Should I convert to my partner's religion in order to marry her?

Dear Alison,

I proposed to my partner of one year last month, and was so happy when she said yes.

We’ve been in a long-distance relationship and want to get married so we can be physically together.

She lives in a culturally and religiously different country to me, but I didn’t expect what was going to happen next. 

After I proposed, she told me she would marry me but I would have to convert to her religion. I’m not religious myself, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

It’s not her particular religion I’m unsure about, it’s that I feel like a fraud if I convert and don’t believe. I feel like it’s the wrong thing to do, just because someone you love asks you to. I’m also a bit upset that this wasn’t brought up before, as it came as quite a surprise.

I knew she was religious, but I didn’t realise I would have to convert. What should I do?



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Dear James

Firstly, congratulations on your engagement! Finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with is wonderful.

I can relate to your predicament – I was in a long-distance relationship with my partner, and we decided precisely the same thing: to get married and live together.

My then-partner lived in a culturally different country to me, and we had many conversations about where we were going to live and the life we wanted to build. We then allowed each other time to consider the options and how we could make our life together work for both of us.

You have many options to consider.

Religion is a deeply personal aspect of someone’s life and it should be your individual choice whether you want to convert.

When you are next together in the same country, you need to sit down with your partner and have a heartfelt conversation about your feelings. Share your concerns about converting to her religion based on your lack of beliefs. Explain how you feel.

It is essential to have this conversation as you must decide which country you are going to live together in, and your decision about whether or not to convert may have more significant consequences if you move to her home country.

You could ask her to give you some background about what converting to entails and the beliefs and expectations that go along with that. You should also find out why, for you to get married, you have to convert to her religion.

Be open to listening to her perspective and beliefs. Understanding her perspective and the reasons behind her request for you to convert to her religion might provide some clarity for you and help you both find a compromise.

In some situations, there may be a middle ground where you can participate in certain aspects of her religious practices without fully converting.

Be really clear about the undertaking of what would be expected of you if you did convert

There may be some classes you could attend that would give you a deeper understanding of the religion or books that can provide you more awareness of what converting would entail.

If you find it difficult to find agreement with this discussion, you could try to seek guidance from an outside party, such as a religious leader. They can facilitate and give you more background information about the religion.

Or, you could seek the services of a counsellor or professional person who may not have a vested interest in the religion or the outcome. 

Someone not connected to you could sit and listen to both views and see if they could come up with a solution that you may not have yet considered.

Take time to consider. Be really clear about the undertaking of what would be expected of you if you did convert. Does it align with your values and integrity?

Respect each other’s beliefs and boundaries.

Remember, the decision regarding your religious beliefs should be one that you make wholeheartedly. Do not feel pressured to do something that does not align with your genuine views.

You indicated you found the person you want to spend the rest of your life together. Marriage and commitment are based on deep love, mutual respect, understanding, and compromise.

These are some of the key ingredients to a successful partnership. Somewhere, you have to find a middle ground that you both feel happy with to help you move forward as a couple.

I wish you well as you embark on your exciting journey of building a life together.

Best wishes


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