Recently, I spoke with two women who were concerned about connecting spiritually with their husbands. One woman's husband wasn't a Christian; the other woman's husband was, but wasn't interested in growing spiritually. They asked, "How can we bond spiritually with our spouses if they don't want to join us?"
While it's disheartening when your spouse doesn't express the same interest in faith as you do, there are still practical, effective things you can do to encourage a deeper faith connection in your marriage.
I've written these 10 tips from the perspective of wives with spiritually disinterested spouses, but the story can easily go the other way—a husband with a spiritually disinterested wife.
1. Present your case. First, tell your spouse you want to discuss something important with him and ask when a good time to discuss it would be.
Before you make your case for wanting to bond spiritually with him, consider these things: (1) Avoid making an emotional argument for your case. Instead, make your approach logical and practical. Most people, especially men, don't respond to emotion or any direct, forceful approach. Your point is not to pressure or appear spiritually superior—turn-offs that won't lead to success. (2) Understand that he won't respond right away. He won't say, "Honey, great idea! I wish I'd thought of this spiritual bonding stuff. Let's do it. Take my hand, and let's pray right now."
When you sit down to talk, ask him to hear you out, and tell him you don't want him to respond now. (This gives your spouse time to process what you've said.)
Present your case in a simple, straightforward, and brief way. Don't go more than 5-10 minutes. Tell him your marriage isn't what it could be. It's missing something—and after much thought, you realize it's spiritual intimacy. Then cover the benefits: By spending time together praying, reading the Bible, and attending church, it will help you grow spiritually as individuals; it will create physical and emotional intimacy in your marriage; and it will lead to God's blessing. Perhaps even mention, "If you could come to church with me and the kids even just a couple times a month, we'd have more family time together. And we could go to your favorite restaurant after church each time."
Finish by asking him to think about what you've said. Ask him to give you a response when he's ready. There's a high likelihood that he won't get back to you. That's okay, because you've clearly stated the need, established spiritual bonding as a priority, and set the stage for the other strategies.
2. Be a dynamic Christian. The Bible teaches that it's possible to win a spouse to Christ without even saying a word (1 Peter 3). While you can't make a person want to be spiritual, you can draw your spiritually apathetic spouse to Christ by exhibiting a faith that's alive and authentic.
Model a vibrant Christian life. You're the best advertisement for a relationship with Jesus that your spouse will ever see. Your mate won't be interested in Christ if your spiritual life is blah.
Let him see you meeting regularly with God for personal prayer, Bible study, and devotions. If you have children, lead family devotions at least once a week. Invite him, but hold the family meeting even if he refuses to attend or is opposed to them. Every night, pray with each child before bedtime. Even if your spouse won't go with you, attend church every week with the kids.
3. Spiritually bond with a friend. We all need to bond spiritually with someone. If it can't be with your spouse, connect with a same-sex friend.
Find a Christian friend with whom you can pray, worship, read the Bible, be accountable, and discuss spiritual things. Those times will be encouraging and supportive for you, and sometimes may be the only thing that keeps you going.
And it's okay to vent from time to time. Ask your friend to listen as you "dump" your accumulated emotions that come with living with a spiritually disinterested spouse. This is a time to genuinely express your emotions.
4. Share your spiritual life with your mate. Ask your spouse if it's okay for you to tell him about your spiritual life periodically. Assure him it will take only five minutes once or twice a week and that all he has to do is listen. Tell him your faith is an integral part of you and that you'll feel closer to him if you can share it.
Share how God is guiding and teaching you. Reveal spiritual triumphs and disappointments. Mention what you're praying for, and tell him God's answers to your prayers. Don't let his apparent lack of interest discourage you. Keep letting him see—in small glimpses—what God is doing in your life. Speak only about yourself—your feelings and experiences. Don't ask him questions, and don't try to elicit a response. Your brief updates will expose him to God and help him become more aware of God's presence.
