It’s incredibly painful when your spouse isn’t interested in engaging with you spiritually. This could be a difference you’ve had since early in your relationship, or it could be a new development. Whatever the case, experiencing a spiritual mismatch in your marriage is challenging.
There are a number of scenarios that can create a spiritual divide between spouses:
- You started your marriage with similar beliefs, but your spouse has since decided to leave church
- The two of you disagree on the finer points of doctrine or theology, and haven’t been able to find a church to attend together…so you attend separately
- You each hold vastly different beliefs–maybe your spouse is atheist, agnostic, or a follower of another religion
- Neither of you were believers when you married, but you have since converted to Christianity and your spouse doesn’t share your conviction
It’s understandable why you want your spouse at your side for worship. You value your faith deeply, but it’s creating pain and disconnect in your marriage. This is a heartbreaking place to be.
The good news is that there are things you can do to ease the ache and keep the intimacy alive in your marriage despite your differences. Let’s dive in.
Don’t nag or pressure your spouse to get involved
Whether your spouse attended church with you in the past or has never attended, nagging them won’t get them there. In fact, it might drive them further away. The last thing you want is for your spouse to dig their heels in and avoid the subject even more.
Instead of bringing up church over and over, let your life be the message. Respect your spouse’s decisions, even if you disagree, because this is their choice to make. After all, worship that is compelled or demanded isn’t truly worship at all, so you want it to come from the heart. In the meantime, you can live out your faith as an example to them.
Make sure your spouse always knows they’re wanted and welcome
While you don’t want to fuss over your spouse’s absence at church, it’s never a bad idea to let them know they’re always welcome (from time to time). For example, if there’s a special event or service coming up in the next month or two, you could mention it casually: “Honey, this event is coming up in a few months. I’m not asking you to go right now, but I’d love for you to think about it. Maybe in the next few weeks, we can talk more about it.”
Instead of laying on the guilt, you’re leaving your spouse the freedom to choose whether they want to be involved–which could actually encourage them to join you.
Allow yourself to grieve and adjust to reality
Being in a “spiritual mismatch” with your spouse is a painful experience, so allow yourself to grieve over the situation. This is a genuine loss, and it’s not what you envisioned for your life. It’s okay to process that in an emotionally healthy way.
Your spouse’s faith will only develop if it’s internal. It’s not productive to try convincing or converting your spouse, and you’re not likely to win them over through debate. So stay focused on your own spiritual journey and keep moving forward together, even though you mourn this missing piece.
Stay focused on what you have in common
Moving forward in your marriage means focusing on the other common values and interests that brought you together in the first place. Stay connected to one another through the things you do still have in common. That, combined with nonjudgmental awareness of your differences and mutual respect, will keep your intimacy alive.
Strive to understand your spouse’s perspective
When the occasion presents itself, it can be healthy to have intellectual conversations together about faith–as long as they don’t morph into hard-lined debates. Invite your spouse’s perspective and be open to what they have to say. Do your best to resist the urge to shut down or feel threatened because your spouse isn’t telling you what you want to hear.
In order to stay close, you’ll both need to be committed to keeping a sense of openness and honesty. If your spouse’s faith isn’t there, you don’t want them to pretend it is. Instead, create a safe place for your spouse to be open and vulnerable.
The more you know and understand your spouse’s sense of spiritual doubt, the deeper your intimacy will be. A lot of times, genuine faith journeys have seasons of doubt–these don’t necessarily mean your spouse will never come back to belief.
Focus on what you admire about your spouse–and tell them
Often, when something feels amiss in our lives, it’s easy to laser-focus on that. Instead, make an extra effort to tell your spouse how much you respect and admire them. Compliment their good qualities, their character, the values they uphold, and the moral choices they’re living out.
Pray for your spouse
The most effective and productive thing you can do for your spouse during this time is to pray fervently for them. Pray that whatever has hardened in their heart or mind will be softened again. And pray for your spirit, too, because having a spiritual rift with your spouse is deeply painful.
With time, prayer, and patience, there is hope. Your story isn’t over yet, and a change of heart is possible for your spouse. Until then, continue to be a source of love, connection, and intimacy for them.
Have you and your spouse ever experienced a spiritual disconnect in your marriage? How did you navigate it? Did you come back together, or remain spiritually divided? We would love for you to share your experiences in the comments section.
My husband decided to go to a different church and they have a couple of beliefs I disagree on. He said he would visit my church, but wants me to visit his. I am not comfortable with their theology. Thoughts?
1 Peter 3:1 – “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;”
I am so surprised this is not mentioned in this article.
The best thing to do is go to your husbands church with a joyful spirt knowing you are obeying God’s word. You will be blessed by Him if you do. Your relationship with your husband is more important than which church you go to. Keeping a sweet loving relationship is God’s will. Keep praying and trusting God. Do not let the enemy gain a foothold in your life – especially because of church! I can just see him now rubbing his hands together with glee, over this in couples lives. Trust your husband because you trust God.
