Postcards from a peaceful interfaith marriage

My friend Molly has a great blog, Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce, in which she writes about how she and her ex-husband have gone from being bickering spouses to good friends and harmonious co-parents. Her stories are ,by turns, funny, heartbreaking and inspiring. Like any successful blogger (especially one who had made it to the Huffington Post – yay, Molly!) she’s incited some not-always-so-peaceful debate. I recently re-read some of her posts to see what all the fuss was about. In a nutshell, her critics think she’s assuming that everyone can have a peaceful divorce with sufficient effort. I think they are mistaken about her message. Her essays are descriptive, not perscriptive; she’s sharing what has and hasn’t worked for her family.


At the root of her peaceful divorce (which is not without conflict, mind you) is something that is also at the heart of any peaceful relationship – a fundamental belief in the deep-down goodness of the other. This doesn’t mean believing that every single thing he or she does is good – but rather having faith in the other’s essential character.  While Molly and her ex-husband learned that they could not live together in harmony, they seem to have a profound trust in one another that makes it possible to overlook, or at least tolerate, some (most?) of the “small stuff.”

This same faith has been one of the secrets (not that it’s much of a secret) to my husband’s and my successful interfaith marriage. Getting through the small stuff is always on my mind at Passover. Why? Because one of my very favorite Jewish holidays happens to be the holiday my husband can barely tolerate. And it’s often led to conflict.


I love to cook. I love to entertain. I love ritual. I love singing familiar songs with friends and family. In a nutshell, I love Passover. My husband likes steak and beer, not necessarily in that order. He would prefer to never have company. He is an atheist. He does not know Hebrew, and never heard the song Dayenu before we were married. (For this, I may envy him just a bit.) There’s really nothing about Passover that speaks to him. And while we’ve found pretty good compromises to work through these differences the rest of the year (shabbat company only once a month, for example), Passover is tough. I become much more strict about observing the dietary laws of kashrut (here’s an article I wrote for interfaith family about some of the ways we manage this year round), and I usually end up hosting both seders, which means we have company two nights in a row. Also, my husband likes (needs) to know how much we are going to spend on anything and everything approximately two years before the bills arrive (I’m not really kidding about this – he has financial spread sheets taking our family through the next five years, at least.) I never stick to our food budget on Passover, nor can I ever seem to accurately predict how much I’m going to spend on things like eighteen dollar boxes of “bread of afflicition.”


In past years, Keith would get increasingly anxious and withdrawn at Passover. I think deep down he was afraid that I was turning into a fundamentalist Martha Stewart with a spending problem. Consequently, I would get increasingly irritated, afraid he was turning into a… jerk.

Almost ten years into our marriage, we seem to have found our stride, even at Passover. My husband has faith that after eight days, things will go back to normal. This makes him a little more relaxed, and able to tolerate some of the challenges that come with this holiday. I have faith that my husband’s moodiness is temporary, and that he is still the very even-keeled, incredibly helpful and wonderful man that I fell in love with. This makes me less likely to stomp around the house banging doors. Trusting in the person we married, even when their actions don’t precisely match whom we know them to be …..that’s the secret to a peaceful relationship.


We’ve even managed some tiny steps in each other’s direction. This year, I let him keep his beer in the refrigerator instead of the garage (I sold him my chametz.) He cleaned my car thoroughly for the holiday, and even remembered to move the dog food and biscuits to the garage when I had forgotten. They might seem like tiny gestures, but to me, they are truer signs of love than flowers  or jewelry.

Marriage is not easy, and I’m sure divorce is even harder. But no matter what the relationship, everyone benefits from working through the challenges as peacefully as possible. Thanks for the constant reminder, Molly!


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posted April 24, 2011 at 5:18 pm

> This year, I let him keep his beer in the refrigerator instead of the garage (I sold him my chametz.) He cleaned my car thoroughly for the holiday, and even remembered to move the dog food and biscuits to the garage when I had forgotten. They might seem like tiny gestures, but to me, they are truer signs of love than flowers or jewelry.

beautifully said!

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Molly @ Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce

posted April 24, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Oh, this is beautiful, and not just because you have so thoughtfully represented my work!

I, of course, would have loved to have been able to make my marriage more peaceful, but it took the split for me to get the perspective that I have today.

For example, knowing that there will be conflict over your Passover seder, but showing flexibility and goodwill over it because you know that it won’t last, is so mature and smart.

Aren’t there things that drive us nuts about everyone in our lives? Being patient and accepting of those characteristics is so much more beneficial and productive than fighting over them. My married self couldn’t do that, but I am glad that my divorced self can.

I applaud your ability to love each other through the differences that make each one of you the special person that you are.

Thanks for your lovely words about my blog.

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Ayala Zonnenschein

posted April 25, 2011 at 12:01 am

I really appreciate your piece. Making a marriage work is really an art and requires so much dedication and perseverance…and love. Kudos to you and Keith…and thanks for sharing.

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posted April 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for a beautiful post! I hope your holiday was great.

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posted April 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm

A very nice piece! We learnt this passover that i was doing way too much work and my partner wasn’t. We were both not enjoying this. This was one of the main reasons i sort of hated holidays and even Shabbat. I took a therapist friend spending the nite to notice tension and helped us with our unnecessary power struggle. We did enjoyed the rest of the holiday.

Stories like yours show that understanding, love and patience are the fuel in marriage. Thanks!

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posted April 26, 2011 at 12:22 pm

What a wonderful post,I think that any relationship can benefit from the points you talk about in this post, I really enjoyed reading it.

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Emily Rosenfeld

posted April 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Thanks for a wonderful and uplifting post!

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posted April 26, 2011 at 5:49 pm

So sweet. And of course, the same issues come up in families where both spouses are Jewish, and one is more observant, or interested in the holiday, than the other. This year, Bad Cohen decided his IBS required him to keep eating raisin bran even during Pesach, but in deference to me used our chametz bowls for it.

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posted April 27, 2011 at 1:30 am

Wow, it’s interesting to think how the varying observances of Jewish movements can play a stronger role in decision making than mere “Interfaith” marital status.
I’m reform, and the wife, even before being on the verge of conversion, had no problems with an exclusively Jewish household (yet we’re still considered interfaith for some strange reason). I guess our main points of contention have more to do with division of labor, which I suppose can be more heated than matters of faith.

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