Interfaith Marriages

Interfaith relationships on the rise in the U.S.

Nearly 40 percent of Americans who had wed since 2010 report that their spouse belongs to a different religious group.

Interfaith relationships are more common in the United States today than decades ago.

A 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center found that nearly 70 percent of couples share the same faith, but that percentage is lower among newer marriages. While fewer than 20 percent of couples married before 1960 said they have a religious intermarriage, nearly 40 percent of Americans who had wed since 2010 reported their spouse belongs to a different religious group.

Interfaith relationships are even more common among unmarried couples living together, accounting for almost half.

Certain religious groups – Hindus, Mormons and Muslims – are more likely to choose a partner of the same religion, the Pew survey found. Many recent interfaith marriages and relationships are between Christians and religiously unaffiliated people, or between two people of different Christian traditions, and 65 percent of Jewish people living in the United States reported they are married or living in a romantic relationship with someone of a different faith.

“Certainly, the trends in Jewish life and in American life more generally are toward folks marrying someone of a different faith or cultural background,” said Jodi Bromberg, chief executive of Interfaith Family.

Since 2001, Interfaith Family has offered online resources and on-the-ground networking for families interested in Jewish life. Bromberg said their website traffic spikes around the holidays – for example, in December around Hanukkah and Christmas. The homepage includes links to a video about making latkes, a guide to Hanukkah traditions and a “cheat sheet” on lighting a menorah.

The Rev. Jane Field, the executive director of the Maine Council of Churches, said families can find common threads between Hanukkah and Christmas. For example, the light of candles is an important symbol in both Christian and Jewish traditions.

“I think every family weaves that together in ways that are particular and work for them,” Field said.

Beyond the holidays, incorporating two faith traditions into one family can be even more challenging – especially if a couple have children. Bromberg said Interfaith Family often fields inquiries from young families celebrating life events, like weddings or the birth of a child.

“One piece of advice again and again is around open and honest communication, being really clear about what’s important to you about your religious and cultural traditions,” Bromberg said.

Religious or interfaith organizations can often connect families with multiple faith traditions to each other.

“Read, read, read,” Field said. “Look for resources online and in the bookstore and in the library. Find some other families who are facing this challenge too and maybe even some that are further along, with kids in high school. Get everyone in the room together, share a meal and let people support each other.”

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