Many people are aware of their spiritual nature, but others are more skeptical
Spirituality and Marriage – Many people are aware of their spiritual nature, but others are more skeptical. Some people express their spirituality through a traditional religious belief. Even those who are not religious often believe in something greater than themselves, such as the beauty of nature. Being aware of your spiritual side will enhance your life and can play an important role in your marriage. Spirituality can help you develop your humility, overcome materialistic tendencies, and help you become more generous. These qualities will make you a better person and a better marriage partner.
➤ Exploring the idea of a shared soul
➤ Learning about spiritual happiness
➤ Developing spiritual kindness
➤ Bringing spirituality into your marriage
The concept of having a soul mate is an ancient one. There is a tale that illustrates the idea of a soul mate. Even if you aren’t religious, you’ll be able to see the beauty in this story because it demonstrates that wonderful sense of belonging and willingness to sacrifice that only love can give. The tale is of a young man who had a lame leg. There was a special girl who lived in the next town, and someone suggested that they meet for the prospect of marriage. The girl declined, stating that she didn’t want a husband with such a handicap. The young man requested just one conversation with her.
As she sat in the young man’s library, he told her the following: “When our soul was up in heaven, it was split in half so we could descend to earth and be born. I saw that you were going to be lame, and my heart sank—how difficult for you to go through life as a lame woman. I begged our creator to let me be lame instead and He agreed.”
They were married shortly thereafter.
This story has an important message. Most married couples at some point have felt as though they were destined for each other. However, people also agonize about whether they married the right person. Their first response when they encounter difficulties in their relationship is to doubt their choice of spouse. This severely limits their ability to put their whole heart into the relationship. When you encounter a moment of doubt like this, it can be helpful to think of the two of you as part of the same soul. Difficulties in a relationship are not a reason to doubt your choice of spouse. Rather, they give you the opportunity to grow as individuals and together.
Ben came into my office very upset at his wife, Evelyn. When they were first married, they agreed that she would stay home to run the household and do the lion’s share of the parenting, while he would work outside the home and be the breadwinner. However, Ben found Evelyn to be a very disorganized housewife. Nothing was ever where it should be, dinner was rarely on the table at the right time, and their three young children were often up past 10:00 at night. He felt that she was breaking the bargain they had made. It not only made him question his choice of mate, but his anger about the constant mess and turmoil made it difficult for him to enjoy being with his family. I said “Imagine that you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that your wife was the other half of your soul. There is no question of your leaving your wife because the two of you were destined to be together. Now that you find yourself in this frustrating circumstance, can you think of a way it could help you to grow?”
Ben thought for a minute and then made a crack that it was meant to teach him patience. We discussed it for a while, but it wasn’t until three sessions later that he came to see that if his wife was indeed the other half of his soul, he wasn’t treating “himself” very well. He never praised his wife for the things that made him happy, he spent a lot of time criticizing everyone in the family, and he had never realized, let alone told his wife, that even in that mess, the kids did seem pretty happy. He resolved to change all that.
The next time your spouse overspends on the credit card, doesn’t make the bed when it’s his or her turn, or forgets to take out the garbage, be a little patient. This chal- lenge didn’t come to you by accident; it was specifically designed to help you to grow as a person and as a couple. Following are three steps to increasing your patience:
1. Take 10 slow, deep breaths.
2. Put things in perspective. In the grand scheme of your marital happiness, recognize how unimportant this one conflict is.
3. Take the time to remember your spouse’s good qualities.
No matter how difficult your trials may seem, thinking of the two of you as part of the same soul will help you do whatever you can to make the other person happy and to realize that what is good for him or her is also good for you.
It’s easy to forget that feeling of elation we felt when we stood reciting our vows to one another. We feel remorse that those initial feelings have slipped away. But the truth is, they are meant to slip away. They are replaced by something far deeper and more powerful: the love that comes from giving.
A newborn baby offers nothing to a new parent except endless sleepless nights. At that stage, an infant can’t even smile in appreciation, yet look at all a parent does for him or her. And the more a parent does for a new child, the more the parent loves that child. It is a love born of giving. Now take this idea and transfer it to your relationship with your significant other: The more we take care of others, the more we grow to love and cherish them.
When you meet the needs of your spouse, not only will you feel more fulfilled, you will also be setting a great example for your spouse to follow.
