You and your spouse could probably easily count any number of ways in which you’re different from one another.
Maybe they talk too much – or not enough. One of you feels hot while the other is shivering cold. Or maybe one can’t leave early because the other is always running late.
Those sorts of dissimilarities are common. But spiritual preferences are a key area where couples often differ.
Many husbands and wives tend to expect more spiritual compatibility from each other than they should. “If we really had it together,” they think, “we’d be getting up at 6 a.m., sharing Scripture with one another, and praying together.”
Some couples do that and enjoy it. Most of us, though, don’t quite land on the same page with our husband or wife.
Maybe one spouse loves listening to sermons while the other struggles to pay attention. One enjoys contemporary worship music, and the other prefers traditional hymns. Or maybe one likes to do their devotionals in the morning, and the other enjoys Bible reading at night.
And on it goes.
The question is how can couples navigate these and other situations and find some common ground that enriches them spiritually? Dr. Scott Stanley is in our studio today to offer some guidance.
The first step, he says, is not to allow your relationship to get bogged down by false expectations. You won’t see eye-to-eye in every area of spirituality, just as you don’t agree in many other areas of your marriage. And that’s okay. We’re not all equally satisfied by the same style of food, and we won’t all be fed equally by the same church experiences, devotional styles, or Bible studies.
The next step is to search for common ground in small ways. Identify one area of spirituality that’s important to each of you and discuss ways to connect together through it. You could agree to attend a specific Bible study, listen to Focus on the Family together once a week, or read from a book you both agree on.
Sometimes couples feel like they have to grab ahold of the big lever and make epic changes in order to get the spiritual connection they’re after. They greatly undervalue the difference a small change can make in improving their spiritual compatibility.
A third step is to reaffirm your commitment to one another. When a couple has a renewed sense of togetherness, it can change their whole mindset. They’ll be more motivated to accommodate their spouse’s unique perspective.
Dr. Stanley’s research indicates that when two people have a long-term commitment to one another they feel like each other’s needs are worth investing in.
Finally, don’t be too quick to dismiss red flags your spouse may be waving. For example, if your spouse tells you, “I don’t feel comfortable at this church and it’s not meeting my needs,” take that caution seriously. Don’t disregard what they’re feeling just because the church is a good fit for you.
If you and your spouse are having trouble finding connection points in your faith, I encourage you to join us for our conversation today. We’ll have plenty of practical ideas that can help you find some common spiritual ground with each other.
Dr. Stanley is an author, researcher and professor at Denver University, and the co-director of DU’s Center for Marriage and Family Studies.