Three YourTango Experts discuss religion and spirituality, and their influence on relationships.
There are two practices that are central to virtually every major religion and spiritual tradition and they are both crucial for sustaining healthy relationships:
- Service to others
Meditation is largely about developing an "Observing Self," or what the Buddhist tradition sometimes calls a "Wise Mind." Jewish, Christian, and other traditions each have their own methods of practice. But the goal is the same in each: learning to develop that part of the mind that can step back and observe, rather than identify with, our thoughts and feelings. This same skill is needed in our intimate relationships, especially when we are in a "power struggle." That is when we most need to be able to step back, and remain open, curious, and accepting of our partner. Meditation teaches us to accept "what is," and learning to accept our partner, and not try to change them (or make them wrong, or get them to be more like us), is crucial to having a good relationship. Studies have shown that meditation appears to stimulate and develop the same areas of the brain that are involved in emotional harmony, flexibility, empathy, and self-awareness (Siegel, 2007). It seems to follow that meditation should be good for our relationships, and that relationships can be a path to spiritual growth and awareness. How Meditation — Yes, Meditation — Led Me To True Love
Service to others may seem obvious in its general value and in our intimate relationships. But so often we get frustrated with our partner, and we selfishly focus on our own needs not being met. Happy couples are good at giving to each other. This does not mean that we abandon our own needs and wants—just the opposite! When both partners are able to honestly and openly express their needs, and there is a mutual intention to be giving, then there is the opportunity for genuine love and connection to occur. But we must each learn to give regardless of what our partner does, not waiting for them to go first.
What If My Partner And I Don't See Eye To Eye? Relationship coach and author Catherine Behan shares her personal story:
The first time I went into a Protestant Church at age 35, I felt like looking over my shoulder for the sure bolt of lightning aimed to strike me dead for being disloyal to my Catholic roots. I had been schooled by nuns, marched to church weekly and did all the Catholic rites of passage, from First Communion to Bridal Day.
In college I became a C and E Catholic (Christmas and Easter) but basically wandered around with no real spiritual life until I found myself in my early 30s with two kids under age 3. That will get you religion really fast.
I prayed with a guy on TV who was teaching about how lost and lonely he had been until he asked God to heal his broken heart. I was irresistibly drawn to that message and became a born-again Christian. I began to speak and teach and became part of a community. I felt saved—but my marriage was faltering. The more my time and attention went torwards my spiritual life, the more my marriage suffered.
Not to say it wasn't already suffering. That's what got me searching for answers in the first place. My life sucked and something had to change. My Christian connections made me feel loved and accepted. It made my husband feel left out—more so than he had already been feeling.
I have since moved on to other spiritual practices, divorced my ex and remarried a man who accepts my spiritual side completely. Now, he doesn't want to hear about it all the time, but he accepts it. More importantly he accepts me in it. You, Me And God: Interfaith Relationships
How did I manifest such a different man? Here are some tips:
- Keep some of your spiritual practices private. You need your connection to spirit more than you need your partner to understand and agree upon every little detail of your practice.
- Live your beliefs as much as—if not more than—you speak about them. When sharing your spirituality, use your words only when absolutely necessary. Joyful silent celebration of your spirituality is one of the most powerful magnets you can use in attracting the best in your partner.
- Invite your man to share in a part of your practice and honor his response whatever it is. No pouting allowed. Remember he is a spiritual being too and just like you, he needs his privacy to be with himself. Finding Religion After Finding The One
With or without your partner, you will never regret a moment spent pursuing your spiritual connection. The similar theme in spiritual practice always starts with one’s self. Whether you believe the divine is within or pray daily (or more frequently) to a deity, be confident in your beliefs and values, respect others right to do the same, and celebrate our humanity together.