How to Succeed in Your Interfaithless Marriage

I have a dark secret to share with you today:  Mrs. Rotting Post is a Gentile!!

I know.  Gasp!  Right?  But it’s true.   And frankly, I don’t care what you anti-Gentiles think!  Because I, for one, accept her for who she is:  an alien being of a different species.

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People wonder:  How does such a marriage succeed, where one of you lacks that, “vital Jewish sense of humor,” and the other does too, but for completely different reasons?

There is no denying we are very different people.  I am male, for instance.  She is female.  I am taller.  She is less taller.   And yet somehow, in spite of these flaws of hers, and many others, we “make it work”.   We respect each other as “individuals”.   We value diversity.  And also perversity.  We always try to see the other’s point of view, before concluding that it is completely loony.

It helped that both of our families were rather secular.   None of our parents actually, “believed”.

My own religious education consisted of:

(a) Going to Synagogue once a year for Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement”, solemnly bowing my head, and solemnly wondering how much longer I needed to keep looking solemn
(b) Solemnly ridiculing my Hebrew School teacher’s odd hand motions
(c) Solemnly dancing, “The Bunny Hop” at my friends’ Bar Mitzvahs

And we were religious zealots compared to Mrs. Post’s family.

The point is, from early on when I started dating my future wife, we shared the same, deep-seated love of not observing.   As we pondered the dreadful covenant of marriage, we gave careful consideration to how it would all work:

“We’ll have twice as many holidays to do nothing on,” I said.
“For Yom Kippur,” she said, “I can atone for skipping Easter.”
“And for Lent,” I said, “I can give up pickled herring.”
“That’s so noble.”
“But which religion will we teach our children to not observe?” I asked.  “I really want them to be lapsed Jews.  It means a lot to me.”
“Can’t they be lapsed half-Jews?” she asked.
“Seventy-five percent?” I offered.  “Life is about compromises after all.”
“Seems like fifty-fifty would be an even compromise.”
“It doesn’t say life’s about even compromises,” I pointed out.  “It just says ‘compromises’.”
“You’re an idiot.  Why am I doing this?”

And so it was decided.

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The next issue was informing my parents.  As we know, there is a pretty strong proscription in Judaism against marrying outside the faith.  There are several approaches to the delicate conversation.  Let’s look at a  sample technique:

Daughter:  Mom, Dad, Guess what?  I’m getting married.
Parents:     Mazel Tov!  Who’s the lucky guy?
Daughter:  Umm…he’s this guy.  His name is Brian Macdougal.
(Long, ominous pause.)
Parent 1:    I see.    That’s…an interesting last name.  MacDougal.   What kind of name is that?
Daughter:  It’s Jewish, actually!  In fact, he’s a Rabbi.  Rabbi MacDougal.
Parent 1:    (to parent 2)  I think she’s pulling our leg.
Parent 2:   I gathered that, Parent 1.
Parent 1:   I knew we should have sent you to that Jewish preschool.
Parent 2:   Enough with the preschool.
Parent 1:    Well you wouldn’t listen to me.
Parent 2:   I listened.
Parent 1:   If you’d listened, Parent 2, we wouldn’t be about to lose our daughter.
Parent 2:   Hey, how come you’re Parent 1 and I’m Parent 2?   Why can’t I be Parent 1?
Parent 1:   Try acting like Parent 1 for a change!  Then maybe you can be Parent 1!

As you can see, a little levity can go a long way to helping a difficult conversation.  But wasn’t my situation different?   My parents, after all, were modern, enlightened free-thinkers.   They were rationalists.  I opted for a straightforward appeal to logic.  “Logos”, as we classical rhetoricians call it.  Let’s see how it went:

