Different religions and relationships: Do they really go together?

Jessica Wojcik

As the old saying goes, love conquers all — but maybe not when it comes to dating outside of your religion.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jeffery Richards is Protestant, but he dated a girl who was Jewish for about 2 years.

“We discussed it a lot,” Richards said. “There was a conflict there, mostly in how to raise children. I mean, her entire family was Jewish. I felt like I was breaking up a bloodline.”

Since Richards and his girlfriend at the time were seriously dating, the topic of religious conversion came up.

“I looked into converting, but the process I was looking at was very lengthy,” he said. “After you finish all of the classes, a rabbi would still have the authority to deny conversion if he thought you were not prepared for it enough.”

According to convert.org, the conversion process from Christianity to Judaism normally takes between six months and a year.

Although Richards and his girlfriend are no longer dating, the experience of dating someone from another religion was something Richards found beneficial.

“You really get to see what other cultures live by,” he said. “I went to family parties and stuff, so I got to see how other people celebrate holidays and stuff.”

Kyle Sponseller, 23, and Lauren Botzenhart, 20, have been dating for 3 years. Both are practicing Catholics.

“Both of us being Catholic definitely makes some things easier for us,” Sponseller said. “We don’t have to worry about where to get married or how to raise our children.”

Sponseller and Botzenhart attend Catholic mass together every week and say going to church together makes their relationship stronger.

“Having someone to go to church with gives me motivation to go,” Botzenhart said. “Going to church is something we do together — it’s another thing we share.”

Sponseller said being in a relationship with another Catholic simply removes an obstacle from their relationship that other couples might have to face.

“People who are different religions can definitely make a relationship work,” he said.

Twenty-four-year-old Melissa McClain is a non-practicing Christian who dated someone Jewish for more than two years.

“It was a big challenge in considering if we were going to get married,” McClain said. “I didn’t know what the wedding would be like, or how our future would turn out, how we would raise our children.”

McClain said holidays were very different while dating someone Jewish.

“He didn’t really want to come to my family functions,” she said. “He spent Thanksgiving with his family, and didn’t want to come over for Easter, because he thought it would be weird since he was Jewish. He would say that if we got married, there would never be a Christmas tree in our house.”

There were conflicts involving their religions because McClain’s ex-boyfriend didn’t understand her religious beliefs.

“He never really thought that religion was a big deal to me. He never understood why it would be a big deal for me to switch to Judaism or why it would matter for my children to grow up without a Christmas tree,” McClain said.

McClain said dating someone of another religion really opened her eyes to new experiences.

“He was different, and it was incredibly eye opening and fun,” she said. “It was so interesting to me.”

An article on msn.match.com surveyed 4,700 people about dating outside one’s religion. About 74 percent of the singles surveyed said they were at least open to the idea of dating someone with a different religious upbringing. Almost 59 percent of the respondents indicated that they value religion and make a place for it in their lives.

As far as dating someone from another religion, McClain said it’s something she is really glad that she did and offers advice to others about maintaining a successful interfaith relationship.

“Keep an open mind about differences and understand that things are going to be challenging and different.” she said. ” Differences are good, and you don’t always have to dread a challenge. It’s very important to talk about your religious beliefs before you get your emotions all wrapped up into it — you need to know where the two of you stand.”

Contact religion and culture reporter Jessica Wojcik at [email protected].