of our mates that are unconscious and deeply inbred that can unexpectedly appear. One couple I worked with felt they were emancipated from their Catholic and Jewish upbringings when they married. As time passed however, Steve began to miss his family’s food, traditions and ways of behaving. He found his wife’s responses to things so different from the way he had been raised that she began to seem like a stranger. He expressed a great deal of loneliness in the marriage and his fear of having children with her. No matter what Gloria did to make him happy, she couldn’t replace his sense of family and she began to feel inadequate.
Read the entire article here.