Like sex and money, spiritual beliefs are often difficult for couples to talk about. Some couples assume they have a solid understanding of each others beliefs. Others feel that spiritual beliefs are not important enough to discuss. So should a couple talk about this matter prior to marriage?
You bet they should , and let me explain to you why.
Last year I had a couple, Tanya and Steve, come in to see me at my Las Vegas clinic. Tanya and Steve were an attractive couple their mid 30s. Tanya had been married before and had two beautiful young boys. Steve had never been married before, and was looking to add to the family as soon as possible.
Tanya was gushing that she had met the love of her life and felt so blessed Steve adored her boys. Steve was totally smitten with Tanya and said, “Tanya is more than a man could ever ask for!” On the surface, Tanya and Steve were a match made in heaven. As the couple had already purchased a beautiful house in Las Vegas, they plan to have a marriage celebrant marry them on their property, surrounded by close family and friends.
My concern was that Tanya and Steve were not considering their respective spiritual backgrounds. Both Tanya and Steve claimed to be agnostic. However, I knew Tanya was from Jewish decent, and her boys attended a local Jewish school. As Tanya’s mother was paying for the boys education, Tanya said she didn’t mind which school the boys attended. Tanya stated she followed none of the Jewish traditions.
When I asked Steve about his religious upbringing and traditions, he shared with both Tracey and I, the story of his father being a disgraced Christian minister. Steve was so traumatized with the way his community shunned not only his father, but his entire family, that Steve turned his back on religion. Tracy was surprised and hurt at hearing this story, as Steve had not shared it with her previously.
“It just wasn’t important or relevant”, he told Tracey.
It was time for me to ask the couple the big question. “What religion would your future baby follow?”
“The child would be Jewish, just like his or her brothers!” Tracey stated. Steve’s jaw dropped open in shock, “My child would never be Jewish! He or she would be raised Anglican just like me!”
Tanya and Steve sat in cold silence. It was now apparent the couple had significant religious differences.
Tanya and Steve are not alone. In the Prepare Enrich national survey of 50,000 marriages, 52% of all couples had unresolved differences in their spiritual beliefs (1). These findings are important, as spiritual beliefs provide a foundation for the values and behaviors of individuals and couples.
So what can you do right now? Begin by exploring your spiritual past with the questions below. Ask your partner the same questions. The key is to be continuously curious about your partner in their spiritual beliefs, remember everything is alive and changing all the time, so you cannot assume their beliefs have remained stagnant and unchanged.
Faith is a life long journey.
Couple Exercise – Exploring your past
How much do you know about your partner’s religious history? How much do you know about your own religious history? Family heritage lends a sense of stability and tranquility to relationships.
Set aside some time to discuss the following questions. If you do not have the answers, ask other family members.
1. What is your families ethnicity?
2 .What is the origin of your family name?
3 .What is your family’s religion?
4. What’s holidays and rituals do you and your partner currently celebrate?
5. Where did those celebrations originate?
6. What do holiday symbols mean to you? For example the menorah for the Christmas tree?
7. Is there significance to the food you prepare?
8. What is the meaning of the gifts you exchange?
9. What rituals and celebrations would you like to celebrate?
Through rituals, we create a treasure chest of memories, communicate information about values, and build a family legacy for our children and grandchildren. With that in mind, create a new family or couple ritual. Then integrate it into your weekly monthly or yearly routines.
See you next month for more premarital relationship advice,
DBA, MBA, BBSc, MPsych (Clin)
To begin Premartial Counseling with Dr. Savannah Ellis, CLICK HERE. Gift certificates available.
This article was written for Weddings Know How Magazine Feb. 2015 – CLICK HERE for article
1. The Couple Checkup: Find Your Relationship Strengths is designed to help you and your partner build a more satisfying and intimate relationship. This is not so much a book to read but a checklist of things to do, questions to answer, answers to discuss and conversations to share.
Written by three relationship experts, this book will stimulate thoughts and attitudes about your relationship, help you activate dialogue and discovery, and deepen the quality of your relationship.
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Over the last 30 years, the PREPARE/ENRICH relationship assessment has empowered and energized more than 3 million couples. We’re the number 1 premarital inventory and couples assessment tool.
All premarital couples can benefit from the early detection of potential relationship issues by taking the Prepare Enrich Assessment. Currently only 35 to 40% of all engaged couples receive any premarital education. Premartial education has shown to reduce divorce by 30% and to improve overall marital satisfaction.
To begin Premartial Counseling with Dr. Savannah Ellis, CLICK HERE. Gift certificate available.