The New Mixed Marriages: Is Spirituality Getting in the Way?

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When people think of mixed marriages, they often think of couples of different races or religions. Nowadays, however, the term has also come to refer to those with differences in spirituality. Specifically, couples in which one partner is spiritual and the other isn’t.

Before delving into the he-said-she-said of it all, let’s start by defining spirituality. What, exactly, is it?

What’s in a Name?

According to May-Britt Searty, a Holistic Health & Personal Development Coach and Family Therapist based in Dubai, at the core of it, spirituality is the act of being connected to yourself and, through that, your surroundings.

“Is spirituality to believe in something greater than yourself; a God, your Higher Self, the Universe, Magic, a Greater Force, etc.? Yes, we can call that spirituality – but there is so much more to it than that. What about the person who believes in nature? Or the person that is connected to themselves and therefore connected to others? Is he or she not spiritual too?” she asks.

Prem Amit, Meditation Facilitator and Sound Healer in Dubai, expounds on this. He says, “Spirituality is coming close to ourselves by understanding what we are and living the life our inner being wants to live – this is when we are the closest to the divine in ourselves.”

Spiritual Mixed Marriages Versus Religious Mixed Marriages

Unlike mixed-religion marriages – which are more obvious in their challenges and therefore slightly easier to deal with as the couple has most likely had a conversation about this prior to the union – issues that arise in mixed-spiritual marriages are a lot subtler, sometimes creeping up on partners long after they’ve put a ring on it.

That’s because a lot of people find spirituality at a later stage. “It is very natural that a person becomes more spiritual or turns their gaze inward later in life, which is also later in the relationship,” says Searty. “Very often, we come together to create a family and, when all the practical and material wishes have been fulfilled, our focus isn’t needed so much on the outside.” She also believes that a person can become spiritual as a result of illnesses, depression, trauma, or the loss of a loved one.

In these cases, what often happens is that one partner goes on a path to find greater meaning and fulfilment in their lives, while the other remains stagnant, uninterested, and often unwilling to do the same. And therein lies the problem.

Is There Marital Bliss at The End of The Tunnel?

How do you rebuild or maintain a strong and lasting connection with your spouse when it feels like you’re growing in different directions? How can it work when one of you finds peace and acceptance in meditation and reflection, for example, while the other thinks it’s all just a load of… crap?

Firstly, by getting off your high horse.

“I have seen many people who claim they are spiritual that often are escaping reality and find themselves superior to others. And I have found people who are very practical and connected with nature, that are more spiritual and in touch with themselves,” Searty says.

One of the problems might be that we live in a time where yoga and meditation have become the “right” (and fashionable) way to show your spirituality, and people who’ve fallen prey to that will value themselves above others because of that.

That way of thinking – that we are superior to others because of our spirituality – is the crux of the problem. “We need to stay away from the feelings of ‘I am right’ and ‘that’s the way it has to be,’” Searty warns.

angelo lacancellera unsplash bride groom marriage
Photo: Courtesy of Angela Lacancellera

The Real Problem Isn’t Your Spirituality

When we demand something from our partners and create pressure in the relationship towards a specific thing, we tend to become angry, frustrated, or disappointed when our partner doesn’t come through. But is that a surprise when we’re coming from a place of force and expectation?

“If one partner is spiritual and the other isn’t, then the spiritual person must respect their partner’s commitment and responsibility to their marriage and family by letting them decide for themselves if this suits their path or phase in life. Similarly, the non-spiritual person should allow their partner to grow and evolve and find their own truth and path without judgement or scorn. Trust on both sides is extremely important, along with patience and respect for each other’s journeys,” Amit says.

Be honest. How many times have you demanded something in your relationship – something reasonable even, but in a forceful manner – and your partner resisted that simply because of the way you went about it? Maybe if we didn’t expect – or, worse, command – our partners to change their ways, they would do so naturally. In many cases, the way in which we speak to our partners and communicate our desires for the future becomes the main problem. Perhaps, instead of focusing on the issue of our spiritual incompatibility, we should expend our energy on changing the narrative of communication in our relationships.

Insecurities also play a big role in the issues faced by mixed spiritual couples. This is because they react negatively based on their expectations of each other. The truth of the matter is that, when one person is on a spiritual path, they are searching for something they have not found, perhaps in their relationship or in their life in general. This tends to make the nonspiritual partner feel insecure or left out, Amit says. “These fears crop up and lead to negativity and, as a result, to trying to control more and more of their spiritual spouse’s way of living. Of course, this backfires and the relationship goes into turmoil,” he adds.

Searty agrees. She says that the right approach is all in the communication. How are you speaking about your spirituality when you convey it to your partner? How open are you to listening to the other?

“When you come from a place of wanting to be right, the communication will always turn into me against you.”

Makes sense. Besides, no one likes a know-it-all.

Are We Giving Love a Bad Name?

Spirituality is about personal growth and a connection with ourselves, so it goes without saying that it’s an extremely personal journey. With the same token, personal growth stems from one thing: love. I know, I can’t believe I went there either. But it stands to reason that only if you love yourself can you truly flourish.

One big problem in relationships is that we tend to identify with love through a person. According to Searty, that’s the biggest mistake. “Love is already in us. This man or this woman are not the reason that you now love. You should be doing this already – you should already love. That a particular person makes you feel special is beautiful, but they shouldn’t be the reason for you to love.”

When you rely on your partner for love, then the state of being loved becomes conditional. But if we come into a relationship when we are already in love with ourselves, flaws and cracks and all, then we are more understanding. We can put ourselves in others’ shoes. We can be kinder, gentler. “We are open. Loving without expecting something from one another.”

So, Where Do We Go from Here?

Searty and Amit both agree that the best way forward is to just live and let live.

“I strongly believe that a person should follow their own spiritual path without expectation that their partner does the same. The personal behavior, success, balance, joy, and happiness you get from this can lead to a natural curiosity from your partner, and even be a catalyst for change.”

For Amit, acceptance and trust are key to a (mostly) happily-ever-after. “Once you realize that every being is different and unique in their inclinations, then it is easier to move forward in terms of having a choice of spirituality. And if both can understand that the underlying idea of any spiritual practice is the same, then going on different paths to eventually end up on the same road should not be a hindrance. Real spirituality is about acceptance, and that includes accepting our individualities.”

Opposites attract, after all.

All’s Well That Ends Well.

The bottom line: If you focus on the “you” part of the relationship instead of fixating on your partner’s spiritual shortcomings, there’s hope for you yet.

As Rumi famously said, “Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” Let’s agree to meet halfway.

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