The Words of the Gullery Family
My spouse and I have just moved in to our first apartment after living with our in-laws for a year. Of course it is wonderful to have our own place, but we are having major disagreements about the ways to express our faith. He's quite rigid and I'm a little more laid-back. We are fighting about this almost daily and we're not sure what to do. Help!
Faithful but Frustrated
Dear Faithful but Frustrated,
This is a common struggle for young couples. It's the job of all new couples to figure out how they want their marriage to look and feel, and meshing faith traditions is an important part of the job for couples who value their faith.
Statistically, sharing the same faith gives your couple an edge. However, the downside is that when we share a common faith, we automatically expect our spouse to approach and express their faith in the same way that we did while growing up. And of course that is often not the case. Differences are to be expected. However, the differences themselves are not the problem -- it's the way we deal with the differences that determines the outcome. And anyway, criticism is decidedly not spiritual!
Spirituality is very personal, so the first step is learning how to share it with our partner. I remember how hard it was to pray with my fiancée because I was reluctant to be as honest with him as I was with God. It took some time to develop that sense of trust and confidence to be able to pray deeply together.
It can be challenging to work through our different approaches to spirituality, but it can also be a wonderful opportunity to co-create this aspect of your lives together. It also gives you a chance to re-visit your basic core beliefs, individually and together. Take time to share about what really matters to each of you and learn what part of your faith gives each of you energy and power. And on that important foundation, you can then decide together how you want to express your faith. It may take some compromise and experimentation, but the process can be just as important as the end result.
So why not plan to experiment? Take turns each week or month joining your spouse in their favored spiritual activity. This kind of substantial effort can be very meaningful and is a real expression of support and acceptance. For example, if your spouse appreciates attending church services, go with them every second week. And then they could join you the other weeks in a meditation walk by the river, if that's what you like.
Once you've demonstrated your support for each other, you can try experimenting with spiritual rituals and/or activities that could perhaps meet your mutual needs. That can be a very powerful thing. Maybe you will discover that serving others or volunteering in the community gives you both spiritual nourishment and energy. Or perhaps joining a small group to study and share with other couples would nurture both of you.
The key point is to listen to each other, respect each others' feelings and ideas and be willing to try new things! It helps to remember that there is no one way to experience or relate to God, and that all faith traditions are meant to strengthen our connection to each other and to Heavenly Father.
Therefore, be creative, be honest, be supportive and patient, with yourselves and each other. And remember that God is always happy to hear from a sincere couple -- so keep talking and keep listening. He may actually have some helpful suggestions.