Have you noticed a trend of people questioning their long-time religious beliefs? Perhaps looking for answers in areas that you may even question the veracity of their approach in doing so?
When someone we know, perhaps even our wife (or husband), begins to question their religious faith it can be distressing. When this same person tells us that they’re going to leave their faith (or spiritual belief) it can seem outright gut-wrenching.
What can we do to help our spouse or significant other in their faith journey? It can be much more about hearing the person than it is about changing their mind.
5 Items to truly consider
Lend a Listening ear
Your tendency will be to want to ask questions. Seek answers. Perhaps even to try to change your wife’s mind regarding her decision. It has been my experience that this will not be helpful. In fact, it will likely only push your spouse away. Listening in an understanding way that shows you truly care will likely be a much better approach to take.
Understand that it’s really not about you
While every part of you may feel that it’s absolutely about you, recognize your focus needs to be on supporting your family member in their decision and journey.
You don’t have to agree
Learning to support your husband in his decision doesn’t mean you have to agree with his decision. This can be comforting as the initial shock begins to recede. Many people want to continue to attend their life long church even with the changes her husband is experiencing.
You didn’t cause the crisis
While it is important that you continue to attend your church of choice if you desire, recognize that you didn’t cause your spouse’s faith crisis. In fact, the faith crisis may have been brewing for some time and is just now being acknowledged.
Recognize that your Marriage core is still there
While change is difficult, please recognize that the love and closeness that you have cherished for so long is still there. That your marriage core is still very viable. That the journey may seem long and difficult but that what you’ve known as “us” doesn’t need to vanish. This is difficult to manage early on in the faith journey but will become clearer as your husband’s faith crisis clarifies.
Where do we go from here?
As your wife’s faith crisis clarifies, so will the equilibrium in your marriage and other key relationships. While it may take some time to have things feel comfortable, continue to do what you’ve always done. That is, go on consistent dates. Go the movies. Go out to dinner. Spend time at the gym. Try skiing at your favorite resort in the Cottonwoods or tubing with the family. In other words, do what you’ve always done.
Please don’t be surprised when some of these events feel wonderfully connective and others a bit forced or uncomfortable. The key is being fiercely loyal to your spouse and family…not hindered by which church you’re attending on Sunday.
A parting thought
Sometimes seeking advice from your church pastor or bishop can feel wonderful for the spouse not leaving their faith. And, not so wonderful for the spouse leaving that particular faith, be it Catholic, Protestant, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Learn to balance and support your husband as he moves forward on his journey. You may also want to consider seeking professional advice from a therapist that has experience helping couples wind their way through this challenging journey of (re)discovering one’s faith.
Relationship, couple and family therapist Michael Boman, LCSW has nearly 20 years experience assisting couples and families work their way through challenges in their relationships.