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Wellness

How To Make An Inter-Faith Relationship Work

Wendy, 32, and Joe, 37, had been dating nearly a year before their divergent faiths first gave them pause. "So, what are they like?" Wendy, who was raised Christian, but now describes herself as "spiritual, verging on pagan," asked Joe, who is Jewish, over dinner one night. For weeks, the two had been planning to have dinner at the home of another couple that coming Friday--close family friends of Joe's--whom Wendy was excited to finally meet.

"Um," Joe hesitated. It was rare that he was at a loss for words, but now he looked distinctly uncomfortable.

"There's kind of been a change of plans."

"Oh, did something come up for them?" asked Wendy.

"Well," stammered Joe, "I told them about you. You know, that you weren't Jewish. And...well, they said it's Shabbat, the Sabbath, and they can't really have anyone who's not Jewish at the table," he trailed off.

The couple observed a moment of unintentional silence before Wendy spoke.

"This is like the 2007 version of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," she finally spluttered.

"I felt like I'd been sucker-punched," she recalls. "A million thoughts sprang to mind, but I didn't know what to say first. I felt scared. And sad. And indignant. And really angry, all at the same time."

Yet, statistics indicate this scene could play out over one in four dinner tables across the country. More than 28 million married or cohabitating Americans--almost one quarter--are interfaith, according to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey.