One of the most important things that couples from different religious backgrounds need to learn is how to deal with their religious differences. However, if properly managed, religious differences can become a catalyst for growth. This unit examines constructive ways to work with religious differences that will enrich rather than divide you as a couple. There are two common myths about religious differences that couples may need to dispel to effectively work with religious differences. The first myth is that only interchurch or interfaith couples have important religious differences. Religious differences can exist between all couples, even those who belong to the same church or religion. Two Catholics, for example, may differ on how important attending church is to them, or which teachings they believe in. A second myth is the belief that religious differences are inherently problematic.
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There is some truth to this myth. Unfortunately, human beings have a tendency to mistrust differences, and can have a negative view toward people with different beliefs. Charles admitted that in the beginning of his marriage, “I had pretty well all the answers, and that I knew what I believed. And, by golly, she was wrong. Somehow I was going to make sure that she knew that.
” Therefore, religious differences do have the potential to create problems if individuals are not careful in how they approach these differences. What this myth does not acknowledge, however, is that religious differences can lead to positive outcomes if they are effectively handled. The next section describes some of these benefits. Couples who explored their religious differences often found that that the experience strengthened their own spirituality. A genuine exploration of each other s faith can lead individuals to examine their own beliefs more closely.
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After admitting that he tried to prove his wife s beliefs were wrong, Charles reflected, “Not only did I learn that I don t have all the answers, but I also learned to start to find out what I really believed. There was a tendency to just assume that I knew what I believed. But then when you ve got somebody on the other side saying, ‘Why do you believe that? Well, no one s ever asked you that question before. It kind of forces you to go back and start asking, ‘Well, yeah, why do we all believe that?
And, so I think you grow in faith when you re challenged like that. I think my faith is deeper because of her, and because I was forced to look at what I believed. ”Spiritual growth can also come from being exposed to different perspectives. One Catholic woman shared how her Baptist husband helped her incorporate the Bible into her spiritual life in a way she found helpful. Getting different perspectives by attending both church services was also cited as being helpful.
Erica said that her husband s pastor goes through a more theological perspective on the readings, while her priest tries to apply it to daily life. Another individual offered that being in an interchurch group with couples of different faiths was a rich experience because “everybody had so much to offer. ”Finally, exploring differences can lead individuals to become more accepting or tolerant of other religious traditions. Beth said she has become more inclusive in her thinking, and recognizes that we are all here for some purpose and believe in one God. Danielle said, “I know we ve all had preconceived notions about our opposite religion before we knew each other and started dating.
So, I think I am personally more open to other people s views and less judgmental of them. ” Chris said that being exposed to a different religion has made him more open to other faiths and challenged some of his “intellectual arrogance.