In this column our experts offer couples winning strategies to help make their love work. Sheritha and Kevin are drifting down separate spiritual paths. Will faith unite them or ultimately pull them apart?
Sheritha and Kevin Bowman weren’t always the churchgoing type. Earlier in their relationship, they were a fun-loving couple who hung out with the party crowd. But after 16 years of marriage, these two are seeing themselves at odds. While their love for each other is as strong as ever, a rough patch in their marriage a few years ago, due to Kevin’s partying, caused a rift between them. That rift compelled Sheritha, 40, to turn to the church for comfort and support. After an emotional conversion experience, she dedicated her life to Christ and began attending church every Sunday and going to weekly Bible study meetings. However, Kevin, 43, who wasn’t ready to give up the social scene for Sunday service, felt pressured to conform. He became unreceptive to her transformation, and now the two are at a crossroads, looking for a solution that can redeem their relationship.
"When I committed my life to the Lord, my husband, Kevin, hadn't even thought about accepting Christ. His first reaction to my new lifestyle and faith was simple: He wasn't having it. Once he noticed the changes in me, he said that I was not the woman he married.
"We began to have conflicts over how to communicate with each other, our different parenting styles and morality. For example, unlike me, he doesn't see a problem with violent video games or movies. Our conflict over this has led to arguments in front of the kids. And sometimes I can't talk to him about miracles or blessings that take place in my life because he might call them coincidences or sheer luck. We see life so differently.
"Still, Kevin's my best friend. He's a wonderful husband and father. He's changed a lot since our partying days. No longer does he spend all his time hanging out or coming and going as he pleases. He's devoted to our three children, 19, 15 and 11. Kevin even goes to church with me once in a while-but not often enough to learn about the character of God and apply biblical precepts to his life.
"It's important to me that Kevin goes to church and establishes a relationship with God. It would help him handle the problems that arise in our marriage instead of stressing out or withdrawing emotionally. When he worships with me, I feel satisfied and complete."
"I admit-initially I didn't like the change in Sheritha after she started going to church. She was pushing it on me kind of fast, and my first instinct was to reject it. I wasn't raised in the church. Growing up, I was always in the street misbehaving. Since then I've given my life to Christ, and I go to church occasionally-but it's not as often as my wife wants.
"There are a lot of things that I see in church that I don't like and don't agree with. Sometimes I see people who are fake, and I don't like that. I'm turned off when I notice hypocrisy. I see church as a business, and I don't believe that people should judge right from wrong. I'm not completely familiar with the Bible, but I hear misinterpretations of it all the time. I don't believe that you should say something is right or wrong because of what the Bible says.
"In my opinion, spirituality is about a relationship between me and Him. I feel more comfortable praying on my own than in church. My wife is on a different level, so it's inevitable that we'll have our differences. I remind Sheritha that she wasn't always in the church, so she should be patient with my progress.
"Before Sheritha became saved we would go out to movies, shows and concerts that featured musical artists like Frankie Beverly. But now it's only gospel or jazz. I recently wanted to catch Dave Chappelle, but she wasn't interested in the least. I really miss the things we used to do.
"Sheritha's changed in many good ways, though: She doesn't curse anymore, and she'll say things like 'God bless you' in an argument. I have learned to respect her humility and forgiving spirit.
"Still, she wants me to have a little more faith because she thinks it will help me. But I'm taking my own path. And right now I'm content with my spirituality, even though I know there's still some space to grow."
AN EXPERT'S OPINION
By Michelle McKinney Hammond
When two people start to move in opposite directions, it puts their relationship at risk. Fortunately, Sheritha and Kevin want to include each other in their life’s journey. These tips can help them overcome this common relationship dilemma:
• Take it easy. Sheritha should never pressure her husband to express his faith in the same way she does. This will always be met with resentment because it sends him a message that he’s a failure spiritually. As a result, his way of reclaiming his power will be resistance, and he won’t be motivated to go to church.
• Love and honor. At the same time, Kevin needs to make an effort to understand Sheritha’s need for a connection with him on a spiritual level. Instead of projecting his opinions about organized religion, he should try to offer a sympathetic shoulder and allow her to share this important element of her life with him as a partner—even if he disagrees—without judgment or bias.
• Extend an invitation. Sheritha should ask Kevin to pray with her and for her. When you ask your man to pray for you, he’ll feel empowered by the responsibility of covering you and protecting you, not just physically but spiritually as well. This can become a real incentive for him to develop a deeper relationship with God all on his own.
• Be open-minded. Just because Kevin isn’t engaging in church the way Sheritha would like him to doesn’t mean he lacks a relationship with God. In fact, he might be able to offer her an alternative perspective on her walk. Men tend to be more practical in their faith, while women are often more emotional. Through Kevin, Sheritha might learn how to see the bottom line without bias.
• Don't go changin'. It’s natural for us to want to share every experience with someone we love, but we shouldn’t try to change them. Sheritha can only inspire Kevin to grow in his faith with an approach that reminds him that she loves him for who he is. And Kevin must be sensitive to his wife’s choice to forgo entertainment that compromises her values. Although she’d rather not watch a suggestive movie or TV show, they should look for other new experiences to enjoy together.
Michelle McKinney Hammond is a motivational speaker and the founder of HeartWing Ministries. She is also the author of Ending the Search for Mr. Right and Finding the Right Woman for You: One Woman’s Advice to Men (Harvest House Publishers).
Does your relationship need some help? Let our experts give you the tools to make it work. Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.