Spiritual exploration can be lonely and divisive when one partner's not on board.
When my husband and I got married, our divergent religious backgrounds were the last thing on my mind. From the start, we were in full agreement that we would blend our Jewish and Christian traditions into an unstructured cornucopia of customs and holiday celebrations. This all-inclusive philosophy presented little conflict, and we were compatible in our religious laziness.
But, eventually, I became a restless wanderer with unresolved questions about my soul's purpose on this earth, and I longed for a deeper, more personal relationship with God. My husband remained content just where he was and this became a dividing force between us. While he gathered inspiration from the History Channel and science fiction novels, I began devouring the writings of great enlightened masters, gurus and eclectic ministers.
My spiritual quest led me to bounce from one house of worship to another. I explored Buddhism, Unitarianism, New Age Christianity and Zen meditation. On my insistence, my husband would often escort me to many of these spiritual centers—he found that they offered excellent opportunities for uninterrupted naps. When I attempted to discuss my deep findings after services, he would simply reply "very interesting" and our car rides home were draped in thick, uncomfortable silence.
I started to share some of my newfound wisdom with our children. My husband was in full agreement that this would broaden their perspectives and help them to become better people, but he preferred to take on the role of passive observer, rather than teacher.
I started to believe that if we could not share this essential journey together, we might not be able to maintain our love. How could we call ourselves true soul mates when we no longer saw eye to eye on something this fundamental?
I began to examine my marriage with the clinical depth of a physician looking for the source of an illness; something insidious had taken hold of our marriage and was eating away at us. I still loved my husband and wanted to fix things so our marriage could survive. Most importantly, I needed to restore my peace of mind.
The more I forced the issue, the more he withdrew into his shell. Even though he loved me and wanted our marriage to work as much as I did, it was painfully obvious that he had no intention of stepping outside of his spiritual comfort zone just to please me.
The great Rabbi Harold Kushner once said, "God is like a mirror. The mirror never changes but everybody who looks at it sees something different." Somewhere in the midst of my gnawing discontent, this divine piece of simple wisdom gently moved me out of my own way, for I had been sorely missing the point. I had lost sight of my fundamental belief—that each one of us must follow our own unique path and come to our own truth about God and the meaning of this life. Who was I to tell anyone else how to nourish their soul, let alone the person I loved most?
The shroud of frustration finally lifted, and I started to see things through a different lens. I admired how my "unenlightened" husband nurtured our daughters with such grace and gentle love. He is one of the few people I know who truly adores his career, and I observed how his colleagues respected his leadership. I found a renewed appreciation for how hard he worked to maintain long-standing friendships and how deeply he revered the elders in his life and how they cared for him in return. What I had perceived as his silent, spiritual dead-zone, was actually another pathway towards the same light—and, certainly, a more peaceful one than my own.
I stopped begging, lecturing and judging. I focused on my own spiritual work and left my husband alone to do his. I will never again underestimate the beauty and power of pure silence. Sometimes, remaining perfectly still is the best action one can take.
These days, my soul is still more restless than I would like, but I have found a lovely little church where my husband can doze off and no one seems to notice. The truth is, he barely closes his eyes anymore and I can tell, in his own quiet way, he is listening. And, so am I.