In addition to the normal life cycle issues that single-church,
single-cultural couples must negotiate, intermarried couples
must negotiate a host of additional challenges that are related
to their religious and cultural differences. When engaged inter-Christian,
intercultural persons take time to consider how their religious
and cultural differences might impact their lives after marriage,
results from the IRP suggest that this will have a positive
impact on couple communication, relationship quality, individual
adjustment after marriage, and the well-being of their future
children. The Q & A's presented below can assist engaged
couples during the premarital preparation process.
we prayerfully discussed the pros and cons of entering into an
inter-Christian marriage(1) versus an intra-Christian marriage(2)?
Results from the IRP suggest that many intermarried couples
who get married in our churches do not carefully consider the
pros and cons of becoming an inter-Christian couple verses an
Results also suggest that a sizable number of participants believed
that they might have profited from some type of premarital conversation
regarding this issue, so long as their discussion(s) took place
in a no-pressure environment which respected each individual's
religious needs and sensitivities.
Results further indicate that when engaged inter-Christian persons
enter into a conversation regarding their different religious
backgrounds in a Christ-like, respectful and tolerant manner,
Christ-centered decisions regarding this question are more likely
to emerge that will prove invaluable to many couples who might
otherwise have failed to discuss this issue.
we prayerfully discussed the pros and cons of becoming an inter-Christian
family(3) versus an intra-Christian family(4)?
Results from the Interfaith Research Project (IRP) suggest that
many couples who get married in our churches have not carefully,
honestly or prayerfully considered the pros and cons of becoming
an inter-Christian family versus an intra-Christian family.
According to the IRP, couples who neglect to address this issue
before marriage will likely encounter it under more complex,
difficult circumstances after marriage.
In addition, if after considering this issue carefully, a given
couple chooses to raise their children in an inter-Christian
environment, the time spent in arriving at this decision will
provide a less stressful beginning point from which to effectively
reconsider this question in the future.
I been entirely honest with myself about entering an inter-Christian
Results from the IRP suggest that some individuals’ were
so deeply in love that they decided to ignore any uncomfortable
feelings and concerns connected to their religious differences
before marriage. Unfortunately, after the honeymoon, and somewhere
during the first or second year of marriage, many reported that
they began to experience a combination of guilt and regrets
because they failed to be honest with themselves and their spouse
Conversely, results also suggest that when partners were honest
with themselves before marriage regarding what they could and
could not tolerate, this positively impacted their personal
adjustment after marriage as well as enhancing marital and family
I been entirely honest with my fiancée about entering an
According to the results from the IRP, the following points
provide explanation as to why it is beneficial for couples to
broach their personal reservations regarding inter-Christian
marriage with their partner before marriage.
Respondents indicated that a failure to do so could result in
compromising marital trust and intimacy, as well as future marriage
and family religious well-being.
stated that honest, respectful premarital conversations afforded
them the opportunity to begin developing effective coping strategies
that proved to help them resolve future disagreements related
to their religious and cultural differences after marriage.
Respondents maintained that at the premarital stage in the marital
life cycle, respectful dialogue is generally all that is necessary
to arrest most premarital concerns. They further observed that
this approach increases the likelihood that couples will grapple
with issues related to religion collaboratively and respectfully
rather than in an adversarial, controlling, manipulative manner.
do I meet my personal religious and spiritual needs in an inter-Christian
Results from the IRP suggest that most inter-Christian spouses
were repeatedly challenged to find ways of meeting their religious
and spiritual needs.
Respondents also indicated that when they failed to find ways
of meeting their religious needs, personal religious participation
waned or stopped altogether. They also indicated that when this
occurred, discussions with their mates about religion were generally
characterized as contentious and, by extension, destabilizing
for each individual, the couple, and their family’s well-being.
While there are no simple recipes that couples can utilize to
ensure that their personal religious needs are met, participants
involved in the IRP indicated that they found the following
strategies useful in their efforts to address this need before
spouses should clearly and respectfully articulate their
religious needs to their partner before marriage.
Spouses should ask God for continued guidance.
