I grew up in a family where differences in faith and religious practice caused a lot of heartache and pain.
My Dad, having been badly hurt by the faith community, wanted nothing to do with church, God or people who called themselves people of faith.
My Mom, on the other hand, survived life’s hardships through her strong faith.
You can see right away that this was headed for trouble.
We are now approaching the celebrations of Chanukah (or Hanukkah) and Christmas. Although much of this season has become commercial and simply cultural, it still does allow for a variety of religious and spiritual practices.
Instead of being able to respect each others’ positions, this became a pain point. How can we really nurture our own spirituality and respect our partner’s spirituality at this time of year (and as a practice for 2019)?
Currently, in America, around 9 out of 10 people believe in a higher power of some kind. However, what and who that higher power is varies widely with just over 55% (from a 2017 study) see that higher power similarly to the God described in the Bible. (From a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center: "When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?").
So, chances are pretty good that you and your life partner approach faith and a higher power somewhat differently. Even if feeling similarly about these important topics was the case earlier in your relationship, it may have changed over the years.
How my parents handled this discrepancy was anything but healthy.
What are some healthy ways to encourage and respect each other’s version of spirituality, whatever that may look like?
- Acknowledge that faith is very personal and filled with nuance - vs. black and white “you are wrong, I am right’ facts.
- Remember that faith, by definition, comes with mystery - neither of you can “prove” your positions to each other, nor do you need to.
- If you believe in a higher power, then you can also rest in that higher power caring for your partner without you needing to manipulate, convince or pressure.
- Ask your partner about their spiritual beliefs, practices and hopes. What brings them joy? How do their beliefs comfort and strengthen them.
- Practice not judging each other. It is OK to be different from each other.
- Share your powerful moments with each other and celebrate what means a lot to your partner, even if it is different for you - listen deeply enough to truly understand and value what matters to them.
- If you are someone who does not believe in a higher power you still live with core values and beliefs. Sharing what matters most to you is core to intimacy.
So, at this time of year, and as we prepare to start a new year soon, my encouragement to you is to allow your values and beliefs bring you together stronger as a couple, regardless of how divergent they may be from each other.
Until next time,
Marilyn Orr, The Luv Life Coach
Marilyn Orr, MA, CEC, PCC is a relationship coach with Luv Life Coaching, passionate about equipping couples with the tools for real and lasting intimacy.
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Posted on Thu, November 29, 2018
by Marilyn Orr filed under