Reasons Why Intermarried Couples Become Single Church Couples
Conversion Eliminates Possible Sources of Contention
Results from the IRP suggest that a small but sizable number of intermarried spouses believe that conversion can positively impact their marriage. These participants stated that conversion would likely strengthen their marriage by removing possible sources of contention that could compromise spousal and extended family stability.
Time, Tolerance, and Education
Time, tolerance, additional information, and education classes appeared to help intermarried couples decide if they should become single-church couples. "What I needed was some space to make the decision," stated one respondent who was embracing Orthodoxy in the near future. "In my heart of hearts, I always knew that I would convert, but if someone had pressured me, that wouldn't have been good."
Respectfully Sharing Greek Orthodoxy
Results also indicate that if a non-Orthodox spouse is approached respectfully and sincerely with the idea of conversion, such an approach can facilitate conversion. For example, one participant stated, "I never forced him. It was his decision. I respected him and knew if I had tried to push, that would have been harmful to our marriage. It was his decision, not mine. He was the one that had to feel like that's what God wanted for our family."
Weak Religious and Ethnic Connections
A weak connection to one's religious tradition, together with a renewed sense of the importance of religion, made it easier for some participants to consider conversion. "I wasn't very religious when we first got married. As you get older, and your priorities change, religion seemed to take on more importance for me. Since my wife and kids are Greek Orthodox, it seemed like a natural thing for me to consider the Orthodox Church more seriously. Today, I am in the process of going through the Inquirer’s Class to enter the Orthodox Church."
Similarly, a weak connection to one's religious tradition, along with the perception that conversion might strengthen one's marriage and enhance one's relationship with one's in-laws also offered some participants incentive to consider conversion. One respondent said, "The main reason why we got married in the Orthodox Church is because this decision was going to help our family. His parents didn't accept me easily because I was previously married, and so I said to myself, this is going to be my mother-in-law, and I want to make this work. So we got married Orthodox, and now I'm considering conversion for some of the same reasons. Besides that, I really didn't have any strong connections to my religion."
The Arrival of Children
When intermarried couples decide to have children, or when their children begin to mature and are able to ask questions about religion, some couples reconsider their decision to remain intermarried. One father said, "I think that it's very important that the kids see both parents go to church…. When I would sit at home on Sundays, as the kids grew I began to hear the kids saying, 'why do I have to go, Dad isn't going.' So then, I began to rethink what I was doing, and started going to church regularly. And after a while, I also began thinking about maybe even converting."
A Love of Orthodoxy
Conversion that was coerced or entered into to simply satisfy church rules, the extended family, and, or one's spouse was repeatedly described in pejorative terms. As such, remarks like the following one were made repeatedly. "I feel very strongly about this. If you don't feel that you should convert -- you shouldn't. And if you feel like you're being pressured, and you convert, what good is that? It might just lead to trouble in the future. What I mean is, that the person who converts may end up being resentful." Conversely, having a sincere, heartfelt commitment to the Orthodox faith was perceived as a legitimate, justifiable, and healthy reason to convert.