The Internet floods us with ideas, tips, and tricks for couples to grow in their relationship with God. Sifting through it all can get overwhelming. Which works and which doesn’t? Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff and look at the ideas that truly work.
Be Doers, Not Just Hearers
Couples who share religious faith experience higher overall marital satisfaction (Perry, 2015). So yes, being married to a fellow believer is great! But that’s just the beginning. You need to go beyond passively hearing about your beliefs and actively start to do what your belief tells you.
Research also has shown that when couples take specific spiritual actions together, they experience better marriages than just by sharing the same faith (Mahoney et al., 1999). If you want to strengthen your union, you need to take steps in your spiritual journey together.
As you grow in your shared faith, your marital satisfaction and quality go up. Marriage becomes healthier and more satisfying.
Is Personality a Factor?
It’s rare for couples to have the same personality and expression of spirituality as each other. And sometimes those differences can be discouraging. If you are shy, you might feel disheartened that you don’t seem to have the same energy for God as your extroverted spouse. If you’re more outgoing, you might think you’re spiritually shallow because your quieter spouse spends more time in personal prayer than you.
The apostle Paul addresses this in his letter to the Romans. He describes how you are different parts of the same body, that each of you has something unique to bring to the table. Recognizing that you “have gifts that differ according to the grace given” to you, Paul exhorts you “to exercise them accordingly” (Romans 12:6).
And research backs him up on this. Dyer & Luckey (1961) found that differences in personality type do not affect spirituality in marriage. There is no right personality type to grow spiritually, so you shouldn’t worry that your spiritual growth doesn’t look like your spouse’s. Instead, focus on what’s important: sharing your journey pursuing God.
How Couples Can Grow Spiritually
So what are some specific ways to grow in your relationship with the Lord as partners? Here are some easy, yet effective methods to accomplish this:
1. Hold Weekly Check-Ins
Hectic schedules can easily cause you to forget to touch base with each other, so you might start to drift apart. To prevent this, Willford & Willford (2013) recommend that couples hold a weekly check-in. Consistency is vital because it shows your spouse that you are prioritizing and valuing this time with them.
In these check-ins, you should cover these important topics:
- Celebrate the Wins. What were the highlights of your week? Share moments that gave you joy, and give your full attention to them when they share theirs. Rejoice in each others’ triumphs, remembering to thank God for these blessings.
- Share the Struggles. Be real with each other. Open up and share your frustrations and problems. Use the scheduled time to gather your thoughts so that you can have a healthy discussion on these difficult topics. Process together, and bring them before the Lord in prayer.
- Dream of the Future. What are you hoping? Planning? Where is God guiding you? As a couple, you need a glimpse of the future before you, to know that you are striving towards the same dream together.
When you make it a point to have these deep conversations with each other, you develop incredible intimacy, growing in your relationship together.
Forging a Stronger Marriage During Hard Times
Once again we’ve created a bonus guide for our much-appreciated supporters. This week’s goes along with today’s show but focuses on forging a stronger marriage during hard times. If you want to get better as a couple at bringing the tough stuff to God, you’ll definitely appreciate this 3-page guide with Scripture and wisdom to help you navigate tough times together. You can get this by becoming a patron of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People.
2. Pray Together
Joint prayer is another excellent way for couples to thrive. When couples regularly pray together, they experience higher marital quality, higher levels of trust, and reduced conflict as praying teaches them to forgive each other (Fincham et al., 2008).
Sometimes you might be tempted to use your joint prayer time to air your grievances against your spouse. But you need to be careful not to use this time to passive-aggressively attack your spouse. It shouldn’t need to be said, but prayer is not meant to manipulate or change each other. Abusing prayer like this will damage your relationship instead of building it up (Fincham et al., 2008).
As you pray together, focus on thanking God, trusting Him with your lives. Pray for blessings, wellbeing, and guidance for yourselves and each other. Listen to your partner’s prayer, and take this opportunity to develop empathy for them. Doing this helps you to understand your partner’s heart and desire.
By learning to empathize, you learn to work cooperatively instead of against each other.
3. Share Marital Beliefs
Understanding how God views marriage helps couples to grow spiritually and guides their journey together (Mahoney et al., 1999). These mutual beliefs bring you closer to your spouse and God. Some of these tenets include:
- God is a part of your marriage, and He influences your actions.
- Your marriage is sacred and blessed by God.
- Marriage symbolizes Christ’s union with the church.
Sharing these beliefs will give you the strong foundation your marriage needs.
4. Face Challenges Together
You will have trials wherever you go in life, including in marriage. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that God didn’t create you to face them alone, nor did you pledge to when you said your vows. When facing challenges, you need to turn to one another and God for support.
When couples have to deal with stressful situations, marital conflict, or life transitions, van Tongeren et al. (2018) found that turning to God together helps them take on these difficulties. And not only will it help you with what’s before you now, but it also helps you with future struggles.
When you turn to God as a couple, you both grow in your faith, strengthening your marriage for what you will face tomorrow.
Dyer, D. T., & Luckey, E. B. (1961). Religious Affiliation and Selected Personality Scores as They Relate to Marital Happiness of a Minnesota College Sample. Marriage and Family Living, 23(1), 46–47. https://doi.org/10.2307/346886
Mahoney, A., Pargament, K. I., Jewell, T., Swank, A. B., Scott, E., Emery, E., & Rye, M. (1999). Marriage and the spiritual realm: The role of proximal and distal religious constructs in marital functioning. Journal of Family Psychology, 13(3), 321.
Perry, S. L. (2015). A Match Made in Heaven? Religion-Based Marriage Decisions, Marital Quality, and the Moderating Effects of Spouse’s Religious Commitment. Social Indicators Research, 123(1), 203–225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-014-0730-7
Williford, C., & Williford, C. (2013). Faith Tango: A Liberating Approach to Spiritual Growth in Marriage. Crown Publishing Group.