Janice and I will have an in-depth chapter in the book, Swirling: How to Date, Mate and Relate, Mixing Race Culture and Creed. But in the meantime I wanted to address this question because the person who reached out is a friend, and I make allowances for that because I am an unapologetic nepotist.
“I’m a very dedicated Black Christian woman. The man I love and am considering marrying is white and Jewish–more so from a cultural standpoint than a religious one. Color differences aside, how can we keep our divergent religions from affecting our relationship?”
Personally, I like the idea of Chrismikkuh. But since nobody asked MY opinion, I reached out to Dr. Joyce Morley-Ball, an Atlanta-based corporate, relationship and life coach:
There are two major issues here that can make or break a relationshipâ€”race and religion. In order for you to have a healthy relationship with your partner, both of you must be comfortable in your own skins, racially and confident in your religious beliefs. Your self-comfort and self-confidence will allow you to share your feelings, thoughts and beliefs with each other. An upfront conversation with each other about your fears and concerns regarding being with someone who looks differently and worships differently is essential. A part of this conversation entail you both taking responsibility for educating each other about your culture, including your religion.
Once the there has been a conversation, there has to be exploration and sharing of your cultures and your beliefs. Both of you must compromise and become culturally competent, by trying foods from your partnerâ€™s culture, attending the different cultural and social events, sharing cultural rituals, and attending your different religious worship services. Relationships usually fail because of ignorance, not differences
The problem is not so much that you are different, as much as it is how committed the two of you are in making the relationship work. Love, respect, and acceptance should be the daily theme in and outside of your home. The overall goal is ensuring that you can live with, accept, and respect your differences, allowing yourselves to highlight and celebrate the similarities, instead of focusing on your differences.
It is also imperative that you keep the outside forces and nay-sayers out of your business. If the two of you like being with each other, others must learn to love it. And if they canâ€™t deal with it, it isnâ€™t your problem!
And remember, they way you start your relationship is the way it will end. You are not in it to change your partner, but to love and enhance each other.
Advice from Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka “Dr. Romance”) psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again (Wiley):
Guidelines for Resolving or Blending Cultural Differences
When you and your partner disagree about culture, race or faith, you may have great difficulty resolving the issue, because it has so much meaning for each of you, and also because your family pressures and obligations affect the decision. If one of you is disinterested, and the other deems faith important, you may wind up having a power struggle. Resolving this requires understanding exactly what is important to each partner. Is it what the family will think? Is it concern that the difference will separate you? The following guidelines will help you resolve your differences:
*Agree to Resolve the Issue: Do what it takes to figure out how to work together on this, rather than fight about it. Understand that raising your children with good values can happen no matter which culture, religion or background you frame those values in, and that having a good, working partnership is more important to your own happiness than any particular set of beliefs, traditions or rituals. If you have to go for counseling to get to a point where you can talk calmly about the subject, don’t go deeper into the relationship until you do so.
*Do Research: You need to know enough about each otherâ€™s culture, beliefs, religious background, and the options available to be able to reach a mutually satisfactory solution. Talk to each other about your families, race and style to get as much information as you can. Find the most tolerant, knowledgeable and supportive people you can to talk to, and listen to their point of view about it. You don’t have to agree with your partner to understand what he or she is thinking.
*Give Yourselves Time: Don’t insist that you have to make this decision right now. The more time you can spend understanding the issues and developing options, the more likely you’ll come up with a solution both of you can accept. No matter how long you waited to discuss this, or how long you’ve been struggling about it, you still don’t have to decide it in a rush.
* Talk About It Repeatedly: Talk to other couples, to friends and to family several times to create more understanding and brainstorm about options. If you can find other couples who have resolved similar differences, find out what they decided.
* Explain Your Partnerâ€™s Point of View: When talking about it to each other, or to someone else who is supportive, explain each otherâ€™s point of view, which will help you understand.
* Experiment: Be willing to try some experiments. Try doing things the way your partner does for a week, meeting friends and family, and going along with whatever they do with the understanding that your partner will try your ways in the same fashion.
*Create a Blend of Your Own: Whether you realize it or not, within the traditions, habits and beliefs of every culture, people are picking and choosing. A different family on the block may be of the same race and culture, but express it differently. Of course, the differences between two different cultures will probably be much greater, but you can still adapt your different styles in a way that will work for both of you. If you could be flexible and tolerant enough to date someone of a different race, you can be flexible enough to develop a blend of both beliefs that are workable.
* Avoid Right/wrong Discussions: Arguing about who is right or wrong will not solve anything. Instead, work on understanding what is important to each of you, then finding a way to incorporate that and resolve your differences. Focus on the problem only long enough to understand what it is, then switch the focus of your discussion to what will work, and what will solve the problem that both of you can live with your mutual decision