Nobody Is Really That Prepared for Marriage

If instead of an interfaith relationship, you were marrying a Jewish man you’d known your entire life who had grown up next door, my advice would be the same: get counseling.

As anyone who has actually been married will attest, no matter how in love you are, no matter how fantastic your confidence or communication skills, no matter how well your parents raised you, a good marriage is hard work. And yes, there are additional issues in an interfaith marriage that will sometimes make that work harder, regardless of the generation in which you were born.

Frankly, had you said that you and your fiancée could envision at least the possibility of pre-marital counseling, I’d be less concerned. When a couple says they are completely prepared, have all the skills they’ll ever need to address whatever comes their way, and can’t imagine any difficult interfaith challenges, I question if they know what they’re getting into.

Let’s be honest, no matter how well-equipped you think you are, you’ve never been married before. You can’t really say you know what it’s going to be like. You don’t have any experience with the inevitable changes that will take place over time — your own changes, and your fiancée’s. You don’t really know what it will feel like once kids come along. Whatever your confidence level, you’ve never been down this road before.

Never mind your parents. Try talking to anyone even a bit older than you who’s been married at least five years and see if, in hindsight, they felt fully prepared. With a competent counselor, you and your fiancée can benefit from the experience of someone who has seen hundreds, possibly thousands of couples. And if your fiancée still feels offended by the mere mention of pre-marital counseling, that should be a red flag.

Try it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Harold Berman is a veteran Jewish communal professional, and the Director of J-Journey.org, which provides mentoring and support for intermarried families exploring the possibilities of observant Jewish life. Harold is also, with his wife Gayle, the co-author of “Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope,” about their “intermarriage gone Jewish.”

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Nobody Is Really That Prepared for Marriage

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