The number one question I get asked is…
How does it work?
How do the wheels of your relationship turn?
What do you grease them with, on a daily basis to ensure the machine that is your relationship clicks together effortlessly?
I’m using this mundane description because that is the exact imagery conjured up in my mind whenever I hear the phrase.
‘How does it work?’
As humans why are we so often caught with the ‘right way’ to do things?
We are always searching for some cheat code, or hack? We would rather find a way around the current rules, instead of trying to make our own ones.
‘How does it work?’
This often implies that there is a set program, some kind of instruction manual, which is responsible for the success of a relationship.
I think that mentality is the primary reason most people looking from the outside in, would think of our relationship as complicated.
The key ingredient in the recipe to our relationship is that we had no idea how it was supposed to work.
No one taught us. We never sat down and discussed what she will do when I have to spend nights at the mosque during Ramadan, or how I spend the 3 (sometimes 5, I often joke) hours she spends at church every Sunday and then also on Friday. We didn’t plan whether we’d buy Christmas/Eid gifts for each others’ families. We just let it happen.
There was a flexibility and willingness to respect each other, but most importantly there is trust! Trust, is what has allowed our relationship to last close to 10 years.
I trust and respect that she will never expect me to compromise who I’m and what I believe in, and I will never ask the same of her.
To be honest, in the past 10 years I can count on one hand the number of arguments that we have had based on ‘religion’.
I think also me providing some background really helps. I was not born Muslim. My parents “reverted” when I was around 5 years old, so until this day a lot of my family are still devout Christians (my uncle actually conducted, the “Christian” part of the ceremony that me and my wife had in the church). So I have always been accustomed to church services or Christmas dinners (especially Christmas Dinners!!).
On my wife’s side, her father is Muslim, and her grandfather was an Imam, meaning some of the basic principles of Islam had never been entirely foreign to her.
I think one of the main conflicts often caused between people in interfaith relationships is that they lack understanding, and are not open to learning about the beliefs/faiths of their partners.
Some people often see other religious practices as alien, and even worst, intimidating. My wife and I were fortunate that we were in fairly similar territories.
This still didn’t exactly make it easy, but it made it easier! It allowed us to appreciate that love can exist in an environment where people of different perspectives can love each other.
If you don’t take anything away from this, one message I would like anyone reading to remember is that ‘Both parties don’t have to be the SAME, but they must be equal!’
Just to note, I would never encourage ANYONE to convert or change religion to satisfy their partner. In my opinion, that’s setting you up for failure and creates an imbalance in the relationship.
To be honest the biggest challenge I have actually had to face since the start of my relationship is that I have had to become stronger in my own faith.
My wife questions, and wants to understand each and every practice, like an inquisitive child.
Why do you “wash” before you pray?
Why is it obligatory for you to go to the mosque on a Friday?
How much charity do you pay per month?
A great example of this is her emphasis on paying tithe every week, which made me feel bad about my negligence in paying zakat over the past few years.
In fact, once I made her aware that I was supposed to pay Zakat, she calculates it and ensures that I pay it from my earnings.
Over the years, I have had to research and find the answers to all her questions.
When you have practised a faith for a long time, you essentially become content in your understanding of it, you stop looking for the reasons behind your practices, you go through the motions. Having someone of the opposite faith intimately wanting to understand your beliefs, encourages you to understand them better yourself. I can honestly say that I have had the same impact on her life and her faith.
Lastly, one thing anyone reading this should be aware of is, as people we often want the answer to a problem before we have had the opportunity to face the problem.
It’s a common human trait, but sometimes when we actually face the problem we realise it is not a problem at all. It is a challenge, there is a difference between a problem and a challenge. My wife being Christian is not a problem, it is a challenge.
Challenges take effort, concentration and persistence, but they can be overcome.
I know everyone reading is asking ‘so what will you do when you have children?’. We will do what we have always done, be patient and trust God’s plan for us as a family.
I know there isn’t a lot out there, by way of advice for Interfaith marriages, so I hope this helps somewhat and I am open to receiving comments/emails. Will do my best to answer them. Let me know what you think by commenting below, love hearing from you guys.
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