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Dating Advice #73 - Compromising Values
Dating Advice 73

Dating Advice #73 - Compromising Values

She wants a Jewish family, but she's fallen for a non-Jewish guy. Now it's time to make the big decision.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am a single, Jewish female in my late 20s. Although I do not consider myself to be religious, I feel very strongly that my children, should I ever have any, should be raised as Jewish. My parents are adamant about my winding up with a man who is Jewish, and there is no compromising with them about it. In fact, they have in the past, when I have dated non-Jews, been very vocal about their disapproval and about the impending doom that our relationship would surely face if we got married.

On account of all these things, I ended a very serious courtship with a Catholic guy a few years ago because he wanted to get married. It was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I got over it, and have since been trying to date only Jews to avoid further heartbreak and torment. However, things happen in this life that you have no control over. Recently, I started dating a guy who is Catholic. We had been attracted to each other for some time, but never acted on it because he was aware of my issues with dating non-Jews. Finally, when we couldn't stand it anymore, a courtship blossomed.

This has quickly become the most beautiful dating experience that I have ever been a part of. This man is amazing. He is someone that I could easily spend a lifetime with, were it not for my concern about our religious differences. He is everything that I have ever wanted in a partner, except for one thing (his religion). This one thing is something that we have no control over either.

My dilemma is this: I cannot ever see my family accepting him willingly. In fact, they do not even know about our involvement because I am afraid of telling them. I know they will be disapproving and that they will try to do everything in their power to dissuade me from continuing to date him.

I can understand where they are coming from, because I too want to be able to bring up my children a certain way. And I do not think I would be able to have my kids also celebrating Catholic holidays and be comfortable with it.I have discussed all of these concerns with the man I’m dating, and he seems willing to compromise, but not convert.

My question is: Do you think it's worth going against my family's wishes to continue dating this man? Or should I just end it now before we are in too deep? I can argue both sides of the issue. I think I just need to hear the opinion of somebody completely impartial (not a friend or family member) on this matter.

Is love enough to make it work between two people of different faiths? I am completely tormented. The thought of letting this man go is killing me, yet I fear that I may just have to.


Dear Joanne,

We're going to be very honest with you, and part of that honesty is having you understand that we are not as objective about this situation as you might like us to be. That is because we feel very strongly about Jews marrying Jews. According to Jewish law, it is forbidden for a Jew to marry a non-Jew, as is clear from the Bible, Deut. 7:3. Not because Judaism is racist (clearly not since any human being can convert to Judaism), but because we believe that the Jewish people are a precious species that offers deep dividends. The values that the civilized world takes for granted -- monotheism, love your neighbor, peace on earth, justice for all, universal education, all men are created equal, dignity of the individual, the preciousness of life -- are all from the Torah. This is an enormous impact and we accomplished it under the most adverse conditions.

This doesn't mean that we are any less sympathetic about your predicament. In fact, we believe this enables us to be more empathetic, because we understand how torn you are between your desire to have a Jewish home and your attraction to a non-Jewish man.

Neither of us believes that "love conquers all." Years of experience as a therapist and as a divorce attorney have reinforced this belief. We have seen, time and time again, that one of the unifying forces in a marriage is the commonality of a couple's goals. Couples who do not share similar goals start out with one major strike against them, and over time their differences generally become more pronounced. You want to raise your children as Jews. The man you love does not share this goal, and while he is willing to make some concessions, you two are still very far apart.

We advocate negotiation and compromise as a way of resolving most of the dilemmas that couples face. That's because most of the issues that can be compromised are either minor ones, or major ones in which one partner doesn't feel as strongly as the other and can make concessions without feeling he has betrayed his own values. Or, in the case of a couple who has been married for a while, the give and take between them on a major matter can be a way each of them says, "Our marriage is our priority."

However, we don't encourage a person who is contemplating marriage to begin a life together by compromising one or more of their basic values -- for instance a goal as important and central to an individual as religion and the way in which she wants to raise her children. She will never be happy with her decision, and in most cases it will eat away at her sense of personal integrity as well as the relationship with her spouse.

Esther Perel, a therapist who counsels inter-faith couples, says in New York Magazine: "The difference isn't just between Moses and Christ. You're dealing with issues of money, sex, education, child-rearing practices, food, family relationships, styles of emotional expressiveness, issues of autonomy -- all of these are culturally embedded."

Nor is this tension fair to your future children, as you seem to intuit. Psychologists report that many "dual-religion" children express a great deal of anger at their parents for putting them in the middle of an issue that the parents themselves could not resolve. When a person has to choose one religion over the other, there is always the unconscious sense of choosing one parent over another.

