What To Do When Your Partner Isn't Spiritual
By Blair Thompson-White
You are in church every Sunday while your partner is (fill in the blank): sleeping in, reading the paper, fishing, watching Meet the Press, mowing the lawn.
You are attending spiritual development classes. Going on retreats. Listening to podcasts with Richard Rohr, reading Rob Bell, learning about the Enneagram. You want to talk about what you are learning with your partner, the questions you are asking, the new ideas you are exploring about God, yourself, the world. Your partner's favorite conversation topics are sports and the latest show on Netflix. You love sports and Netflix but you long for Something More, you yearn for deeper connection with your partner.
You want a spiritual partner...but you don't think you have one. So what do you do? Here are a few ideas.
Talk To Your Partner About Your Desire for Spiritual Connection
There is a difference between partnership and spiritual partnership. All of the great spiritual teachers articulate this in one way or another: we need others help us to grow spiritually. Spiritual partners help one another to grow spiritually.
Now...just because you are ready to move from partnership to spiritual partnership and your partner isn't there yet doesn't give you permission to be self-righteous. This is the temptation: to think you are better than or more mature than others because you think you are further down the spiritual journey than them. Stop comparing. Communicate your desires instead.
Here's a script that avoids using words like "You should" or "You don't." That kind of language puts people on the defensive. Speak from the I-perspective. Try this: "I yearn for us to connect on a deeper, more spiritual level. I wonder if over dinner this week, I might share with you some of the things I have been learning about God and myself?"
Tell Your Partner How You Are Growing Spiritually
Share with your partner what you are thinking and feeling but here's the catch: share only for the purpose of sharing, not for the purpose of trying to change them or trying to get them to engage in a certain way. Share simply because you want them to know you more.
Oftentimes we expect conversations to go a certain way...we expect people to react a certain way. Don't do this.
Let go of your expectations for your partner's spiritual growth. You can't push people down the spiritual path or pull them to keep up with your speed. You can't control where they are in their journey; just be with them where they are, instead of being frustrated that they are not where you want them to be.
Learn to be present with people where they are and you will grow spiritually.
Find a Spiritual Director
A spiritual director will walk with you and give you the spiritual companionship you need that your partner can't give you right now. This person has been professionally trained to guide you in your faith development; you will engage more deeply with the Holy Spirit with your spiritual director's help, and this will help you in all of your relationships.
You may wonder why not just find a spiritual friend or two to talk to instead of a spiritual director...Yes, and. Yes have friends you can talk to about spiritualthings. And have a spiritual director.
A professional spiritual director offers boundaries and accountability. You need both of these in your spiritual growth, especially if you are not connecting with your partner at home on a spiritual level. This is an important but necessary warning: what starts out as spiritual connection with a friend can lead to physical connection. Pay attention to boundaries and maintain them.
To find a spiritual director in the Richardson area, visit the Retreat House
When your partner isn't spiritual, don't shut down. Talk to your partner. Pay attention to the space between you and your partner and do not put judgment or comparison between you and them. Put openness. Put conversation. Know that the Holy Spirit is present and working on your partner--and you. Trust God's presence and grace. As St. Francis is said to have said: You may be the only Bible people read. May you reflect God's love to your partner through your words and actions.
What Else Would You Do?
Have you been through this? Maybe you have some helpful ideas or some prayers for others who are living through this today. Share your thoughts in the comments below.