Dear Dr. Karin,
My boyfriend and I are different religions. It’s not a problem now, but I worry about the future. Plus, it makes me sad that we don’t celebrate Christmas together. Am I making a big deal out of nothing?
You’re really smart to be thinking about all facets of your relationship and how they may play out in the future!
In general, research shows couples who share similar values are much more likely to go the distance and enjoy happy, fulfilling marriages (Riley, 2013). Mixing Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza may not pose problems early on, but as our relationships mature—and certainly when we introduce children into the picture—juggling different traditions can cause tension and arguments about how to celebrate this significant and sentimental time of year.
Sure, some couples navigate these waters without distress but if religion plays a key role in your life, you’ll likely struggle. In fact, marriage therapists consider a couple’s similarities to be “money in the emotional bank” i.e. the more we have in common the less we have to fight about.
And besides, it’s way more fun to kiss under the mistletoe than argue about whether or not to decorate with it in the first place.
P.S. This may not be the answer you were hoping for but I want you to find true and lasting love. So we have to look to the research (sexy, right?)
Riley, C. (2013). Till faith do us part: How interfaith marriage is transforming America. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.