Relationship Connection: My husband won’t observe our religious practices with me

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Question 

I’ve only been married for a few years, and I love my husband dearly. One of the things that attracted us most to teach other was our shared commitment to our religion. We’d pray together and study scriptures. I was ecstatic I’d found the man I’d always longed for. 

After we got married though that all changed. He got a job that had radically different hours from mine. It was hard doing everything we did before, but we still did it. But as time passed, his schedule took its toll. But it wasn’t just that. Whenever I’d pray or invite him to read scriptures, I felt this wall go up on the defensive. He’d either insist we needed to better plan these things, or he’d grudgingly say yes. 

I am partly to blame because at first when he’d pray by himself, I wouldn’t join him because I’d done so earlier before getting into bed. After a while I tried to be sure to pray with him, but very soon after he stopped praying before bed altogether. He also waited for me to wake up and get ready for church before he would. 

This has gone on for about two years now. We both have different jobs and different schedules. But we still manage to have time together. However, that wall is still there. He said that if we scheduled it then he wouldn’t be so angry about it. So I told him that since I don’t really care about schedules then he was more than welcome to make one. He never made a schedule or determined to pick a time for prayers. I’d endeavor to help by gentle suggestions and not nagging or bringing it up. However, when I did this, it never happened

It’s so weird because I know he cares about his spiritual life. I know he’s a good man. But I don’t understand why he is so begrudging and hesitant about these things. I came from a home without a father and so badly wanted a strong spiritual partner in my husband. What could this be from and how can this be stopped?

I just feel that he’s not the same since we’ve been married. It’s been months since we went on a walk together, and the last time he prayed with me was because I think he felt guilted into it. We did the stuff I’ve told you about all the time while we were dating, why not continue that in marriage? It just feels deceitful.

Answer

I can see how confusing this must be for you. This relationship was built on a strong foundation of shared spiritual goals and meaningful connection. Sadly, the relationship feels more like two roommates managing their own individual lives. I can share some observations and ideas to help you break out of this frustrating rut.

You shared something important in the final paragraph of your question. You mentioned that it’s been a childhood dream to have a strong spiritual partner in your home. The way you wrote the comment indicated that this is a strong non-negotiable for you.

I can see why you’re so distressed about this. While you completely have the right to feel the way you do, I want to invite you to take a closer look at how your deep desire might play out in your interactions with your husband. 

My guess is that when you began to notice a shift in his spiritual practices, you began to feel worried and anxious about losing the dream that has been so important to you. Even though you may have tried to not panic or overreact, it’s likely that you began to treat him differently in unspoken ways. Please know this is a normal human reaction. When we’re afraid, this change in energy is inevitable, as M. Catherine Thomas observed:

Fear wears us out because we’re working all the time to keep something from happening or to make something happen – trying to control, manage, manipulate events or people, afraid that if we don’t, things will fall apart.

Since you can only control and manage yourself, consider the impact your fear might have on your relationship with your husband. One spiritual leader taught, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.” You talked about how much you love your husband, but is it possible that he might have difficulty detecting how much he means to you when the focus shifts to his spiritual practices? 

In short, consider the possibility that your husband may feel that your ideal role for him is more important to you than he is. It’s important not to confuse the practice with the person. These external practices can be good indicators of a person’s inner commitment, but even Jesus Christ had strong words toward individuals who hide behind outward spiritual practices but lacked inner commitment. My caution is for you to not make your view of your husband’s commitment or goodness contingent only on his outward spiritual practices. 

Instead, let him know of your deep desire for sharing a spiritual life with him and how you’ve let this fear consume your private thoughts and interactions with him. Ask him how these worries and anxieties have impacted him.

Give him a chance to share his journey with you to better understand if this is a relational struggle or if he’s experiencing a personal shift in beliefs. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to care about him first before you care about the practices. Hopefully he can also care about your feelings so you can both feel seen and understood. 

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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