How to make interfaith relationship work
Sikiru and Hannah (not real names) were crazily in love with each other. Sikiru is from a strong Muslim family, while Hannah’s parents are very religious Christians. After much trial and tribulation, they were able to finally have a relationship together and for seven years did their best to live in peace till things took a turn when Sikiru and Hannah, both serious in their separate religions, started having religious arguments every now and then. Sometimes the other person refusing to accept or keep quiet and let peace be. The strain of too many fights was breaking them up gradually, until Sikiru who was no longer comfortable at home and stylishly moved out for a few weeks. This was just the beginning of bigger issues to come.
Over time I have discovered that life gives you quite a handful of deal breakers, which could be issues bordering on personality, attitude, wealth or poverty, lifestyle choices and so on. Some of these deal breakables are able to withstand life’s pressures depending on how they are handled, while some of these issues will make both partners emotionally incompatible. If we are talking about someone who is very religious, it can be a very sensitive issue in the sense that even without being in an emotional relationship, religious topics or discussions easily blow up and get seriously out of hand. If someone is serious about their religious or spiritual practice, then you need to be sensitive to them. I would, however, advise caution when venturing into interfaith relationship
Interfaith relationship is a relationship between partners professing different religions. It could either be Christian and Muslim, pagan and Christian, pagan and atheist, traditionalist and Muslim, traditionalist and Christain, Muslim and pagan and so on. Disagreement in life is normal, even people professing the same faith will argue and disagree, but disrespect is not allowed, because once you throw in disrespect, things can and will never work. It is important to acknowledge your religious difference, talk about them constantly so as to always be on the same page. Listening to each other is very important, in any interfaith relationship apart from the faith you profess, you have to share other common grounds in several areas, reason being that any decision being made jointly, once it is influenced moderately or strongly, it can present a problem down the line.
Ensuring you have enough patience
An interfaith relationship is definitely going to have one or more difficult times. There will also be days when it appears as if every day is full of trials and tribulations. It will be difficult for a Christian to explain to atheist why he or she has to fast for 70 days on “ori oke” (the mountain), the first thought to an atheist would be what kind of mountain is this? Why 70 days? A Muslim may also find it difficult to educate an unbeliever why dinner must wait till after sundown during Ramadan or why they can’t stand pig meat.
A Christian may be shocked at why a traditionalist will have to use feathers, animal skin, sprinkle blood and make sacrifice to “Sango” (the thunder deity), in another case an atheist will argue to no end why a Christian should believe in something or someone they cannot see. In conflicting situations like this it will lead to annoyance, irritation, and eventually someone is going to commit what some of my friends will call “a diarrhea of the mouth situation”.
You really have to be cautious and patient, with the willingness to explain as much as you can as many times as possible and with as much details as possible without getting annoyed. Some people hate repeating things, but in this case you have to be ready to keep explaining why you are always on the mountain! Have it in mind that your faith sounds excellent to you, but may not sound excellent to your partner. Do not expect them to understand it all at once from the beginning.
Ensuring respect for your partner
One of the things I recommend for all relationships, no matter the age is respect. It is so precious and something that should not be toyed with. With interfaith relationships, it is a very important requirement. No matter how much you argue or disagree with your partner, never overlook the aspect of respect, it is key.If one person is very religious and the other is not, is that enough reason to ridicule or put their faith down? Or even make them feel less than worthy?
Definitely not if you will not be tolerant enough to respect and appreciate your partner’s religion, then that will amount to serious problems for both of you and of course no more peace of mind. Because most people that are very religious attach so much importance to it, they merge their religions with their identities.
In another instance, if your partner is not religious, it would really be nice, if you can at least try to get involved in nonreligious events that they love, to make them feel you at least care. Respect is and should be reciprocal. Ideally, if you give respect you get respect, but if you don’t give respect, don’t expect to get it in return. If you ignore the part of respect, they will dislike and then hate you at the end of the day, which will lead to the end of the relationship.
All relationships must be built on mutual respect. The funny thing in relationship is most people say love is blind, but there are times in between that the love blindness turns to red eyes , once the “ love sickness” wears out , it is then the statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the living room will start annoying you, it is then you will warn your in-laws and threaten them with 30 strokes of the cane if you catch them eating pork meat, it is also then the mention of the greeting.“As- salâmu alaykum irritates you, it is then you start telling your spouse “Sango “ is old school. Interfaith relationships can push one to the very edge if not well managed. It takes as earlier explained lots of patience and now in addition respect.
There is just no way out of it. You must clash, be it a minor issue or major issue. The decision is yours to either fall for the clash and scatter everything totally or take a deep breath, swallow spit or pride and just walk away, if you feel the relationship is worth it, then you need to put in the work.
When we say put in the work, it means as a Christian when it is time for Muslim prayers you should not be irritated with prayer time or angry when they have to wear hijab. It means as a Muslim if your spouse is always shouting holy ghost during prayer and asking enemies to fall down and die you should not be irritated, but can playfully join in asking the enemies to fall down and die. Or something similar to show them you respect the fact that there are spiritual battles to be fought, it also means as a Muslim if your spouse is a traditionalist and needs to bath in the river Nile , every two days then so be it , either walk away or learn to live with it , if you can tolerate bathing in the Nile with them, then that would be great as well.
Ensure you always see the funny side to issues
There are days I leave home with long hair and get back home with short hair. My family is used to this; they know when it comes to my head any extra weight is forbidden. So on this fine day at the family event, I was required to wear hijab or scarf, you need to see me sweating.
I struggled for a few minutes, then my husband tried to help me tie my scarf; it was a disaster. We kept laughing and laughing, and when I came out with the ugliest looking scarf tied on my head, I just told them it was my husband that did it. The event became a laughing jamboree for everyone. I still don’t like such events, but we make it fun every time we attend one. Remember what I always say about team work. As a team, you can conquer anything.
Understand as much as possible that your partner is trying to get things right. They may not partake or believe in your faith, but they are trying to honour you and take part when they can, so please respect and cherish it. Try to always look at the funny side of it; do not be sarcastic, but humorous. Do not get tired of explaining, even when they ask what you may consider as silly questions.
In fact, it makes a lot of sense, if you do proper research, nothing too tedious anyway, but enough to help you understand the basic things. Ask questions concerning things you don’t understand. It doesn’t mean you will convert, but it shows you are willing to make things work.
Ensure you have the “talk” before it gets serious
I have a friend who is good at always telling me Rois, “what you cannot tolerate when you are rich, don’t tolerate it when you are poor” No matter how tolerant you are, finding out your partner is not willing to be compatible or tolerate you even at an early stage can end everything. Religious incompatibility is a topic that needs to be discussed early and not put off for later. Cultural issues alone can destroy relationships, so we really don’t need to add religion to it again.
Do your best to see if you can make things work, but if you can’t, at least you know you did the best you could. Recognize the signs that show incompatibility and consciously make effort to help the relationship survive the storm or take a walk.
Relationships will always have issues. Interfaith will probably face more issues than normal. This does not mean it is not worthwhile. It is unique. It is challenging. You may struggle, but you will learn a lot. You will be wiser. It will mature you; it will help you appreciate your partner and also appreciate your faith as well. And with team work, you can conquer anything. I wish you all the best.