Intermarried Couples' Perception of Their Marriages
Researchers have also discovered that marital satisfaction is either positively or negatively impacted by intermarried couples’ religious, cultural and racial differences. The information in this section will reinforce these findings.
The Upside of Being Intermarried
Participants’ remarks suggested that they loved one another. Their observations also repeatedly suggested that they worked hard toward ensuring that their marriages would not merely survive but also thrive.
Despite the additional challenges they encountered as intermarried couples, the majority did not appear to have any serious problems with their decision to enter into and remain intermarried.
Although most couples did not view their religious and cultural challenges in more problematic terms than other differences they faced, they were aware that their religious and cultural differences could potentially create marital conflict. Therefore, they worked hard at neutralizing the toxic sources of strife that their religious and cultural differences could potentially generate.
- Their competency at finding ways of bridging their differences appeared to be immensely important to the well-being of these marriages. One participant whose spouse was not very religious lamented the fact that she attended church services alone, but almost in the same breath remarked that she saw this time as personal time which afforded her an opportunity "to be with God."
- Many of these couples - especially the Baby Boomers - had long ago addressed their religious and cultural differences and found ways of living with them or eliminating them. Even though they had managed to accept and learn to live with their differences, they still viewed these differences as potential sources of difficulty that needed periodic attention throughout the marital life cycle. Comments such as "this is a work in progress," and "there are plenty of ways to create problems in an inter-church, intercultural marriage" and, "you've got to make the best of things," served to reinforce the need for vigilance.
- These spouses repeatedly maintained that their religious and cultural diversity functioned to essentially enrich their lives as individuals and couples. Numerous participants observed that their partner’s religious tradition provided them with another dimension of Christianity which served to broaden their own understanding of their faith tradition. Many also described how their partner's cultural/ethnic heritage added richness and variety to their lives. "…Two Easter baskets are better than one," and, "…The different foods, languages, traditions, religious perspectives are more enriching than belonging to one faith and one culture.", were typical comments that were made.
- Their love for one another, their desire to see their marriages succeed, their interest in maintaining family stability, their respect for diversity, and their tolerant and patient attitudes for their respective religious and cultural differences appeared to be indispensable to their efforts to advance marital and family satisfaction and stability.
The Downside of Intermarriage
Although most couples viewed their intermarriages in fundamentally positive terms, some respondents indicated that their religious and cultural differences tended to compromise intimacy. The fact that couples belonged to different faith traditions, churches and cultures, and were raised in different cultural and faith traditions, tended to create a low to moderate sense of distance between couples. Couples with equally strong commitment to their faith tradition were especially challenged by their religious differences. Many repeatedly maintained that these differences were detrimental to marital satisfaction. Moreover, this distance created a sense of separation between these couples that was sometimes perceived as unbridgeable.
In addition, just as a couple's decision to remain inter-Christian appeared to inhibit their efforts to worship God as a couple, inter-Christian marriages may have the same effect on a nuclear family's religious life. According to these participants, when the family is unable to participate in the sacraments together, this inhibits a family's efforts to feel as if they are worshipping together.
Inter-Christian, but not Inter-Religious
Inter-Christian marriages were generally accepted and viewed in a positive light. Conversely, inter-religious marriages involving non-Christians were generally viewed in a negative light. There appeared to be a general consensus among these respondents that they would not consider entering into a marriage with a non-Christian, since the religious and cultural differences in such relationships were greater than they could tolerate and have a greater potential to cause marital instability. They also reasoned that such a decision might disturb their parents, and negatively impact their children's perception of religion and culture.
Participants also stated that they imagined that the level of commitment to one's faith tradition might influence the decision to intermarry across religious lines. They further stated that nominally committed Christians would be the most likely individuals to enter an inter-religious marriage.
While more will be stated about how these couples make their marriage work, participants’ repeatedly stated that they valued marital and family stability. With that in mind, when and if their religious and cultural differences conflicted with marital and family needs, religious and cultural concerns generally took a back seat to protect marital and family well-being and stability.