I spent some time mulling over the words in my head and thinking about the correlation between the two. I also spent some time objectively analysing relationships I have been privy to. I realised that sometimes Couples tends to think about their spirituality: its impact on their lives when they are planning to get married. Many times- before this- spirituality is at the back burner. Sometimes, deeper thought is placed on the topic of spirituality after the marriage. Spirituality means different things to different people. This is not to be confused with religion.
Some people do not realize the difference between the two and mix this up. Some other people do not realize they have a spiritual side and they do not get in touch with their spiritual side until there is a catastrophe- an illness, financial issue, death of a loved one etc. It is at that point that people begin to question the foundation of their lives, their purpose and all what their life has been all about. What has spirituality got to do with love? Like I always do- I leave you to find your answers and lay out what I know.
If spirituality matters to you-I believe it makes perfect sense to take into account your partner’s belief system, how spiritual they are and their spiritual goals into consideration before getting married. Why? Because there is this old saying found in the bible: Can two walk together, except they agree?
I have observed that spirituality/religion can sometimes bring spouses together or push them apart. Couples may be of different religions, but that in itself does not predict marital instability. What’s important is whether couples engage in joint religious activities? If they don’t participate in joint religious activities- is there grumbling that she is speaking in tongues in a corner? While he cannot understand if she is making it up as a result of some psychological problem yet to be diagnosed or if she being bullied all of a sudden to conform and start practising a religion she never planned to practice?
That is where the problem begins. Is the bullying to practice this new religion working and would it lead to resentment and anger? What happens to the pent up anger and resentment that occurs as a result? Are the children going to grow up confused about religion choices and unsure of which way to go? Is that another dysfunctional home in the making?
Many Nigerians grew up in dysfunctional homes, even more so than broken homes. Research has shown that people who grew up in dysfunctional homes have more challenges than people who grew up in broken homes. As a result of desperation to settle down, some people can’t be bothered if he visits Sanponnaa (small Yoruba god) and drinks with his ancestors at midnight- they need to settle down and settle down they must. To avoid pitfalls- its best to clear the air on everything so that the best decision can be taken- sometimes the best decision can be kissing the six years relationship goodbye and starting life alone rather than going ahead not knowing if you can stand for bathing naked at the Olumirin waterfalls at twelve noon when the sun is shining in all its naked glory.
I hear the argument- you never know till you are in the marriage. I do not agree….
Yes change is a constant but communication should also be a constant and ideally you should have a typical forecast on what impact spirituality would make in your marriage if:
Communication is key…ALWAYS: Simple questions like: How do you see God? How is your relationship with God in all honesty? Do you really believe there is a God? Or do you go to church with the mind-set of: well if there isn’t – I got nothing to lose and if there is – abeg this my skin is way too fresh for hell fire? How do you see religion? Do you feel the need to participate compulsorily? Would you be upset if I did not participate alongside? What kind of prayer is comfortable and satisfying to you? Do I need to scream forcefully? Do you think standing naked in the shower praying is rude and an abomination? Would you rather I have a ‘war-room’ where I have to kneel cautiously for hours till midnight while I say my prayers? Would you mind if I said my prayers easily and randomly anywhere and anytime? (as it should be-in my opinion)
How important is it to you if I sit at home while you go to church? Are you going to get side-lined if I don’t go all the way with you? These are questions you should ask before venturing into a marriage to avoid stories that touch later. We agree that these conversations might not sound sexy on a Saturday night but they are worth having and would save you trouble in the future. The atmosphere doesn’t have to be ‘interview-like’ to convey the seriousness of the discussion. For example, you can both be relaxed, having a drink and still in the gist (romantic mood) on the couch, you casually ask “You know, I just realized that I don’t know how much of a spiritual person you are. What is your spiritual life like?” and bam! Tête-à-tête begins.
Exchange visits to each other’s religious assembly: If each of you belongs to a different faith tradition, learn more about the beliefs of that religion. Ask yourself- if you are ready to switch or not? If you are not: make your stand known from day one – although I hear, this may change and I have seen it happen. Subtly the partner begins to adapt to the new religion till they are fully a part of it.
If agreed, that there would be no religious switch, each person can continue worshipping the higher being, in their different ways. You can also attend and try to understand what shapes your partner’s values. This is important because it helps you see things from a different perspective. It helps you understand your partner’s spiritual life which largely influences their value system
Religion and Spirituality: I have realized for a long time now that many people (especially in Nigeria) were raised in religious homes. Yet this has little influence on their spirituality. Some people practice the religious ritual- Sunday Sunday dose of church but that’s about it. They wake up and don’t give any thoughts to prayers the usual way. Others have their conscience at the back burner of their minds and yes their CV has religion –Christianity but they do not love their neighbours and are definitely not walking with the tenets of their faith. Ask yourself if this is fine by you and make the choice.
Some people have grown away from the faith of their childhood and do not update themselves regularly. These are things that need to be analysed before jumping the bandwagon- but hey what do I know…
Agreement in the family: So you are a staunch celestial member and your partner is the Imam’s favourite in the mosque. What plans have you put in place for a middle ground? Couples from different faith backgrounds who are continuing along their different spiritual paths must find middle grounds for religious traditions and prayers. Praying at home is less formal than at mosque or in church, so you can develop creative time of devotion and prayers together, if this is your preferred choice.
The Kids are super important: As tempting as it is to leave your children to decide what faith they would like to walk. It is important to talk about this openly and not try to blackmail them to follow your path instead of that of your partner. This happens and children are stuck between pleasing their mums or their dads instead of building a healthy relationship with God. Pray for the children but in due course make a decision that would unite your family and not tear it apart.
The Enthusiastic Fanatic: If you or your partner is a fanatic- this is a slippery slope!!! Fanatic- a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause. Meanwhile someone once told me all true Christians must be fanatics- I found that….unsettling. I realize most fanatics in Nigeria – not all- have this air of superiority like they are better than you. Personally, I am a Christian who loves the Lord, I am on a personal journey with my maker, I stumble sometimes, I may not have learnt to love my enemies as I love my friends but I know (deep seated conviction in my heart) that my journey would end well. However, I do not lord my religion over anyone. I would rather you look at me and see the traits and become encouraged to walk with me on the Christian faith. I would not enforce you attend a church or wear judgemental goggles and sit in a court of self-righteousness and JUDGE another person. If you or your partner is a judgemental fanatic- there appears to be trouble ahead. The judgemental fanatic is fault finding and does not show love or acceptance towards people of other faith/religious beliefs and this in turn leaves the other person feeling irritated, angry and wondering literally what God they actually serve. The Jesus who died between two thieves forgiving and promising a thief a place in his paradise or some other god who would have told the thief: Ha you are a thief- when you were stealing, didn’t you know it was a crime, go and burn in hell- mscheww nonsense armed robber!!!!
If you feel you and your partners spirituality is incompatible- have a heart to heart conversation. So throwing the question out- is there such a thing as spiritual compatibility? What is its impact on the success of a partnership/marriage?