How To Date Someone From A Different Religion
Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.
I'm a 25 year old first generation Jewish male in a relationship with a muslim girl from Jordan. You can bet that i'm faced with a conundrum of thoughts when it comes to dating.
On one end, my parents expect me to marry a local Jewish girl who has strong faith in our religion. On the other, I feel entitled to the temptations of what makes Canada amazing, beautiful girls from all over the world!
I’ve been in a committed relationship with my girlfriend for over three years. She’s amazing. We’ve been keeping our relationship a secret from our families to avoid backlash from both sides. Her parents are faithful Muslims and mine are old school, traditional, Jews.
The thing is, we’re ready for the next step in our relationship. I plan on proposing to her by July 2017. This should give our families enough time to digest the fact that we are serious about building a family together.
Parents just don't understand.
I recognize most first generation millennials have similar expectations set by their parents. In a 2016 world it’s difficult to conform to these expectations. There are many options available. It creates a lot of indecisiveness.
For my parents finding a nice Jewish girl isn't enough. I’m expected to marry a girl from a specific division within the community. I know what you’re thinking, aren’t Jews from a single homogeneous group? Jewish people have always had internal distinctions. Over the years we've developed diverse ethnic and religious identities.
The catch is I’m expected to find this girl in Toronto, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. I think the Raptors have a better shot at beating the Cavs in the NBA Eastern Conference finals.
At the end of the day it’s a numbers game. I’d love to make my parents happy by finding this unicorn Jewish girl and live ‘happily ever after’ but it’s not realistic.
The dating paradox.
Combine these forced dating limitations with our subconscious desires to make our parents proud and you’re left with the cluster-fuck that's the dating paradox. The ultimate lose-lose situation.
The dating paradox is the dissonance I feel by dating my amazing girl. I haven’t built the courage to make the next step in fear of the backlash we’ll both get from our families. I’ve entered a state of purgatory, unable to take a step forwards and unwilling to take a step back.
In the past I’ve let girls come and go. I had this false hope that the perfect girl (for my parents), would show up in my life. Will that day ever come? It’s unlikely. If I try to make them happy I risk missing the boat on awesome girls in the present moment, specifically my girlfriend.
The thought of scouring J-Date.com and settling for less than what makes me happy to appease my parents keeps me up at night. I want to make them happy but not at the cost of my own depression.
The dating paradox is the awkward pressure you feel when you do happen to meet someone who meets your parents’ marriage checklist. If you met online or through your parents the interactions are inorganic and forced. You feel like you’re in an interview fighting for a lifetime position in this person’s life. This isn't how I imagined meeting my significant other (thank you North American RomCom’s).
Here are the top issues my parents will mourn over when I break the news.
1. Identity Loss
By marrying outside of the community I’ll apparently lose who I am. Until their twenties my parents’ were raised in their unique Israeli state where everyone was the same. When they moved to Canada they held onto those values. They sought comfort in the same segregated communities in Canada and didn't fully assimilate into the Canadian culture.
I was born and brought up in the Canadian social system. I was immersed into different cultures (especially in college) and formed relationships with people who are from different parts of the world. Being Canadian is my identity. By closing myself off from different cultures I’d lose my identity. Sure my blood line is Israeli but my culture is Canadian.
My parents come from a much simpler time in Israel and religion was the biggest aspect of their culture. They raised me up Jewish and I have no doubt it played a positive role in who I am today. As I got older I started to meet amazing people from different religions and started to question religion as a whole. What happens to the good people in the world that aren’t Jewish? Do they all go to Sheol (hell)? If that’s the case I’d rather be chilling with them in the afterlife than the squares in Shamayim (heaven).
I’ve personally concluded all religions preach the same overall message and teach the same values despite having vastly different stories and beliefs. I consider myself more spiritual than religious. Following the "golden rule" seems to have kept me out of trouble. My girlfriend and I are on the same page about religion. We’ve talked about the compromises that'll need to be made regarding religion and our children and we're on the same page on how we will go about it.
3. Language barrier
In my parents’ view, language barrier is a serious thing. I can barely speak my native tongue. My parents are more comfortable speaking in their native tongue. Being a part of communities that share the same language means they never need to use English outside of work. It comes more natural to them than English does. It doesn't mean they can't understand English. When I'm having conversations with them it’s exclusively in English. They often ask me questions in my native tongue. After noticing the blank look on my face they translate it right away. It doesn’t make sense they expect me to end up with someone who speaks the same native language when I can barely hold a conversation.
4. Fam Jams
This is the BIG one. In traditional Jewish culture the unity of families outweighs the unity of the actual man and woman. My parents believe they can only get along with people who are from the same geographic area they were raised.
I get it, life was easier for them because the customs and traditions were the same. My parents have survived in Canada for 20+ years, they know how to play nice with people outside their own culture. Is it hard to find common ground with people who grew up in different cultures? I think they need an ego drop to enable them to embrace other cultures.
I’m damned either way, so screw it.
I need to do it my way or I’ll regret it. I’m the one who has to spend the rest of my life with my wife. I need to make sure she’s the right fit for ME and NOT my parents. It’s going to happen more and more either in this generation, the next or the one following. The tradition of marrying within cultures and religions is trending to bust. I may as well be a trend setter right?
I know how this is going to go down.
First, there’s going to be resistance from my parents and relatives. They’ll plead me not to “lose my identity.” Then they’ll raise the question about religious beliefs and the grave implications of choosing someone not of the same religion. They’ll mention the language barrier and the inability for families to get along. The personal insults will be next. As Kanye West said,
They’ll go down the path of questioning my judgment and morals. They’ll say anything to justify that my decision is wrong. Finally, when I’m still standing, my parents will reach the acceptance stage of the grieving process and I’ll start to gain my freedom.
This isn’t representative of all parents. It’s what goes through my head when I envision bringing this forth to my parents. They hold on to their old school values dearly and I’m about to crush them.
Xavier Ziering | Contributor