Religion in a Bicultural Marriage

I grew up in a pretty conservative Presbyterian church in Virginia. Jorge grew up in a Catholic church in Cancun. Both of our families had/have leading roles in our respective churches, so religion played an important part in both of our lives growing up.

When we were dating, there were several times when I wanted to discuss religion to find out exactly what Jorge’s beliefs were and how they lined up with mine. Anyone who has lived in Mexico knows that this is like pulling teeth. Even though Mexicans are admirably firm in their beliefs and principles, there’s still a cultural barrier that prevents them from talking about it. The Mexican culture doesn’t like to talk about anything that could lead to conflict, including religion and politics. (This is starting to change a little bit with our generation, internet and social media, but that’s a post for another day.) If you bring up religion or politics at a gathering, Mexicans will usually close up a bit… or maybe Americans are just a little too open. I guess it depends on who you ask. 😉

After several years, Jorge and I were slowly but surely beginning to discover that despite our different upbringings, our core beliefs were exactly the same.

Once we got engaged, I had some very good conversations with Jorge, his parents and my parents as we planned what our wedding would look like. In the Catholic religion (at least here in Mexico), you need to be married under the Catholic church. We couldn’t do that in our case because I’m not Catholic. Jorge might have been able to get some sort of permission to marry me under his church anyway, but I have some disagreements with the Catholic faith that prevented me from having a Catholic-approved marriage under good conscience.

With a little (not a lot) of pressure from both sides of the family, Jorge and I compromised. We had an outdoor religious ceremony at our wedding, but we made a point to combine wedding traditions from Protestant and Catholic faiths so that everyone involved would feel comfortable. My uncle John (who performed the ceremony) even had a talk with my in-laws beforehand, which helped to ease a lot of their concerns a few days in advance. We received many compliments from both sides of the family on how beautiful the ceremony was, so it was a huge success thanks mostly to my uncle.

Jorge with his mom holding the "lazo" at our wedding

For awhile after we got married, neither of us were going to church. I don’t have any good excuse for this. Sunday is my only day off and I love to sleep in, so I was always too lazy to find something. Last December, after seeing several online friends mention an English-speaking church here in Cancun, I decided it was time to rebuild my relationship with God and began attending. This non-denominational Protestant church is small but with a great community atmosphere and excellent sermons.

Jorge and I had decided long ago to try to look around for a church that made us both happy, and he agreed to go with me once his job started to give him Sundays off 2 months ago. He seems to really like it, and we’ve been together a few times.

At our "legal" wedding ceremony (different from the religious one)

That’s where we stand now. Time will tell if Jorge continues to like our current church or if he wants to explore more options later on. If we were in the US, there would be tons of options that could offer us a more solid compromise… maybe an Episcopalian church or some sort of Unitarian church. Here in Cancun, however, we’re limited to mostly Catholic churches and only a few Protestant options. We also go to his church when we’re in the neighborhood or on special family occasions. I really like the church he grew up in, but again certain beliefs prevent me from ever officially joining.

Our talks about church used to get a little tense and end in hurt feelings. Even though our beliefs about God line up, we both have different ideas of what a church should look like and what religious traditions should include, but I feel like things are beginning to fall into place after 5 years. Now that we’ve both seen that there are churches out there that we both like, we have more hope for the future.

Do you and your significant other have the same religious beliefs? What compromises have you made?