In addition to considering their personal needs, individual
spouses should simultaneously respect their partner's and
family’s religious needs. Otherwise an inordinate
amount of importance will be placed on their needs to the
detriment of their partner's needs and their family’s
Both spouses should understand that disrespectful, manipulative,
controlling, intolerant behavior of the type that seeks
to dismiss and, or deprive one's partner from meeting his
or her religious needs will negatively impact marital and
family success and stability.
it necessary to be acquainted with my spouse’s religious
Respondents involved in the IRP generally indicated that it
was important for both engaged and married persons from different
Christian traditions to become reasonably well acquainted with
their own and their partner's religious needs and practices.
When engaged persons and inter-Christian spouses are more familiar
with each other’s faith traditions rules, rituals, and
rites, and how and why their own faith tradition differs, this
can help curb misunderstandings and hurt feelings that may be
linked to intermarried couples' religious differences.
Respondents also stated that when they took the time to become
familiar with their partner’s faith tradition, this extra
effort seemed to help them develop a keener understanding of
their own religious needs and faith tradition and, by extension,
a deeper faith in God.
we worship together or apart?
Persons contemplating intermarriage are at risk of being disappointed
and distressed after marriage because they failed to spend quality
time discussing this question before marriage.
In addition, respondents repeatedly stated that discussions
regarding religious worship should respectfully try to take
each spouse's feelings and thoughts into consideration.
Reaching a mutually agreeable understanding around this issue
can positively impact individual, couple and family well-being.
we discuss our religious financial commitments?
When couples fail to strike a mutually satisfying understanding
regarding their finances, this can result in creating serious
is, thus, important that inter-Christian couples discuss how
they will pledge to both partners’ churches. A failure
to do so may result in creating hurt feelings and unexpected
much of a Greek Orthodox home will we have?
which faith tradition will the children be baptized?
When partners from different religious and, or ethnic traditions
are considering marriage, results from the IRP suggest that
it is advisable for them to spend some time discussing their
future children's religious and spiritual development. Questions
like the following few should facilitate this process:
How will I feel if my children are baptized in my spouse's
we choose to baptize our children in my faith tradition,
how will my spouse feel, and how will this decision impact
How will my parents react if our children are baptized in
my spouse's church?
we choose to baptize our children in my faith tradition,
how will my in-laws feel, and how will this decision affect
will the children develop their religious identity?
Results from the IRP clearly indicate that even though many
participants retained a level of affiliation to their own religious
background, most also deliberately sought to inculcate their
children in one faith tradition. Results also suggest, parents
who made this choice reported that this decision turned out
to be in the best interest of their children's religious development.
Conversely, parents who chose to raise their children in both
parents’ faith traditions, from hindsight, regretted this
decision. Those who raised their children in one faith tradition
offered the following additional useful observations:
Participants deliberately sought to instill respect in their
children for both parents’ religious backgrounds.
However, they also asserted that children must be raised
in one faith tradition.
further observed that just as children require both parents
to be in agreement when it comes to other dimensions of
their development, it is equally important to their children's
religious well-being for parents to be in general agreement
about their children's religious development.
also stated that their conscious decision to raise their
children in one church provided them with the needed consistency
and structure that children require to bond to a faith
tradition, and develop a religious identity.
also discouraged parents from choosing to raise some of their
children in one parent's faith tradition and others in the
other parent's faith tradition. In these instances, respondents
stated that this approach served to compromise their children’s
and family's religious well-being.
do we deal with our future children's questions regarding our
decision to intermarry and remain intermarried?
As children mature, they begin to ask their parents questions
in an effort to piece their physical and social worlds together.
Moreover, some of these questions will inevitably be related
to religious matters. Along with the questions that single-church
parents must contend with regarding religion, inter-Christian
parents must contend with questions from their children that
are related to their religious differences. Couples contemplating
an inter-Christian marriage are thus advised to begin considering
how they might address their future children’s questions.
do we honor and respect our own parents in our efforts to raise
According to participants involved in the IRP, intermarried
couples should be aware that they may encounter unwanted extended
family pressures in their efforts to raise their children. Couples
must learn how to draw clear boundaries between their nuclear
family and their extended families with regards to religion
and culture. Drawing clear, healthy, respectful boundaries between
themselves and both families of origin is important to their
efforts to meet their children's religious needs.
are the Orthodox Church's rules pertaining to intermarried couples?
