Different Backgrounds- Should we Get Married?


Difference in religions and cultural background presents a great challenge for couples contemplating marriage. It has been my personal and professional experience that all things being equal, having those be the same or similar is a major plus.

Time and time again, I see in my office tremendous conflict, leading to unhappiness and sometimes, rupture, when people feel very strongly about their religions, especially, those that seem less compatible. Or there is no understanding or difficulty in accepting their partner's cultural background. Often, these differences create conflict with family of origin and in some more severe cases, ostracism.

There are those from certain cultures or religious affiliation that do not want "outsiders" as part of their future family. Those contemplating marriage in these cases have to be prepared for what may happen and how this may or will affect their future marriage.

Still, many couples decide to marry despite these differences. And sometimes they have good marriages. Here are some suggestions based on my experience as a Couples Therapist:

  • Please discuss and thoroughly understand the religion and culture of your future partner. Understand their impact on your sensibilities and day to day life.

  • Decide if you will stay with your religion or if you will take on that of your partner. If you decide to convert, make sure you are truly OK with this and will not resent or hold it against your partner or in-laws. If you decide to stay with your respective religious affiliations, decide and discuss how you are going to deal with holidays, customs, worship, and most importantly raising a family. This has to be discussed and agreed upon in detail and both parties have to be committed to decisions that are made. The worst thing to do is to think that you will figure it out as you go along.

  • Another major decision is how to deal with cultural issues in wedding planning and feelings of families of origin and community. Most of the time, in my experience, if there are different religions and cultural backgrounds, accommodations are made for both and sometimes, there are two weddings. Sometimes, there is one wedding incorporating both religions and customs.

  • The most important thing is that should you decide to go ahead and get married, you have to be a team and try to make your own decisions together. All efforts need to be made to nurture relationships and connection with families of origin, but at the end of the day, it's your partner, who is most important.

For further inquiries:

Check out Irina Firstein, LCSW, at https://www.nyccouplestherapists.com

Phone: (212) 953- 1388