5. Tell him what he may not see. Tell him when you see God working in his life: "I think God is talking to you through that situation at work." Point out how Christ can help him in difficult times: "You don't have to face this alone—God promises always to be with us." Use examples from friends and neighbors to illustrate spiritual truths: "God really saved the Smiths' marriage. Sally told me their faith pulled them through that hard time."
Be sure not to say these things in a mean or sarcastic way. Be honest, gentle, and humble.
But don't make these comments frequently so you become a pest. Pick the occasions as God guides. Just say a sentence or two, then drop it and move on.
6. Express your feelings and desires. It's essential to tell your spouse periodically how you feel about the fact that you don't share Christ as a couple or enjoy spiritual intimacy. Because of that, you should tell him you feel a sense of longing, loss, and grief.
If you stuff these emotions, they'll turn into frustration, bitterness, and resentment. You'll pull back emotionally, and possibly physically, from your partner. You'll react in anger to small mistakes he makes.
To prevent these reactions and remain committed to your marriage, clean your system from time to time by expressing your emotions. As Scripture teaches, "speak the truth in love" directly to your spouse (Ephesians 4:15-27). Don't make a scene. Don't lose control, yell, or put pressure on your mate. When you feel these painful emotions building, write a letter that honestly and gently releases your pain. Here's an example:
I need to write you this letter to help me release my emotions and stay close to you.
My faith in God is such an important part of my life. I know you don't understand it, but I really couldn't live without God. I feel hurt, angry, and sad, because we can't share a bond in Christ. I'm sorry for the way I acted last week. I get too intense sometimes and think I can force you to believe in Jesus.
I love you for who you are, and I'm thankful for the good things in our relationship. I just can't help my desire for us to add the spiritual part to our marriage so we can truly, completely be one.
Well, I'm done. Please don't feel you have to respond to this letter. I hope you don't feel pressured by it. If and when you trust Christ, it will have to be your decision.
Thanks for having patience with me. I love you.
Whether you write or talk, this is one-way communication. Make it clear he doesn't have to respond. In addition to washing away your painful emotions, this one-way technique keeps the issue before him. He's faced again and again with your need in this area.
7. Ask for small steps. Don't make the mistake of asking him to do too much, too soon. Ask for baby steps as you begin the process. Tell him what you'd like to pray, and look to him for an indication that's fine with him.
If he's okay with it, pray for a minute or two. Ask him to pray briefly with you before a date or just before the church worship service begins. Ask him to pray for 30 seconds with you about whatever he'd like to bring up.
If he asks what he can pray for, smile and say, "Thank God for your beautiful wife whom you love so very much!"
When your spouse makes the smallest move toward spiritual intimacy, praise him for it—being careful not to go overboard since that might scare him away. Your immediate, heartfelt appreciation will reinforce the behavior and build his confidence. Give him affection, notes, or a special dinner. Tell him, "I feel closer to you" or "When you join me in our prayer time, my respect for you just climbs."
Also, assure him that you're pleased with progress and any step in the right direction. Let him know you don't have all the answers—that you want to work on your spiritual growth together.
8. Surround him with Christians. Build relationships with Christians, and do your best to expose your husband to them. Invite Christian couples from your church to your home. Find men who are walking with Jesus and bonding with their wives. Ask these men to invite your husband to play golf, attend a sporting event, or go to a men's ministry event at your church.
9. Use times of crisis and pain. When times of crisis strike—and they will—seize those moments. Your spouse will be most open to change when life is at its most painful. In these tough times, ask him to join you in prayer. If he refuses, go ahead and—in front of him—cry out to God for guidance, healing, strength, and comfort. As your spouse sees you broken and reaching out to God, he may begin to comfort you. And in doing so, he may feel a spiritual bond with you and God.
10. Pray regularly for your spouse. Pray on your own and with your spiritual bonding friend. Pray at Bible studies and at church with several others. Ask Christians you know and trust to pray for your spouse. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Never give up. Never stop praying.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.