Are mixed-religion marriages a mission impossible?

As mixed race marriages in the Asian community in Britain are becoming more and more common, it follows then that we are also talking about dual-religion marriages too. I’ve seen many a wedding photo on Facebook of an English man dressed up in a sherwani (the traditional Indian-male wedding outfit,) posing next to his beautiful Asian bride all decked out in her red wedding sari and full on mendhi for their ‘Indian wedding day’. Conversely, many Asian women have donned a traditional white wedding dress for their church wedding.

So the question is, after the confetti has fallen, and the bhangra dancers have packed up and gone home, do mixed religion marriages actually work?

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are reported to have split up over Tom’s strong Scientology beliefs- Katie allegedly did not want to raise their daughter Suri in the religion.  Interestingly, Tom’s three year relationship with Penelope Cruz was also reported to have split because the pair did not agree on religion.

When a couple brings two different religions to the table, how does that play out in day to day life? For example in decision making where strong traditions are held in both religions, whose beliefs get priority? When organising the household finances, do they tithe or give zakat? When children come along, a christening or naam karan?

In my opinion, if both partners have very strong beliefs and very different religious traditions, the marriage would simply not work. Look at Tom and Katie. He has long been a committed Scientologist, but, apparently Katie did not share his views and in the end could not live with Tom’s strong beliefs, either for herself or for her daughter. (Ok, so they were also a Hollywood couple, many of whom split up for other reasons, but you can hopefully see my point here.)

I believe that the partner with the stronger religious view would end up dominating and that would become the family’s ‘default’ religion. The partner with the slightly lesser conviction would end up becoming side- lined or at best, practising what they believe in a quieter more personal way.

For many followers of the major religions, and particularly the way religion is practised in the East, religion is a whole encompassing system. It informs the way its followers eat, drink, dress, relate to the wider community, and yes how we marry. In short, for many Asians (and others of course), their religion is a worldview and all life emanates from it.

If that’s the case, then can two people from different religious backgrounds have a successful marriage? Or, and here’s the big question, can love transcend all barriers and differences?


12 thoughts on “Are mixed-religion marriages a mission impossible?

  1. its very difficult. normally both parents aren’t very religious. If they are one becomes religious it becomes very difficult. In my experience its normally the pakistani man ( especially if he is originally from pakistan) becoming religious after marriage to a white woman that causes a problem. he wants his children brought up as muslims etc.

  2. I believe it really depends on the religions and of the partners. Some religions as you know are stricter than others and same goes for the partners. If it was for me personally, I probably wouldn’t marry someone who’s a strict believer ( I am an Atheist) because my religious views would be different from theirs and the war would be something constant, even if I shut my mouth up (which, I can honestly say it’s a hard thing to do).
    If the people really do love each other, they both should ignore the religious aspect and do lots of compromises. When they have kids, they should let the kid decide his/her religious views .

  3. It’s complicated. Marital success, I’ve come through experience and observation to believe, rests less with what is visible (race, class, style, education, temperament. characteristics, etc) or what is claimed (religion, political dispensation, etc) before marriage…, but more on hidden, latent qualities and traits within the soul or deep at the back of the mind of each partner, and which gradually get activated, germinate and come more and more to the fore as the marriage matures through the years.

    A lot depends, not on culture, race or religion, but on what for example the religion has made of the mind of the religions one. Some people are of different religions, yet are each of a disposition which raises them above the outer framework of religion, such that each finally arrives at the same approach and disposition to life. Their different religions int he end only end up enriching their union. Whereas with others in opposite or similar constellations, time and friction only bring out the cracks and cause tension.

  4. Interesting topic. Especially as I wonder that even though I’ve been bought up in an Asian family I’ve turned out more Westernised! I sometimes wonder whether I could marry an Asian, but then again I think yes I can as long as him and his family aren’t strict with their religion. But if I did marry an English guy then I would have to think about the points you’ve mentioned in this post. Oh dear…wish me luck!

    • Some big questions you’ve raised there Yazzy. For me personal choice and compatibility are always going to be key when deciding who to marry. It’s all very well that the families are happy and get along but ultimately it’s the two of you that have to spend the rest of your lives together. Being happy as a couple means different things to different people and for some religion is a big sticking point. For others not.
      Either way, I hope you get some time to figure out what you want before you have to decide.
      Good luck indeed!

  5. Marriages do not seems to work well if there are big differences in the paths both individuals decide to walk and religion can create such a difference. However, if the love the couple share can transcend their religious practises and focus on the spiritual and humanitarian values that religion is underpinned in, then I think the marriage can be a success.

    With religion comes respect for one another and if there is respect for what your partner wants to do; whether a naam karan or christening, fasting or not – there should be respect.

    • Well said, and very insightful. I totally agree that respect should always underpin a marriage- that can go along way to healing any difference or conflict.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting! x

  6. Pingback: Is this the end of interfaith marriage? | British Asian Woman

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