Me:             Hey, I have some news!
Parents:     What is it?
Me:             “K” and I have decided to enter into the ghastly covenant of marriage.
Parent A:   Congratulations!
Parent B:    Well…she seems very nice.   Of course, we expect her to convert.
Me:              Ummmm….Convert?  To…what?
Parent A:   To…to Judaism, of course!
Me:              But we don’t do anything.  We don’t practice the religion.
Parent A:   It’s not about what we do.   It’s about…identity.   It’s who we are.
Me:              So, let me see if I understand this.  You want her to go through this gigantic conversion ordeal, just so she can go from not practicing one religion to not practicing a different religion?
Parent B:   Yes!
Me:             I’m confused.
Parent A:  It’s about what she feels.
Me:             Okay, then can’t she just declare that she feels Jewish?
Parent B:  Does she?
Me:             No.
Parent A:  It doesn’t work like that.
Me:             Can’t we just declare that it does work like that?
Parent A:  It doesn’t work like that either. 
Me:             So what if she goes through the whole conversion thing and she still doesn’t feel it?
Parent B:   Well then, how she feels doesn’t matter anymore.
Me:             Then it’s not really about how she feels.
Parent A:   It is and it isn’t.

As you can clearly see, screw logos. 

Still, in the end, it all worked out.   We’ve been married now for many years, have raised two children, and it feels like it’s only been a few, short millennia.

So what are the keys to a successful Interfaithless Marriage?:

  1. Choose someone from a different faith
  2. Patience and understanding
  3. Xanax

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27 COMMENTS

    • I love this piece, Dan. Now how does one (identity unnamed, of course!) deal with a mixed marriage between a non-Jew from NY raised among Jews, who “feels Jewish” and has considered converting (and half her family did) and a non-Jew from Boston who was raised nonobservant Protestant and doesn’t get it? Both raised by Atheists… oy. Then again, any marriage between a man and a woman is a mixed marriage.

  1. And now, thanks to you and Mrs. Rotting Post, your kids won’t have to worry about having an interfaithless marriage- they can just have a faithless marriage. That’s progress! Yay for atheists 🙂

  2. I would type OMG ,but I fear that the G is inappropriate ! There’s a song that I was thinking about ,when I received one of these posts a few weeks back.Since it’s reappearing in my mind,I think it’s a sign.So,Andrew Lloyd-Webber wrote a beautiful ballad for a show called “Song and Dance” : the song that plays underneath your posts in my head is called “Tell Me On A Sunday” .It must be your writing schedule ,but religion has NOTHING to do with it.
    Let’s say OMM ,for Oh My MotherNature.How’s that?

    • haha. Glad you’re enjoying! and yes, i switched to a Sunday schedule over the summer on recommendation from a friend. Seems like its a good day for it. People have their coffee, read the paper, good day for a brief diversion with, hopefully, a few laughs. unfortunately, my schedule is about to get a lot busier and i’m truly worried about keeping up the quality. will do my best.

      • I wish I understood how to type and save my posts.You are a genius ,as far as I’m concerned,simply because your able to type and make your computer co-operate with you.Sundays are the day with fewer e-mails,so your friend’s suggestion is spot on .

  3. Oy vey! Was Mrs. Rottingkins raised a Catholic, perchance? Kudos to her for surviving those endless Sunday masses, and to you both for surviving nearly a millennia together without (much) bloodshed. 🙂

    • Actually, my wife’s family descends from Protestant denominations, although they would not describe themselves as having a religion. She did however go to Catholic school when growing up in France, because they preferred it to the public school.. So she got a pretty full Catholic education. thanks for the kudos! not sure it is deserved, but i’ll take it.

  4. i was born jewish too. my parents were secular but heavily involved in the temple from a social-business-identity attendance POV. all our relatives were refugees from Eastern Europe or Holocaust survivors. identity and attendance were everything. i’ve been a practicing buddhist for 40 years. no partner-don’t need to negotiate. i raised my 3 kids as jewish, mystical christian and buddhist. they identify as jewish but they’re all non religious.

    • identity is definitely ‘real’. i don’t mean to disregard it in the piece. my brother’s kids were Bar Mitzvahed in a secular humanist “synagogue” which really had no religious aspect and just focused on values, culture, etc. That was quite appealing to me – but there is no congregation like that where i live.

  5. I didn’t think it would happen – I laughed out loud today (reading my first Rotting Post post). Thank you more than you know, for that!

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