As someone who has been meeting with couples for the last 25 years in preparation for their weddings, I have eschewed the checklists that scream out from the cover of various popular monthly magazines. It isn’t that all of the questions are irrelevant; it is simply that a five minute self-scored “test” is usually inadequate to determine the long-term viability of a relationship. And as interfaith and multiracial marriages become more common—and their relationships more complicated—these tests speak even less to me.
But a recent article from the New York Times deserves mention and recognition. It is, in fact, a list of questions that couples should ask themselves and one another before they make a long-term commitment and get married. For me, as a rabbi, the most important aspect of the self-administered test is summed up by Tony Hileman, the senior leader of the New York Society for Ethical
Culture. He said that couples often fail to talk about religion—not whether they will go to a church, mosque or synagogue together, but what role faith will play in a time of crisis. “If you have somebody who is even nominally religious in a traditional sense with someone who is an agnostic humanist, have they really discussed that?” he asked.
In my work with interfaith couples it is often not the conflict between two religions that challenge a couple’s relationship. Rather it is the conflict between religion and no religion that challenges the long-term stability of a relationship.