It’s difficult to be in a relationship these days. True commitment seems as fleeting as the newest social media trend. That makes it hard to trust the people you want to love.
But the truth is that marriage can’t last without spirituality. The reason? Couples need a shared spiritual framework of the world to function as life partners.
This is a controversial position, but it seems to hold true if you look at the marriages that last.
The Religious Get Married, the Non-Religious Don’t
Religious couples are more likely to be in committed relationships, especially marriage, than non-religious couples. Those who more actively practice have an even lower rate of divorce. And while atheists have a low divorce rate too, they also have a much lower marriage rate in the first place.
As for why this happens, it’s because of cohabitation. Couples are moving in together, but not getting married, so it’s not like those who aren’t married aren’t in relationships. It’s marriage that’s the exception rather than the rule.
Couples that are married have more trust in each other than those who haven’t. Marriage is a legal commitment, and because cohabitation is generally accepted, those who prioritize marriage approach relationships differently.
I believe they don’t see marriage simply as living together with someone they’re attracted to, but a lifelong partnership of shared values. A love contract if you will.
But where does this perspective come from and why?
Religion, Spirituality, and Politics
Religion is essentially culture. An atheist and a Mormon are different not just in their religious views, but in their cultural attitudes. They are different tribes.
In multicultural societies, the social pressure to live within your tribe isn’t legally enforced. That means someone can leave their tribe and live as they please.
So why aren’t all couples breaking away from their religious backgrounds to pursue the more immediately pleasing life of cohabitation?
The answer is spirituality.
If religion is culture (or in the case of multicultural societies, subculture), then individual belief is something different. A better word to describe someone’s personal relationship to a religious framework would be spirituality.
Religion and spirituality are the acceptance of a holistic framework for how to view the world – what’s right and wrong and what has ultimate authority over existence (God, karma, and et cetera). They are two sides of the same coin.
But in multicultural societies, there are many coins. That means there are many ways to view what’s right and wrong. People naturally default to the spiritual side of the coin while politics takes greater social prominence.
In America, less than 5% of marriages are between couples of the two major parties, Democrat and Republican, though mixed political marriages do reach 17% when independents are considered. However mixed political marriages are also less happy.
You shouldn’t look towards a political party to determine your life values, especially in a relationship. Parties can and do change their positions to court different demographics of voters. Not everyone moves with the shift, it’s what creates many independent voters in America, and this could endanger any relationship you have.
That’s why spirituality is important: it’s a holistic framework based on eternal values that makes it easier to build a life with someone else.
Marriage is a Spiritual Contract
A good analogy on why marriage needs spirituality would be the moral basis for America’s Declaration of Independence.
The signers agreed to break away from the political order with the British and justified it with these famous lines:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This was during an era when rationalism and deism were in vogue. Regardless of one’s religious or political leanings, there was the shared understanding that there are inherent spiritual truths to the universe.
The United States was founded not to give rights to the people, but to respect the rights they already had from the universe itself. Marriage is similar: it’s not about one couple’s attraction to each other, but the life partnership marriage is intended to create which transcends that individual relationship.
Marriage needs spirituality because the couple must recognize the spiritual significance of their union. That’s not to say the couple can’t have their own religious or political leanings, but that both must share a spiritual perspective on the marriage itself.
You can’t have a different idea of marriage than your partner. And the definition you share can’t change for physical reasons. Therefore, you need a spiritual understanding to make the value of marriage eternal and lasting.
Integrating Spirituality into Your Relationship
Using the American analogy again, having a shared spiritual understanding of marriage doesn’t mean that the couple won’t grow. The difference is that they’ll have a shared foundation and are more likely to grow together to have a more complete idea of marriage itself.
When you approach a relationship, it’s important to keep in mind that integrating spirituality doesn’t mean religious observance. That said, examining religious people for their personal spiritual beliefs, and not peer pressure they face from tribal affiliation, can provide insight.
Marriages that last see their relationship as transcending their physical or mental attraction for each other. They have a common goal and actively work towards meeting their goal. This means loving their spouse on a spiritual level. This creates respect and care that can’t exist in a relationship where you only think about what the other person offers you in exchange.
A spiritual marriage is not about an exchange. It’s about each person living out their virtues as a partner regardless of what they get in return. Relationships should be equal, but they may not be equitable. For example, one person may get sick and need more care. Did you ever really love your partner if you opted out because of the inconvenience? Spiritual love is not physical love.
It’s tempting to build a relationship based on mutual attraction, but mutual attraction may not last. Your partner gets older and interests can change. That will endanger the life partnership of a marriage because it treats each person as an individual and not also as one-half of a partnership.
We’ve always heard that marriage requires hard work, but the way that work gets done is through the spiritual values a couple shares on the meaning of marriage itself.
If you want your relationship to last, you need to have a transcendent understanding of marriage and put it into a spiritual context. This may be interpreted in different ways as spirituality is not the same thing as theism.
Before committing to a relationship, make sure you and your partner have the same spiritual idea of marriage. If you do that, your relationship has a better chance of being lifelong.