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Spiritual Intimacy

It is often difficult for a couple to share their personal faith experiences with each other. This is so for couples of different faith traditions, but is also true even if they are of the same religion. We are trained to avoid talking about religion in polite company because this topic is laden with strong emotion. Further more, our faith experiences are intensely personal.

Precisely for this reason, it is very important, for a couple who wants to be close, to trust one another and be accepting of the other’s deeply held beliefs and religious experiences.

Sometimes, people think that faith does not really matter to them because they are not overly religious. But even if they have no formal religious training, their concept of God and how they view themself in relationship to God, is central to their personhood and powerfully impacts their behaviour and attitudes. If they simply avoid sharing that which is so central and foundational, they run the risk of missing a rich source of intimacy and their relationship becomes vulnerable to misunderstanding in this area.

Tension can also arise because couples have sometimes been taught different things about what is right or wrong. They may even hold deeply seated misconceptions about the other’s faith traditions or experiences. Sharing faith can overcome this formation and draw a couple closer together whether or not they choose to practice their faith in the same way. It is a great act of generosity to free the other to be themselves by sincerely encouraging them to reveal their feelings and experiences in their relationship with God.

A Journey to Unity

Expressing your emotions about your faith experiences is a wonderful way to begin the journey of sharing faith. Unlike a trip, a journey is not focussed on the destination, but rather on rich experiences along the way. Interfaith couples who pray together and strive to share faith at an intimate level strengthen their marriage bond by encouraging each other to grow in faith. Couples of the same faith (either by circumstances of birth or through adult choice) who make the effort to actively share their faith, have an even greater opportunity to experience a profound degree of unity that is uniquely bonding and intimate. This last category of couples has the lowest recorded incidence of divorce.*

 


Stories of the Heart

I was raised in a home where there was a lot of negativity towards Catholics. So when I started dating my wife, I was very critical of her Catholic faith and guarded towards her family who were very involved in Church life. At times I was openly antagonistic towards them. And when we decided to move in together, I resented what I saw as the Church interfering when she expressed reservations. I thought she’d ‘grow out of it’ and I didn’t want religion to be part of our life. I didn’t realise how much damage I was doing until 11 years and three kids later our marriage broke down. I can’t help wondering how different things would be now if I had been more open to understanding how important her faith was to her.

I agreed with my non-Catholic fiancé before we married that we would send any sons to his old Presbyterian school while I could chose a Catholic school for any daughters. I wasn’t going to church very often at the time, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. As time went on however, I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable with this arrangement. As I rediscovered my faith, my desire for all our children to receive the Sacraments and grow up in the Catholic faith also grew. Even though our local Catholic schools are just as good academically as other schools, I didn’t think it would be fair to him to change my mind. I found myself becoming defensive and reactive with him about anything to do with the children’s education.

Eventually, I got the courage to ask him if we could re-think it. After much discussion and soul searching, we did change our plans and we are now both at peace with our decision.


*In a multivariate analysis conducted by the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University, the three most significant predictors of marital stability were participation in joint religious activities, few religious differences, and family approval of spouse at the time of marriage.

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