Finding Spiritual Harmony in Your Interfaith Relationship

Finding Spiritual Harmony in Your Interfaith Relationship

More than 50 percent of all Jewish marriages are to non-Jews, and over 70 percent of all Jewish romantic partnerships are with Gentiles. Unfortunately, research indicates that interfaith couples experience more threats to their marital stability than same-faith couples.

According to a study entitled “Religious Influence on Marital Stability,” the divorce rate among Jewish and Gentile couples is approximately double that of marriages wherein both partners are Jewish. The study further reported, “Couples with no religious affiliation also have fairly high rates of dissolution.”[1]

In my work studying cross-cultural communication between interfaith couples, I’ve found that to be the overarching issue.

It’s understandably challenging. Blending two distinct cultural upbringings in a way that doesn’t lead either partner to have to choose one faith at the expense of the other can feel nearly impossible.

Often, bringing up such matters with your partner can result in miscommunication – feeling unheard, disrespected, or pressured to “change.” Yet if left unresolved, these cross-cultural challenges can compound, resulting in marital complications and, in some cases, divorce.

But interfaith couples don’t have to be a statistic. There is hope within this growing trend of Jewish Gentile relationships for greater understanding and the foundation of a common ground.

Here are a few practical tips to get you started:

  • Take the time to clarify what you mean – assumptions can lead to miscommunication. Not everyone means the same thing when they use words like “God,” “heaven,” “saved,” “creation,” “repentance,” and more.
  • Be honest and courageous enough to allow new perspectives to expand any deeply held ideas. Both parties must feel it’s safe to say things with which their partner may not agree.
  • Try not to interrupt. Make eye contact with your partner, and use body language that conveys you are present and engaged.
  • Focus on listening as your partner speaks rather than thinking of what you’ll say next. You can always allow a pause in the conversation to gather your thoughts.
  • Agree and affirm where you can, but don’t try to force agreements where you differ. You may have to settle for respectfully acknowledging your differences of opinion.

There is hope for struggling Jewish Gentile couples. It’s possible to create a safe space wherein both parties feel secure enough to speak their minds, mutual trust begets mutual respect, and both partners are able to express their unique cultural experiences and beliefs.

Dr. Tuvya Zaretsky has an MA in missiology concentrating in Judaic studies from Fuller Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies and the Doctor of Missiology degree from the Division of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder of JewishGentileCouples.com, a free coaching service for interfaith couples.

End Notes

[1] Vaughn R.A. Call and Tim B. Heaton, “Religious Influence on Marital Stability,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 36:3 (1997): 390.

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Tuvya Zaretsky | Los Angeles

Tuvya Zaretsky is one of the founders of the Jews for Jesus ministry. He was the first field missionary beginning his service in February 1974. Tuvya continues to serve the Lord, now as the Director of Staff Development internationally, based out of the Los Angeles office. He also chairs the Board for the Jews for Jesus branch in Tel Aviv, Israel. Tuvya was raised in Northern California in the institutions of American Judaism. During his bar mitzvah at age thirteen, Tuvya read from Isaiah 6:1-8 and declared with the prophet, Hineni-Here I am, send me!" However, his search for God and spiritual truth didn't come into focus until ten years later, when a Christian colleague encouraged him to seek God in the pursuit of truth. Tuvya came to believe in Y'shua (Jesus) on December 7, 1970. Ever since, he has been joyfully saying to God, "Hineni-Here am I." The full story is available by that title, in a booklet form here. Tuvya has provided the leadership of Jews for Jesus branches and evangelistic campaigns in major cities of the US and in Israel. He headed up the Las Vegas Behold Your God (BYG) campaign in 2005 and co-led the 2006 BYG outreach in New Jersey. He is now also an administrator for the website www.JewishGentileCouples.com. In April, 1989, Zaretsky was present at the Willowbank Consultation on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish people, that produced the watershed Willowbank Declaration. Tuvya has presented missiology papers at the Evangelical Theological Society, the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism (LCJE) and at the Global Diaspora Missiology Consultation in 2006. He currently serves as president for the International Coordinating Committee of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, a networking body of Jewish mission agencies. He was editor of the Lausanne Occasional Paper 60, Jewish Evangelism" A Call to the Church in 2004. He was a contributing author of Israel the Land and People edited by H. Wayne House (Kregel Publishers, 1998). His doctoral dissertation, co-authored with Dr. Enoch Wan, was published as Jewish-Gentile Couples: Trends, Challenges and Hopes (William Carey Library Publishers, 2004). He authored or edited articles for the June 2006 issue of MISHKAN themed, "The Gospel and Jewish-Gentile Couples" (Jerusalem) . And in 2008 he was coordinator and contributor for the World Evangelical Alliance Consultation that produced "The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today". In 2013 Zaretsky was appointed to serve as the Senior Associate for Jewish Evangelism by the International Lausanne Movement. Tuvya has an M.A. in Missiology concentrating in Judaic Studies from Fuller Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies and the Doctor of Missiology degree from the Division of Intercultural Studies at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is married to Ellen, who is also a Jewish Believer in Jesus. They have three young adult children: Jesse, Abbie and Kaile.

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