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Interests & Expectations   ::   Time   ::   Recreation   ::   Household   ::   In-laws   ::   Religion & Spirituality

Expectations about Religion and Spirituality

"When people draw upon a higher power than themselves to solve problems and meet challenges their success rate seems to increase."
- Gary and Joy Lundberg

Discussion: The Role of Religion and Spirituality in Marriage

Most people throughout the world have a religious or spiritual dimension to their lives regardless of whether they attend church regularly or participate in organized religion. Gallup polls in the U.S. have found that 95 percent of the population professes a belief in God and 70 percent claim membership in a church or synagogue. A couple's involvement in religious or spiritual activities is closely related to their overall sense of marital health and happiness. Couples who are united in their religious beliefs and values are more satisfied in their marriages than those who are divided on the issue. Involvement in organized religion and shared spirituality also helps couples find meaning in life and in their relationship and it serves as a moral guide by which to live their lives. Religious involvement also affects a couples beliefs and traditions surrounding birth, death, mate selection, marriage, child-rearing, schooling, holidays, and health.

Some people consider the spiritual and religious beliefs of others to be the most important characteristic of a future partner. Research shows that the greater emphasis a couple puts on religion (e.g., religious rituals, experiences, and beliefs), the easier their transition to married life and the lower their chances of marital disruption and divorce. On the flip side, research shows that having no religious affiliation increases the probability of a couple divorcing. Sharing the same religious background and ideology contributes greatly to a healthy marriage. Religion provides a set of guidelines and expectations concerning how to live, and marriages tend to run more smoothly when both partners are in agreement with these religious norms. However, when one partner is involved in organized religion and the other is not, or when each partner participates in different religions, it can cause controversy and conflict in the relationship.

Ideas for Handling Religious Differences

Here are some things to consider if you and your partner have different ideas or beliefs about religion or spirituality. They may help you to keep your religious differences from ending the relationship.

  • Respect Each Other - You may be thinking you will go to one church and your partner is thinking you will go to another. You may be planning on attending church every Sunday and your partner prefers going just on special occasions, or not at all. If you and your partner have different ideas or opinions about religion and religious involvement, avoid pressuring each other to change and don't feel like you have to abandon your beliefs. Change may occur over time, but if you try and force the issue it could negatively affect your relationship.
  • Explore Your Beliefs - Take some time to assess your beliefs and determine what is right for you. You may find that you are open to or willing to make some changes. Your beliefs do not necessarily have to match your parent's beliefs or the beliefs you grew up with.
  • Make a Plan for the Future - Before you get married talk about plans and possibilities for you and your family's religious future. You will want to have shared ideas about how you will integrate religion into the lives of your children.

Discussion: Extended Family Problems

Marrying someone from a different religious faith not only has the potential for creating problems between the couple, but between their respective families as well. Many parents may hope or expect that their child will marry someone from within their own faith. If that does not happen, some parents may be accepting of their child's choice and of their new son or daughter-in-law. Other parents may be unpleasant, unsupportive, or downright negative about the whole situation. Their rejection can be very painful and it may interfere with your wedding, your decisions about where and how to spend holidays, and even your decisions regarding where your children go to school. The following section contains a few ideas for dealing with unsupportive parents that will make things easier for you and your partner.

Dealing with Unsupportive Parents of Interfaith Marriages

  • Listen to Your Parents - Listen to your parents concerns and advice. They may have some valid points that deserve your consideration. Then ask them what conflicts and problems they faced as they planned for their own wedding and how they overcame those problems. You may also want to ask them how their parents reacted to the news of their engagement. Letting your parents talk and asking them for their advice may help them to realize that things would be better for everyone involved if they supported your decision.
  • Set Boundaries - If your parents are not willing to support your choice of a marriage partner, let them know that you love them, but there are certain things you will not put up with from them (e.g., rude comments about your fiancé and his/her beliefs).
  • Express Love, Not Rejection - Let your parents know how much you love and respect them even though you intend to marry someone other than who they wanted for you. Just because you may be feeling some rejection from them, does not mean you have to return it to them.
  • Keep the Door Open - Keep your parents in your life and stay in contact with them, even if they don't respond well because they are offended at your choice of partner. Let your parents know that they are welcome to be a part of your lives if they wish.


Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, December 06). Personal Interests & Expectations. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License