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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    How can you navigate conflicts around religion and spirituality in a relationship?

    A relationship can be an emotionally charged and complex affair, with a seemingly infinite array of potential facets for exploration. A core issue that often presents itself, particularly when involved parties have different beliefs, philosophies or backgrounds, is the prospect of spiritual or religious conflict. It’s not a leap to suggest that the understanding of one’s own faith is important to many people, leaving them feeling passionate about the subject, and often reluctant to budge if their partner doesn’t share the same views. This can potentially leave couples feeling torn or fragmented from one another and create an uncertain barrier that pushes away communication, understanding, and emotional intimacy.

    That said, finding harmony between two partners of different worldviews isn’t an impossible concept, but simply requires mutual respect, patience, and open-mindedness. It accomplishes nothing to tell someone to disregard that which they deem important and absolutely necessary in their life, so it is essential to take a holistic, non-judgmental approach to learning and listening, prioritizing productive dialogue over destructive actions.

    The most obvious route all couples should prioritize is honest communication, including decisions around how and when religious and spiritual issues will be discussed. No subject, no matter how difficult, should be ignored, as this serves only to increase resentment and set a move towards further confrontation. It should also be noted that many times couples who are serious about one another continue to find ways to communicate even during conflicts, as long as both parties remain respectful and aware of each other’s feelings. As such, never deride your partner’s own view nor seek to delegitimize their arguments. A relationship should be a platform for collaboration and compromise, and respecting differences is the best way to foster a and healthy environment where both parties feel secure, safe and respected.

    Once the decision to communicate has been reached, it helps to try and understand the other person’s point of view. One may find that, through research and maybe even further conversations, a curiosity is born that could lend itself to tremendous emotional growth and eventually even a reconciliation of views. Even if that path seems remote, it is still important to keep an open mind to new perspectives. For example, allowing your partner to bring you to one of their places of worship or attend religious services with them could give you both a vaster appreciation of practices and help to ease tensions.

    Now and again, however, it just ain’t gonna happen. That's OK too. Keep in mind that all relationships come with some degree of sacrifices, and religion or spirituality is no different. Couples who have chosen to remain together despite having opposing beliefs, often find themselves in a Catch-22; dissatisfying for both sides as neither will persuade the other to accept their position. When struggling to come to terms with continued disagreements, try to think of it as a “flexible agree-to-disagree” mentality, so both individuals can feel validated and respected. Through this, one might discover mutual interests, like meditation for instance, that provide a common ground for couples to explore.

    The more that partners can focus on similarities and activities that bring them both joy, the more likely they are to discover ways to foster profound connection, both within themselves and within the relationship. If they’re able to make a conscious effort to ease strife and strengthen contentment, then instead of living in disharmony and discord, they can at least look beyond clashes in religious and spiritual beliefs to create a lifelong harmonious bond.

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