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Sometimes what makes sense is what just feels right, even when there are challenges.

My fiancé Joe and I have been together for a little over two years; what started as a casual fling after a “Valentine’s GAY” college party has turned into a committed partnership with four pets and a lot of love. But for a small town boy raised with conservative Christianity and a beach town boi raised with progressive Judaism, it hasn’t always been easy for us to see eye-to-eye. Joe is no longer religious, but I, on the other hand, am applying to rabbinical school this year. Between the queerness and the fact that I’m going to be clergy, we may not be the “average” interfaith couple; however, the same challenges that many multi-faith families face still apply to us. How do we observe holidays? How will we raise our kids? Do we keep a kosher home? Of the many necessary conversations that we’ve had for our relationship to thrive, one has paved the way for us to navigate life’s other challenges. 

The most important conversation wasn’t one that I had with my non-Jewish partner, but with myself.

I had to figure out what meets my religious, cultural, and spiritual needs to communicate that to him. Which Jewish rituals are essential for me to observe at home? How do I want to engage with the Jewish community for important holidays and events? How much passive involvement or active participation do I expect of my partner? On the flip side, how much involvement or participation in his rituals am I comfortable with? Where is the line between supporting my partner and his family and putting myself in a situation that feels sacrilegious or emotionally unsafe? Where is that line for him? 

The answers to these questions were, in a way, easy to find.

I’m going to be a rabbi, and Joe knew that when we got together. In hindsight, I’m not sure that he knew exactly what he was signing up for, but he was at least aware that Jewish culture and religion would play a significant role in whatever future we would build together. Joe being the quintessential queer kid who left his small town to explore the diversity of the world that he is, I assumed that I’d probably be going to a Christmas dinner every year but wasn’t concerned that he’d want to go to church on Sundays. I was not prepared, however, for how deeply moved I was when Joe called me to ask if a particular pair of shoes was kosher for the High Holidays, started chanting the Shabbat blessings with me even though I never asked him to, or got me an engagement ring with a band that looks like tree bark because he knows the significance of the Tree of Life in Jewish mythology. I was also unprepared for how we disagree about what constitutes respectful behavior at family gatherings, the differences in the ways we communicate, or how we each view the world as products of our upbringings.

There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to love.

Joe and I do not have the end-all-be-all solution to what makes an interfaith relationship successful. We are figuring out together what makes our relationship successful. We communicate about our boundaries and expectations and have compassion for each other when the other’s answer isn’t necessarily what we want to hear; it’s a never-ending conversation. Though the inevitability of the “how do we handle ______” discussion before every holiday can be frustrating at times, continuing to learn about each other on a regular basis is one of the things that I love the most.

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