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Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday October 13, 2013 MYT 9:28:14 AM
DEAR Thelma, I'm in my early 30s. I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend, who is five years older. We met about a year and a half ago, and became friends at first as we knew each other through social networks. He works in East Malaysia on a project basis while I stay in the Peninsula.
We spoke with each other almost every day through Skype and the phone. Our relationship grew stronger day by day and we started to have feelings for each other. Eventually, we became a couple after a few months and continued our long distance relationship.
He loves me very much and treats me very well. Whenever I am sad, he will cheer me up. He will take me to places that I want to go to and buys me things that I want. He flies back just to meet up with me about once every two to three months. We love each other very much.
Recently, we decided to get married. However, problems and conflicting issues started to crop up. We are from different religions: he is a Buddhist and I’m a Christian. We tried to get blessings from our families but they are not really happy about it. This is because my parents brought me up in a Christian way and wish to see me marry a Christian man and live a Christian life, even after marriage.
They advised my boyfriend to convert to Christianity so that our lives will be harmonious and united in God’s eyes. On the other hand, his family are staunch Buddhists and since he is the eldest son in his family, his parents expect him to continue his family tradition. They object to him converting to Christianity.
As a dutiful son, he followed his parents' advice and remains a Buddhist. Furthermore, his parents insist on me following Buddhist tradition and praying at the temple if I marry him.
They reason that if I really love him, I should follow his religion and pray to the Buddhist god and his ancestors. Our children will also have to follow Buddhism in the future.
I’m really confused and heartbroken. Our relationship had to end because of our different religions. I really love him and wish to have a family with him.
But with all these problems now, there will be even more problems in the future, especially family disagreements. What should I do? I miss him very much.
IT is very sad that your loving relationship, as you have described it, had to end because of religious differences. When it comes to a union of two people from different religions, it is rarely about the religion alone. It is about family responsibility and obligation. It is about culture and tradition.
Sometimes, it does come down to “my religion is better than yours”. But, it’s more about having run out of arguments or not knowing how else to defend their position.
However petty these issues may seem, they have to be ironed out before a marriage.
People often think the differences will be forgotten after the birth of a child. But, this very significant life event raises anxiety about the future and puts religious differences back on the front burner.
What religion should the child or children follow? Will they lose touch with the core fundamentals of this family or that?
You might have to be thankful that you have realised these things sooner rather than later. If you and your boyfriend really want to save your relationship and think that religious differences don’t matter, then the both of you are going to have to convince your respective families about it.
It would be unrealistic to expect to take religion out of the equation. Talk it out. Remember that tempers will flare and tears will follow. Don’t expect to resolve the issue over one conversation. It will take a lot of time.
It will also take compromise. One or both of you will have to make some concessions. It is better to agree, or disagree, now, on what are “no go” areas.
Don’t put things aside to talk about later. Trash it out now. Even the issue of which religion your children will follow. It is better to decide now.
When the two of you have agreed on issues, bring your parents in. Your parents will probably take longer to convince. But, if the two of you are certain this is what you want then you are going to have to invest the time and energy in convincing your parents.
You may think that just the two of you are important and you don’t need your relatives. Many people come to that painful decision. But, that comes with repercussions and if this is your decision then you must be prepared for what you are going to lose.
Don’t expect the other person to change after marriage. This is another fallacy. People do not change unless they are engaged mentally and psychologically. Thus, it makes it all the more important for you to trash things out.
People become quite sensitive when talking about religion. You just have to be respectful when doing it.
Put in some effort and learn about his religion; he will have to learn about yours. The understanding of each other’s beliefs will also help resolve issues in differences of religion.
You will have much opposition, so it is extremely important that the two of you agree on this. When the going gets tough, you will have only each other to turn to. So, be sure of what you want and be ready to not be swayed.
If you maintain the relationship for love alone when you have not resolved other very core issues, it’s not going to be enough. Now, if the two of you cannot agree – or even agree to disagree – then maybe it is better for you to let the relationship go.
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