Our Foot Hurts
An elderly man walked into the doctor’s office with his wife. The doctor turned to the couple and asked, “What seems to be the trouble here?” The man answered, “My wife’s foot is hurting us.”
How many of us even remember if our spouse’s foot hurts? In this busy rush we call life, few couples take the time to really share their lives. This, of course, goes beyond stubbing a toe. When we allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in the little details of daily hassles, we may even fail to notice when there is something emotionally wrong with our spouse. We don’t notice a hurt look, a heavy sigh, or just some simple body language that says something is amiss. We live parallel lives rather than integrated ones. We keep thinking that some day soon, when I am more organized and life is a little less stressful, I really am going to take the time to be there for my spouse and my family. But we all know that the time never comes.
Answer the following questions to help you figure out where you are on the road to authentic happiness.
It is not always easy to give selflessly. The first step is to recognize the problem and make a commitment to do something about it. Then begin to pay attention to what your spouse needs. This is not always easy, but this is the time to stretch yourself. Do more than you want to. Do it selflessly with no expectation of appreciation or of get- ting paid back. That is genuine giving, and it’s the key to authentic happiness.
Being good to other people allows for personal growth and fulfillment. That’s not to say that you should not take care of yourself, and even pamper yourself, but giving to others can enhance your spirituality and your level of closeness to the source of all things. Giving provides some people with a sense that they are part of a grand design of the universe.
I had the opportunity to speak with a wealthy man who had started many corpora- tions. When I asked him what accomplishment he was most proud of, his answer surprised me. He was most proud of the fact that no matter how busy he was, he ate almost every dinner with his wife and children, though he usually needed to return to the office later that evening. I was impressed. He recognized that spending time with his family was more important than any corporation he had started.
The Deed Shapes the Heart
Amy and Dennis were having many problems in their marriage and had been coming to me for several months. We were working on their finances because that’s what most of their blow-ups were about. Amy was very responsible about money, whereas Dennis spent money based on his emotions.
Their biggest battle was over Dennis’s purchase of a used car. He had bought it against Amy’s wishes. She had felt it was too run-down, and it turned out she was right. They had already spent a lot in repairs, a fact that Amy never failed to remind him.
So what was the solution to this impasse? The first step was for them to both get on the same side of the fence. They were treating each other as if they were on opposite sides of a war. The concept of being the other half of each other’s soul was very pro- found for their development from opposing sides to more like a team. They began working toward the same goal, which was not financial equilibrium but far more important marital harmony.
The next step was for us to work on what we called “kindness exercises.” We did it with a lot of humor, but basically, Amy and Dennis were given the assignment to do kind things for each other. Examples were clearing each other’s plates after dinner rather than each doing his or her own, turning down the covers for each other at night, or even putting toothpaste on each other’s toothbrush. For the first few weeks they kept a “kindness” journal in which each of them wrote down kind things they did for their spouse, kind things they were going to do, and kind things their spouse did for them. While the whole process felt a bit silly at the time, the results were wonderful. As each of them read their notebooks to me, I witnessed a new sweetness toward each other that had not been in their relationship before.
But the greatest breakthrough we had was that, as we explored the issue of kindness, Amy realized that one of the greatest acts of kindness that she could do for Dennis was to stop harping about his car. Dennis smiled broadly and replied that maybe his being more careful with money would also be a kindness to her.
The Path to Kindness
When you are able to rise above your inner, knee-jerk reaction to always be “right” (which is a form of selfishness), you allow yourself to be more fulfilled as a human being. Kindness isn’t just about buying flowers or a new tie for your spouse; it’s about learning to listen, getting in tune with what the other person is saying and why, and expressing our thoughts and feelings kindly. When you use kindness as a means to resolve issues and gain a greater understanding of each other instead of trying to al- ways be right you learn to appreciate and cherish your spouse.
Sometimes it’s hard to be kind. Maybe your husband yells at you sharply, and a few minutes later realizes he is late to a client appointment. He asks you to help him carry things to his car. Or maybe your wife talked on the phone all through dinner, and afterward, comes in while you’re watching a show. She says she needs to speak with you. It would be easier to bear a grudge and say “no,” and you would be perfect- ly justified, wouldn’t you? Maybe. But perhaps this is an opportunity to be kind, to rise above your petty grievance.
