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Dear Stavroula

Ask Stavroula: My Son Wants to Marry Outside Our Faith. How Can I Change His Mind?

Dear Stavroula,

I am Greek and I have been living in the United States for 35 years with my husband. We have four children and we have raised them with love for Greece and respect for our religion. While my children lived with us, we went to church every Sunday, observing our fasts and the principles of our faith.

For a year now, my youngest son has been living with a girl he met at university. At first, he hid from us the fact that the girl is from another religion. When we found out, despite our objections, he continued the relationship and preferred to move in with her, while before he lived in a separate apartment in our house. Since then he has moved away from us and his siblings. And while we were expecting him to understand how wrong this relationship is in time, he recently announced that he wants to marry her.

I do not mind so much that the girl is not Greek, except when it comes to the subject of religion. And I know that differences in faith and principles are hard to overcome, which is why such marriages often fall apart quickly.

All this worries me a great deal. How can I persuade him to think better of it, not to get married now? I'm afraid he will completely end our relationship as a family.

M.S.

Dear M.S.

Every marriage is a complex process since each partner enters it as a carrier of his own philosophy, culture, and temperament. Even though both partners have lived and grown up in the same country, speak the same language, and have the same religion, they are still different from each other, as they are carriers of different experiences and manners of living.

A marriage between people of different cultures can be more difficult from the start, since in addition to different habits, additional problems such as different language, religion, or even the acceptance of the family are added.

Whether or not such a marriage will last depends on how the two partners will be able to redefine their personal identity within it. Many times the standards of one prevail, other times both cultures coexist in the marriage, while finally there is the case that the couple finds new standards of behavior.

Therefore, whether such a marriage will go well depends on many different factors. Some of them are the character of each partner, the bond that the couple has, or the pressures that the couple may receive from the family environment.

In fact, it seems that religion is an important element for the identity of each person and for the way he deals with life. There is research showing that those who believe in a God of love and forgiveness seem to experience less stress and are able to cope more easily with adversity.

Your son grew up believing in a God of love and forgiveness, so he has the resources to face and overcome the difficulties in his marriage. He has taken principles from the way he grew up and has appreciated the role of the family.

Therefore, you have no reason not to trust his judgment and his determination to marry the girl he loves. You have given him everything he needed to become responsible. He proved it when he preferred to leave the comfort and security of home to live with the woman he loves.

You can talk calmly with your son and express your worries and concerns to him, without criticizing him for his choices or trying to make him feel guilty. Through his answers you can find a way to manage your stress and anxiety about this marriage.

I do not think there is a way to convince him not to marry if he is sure of his feelings and decisions. And you are right that if you insist, there is a chance that he will distance himself from his family. Think about how you would feel and how you would react in his place, if you understood that your choice is neither respected nor accepted by the people who feel closest to you.

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