4 Stages of a Jewish Intercultural Relationship

Tuvya Zaretsky did his doctoral work specifically studying what he called “Jewish-Gentile Couples”.  Zaretsky (2004) identifies four areas where Jewish intercultural couples tend to have conflicts: identity, religious observance, life cycle events, and child rearing.  He also identifies four distinct stages in a relationship when these issues occur: dating, wedding, marriage, and marriage with kids.  Zaretsky sees a pattern in the nature of a couple’s conflict as they proceed through these four stages.  In the first stage of dating there is very little intercultural conflict.  Oftentimes the couple finds few differences in themselves, and the differences they find are often fun and interesting, and they can enjoy exploring them.  The second stage he terms the wedding stage, involves the preparation for the wedding and the serious contemplation of marriage.  For many couples, this is the first real encounter with the consequences of being in an interfaith/intercultural situation.  The couple is forced to make decisions about which traditions they are going to follow for the wedding ceremony itself.  They discover conflicts with their parents over celebratory rituals.  Who will perform the wedding?  Can they say “Jesus” in the ceremony?  Will it be in a synagogue or a church or at a neutral site?  Judd (1990) writes that the wedding is often the first encounter a couple has with the Jewish community as a couple and is often surprised by how lacking in acceptance it can be.

In Zaretsky’s (2004) third stage, marriage without children, he again finds a more peaceful stage like dating, as couples often avoid making difficult long-term decisions about family life.  The fourth stage of being married with children is then the most difficult and conflict-laden stage because a couple is forced to make consequential decisions about how they are going to raise their children.  As conflict becomes more intense, hurt and regret may surface as well as conflict with extended family.


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