It seems to us that this is why you and this man are at such an impasse. Neither of you is willing to make a significant compromise in your basic values. And neither of you should. Please believe us when we say that time and time again we have seen that when people try it, in the long term it doesn't work.

As a rule, we don't like to tell our readers what to do. They ask us for advice, and we try to give them the information and support they need to make their own decisions. We think you should endure the pain of a break-up now, before you have invested anything more in this courtship. We aren't saying this simply because we don't want to see you marrying a non-Jew. We say this based on our experience working in the realm of marriages and divorces, for the reasons we've already stated.

If you decide to stop dating him, we know it will be very difficult and painful for you, and that it will take you some time to get over. It sounds trite to say that life isn't always easy. We hope that, in the long term, you will be happy with that decision and that you are able to move forward to a rewarding marriage with a Jewish man.

We'd like to say one more thing before closing, and we hope that you don't take it the wrong way. In the beginning of your letter you spoke about not being able to control certain aspects of your life. In all likelihood, the initial attraction you felt toward this man was beyond your control. However, you made a choice to act on your feelings and begin a courtship. We understand how difficult it was for you to come to that decision, but the fact is that no matter how torn you were between dating a non-Jew and acting on your feelings, it was a conscious decision. Unfortunately, because your feelings have deepened over time, you undoubtedly feel more torn now than you did before the two of you gave in to your feelings.

We're not saying this to make you feel bad, or to blame you for your situation. However, we believe that it is important to acknowledge that your predicament didn't simply "happen." Once you do, you will feel more capable of guiding your own decisions in the future.

Rosie & Sherry

January 19, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 17

(17) Anonymous, October 19, 2009 12:23 AM

I just have to say its truth tha an non jew can convert and that we the jews are the chosn one a jewish women will always be jewish can not convert formy understandings, also when she has child no matter what even if they do not practice judaism the child is always going to be jewish , because the child always follos the mother religion

(16) Anonymous, February 27, 2008 2:50 AM

my parent's weren't interfaith but interracial

i wanted to say that i agree with this article whole heartedly. growing up with an asian mom and a white father, even though both are catholic, was very difficult. i never felt like i fit in.

i've already decided to convert should things get serious and raise our children jewish. it was the one thing i don't want them to ever be uncertain about.

