Religious Differences: Recipe for Divorce?

Bringing together two people from different backgrounds and expecting them to navigate their differences kindly and respectfully is a big undertaking. If these two people also come from different religious groups – complete with differing viewpoints and traditions – it can pose even steeper challenges. 

We’ve become a less “religious” society over the years, particularly the younger generations. And while many married couples do share the same basic religious beliefs, it is less commonplace than it used to be.

What research says about interfaith marriage

Research suggests that people often seek partners who share their religious beliefs or spiritual philosophies. According to Pew Research, less than 40% of couples who married from 2010 to 2015 married someone who belonged to a different religion. By contrast, only 19% of those who married before 1960 married someone of a different faith. 

So, while many married adults still seem to value shared religious beliefs, one in five adults in the United States were raised in interfaith households

Can an interfaith marriage succeed?

Marital success usually comes down to the two people involved. This includes how religious people handle their religious differences.

How important is religion in your marriage? To each of you as individuals? Are you open to allowing your spouse their own beliefs and spiritual traditions, even if they’re vastly different from those of your religious affiliation?

Can an interfaith marriage be successful? Of course, it can, but it will require mutual respect, communication, and dedication from both partners. 

Reasons why interfaith marriage might fail

Bridging the differences in your religious beliefs will take time and understanding – just like any other differences between you. Many interfaith marriages succeed, but some do meet with failure.

Here are some circumstances and behaviors that could lead to the failure of an interfaith marriage:

  • You didn’t discuss your religious differences upfront, nor did you appreciate how much it would become a factor in your marriage. 
  • You faced enormous pressure from your family or the religious community that sustained you before your marriage. 
  • You expected your spouse to “come around” to your views on religion, including celebrating traditions and religious services with children.
  • One of you was intolerant of the other’s spiritual life, causing constant discord and resentment.
  • One of you became more religious during your time together, which created a rift in your relationship and elevated your risk of divorce.

Read: How to Stay Connected to Your Religion and Church during Divorce

Tips for marital success

While getting married to someone from a different faith can create some unique challenges, it can also make your marriage more open, rich, and respectful. 

What makes for a successful interfaith marriage?

  • You have a deep relationship with your own faith, and you acknowledge that your spouse is similarly fulfilled by theirs.
  • You respect each other's beliefs, even if you don’t share them.
  • You communicate with each other about your religious beliefs and traditions and work to maintain a sense of curiosity about what you don’t understand or initially agree with. 
  • You’re willing to compromise and find middle ground when it comes to celebrating holidays, events, and traditions. Consequently, you both feel respected and understood.
  • You encourage and accept your spouse’s need for support from their religious community, even if your beliefs differ from theirs. 
  • You share basic values, and your agreement on these values helps you withstand any disagreements about religion.

Surviving interfaith divorce

Unfortunately, religious differences in a marriage can end up being insurmountable. In such a situation, spouses may find that divorce is the only practical solution. And, like any divorce, the ease or animosity that transpires between may have more to do with you as individuals than your religious differences. 

Remind yourself that you have worth, deserve respect, and are entitled to your spiritual beliefs. Seek support from friends, family, and even your religious community, if appropriate. You might want to seek a therapist who specializes in working with interfaith couples so you can understand and explore the dynamics of your relationship, take ownership, and avoid repeating the pattern.

Religious beliefs are highly personal, and an interfaith marriage can add a layer of complexity to your marriage – and your divorce. At Hello Divorce, we are here to make your journey less hectic and heavy. Schedule a free call with us to learn more. 


Religious intermarriage in the United States: trends, patterns, and predictors. (December 2004). Science Direct.
Interfaith marriage is common in U.S., particularly among the recently wed. (June 2. 2015). Pew Research Center.
One-in-Five U.S. Adults Were Raised in Interfaith Homes. (October 26, 2016). Pew Research Center.
Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.