Q. My husband and I are active in a church and have built our marriage on a strong faith in God. However, when I try to discuss questions or ideas about faith or talk about spiritual experiences my husband has nothing to say. He won’t even share his ideas about last Sunday’s sermon. I want to grow together spiritually and know my husband on a deeper level. I think this would strengthen our marriage and increase our sense of intimacy with each other. What do you suggest?
A. You raise a problem which many couples experience. Often women are more verbal about their faith and more comfortable with sharing intimate feelings, thoughts and experiences. Men often shy away from this. Your eagerness for more spiritual intimacy with your husband may seem like a threat to him.
You can be thankful that your husband is involved in regular worship with you. When couples worship together it strengthens their bond with each other and with God. Let him know you appreciate the togetherness you have in this. A small change toward more intimacy that might be non-threatening would be to hold his hand during prayers in church and during grace at meals.
When you talk with him about this issue use “I” statements, and share your own feelings. For example, “I was very touched by the sermon this morning, especially ....” Or, “I realized something I need to work on spiritually when the minister talked about....” Avoid “You” statements and questions. For example, “Did you agree with....?” What did you think about....?” He may feel threatened or attacked by your questioning him and by your dissatisfaction with him.
Share your own thoughts about the sermon without digging for his response. You can hope for a response, but don’t do anything that to him would seem like a demand for a response. He needs to feel safe in order to open up and be more vulnerable.
Is your husband willing to read a book about faith, read a daily devotional, read scripture or pray with you? These may be less threatening yet can lead you both into more spiritual intimacy.
Here are several books that can help with this issue:
The Spiritually Intimate Marriage by Donald Harvey. The author identifies problems that inhibit closeness and he offers ways to work with a spouse who isn’t ready for a deeper level of intimacy.
Marriage Spirituality: Ten Disciplines for Couples Who Love God by Paul Stevens. The author presents ten spiritual disciplines that couples can practice together.
Experiencing God Together by David Stoop. This book offers a spiritual inventory for couples and covers a variety of topics including prayer, worship, service, confession and forgiveness.
Becoming Soul Mates: Cultivating Spiritual Intimacy in the Early Years of Marriage by Les and Leslie Parrott. The Parrotts say that every couple has a restless aching not just to know God individually but to experience God together. They provide a road map for cultivating rich spiritual intimacy in your marriage.
Quiet Times for Couples by H. Norman Wright. The 365 daily readings in this popular book are designed to open up genuine communication between husband and wife. Each devotion gives a framework for conversation, making it easier for couples to share about the deeper parts of their lives.
Couples Devotional Bible is also a very helpful resource to couples wanting to deepen their relationship with God and each other. Each weekday there is a brief devotional message, a scripture, and “Marriage Builder” questions for discussion. A “Weekending” short devotion with scripture is offered for Saturday and Sunday. 52 weeks of devotions are woven through the entire Bible and are written by 140 well known contributors.
Move carefully and lovingly in sharing more deeply with your husband. Attending a couples retreat can also be very helpful in ramping up the spiritual intimacy in marriage. A Weekend to Remember and Marriage Encounter are two examples of couple’s retreats that are frequently offered. See also www.Smart Marriages.com for other ideas.
I hope these ideas help you and your husband grow closer together spiritually.
“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans NLT