By Deacon Tom and JoAnne Fogle
The first thing we noticed is both Laura and Steve agree that religious practices are driving them apart, instead of bringing them closer together. When both spouses recognize the particular wall that is keeping them apart, that is a step in the right direction. If both see it, then they both have a joint project to remove it.
Laura says: Over the years, I have really grown in my love for the Lord and my desire to have a deep relationship with him. I would really like it if Steve would go to Mass with me on weekdays and would pray with me in the evenings. I think it would draw us closer together. Instead, I feel as if my faith is driving us further apart.
Steve says: I think faith is important, too. We raised our kids as good Catholics and went to Mass every Sunday. We still do. But lately, Laura has been acting like a religious fanatic. The only books around the house are Catholic spiritual reading, the only movies she will watch are those with a religious theme, and she seems to spend hours praying. I miss having some fun with my wife. She’s right, her faith is driving a wedge between us.
Laura and Steve’s issue also points to another realization: Too much of a good thing can be detrimental to your health. Our strengths can turn into our weakness if they get out of hand. Laura and Steve jointly have a vocation in life as husband and wife. When they said “I do” on their wedding day, they started on a life journey. As Scripture says, “Two shall become one.” That is not to say both spouses need to do everything together. They are not literally glued into one piece. But it does mean each spouse’s role in life is to lift up the other to God.
Marriage is a calling from God that is outward focused. Marriage is not intended to be a “living apart together” agreement, where I can only think of myself. As a married couple, our salvation is tied closely with the salvation of our spouses. My role and vocation as a spouse is to help my spouse to get to heaven. When we totally focus on our own salvation, we will miss the boat. What is happening to Laura and Steve points to the fact that we are all at a different point on our spiritual journey. If either one of us gets too far ahead of or behind our spouse in our spiritual development, then what Laura and Steve are experiencing can become common. I hate to state the obvious, but the solution most likely will be found halfway between the two positions. That means a compromise to a position that will enable them to bond with each other.
The over-exercised practice of religion can come between spouses as much as an over-emphasis of one’s work or play. It is a beau-tiful blessing when our partner is excited about his spirituality, and it is natural to want to share that with the person we have commit-ted to live out our lives with. Yet the best approach is usually not on the side of being a zealot. We would suggest Laura take a more gentle approach in sharing her enthusiasm and gently shepherd Steve along in his own spiritual path. They don’t need to be at the identical point at the same time, but as Hebrews 3:13 points out, they could “encourage each other daily while it is still today.” The optimal word for Laura and Steve is “balance.” With balance comes the opportunity to compromise and to satisfy each other’s needs, spiritual and temporal. By seeking balance, we discover God’s hand at work in our marriage, and that is what counts.
September 20, 2013