(15) Heather, November 9, 2002 12:00 AM

i might convert

I am 26 (kind of Christian) and my boy friend is 23 (kind of Jewish). Some may say we are too young to even be thinking about marriage in the future; but better to consider issues now than a few years down the road. We are both in Veterinary school and far from home. I’m sure some probably think that the stress of our circumstances is a bad situation to start a relationship under but we feel differently. We have practically all the same interests: movies, music, sports, foods, political and social opinions; except for religion. However we have plenty of other difference to keep it interesting. He is a wonderful, considerate, loving, funny, and honest. I have never dated anyone Jewish before let alone loved anyone as greatly as I Love him and I was even engaged before. Neither of us are what I would call diehard about our religions. We are very open and talk about everything. We are honest with each other, especially about our feelings and concerns. We know the difficulties that lie ahead and that is one of the reasons we are as open as we are. This communication allows us to learn about problems in our relationship and solve them before they become a serious issue. We have more traditions than religious beliefs. He does eat kosher food for the most part but he also loves pork. Neither of us goes to temple/church. But his parents are very insistent that he marries a Jewish woman. Personally I believe I am very tolerant of all religions. I have had issues with my own religion for sometime now. We have discussed the fact that if we were to marry he would insist that I convert. This would be more for any future children than anything else. He wants them to have a Bar Mitzvah and receive a Jewish name. Anything other than that is in his opinion no big deal. I could even convert back if I chose. We also believe that children should be raised to make there own decisions about religion and be honestly informed about all religions. In other words tolerance and understanding are important. Believe it or not that is a compromise I am willing to consider. All of my Christian knowledge came from Sunday school and Charlton Heston movies. I can honestly say I haven't read the bible or any other religious texts. I am will to do the research on both of our religions before I make that kind of decision. For the most part I like my holidays and like I mentioned earlier that is more of a tradition thing. Hallmark has done so much commercialization of Christmas, Easter, and Valentines Day over the years there really isn't much religion left in them. I enjoy Christmas because for our family it was a time of getting everyone together. Oh and yea the presents!! My boyfriend and I believe that there is enough historical scientific proof that Jesus existed and probably was famous and did some cool/good things. But was he the Messiah?? With that train of thought Christmas is more like Presidents Day or Martin Luther King Day. Holiday lights are Holiday lights. Santa Clause, with the exception of being made a Catholic saint was a real person who did nice things. Same thing with Valentines Day, and most religions observe it now anyway. I can’t remember the last time Easter was about Christ and not dyed eggs, and marshmallow rabbits and hordes of other candies. All these holidays for me where a time of family togetherness and as torn apart as my family is, it was nice. I am also Cherokee, and Irish and honor some of the Native American and Celtic traditions and stories. Again as a tradition more than anything else. I have asked my boyfriend to tell me more about his religion and didn't get a whole lot of help. So now I am looking for resources to learn from. The only problem there is the same problem I have with all organized religion and he feels the same way in this regard. God is everywhere and one should not have to go to a physical structure and listen to someone else’s interpretation of religious texts in order to worship him. Are there truly any unbiased religious texts out there? I have read a few of the articles from this site and some Jewish points regarding Christ make sense but I refuse to be naive enough to take the quotes as they are having no knowledge of my own. I feel I have a duty/responsibility to myself and my boyfriend to learn all I can to make an honest, thought out decision. We have already had so many obstacles that we have overcome together; and I know marriage and children are a whole other story. For all of those who couldn’t make it work or say it is too hard well that’s you not us. After all the divorces my mother and other family members have gone thru the one thing I have learned is any marriage is hard and requires a lot of work. More work than anyone in who isn’t married can understand. Here is another thing you may find ridiculous. He is one semester ahead of me and will therefore be leaving for clinical rotations before me. We have decided that if we are still together at that time (about 1 year from now) then that is when I will need to decide if I am willing to convert. If I am, then the true test of our relationship will be the four months we spend apart. At the end of which I will try to do my clinicals at the same school he is at. Were not saying that is when we would get engaged or even start thinking about having children. There will be enough stress in just graduating, passing board exams, deciding where to live and where to get jobs. We has discussed and decided we would wait until all that has settled down to do anything too serious. So that is about two and a half if not three years from now. If at that time we still love each other as much if not more than we do now and have further considered discussed how to solve any religious issues then we will know weather it is right or not for us to commit our lives to one another.

(14) Annette LauerSeguin, July 22, 2002 12:00 AM


It was absolutely impossible for Dan, my catholic husband and I, his Jewish wife, to begin to imagine after 7years of dating that our "differences" were going to be a source of much heartache years later, and for years to come. This article sums up very much the added stress in our marriage, much more added stress than the regular stress encountered in the average marriage. If we could do it all over again: WE WOUDLNT! I wasnt aware of my own jewishness until into my 30's, and insisted on raising our 3 children by "parashas", that's all I had living 4 hours away from the nearest significant Jewish population of Toronto- but it's been like living "swimming against the current" for 14years...mentally exhausting.
Think about it carefuly, & my advise is if you do marry a gentile make at least a firm promise to eachother - preferably in writing, which religion will be the ONE in your home. Compromising with religion is an oxymoron.

(13) Anonymous, August 27, 2001 12:00 AM

I think YOU should decide

My grandmother wanted to marry a Catholic. She loved him very much, but she didn't marry him because her parents disapproved. I'm very glad she made that choice, since if she hadn't I wouldn't be here. My grandmother on the other hand regretted it, and the man she did marry although acceptable to her parents was also an alcholic who mismanaged her money and ruined the financial security of her family. Would things have been different if she had married the Catholic? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It would in any case have been her choice; and that counts for something. From what you've said it sounds to me like your parents and not your religion are the dominant factor. However, it will not be their marriage and it is not their life. I think this is your question and I think it is for you alone to answer. What are the things which matter to you? How should you live and with whom? These are questions of fundamental values. Cede them to other people, and you live by their values and not your own. These values may be correct or they may not be. Yet, even if they are correct, you will not fully accept them, if you feel they were imposed upon you. Instead you will always look to what might have been. Life choices are by definition hard, since they are by definition both important and contested. However, the definition of a life well-lived is not only the choices one makes, but also one's willingness to make them. Cede them to other people and you live with a ghost of the convictions you supposedly hold and live by, and you do so because you did not choose them, but instead allowed them to be imposed upon you, where they remain something alien, and therefore always provisional. Questions of how to live are questions which everyone faces, you and your childern no matter how you choose to raise them. A life which avoids such questions is one without true conviction, and that is matter of regret.

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