My husband, Frank, and I have much in common: we both love travel, going to the movies, Italian cuisine and animals. But what you won’t find us sharing often is a spiritual practice.
You see, while my husband doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve, he was raised Catholic and still goes to weekly Mass, while I, on the other hand, am more likely to connect with spirit on a yoga mat or a meditation cushion. (I do believe in God, and went regularly to church with my dad when I was growing up, it’s just that these days I express my faith differently.) Despite these disparate styles of spirituality, our relationship remains strong. The secret? Knowing that despite our contrasting worship venues, our values are a match.
If you’re in a similar situation with your partner, but finding the differences are bringing conflict, here are 5 tips to help bring you spiritual and partnership peace:
1. Don’t try to change each other’s views.
There are parts of my husband’s faith I don’t agree with, but I respect the peace it seems to bring to his life. At the same time, he’s never asked me to convert or suggest I trade meditation for more church time.
2. Resist over-sharing about your own practice.
As excited as I was about the energy-healing seminar I attended this summer, I knew when my husband asked how it was, he really just wanted to know if I enjoyed it or not, rather than wanting details on energy meridians, etc. And when Frank attends Mass, he doesn’t say much about the service unless I ask about it or it had a message he thinks I’d respond to.
3. Be open to experiencing aspects of each other’s spirituality.
While I’m not Catholic, I’ve gone to Mass with Frank many times, including during trips to London, Los Cabos, Chicago, Kauai and Phoenix. Experiencing the differing flavors of the services around the world (e.g., ukulele accompaniment in Hawaii and corn-salad treats sold outside of church in San José del Cabo) has given me a window into local cultures not always available at tourist sites. For his part, my Type A husband once hugged a tree with me in Sedona, Arizona, and on his personal to-do list (albeit way down on the list) is trying a beginner yoga class.
4. Try viewing your differences with a sense of humor while still holding each other accountable.
Frank has said more than once that with all the books I’ve bought by Deepak, Eckhart, Marianne, et al, I could open a New Age bookstore. He’s also not so subtle about offering ironic looks on the topic, as when he noticed one of the titles on my way-overloaded bookshelf was Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. As for me, I don’t hesitate to call my husband out if in the car an hour after church the words he’s offering up to other drivers aren’t of the heavenly variety
5. The more you value your partner’s happiness, the easier it becomes to support his or her spiritual practice.
When John Paul II visited our city a decade ago, I think I was as thrilled that Frank got to see the Pope along a procession route as he was to have the experience. And when I’m acting stressed, he all but physically escorts me to a yoga studio, knowing how much it helps center me.
I hope these guidelines help smooth any troubled waters if you’re in a similar “mixed” marriage. In addition, if you are, I’d love to hear about how you and your partner balance your individual beliefs with relationship harmony.