Faith can have a powerful impact on the quality and longevity of a relationship. Couples that share religious beliefs and practices are happier than those that don't, according to a study by University of Virginia, University of Texas and Florida State University researchers, published in August 2010 in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Arriving at those shared beliefs and practices involves communication, the core element of a healthy relationship, and a willingness to learn from each other and together, while respecting differences.
Read and Discuss Scripture Together
With 43,000 Christian denominations globally, don't assume that your partner's beliefs mirror your own. Some denominations take dramatically different positions from others on important issues, often based on differences in reading and interpreting scripture. Approximately 33 percent of Americans believe the Bible "is to be taken literally word for word,” according to a Gallup poll, while others favor more figurative interpretations. Find your shared beliefs by setting aside time together daily or weekly to read and discuss the Bible. As a couple, decide what Christian practices you'll bring into your relationship to share. In specific terms, talk about how your shared Christian beliefs shape your expectations of each other and the relationship. Coming to a clear, mutual agreement on the ground rules and guiding principles of your relationship is important to keeping it healthy and strong, helping to reduce conflict and increase relationship satisfaction.
Share Goals and Achievements
Shared goals are essential to a couple forging long-term emotional connections, according to psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith. Goals help keep a couple on the same path, actively engaged. Effective goal setting begins with knowing what you want. Brainstorm together to make a 10-year life plan, a five-year plan and one for the next year. Be detailed and specific, breaking big goals down into bite-sized chunks – small goals -- achievable in a single unit of available time, such as an hour or an afternoon off. Celebrate each accomplished goal. Make your goals about more than just the business of life. Nourish those long-term emotional connections by setting interesting, productive goals to achieve together, such as completing a Bible study course, learning how to garden, or improving physical fitness. These achievements can deepen intimacy, strengthen your relationship and make you an even better couple.
Pray Together Each Day
Make time daily to pray as a couple. This shared activity in particular was associated with stronger, more satisfying relationships in the study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Focus on the Family suggests that couples hold hands during their prayer session and start with a few minutes of silent prayer. Then, the couple should pray aloud together, perhaps opening with each partner praying for the other. Making it a priority to pray together daily offers important benefits that extend beyond the spiritual. This daily ritual builds intimacy and highlights shared values, both essential to healthy, strong relationships. Praying together is a powerful affirmation of a couple's commitment to God, their relationship and each other.
Grow Together, Not Apart
Anything of value needs maintenance if it's going to last. A relationship is no different. Growing apart is increasingly cited as a cause of divorce, according to Susan Heitler, a relationship expert with a doctorate in clinical psychology. Heitler describes growing apart as a gradual shifting of energy out of the relationship and into other things. Superficial pleasantries offered in passing take the place of meaningful exchanges. Emotional connections weaken and fade. What keeps emotional connections healthy and creates new connections is the energy of active, engaged interaction, the energy of growth. Do meaningful, adventurous things together, such as missionary work or participating in a humanitarian aide program. Go to religious retreats and seminars together to infuse your faith with new energy, too. Explore life, grow together and stay connected.
- Journal of Marriage and Family: The Couple That Prays Together: Race and Ethnicity, Religion, and Relationship Quality Among Working-Age Adults
- Psych Central: 9 Steps to Better Communication Today
- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Center for the Study of Global Christianity: Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020 Society, Religion, and Mission
- Bible Study Magazine: What's in Your Bible?
- Gallop News Service: One-Third of Americans Believe the Bible Is Literally True
- Unrealistic and Unspoken Expectations Harm Relationships; Jacklyn Marcus, Ph,D Certified Life Skills Coach
- Psychology Today: Goals Are a Relationship Necessity - Here Are 10 Tools to Help
- Consumer and Family Sciences, Department of Child Development & Family Studies: Relationships, Sharing Dreams and Goals: Creating an Emotional Connection
- Psychology Today: Are You Falling Out of Love? A Quiz on 10 Warning Signs