Couples who participated in the IRP repeatedly indicated that
they were reasonably ignorant of how the Orthodox Church's rules
applied to inter-Christian couples. Furthermore, they also indicated
that it would have been helpful to them if, at some juncture
during the premarital preparation process, they had taken the
time to understand these rules. Such an effort can serve to
avert future hard feelings and disappointments, especially during
the wedding preparations.
How do I politely inform my non-Orthodox in-laws that
they can't receive the sacraments in the Greek Orthodox Church?
Engaged persons are especially interested in putting their best
foot forward in their efforts to develop a positive relationship
with their future in-laws. However, One eventuality that can
function to compromise this effort may be linked to non-Orthodox
family members' reactions to the Greek Orthodox Church's rules
regarding sacramental participation. And while most engaged
persons will likely not encounter any major difficulties with
in-laws regarding this issue, engaged couples may profit from
considering the following materials in the event that such problems
an effort to avoid hurt feelings, participants observed that
the following strategies tended to be helpful in minimizing
tension between non-Orthodox extended family members and the
The Greek Orthodox partner must be sufficiently knowledgeable
of his or her faith tradition so as to address their partner's
and extended family's questions regarding non-Orthodox participation
in the Greek Orthodox Church.
Both partners should present a unified front when addressing
extended family questions. They should also strive to address
them in a non-confrontational, Christian, respectful manner.
non-Orthodox spouse should take the lead in trying to explain
the Orthodox Church's position, and the Orthodox partner
should assume a consultant's role. Under no circumstances
should the Greek Orthodox partner assume a lead role when
the situation is tense and potentially explosive.
should expect that some non-Orthodox extended family members
may require time to digest and accept the Orthodox Church's
rules, and in some instances may never entirely agree. When
non-Orthodox family members do not agree, the couple should
try and cultivate a "let's agree to disagree"
attitude, and avoid arguing.
should try to view non-Orthodox extended family members'
confusion about the Orthodox Church's rules as opportunities
for family growth and religious growth.
do we respect each other's cultural traditions?
Information from the IRP indicates that couple’s premarital
discussions should focus around ethnic and cultural differences
-- especially if one or both partners place a high value on
their ethnic background. Participants stated that when they
put aside time to discuss their ethnic and cultural differences,
they felt more comfortable about these differences, and more
assured that their differences would be respected after marriage.
These couples also indicated that continued conversation after
marriage was equally important to them in their efforts to profit
from their ethnic differences.
To facilitate couples' efforts to discuss their ethnic and cultural
differences, couples might consider the following list of questions:
What about the issue of food and drink?
about politics? Can I live with someone who is inclined
to support Turkey more than Greece?
much of a Greek home do I want?
much of a Greek home is acceptable to my spouse?
much of a non-Greek home does my spouse want?
much of a non-Greek home is acceptable to me?
will we raise our children to be respectful to both spouses'
it necessary to be acquainted with my future spouse's ethnic and
According to results from the IRP, an answer to this question
depends on how important individual spouse's cultural tradition
is to each spouse. Obviously, if culture and ethnicity is of
little or no importance to your future mate, then it stands
to reason that this question may be of minor importance. If
one or both spouses' ethnic backgrounds are moderately to highly
valued, then some efforts to understand and respect one or both
spouses respective ethnic backgrounds will prove profitable
in reducing any potentially destabilizing affects that might
occur from spouses' ethnic attachments and differences.
The term inter-Christian is used here to refer to couples who are
affiliated with two different Christian faith groups. For example,
one partner may be Greek Orthodox and the other Roman Catholic or
2. The term intra-Christian indicates that both
partners belong to the same Christian faith group. For example,
both partners are Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant.
The descriptor inter-Christian family refers to a family whose members
belong to a least two different Christian faith groups.
The descriptor intra-Christian family refers to a family whose members
belong to the same Christian faith group.