For many couples, relationships evolve in a rather predictable manner. Unless they devolve, or there is a traumatic event that causes them to deteriorate immediately (even unexpectedly), a couple’s relationship grows at a steady pace into a long-term commitment. People meet. They date. And as they get to know each other better, and they discuss their future, they determine whether that future will include one another. For interfaith couples, this is not usually the way things evolve. And whatever takes place, it usually does so over a longer period of time. I call this “the interrupted relationship.”
Why is it interrupted? First, interfaith couples often address issues early in their relationship that are usually reserved for a time when they become more serious with one another. How they imagine their home or how they will raise children—both issues far too serious for a first date—usually come up early on. This may be a way for one partner to determine whether s/he can imagine spending a lifetime with the other. The discussion usually requires a level of self-reflection otherwise unnecessary. The discussion may also require the setting of parameters and a willingness to compromise. And when there is an impasse, the individuals may go their separate ways. (Sometimes, this separation is encouraged by well-meaning but misdirected parents, siblings and friends.) Regardless of the motivating factors, this separation is often only for a limited period of time before the couple finds their way back to one another. Thus, the expected trajectory of their relationship is interrupted. And, as a result, the relationship takes longer to establish or evolve into a long-term committed relationship. But it may do so, nonetheless.
There are some who don’t take the time early in their relationship to address such serious issues, assuming that they will address them later when they are forced by mitigating circumstances to confront them. Such an approach threatens to undermine the relationship—and potentially cause more strife for the couple because it is further along. This is particularly true when choosing the religion of the family—usually a result of determining how future children will be raised. And such decisions have to be made regularly—sometimes daily—even after such initial agreements are made. The birth of children themselves—or other major traumatic events, such as the unfortunate loss of parents—can cause the couple to reexamine the choices that they have made—all in good conscience. That is why it is important to address the issues head-on and to continue to affirm the decisions that are made. Such an approach will go a long way in insuring that an interrupted relationship is transformed into a lifelong relationship.
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