You can express kindness in your actions as well as your emotions. Being sensitive to someone’s feelings or having compassion for another human being is one of the greatest acts of kindness. Following are five great ways to get you started on the road to kindness.
Five Steps to Practice Kindness
1. Smile at your spouse often (even if you don’t feel like it). 2. Compliment your spouse at least once a day.
3. Do one nice thing for your spouse every day.
4. Keep a daily kindness journal. 5. Read several of your kindness journal entries to each other every month.
The Meaning of Life
The majority of people are too busy living life to sit down and actually plan what their goals are individually and as a married couple. For those who do sit down to plan their future goals, the goals are usually of a material nature how much money they want to have in the bank or what large purchases they are planning. Some cou- ples go further and plan what their goals are in their relationships, such as spending more time together, being more forgiving, or trying to be kinder to one another. However, all of these couples are forgetting the one area in their life that has the greatest potential to bring them the ultimate joy human beings can have—growth in the spiritual realm.
Spiritual growth can mean different things to different people. For some, it is spending more time at a house of worship. For others, it is coming closer to their crreator. Taking the time to explore this area can often provide a depth of meaning to your life. It is most important that couples discuss growth in this area so they can work to- ward growing together, not apart.
A nurse named Kathleen came to my office regarding a very difficult issue in her marriage. Since her sister’s death from cancer, she had felt a deep need for religion in her life. Her husband, while not anti-religious, didn’t know what to make of this sudden change. I asked Kathleen to bring in her husband, and together, the three of us dis- cussed the issue. Kathleen wanted to go to prayer services every week. Her husband said he’d be interested in going once per month, at most.
Kathleen was pleased to hear that he was interested in going at all, and we all came to the agreement that they would go together monthly, and her husband also agreed to attend two additional religious functions during the year. In one year, they would revisit the issue (with or without me,) and make new agreements at that time. Having designed this plan, there was no need to bicker or argue every week about whether
Kathleen’s husband would go to services. Their plan was mutually agreed upon, and both of them were reasonably happy with it.
Following are three spiritual questions to discuss with your spouse:
- Do you want to attend services more regularly or less often?
- Do you have an interest in participating in so- cial events or study groups within your religious community?
- Do you need more quiet time for personal prayer?
Adding a New Dimension
There are many types of religious conflicts in a marriage. The spouses might both be the same religion but have different ideas about their degree of involvement. Or the spouses might simply come from different religious backgrounds and not know how to work together in the spiritual realm. If one spouse wants to grow religiously and the other doesn’t, it can be threatening to the partner who isn’t interested in spiritual growth.
Communication is the key. Tell your spouse that although he or she is the single most important part of your life, you would also like to explore your spiritual nature. Tell your significant other that having a deeper understanding of religion not only will help you appreciate your spouse more, it will help you grow into the kind of person you want to be more able to show love and give care. If your differences in spirituality are causing conflicts in your marriage, it might be useful to seek counsel- ing from a clergy person or a secular therapist. Religion tends to be a particularly emotional issue, and having a third party involved can be very helpful.
There are many ways that you and your spouse can grow together spiritually. If you have not already chosen a place of worship, explore your options together. Visit dif- ferent places and attend services. Find out about group activities and other ways you can become involved. Make an appointment to talk with the spiritual leader. Discuss with your spouse where each of you felt the most comfortable and why. Then con- sider how much time you want to initially commit, including services, study groups, charity work, and general social events. Try your new plan for three to six months and then discuss the issue again. Make sure that the way you are spending your time is fitting both of your needs. Growing together spiritually can be one of the most fulfilling parts of your marriage.
Marriage Q & A’s
Q: My spouse and I are both committed spiritually. What else can we do?
A: As a spiritual couple, you have a special opportunity to strengthen your relationship with others. Consider starting a study group in your home or inviting other couples and families to celebrate religious holidays with you.
The Least You Need to Know
- ➤ Recognize the gift that your spouse is to you. He or she is your soul mate and can help you fulfill your potential in life.
- ➤ Giving to your spouse can lead to authentic happiness.
- ➤ Just be nice. The rewards from performing acts of kindness are immeasurable.
- ➤ Discuss spirituality with your spouse. Meet with a counselor to guide you through your differences.