Couples tend to think about life and how their spirituality affects their relationship when they are about getting married, or have already tied the knots. However, whether you address them soon or later, the big issue remains. Some people do not get reach their spiritual side until there is a crisis-a terminal sickness, infertility, an accident or a threatened divorce. It is at that point that some of us look up to higher power and start wondering what the solid foundation of our lives have been. It is however, easier to let faith keep your relationship, than having to grapple for it when things get sour. Does faith and spirituality make any difference in a marriage? If you are not yet married, it is a great time to take into account, your belief system. Share with your partner what you believe, how spiritual you are, what your spiritual goals are and vice versa. It is important to talk about your relationship with God, what spiritual practices you believe in and take part of, and how you both would handle spiritual matters when married.
Research conducted by the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University (1999) showed a higher incidence of divorce among interchurch couples (20.3%) than among same-church couples (14.1%). (Interchurch couples are Christians of different denominations, e.g., a Baptist and a Catholic or a Methodist and a Presbyterian). Religion can bring spouses together or push them apart. Couples may be of different religions, but that in itself does not predict marital instability. What’s important is whether couples engage in joint religious activities. For example, do they pray together or read the Bible together?
Although research finds that greater religious practice is related to lower rates of divorce there is not necessarily a causal relationship. It may be that people who are more actively religious are more likely to oppose divorce, or maybe they work harder at their marital relationship. There are couples who are both religious but practicing different religions. They engage in spiritual sharing but do not worship together. Mutual respect in such scenarios is key to a successful relationship. Generally, communication and respect helps to prevent any issues from different spiritual views but solutions to dynamic dilemma are as unique as the couples.
Start with the basics:
- Who is God to you?
- What code of ethics guides your life?
- Do you value weekly worship?
- What kind of prayer is comfortable and satisfying to you?
- How important is it that your spouse shares your religious beliefs?
- Are you lukewarm in your religious commitment and likely to fade away if you have to do it alone?
We agree that this conversations might not sound sexy on a Saturday night but they are worth having and would save you both trouble in the long run. The atmosphere doesn’t have to ‘interview-like’ to convey the seriousness of the discussion. For example, you can both be cuddled on the couch, then you sit up and say “You know, I just realized that I don’t know how much of a spiritual person you are. What is your spiritual life like?” and bam! Conversation starts!
Exchange visits to each other’s religious assembly
If each of you belongs to a different faith tradition, learn more about the beliefs of that religion. You’re not trying to convert the other but to understand what shapes your partner’s values. This is important because it helps you see things from a different perspective, and maybe you would realize that we all worship God, just in different ways. You need to have the mindset that no religion is superior to another, only different.
Become a grown-up person of faith
Often people are raised in a religious home. They attend religious education classes, and maybe even Catholic or other religious schools for 8, 12, or 16 years. But their faith formation got stuck in childhood. If you have grown distant from the faith of your childhood, check it out again on an adult level. If you were a lawyer or doctor you wouldn’t think of practicing your profession based on high school information. Update your knowledge of your faith. You don’t have to have a degree in theology but you should not rely on childhood explanations in an adult world.
Unity in your home unit
Couples from different faith backgrounds who are continuing along their different spiritual paths must find middle grounds for religious traditions and prayers. Praying at home is less formal than at mosque or in church, so you can develop creative time of devotion and prayers together. Muslims and Christians can pray together, and so can Jews and Muslims; it is all about finding common ground.
Put the kids in mind
As tempting as it is to leave decisions of what faith your children would be brought up with until the kids actually show up, it is important to talk about this long before the appointed time. Children should not be used as swords in a war, and crisis can arise from an issue like this if it isn’t handled properly. Ensure that you talk about it, pray for direction and even speak with leaders, but ultimately make a decision that would unite your family and not tear it apart.
Sometimes one takes faith to an entirely zealous level that it affects the peace of the home. Weak believers are more likely to be complacent and liberal towards ‘un-believers’ than the zealous brethren. Zealous people tend to believe that there is only one way to get things done and often they try to impose their beliefs on their partners who in turn go defensive and even more lukewarm. It is important that no one carries on airs about their spirituality. No ‘my religion is the best’, ‘your faith and beliefs are just so wrong’. If you really feel that your partner is on a wrong path spiritually, gently bring information and knowledge his or her way, while praying for their conversion. You do not need to force anyone to go to church or mosque with you; it would only be counter-productive. It is important for couples to discuss under a pleasant atmosphere how they would go about their spirituality with mutual respect. Brainstorm on several ideas on how to successfully deal with the situation and choose a solution that you both feel comfortable with. Respect is key in this area. Even if you do not agree with the other person’s beliefs, be respectful.