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How To Strengthen Your Spiritual Connection In Marriage

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Building a shared spiritual relationship can feel like a roller coaster ride. But Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley have discovered three key experiences to help strengthen a couple's spiritual connection.

Listen to a broadcast about connecting spiritually with your spouse with Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley.

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve Saturday morning cartoons. I would stumble out of bed and head downstairs toward the family-room TV to binge on “Looney Tunes,” “Scooby-Doo” and “Inspector Gadget.”

As I would pass by the living room, I’d frequently find my dad on his knees in prayer or sitting in his favorite chair reading the Bible. He had an amazing personal relationship with the Lord. My mom had a strong faith, as well. However, I never witnessed how my parents cultivated a “shared” spiritual relationship. So, I really don’t know how it worked or how they maintained it.

Now that I’m the adult and it’s my kids who pass through to watch, my wife, Erin, and I have our own personal relationships with the Lord that we nurture in different ways. I love learning about God by studying His Word and being surrounded by nature. I would describe Erin as a “traditionalist” (from Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Pathways). She loves God through ritual and symbol (i.e., daily devotions, taking communion, etc.).

As a couple, we certainly understand the importance of building a shared spiritual relationship, but this pursuit often feels like a roller coaster ride — full of highs and lows, twists and turns. There are seasons when we seem to be in a great spiritual rhythm together. Other times, we aren’t connecting spiritually, and Erin is disappointed in my spiritual leadership. There are moments when I’m frustrated with Erin or I’m hurt by something she did, and the last thing I desire is to connect spiritually.

Over the past 25 years, Erin and I have discovered three key experiences that help strengthen our spiritual connection:

Daily disciplines

Second Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” When we’re at different levels of spiritual maturity, having a shared spiritual relationship is challenging. So finding things that help us grow more like Christ together is critical.

One study found that couples who shared the same faith, and who regularly attended church services together, reported a higher level of marital satisfaction. And when couples shared religious practices at home, their level of marital satisfaction was even higher.

We need regular experiences together, such as:

  • Studying the Bible
  • Memorizing Scripture
  • Praying
  • Fasting
  • Listening to praise and worship music
  • Reading devotions
  • Discussing spiritual matters
  • Listening to sermon podcasts

Weekly fellowship

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV). Research suggests that married couples who attend church services frequently are happier and more likely to succeed in their marriages than those who don’t attend church often — or don’t attend at all.

Weekly fellowship makes Christian friendships available to your marriage — people committed to building you up through offering encouragement, worshipping in a community, growing spiritually, and helping to strengthen your marriage. Some examples of regular fellowship, in addition to church worship services, might include small group gatherings, Bible studies, Sunday school classes and prayer meetings. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

Annual service adventure

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Spend time together in the service of the Lord. You can have a profound encounter with Christ and experience a shared adventure serving God together.

An annual service adventure can help you experience Christ in a new way and can breathe life into your relationship with each other as it intensifies your spiritual intimacy. Some ways that might happen include helping you be more grateful, putting your problems into perspective, getting you out of spiritual ruts, nudging you out of your comfort zone or helping you overcome fears. Some places you might consider volunteering:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • A shelter for the homeless
  • A senior center
  • A Goodwill store
  • A pregnancy resource center

You could also serve on a short-term mission trip or offer relief to couples through foster care respite.

In You and Me Forever, Francis Chan writes, “Picture marriage as a vehicle for mission, an opportunity for Christians to carry out our mission to make disciples of all the nations.” Your marriage must be about something more meaningful than just pursuing pleasure, collecting stuff and being happy. You need to find a cause that you and your spouse are both passionate about — something that benefits others and not just you.

Actively pursuing an annual service adventure unifies you as teammates and stimulates forward movement in your marriage — and, in the process, blesses others through your marriage.

Dr. Greg Smalley is vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family and the author or co-author of several books, including Crazy Little Thing Called Marriage.

Based on research and experience from Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley, Focus on the Family has created valid and reliable questions that evaluate the strength of your marriage. Take our free assessment now.

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Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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