Typically at the start of a marriage there is some level of agreement on faith and religion. Partners often share the same beliefs and those beliefs serve as a cornerstone for the foundation of their marriage. But as people grow or life’s circumstances change the feelings and beliefs of partners can as well.
There are many changes in partners that cause problems in a marriage. But changes to faith can be particularly difficult to contend with, especially when the dedication to faith begins to take the place of the dedication to the marriage. It can be very difficult for a spouse to compete with religious devotion, and very confusing.
Why Faith, Among Other Things, Can Change
Changes to faith can happen for many reasons. It can be as straightforward as a growing understanding of faith and religious teachings, or as life changing as the loss of a loved one or the birth of a child.
For some, starting a family is a catalyst for a deepened connection to faith. Bearing the responsibility for raising a child and providing them a foundation for understanding religion and their connection to the world around them can change people’s priorities. Some may find they take their religious teachings more seriously than before and give their connection to their faith a higher priority that it once had.
Becoming more devout is also something that can happen as people age or as we see our friends and family grow older. When people we care about become ill or pass away it can cause us to reevaluate our own connection to our faith and religious teachings. We start to understand that we aren’t as bulletproof as we once felt, and as a result our own mortality can become a greater focus. This can inspire many people to develop a closer relationship with their religion and deepen their beliefs and convictions.
Whatever the case, a change in the faith in one partner has a clear impact on both and on the marriage. But there are two people in a relationship and the reaction to a partner’s changes can be just as impactful on the health of the relationship as the changes themselves.
Your Reaction to Change
People change over time in many ways. They grow and mature, reprioritize their values and what’s important, and as these changes occur, relationships change too.
In a marriage we hope to grow and change together in compatible ways. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Sometimes the changes in one partner can be difficult for the other to come to terms with. Sadly, this can be the case when one partner’s relationship with their faith alters over time and the other’s doesn’t follow.
The same things that can change feelings regarding religion can also change other aspects of a person and their lives. So, although a change in religion and faith may be the issue at hand, there may be other things that change over time that can be contributing to your reactions and the challenges in your relationship.
Before you can point at your partner’s change in faith as a problem for your relationship you should first spend some time thinking about your reaction. Ask yourself some of the following questions.
- What is making you uncomfortable?
- Is it really the faith, or are you feeling disconnected from your spouse?
- Have you made an effort to understand your spouse’s perspective?
- Have you looked for some common ground for the two of you?
- Have you talked with him or her about your feelings?
The answers to these questions can help you not only understand your own reactions, but also to make a plan for working with your partner to make things better.
In some cases it the lack of understanding and acceptance by the less devout partner that’s causing the problems rather than the religion and faith itself. The inability to change yourself, or to accept changes in your partner, will cause a division between the two of you that can be hard to bridge. Sadly, this can be more common as a relationship ages than at the beginning. We can become less tolerant of changes and more threatened by things that are outside our comfort zone as the years go by.
Making Room For Faith and Changes in Marriage
In a marriage mutual respect and acceptance of differences is crucial for the health of the relationship. This means finding common ground and understanding where their faith changes fit in your relationship and how they affect you. This needs to be done with an open heart and positive approach.
If your spouse is looking for comfort and guidance, or ways to better him or herself in any way, understanding their motivations is your first step. Changes don’t happen in a vacuum, they are inspired by things and events. It’s possible that your spouse’s change is in response to something you have each experienced and that each sharing their thoughts and feelings can help you both. It’s also possible that making the effort to understand each other will bring you closer together and make your marriage that much stronger.
Sometimes when one partner feels frustrated by the deepening faith of their spouse, or by any other changes, it’s because they feel isolated and left out. They may also feel as though they are losing their spouse to something they can’t compete with and so that it’s perceived as a threat to their marriage. Faith and religion especially can feel very intimidating and even wrong to try and compete with or question.
The truth is, however, that it doesn’t need to be a competition. If you relationship had a solid foundation to begin with then making use of good communication skills can be all that is needed to bring you together again. Religious beliefs also provide relationship stability and a deeper connections between partners.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are feeling lonely in your relationship, or like you are losing your partner to changes you don’t understand, it’s time to do something about it. Change can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be something that destroys your marriage. Take time to understand your spouse and why things have changed. And if you need help as a couple to get through these changes and see eye-to-eye, ask for it. Sometimes it takes an objective third party, like a professional marriage counselor or trusted religious advisor, to help you find a common ground on the role of faith and religion in your marriage.