When we marry, we marry into a family. We do not always consider that fact, but we need to do so. When your fiancé and his or her family are members of a different faith tradition, it is very important to spend time with your fiancé's family.

We all know that religious differences can cause problems in family relationships. Finding out just how ecumenical the family you are marrying into is is very important - especially if neither of you has any interest in converting.

My husband, Bob, and his family are practicing members of the Reformed Church in America. My family and I are practicing members of the Roman Catholic Church. Neither of us are interested in changing our religious affiliation.

There were no objections raised to our marrying because of our different faith traditions. Our parents were people of faith who not only attended church services, but also were active church members. Bob and I have followed their good example. We are both active members of our church communities.

Although our daughter's religious education was primarily in the Roman Catholic faith, Bob and I always felt that our family should come to know and respect both of our faith traditions. Over the years, we have often participated in activities and church services in each other's faith communities.

Respect for our family's faith traditions has given Bob, me and our daughters a broader understanding of the differences in our Christian faith traditions. We all feel that it has enriched our spiritual lives. Being "ecumenical" has helped us embrace the fact that we are all on the same spiritual journey.

Bob and I sometimes share memories about how beliefs were practiced in our family's lives when we were children. For Bob's family, Sunday was a day of prayer, worship and family. While some of his friends could go to the movies or attend other activities, he could not.

I told him that, when "Family Rosary" was on the radio, you would find my family kneeling in the kitchen with our arms resting on the seats of the chairs, reciting the Rosary along with the people on the radio program. I still remember the motto of the Family Rosary: "The family that prays together, stays together."

Over the past 40 years of our marriage, we have had many opportunities to worship together. We have both noticed some of the differences in our traditions, which has led to some good-natured kidding: Bob has said that he gets his workout when he attends Mass, with all the standing, sitting and kneeling that takes place; I've told him that I get my vocal and facial exercise while singing all the verses of all the hymns when I attend his church.

Since each of us can see how these differences and others may seem peculiar to our spouse, we take no offense, but consider it an opportunity for some of that good-natured kidding. (I must add that a sense of humor is very helpful in any marriage, but may be even more important in an ecumenical marriage.)

Marriage may be one of the most challenging unions into which we enter, and adding the word "ecumenical" can add to that challenge. Bob and I have found that love and respect are the keys to a happy ecumenical marriage.

(Mrs. Snyder is a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Church in Albany and a member of the Albany Diocese's Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.)