You should not have to pretend you are someone other than who you are to appease your husband. You are a partner, not a servant. He married you for the person you are, not for whom you could pretend to be
Amen i love how u put that thank you
You should visit his church with openess, as a sign of curiosity and respect, just as you wish him to visit your church. You don’t mention the theological differences, but the two of you can talk about why you disagree with what they say and why. He might not have thought about them in that way, and too often theology has been used to oppress and abuse so you don’t want to open yourself to such unnecessary and ungodly pain in the name of “church” or “theology.” Hopefully God will call both of you to the same community, but if not, make sure your marriage life outside of Sunday worship contains many spiritual practices that draw you together in Christ: daily shared prayers, shared Bible studies, shared outreach or mission, running or walks…whatever works for you both.
Blessings on your marriage!
I agree with this perspective.
I have a chemical imbalance. Only 1 person understands at the church we attend. We have been going to a Biker Church for many years now and I do believe we are going Baptist (LOL). The meds., I’m on have messed up my pretty teeth. So that’s another reason for less communicating between others and I. My husband still gets lots of hugs and How you doin’? Me? Not so much anymore. The guys say I look like them now! It’s ok, I grew up the EleMae type so no harm. LOL … I’ll just give them a hug when I can.🙏 Churches are God’s place of worship, Amen.Trust My Husband 32 years so far❣️
Please read the book Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar. It will help you understand how your spouse (or self) has had a shift. Sometimes we don’t return to the church after being abused spiritually for so long.
Great book, Tracey. I agree and wholeheartedly recommend it too. Faith shifts away from church are not necessarily bad and the one remaining in church is not necessarily the saint.
This post was so helpful to me! When My husband and I got married we were very much into New Age beliefs and I am now a Christian. My husband is not, and this caused a HUGE rift between us when I converted. I don’t debate him on religion, but I definitely pray for him all of the time. I can see the Lord working on softening his heart. It makes me happy and hopeful that he may come around to understanding Jesus. But in the meantime I’m praying and loving on him as much as I can.
How has this turned out for you? Did you remain faithful throughout? Did he convert? I am in the same situation with my wife, so I am curious how this was.
Why do you assume the spouse who doesn’t go to church or disagrees with your theology is the one who is hard hearted? Or, assume the one who is faithful to church doesn’t need a change of heart, but only the spouse who left church? It’s good advice to learn your spouse’s perspective and to focus on what you have in common, but a faith shift away from church or evangelicalism is not necessarily a bad thing. Many people are making a break from institutional religion, not because they reject Christ, but because they’ve discovered our modern way of looking at church and much of evangelical theology actually does not fit the path of Jesus. You should also address the other problem: “My spouse won’t leave legalistic church. Help!”
Thank you for this post. This has helped me in so many ways! It will help us both.
Definitly is a hard work. no just because he does’nt come to church… but some decisions in other aspects into the marriage… babies, finances…. i hope one day, he comes to church.
What if one of the elders in the Chios the problem. He makes sexual advances towards me calls me and has even come by my house unannounced. This has been brought to the other elders attention and the pastor but they don’t seem to want to address his behavior so I refuse to go back. I feel as if they have let me down.
I’m sorry you are experiencing this. It’s not your fault and it’s wrong. You are not safe and so respect your instincts and stay away and tell the offenders to STOP. Don’t expect them to change. Do expect them to try to confuse the situation.
Hi all, The spouse’s choice is not just personal. If there are children it affects their present & future practice or non practice. It can cause divide on many issues not just attending church, such as prayer times, books read, etc. It can also affect the social network of the couple, with one spouse having one group of friends the other does not know or associate with. Going to church does not necessarily mean the person adheres to it. They can go to support their spouse or to help the spouse with the children when they are young, or to keep in touch with the teachings given at church, etc. These are all good things. The person who does not go or who does not totally adhere to the church or its teachings can also overtly recognize many of the good things that church is doing or good influences it is having on the children or family. Parents who go to church do so for a variety of reasons. It is not a one issue question of Do I believe or not?
This will result in the spouse going to church out of obligation and end up being resentful in the process. They will be going to shut up the nagging spouse and sit in a pew paying lip service only because they don’t want to be there. Lastly, that resentment may show up in other points in your marriage. Let the spouse decide on their own and leave them be.
My spouse and I have been attending the same church for 32 years. This year the Governance Board, whom my husband was the chair of, did something that was totally against scripture in resolving a conflict between the Lead Pastor and the Associate Pastor. Instead of having the Associate Pastor come to the Board to hear their side of things, they decided that they would only go on what the Lead Pastor was saying.
I was asked to write a letter to the Associate Pastor, for I was the secretary of the church for 26 years. I wrote a gracious letter to the Associate Pastor responding to his letter of resignation from the church, and was told by another Board member that I “lied”; this Board member never wanted the Associate Pastor to come into our church in the first place, and was determined not to listen to his side of things. The letter was also sent to the Bishop of our Denomination, whom stated that the letter was gracious and addressed the issue with love.
The Bishop and I had a conversation regarding why the Associate Pastor left, and why the Governance Board hadn’t spoken to him…. and neither one of us knew the real reason, so I asked for permission to meet with the Associate Pastor to hear his side of the story. I took the opportunity to speak with the Associate Pastor before he left the church and asked my husband to join in our meeting. We heard his side, and felt that because the Lead Pastor was still in the building I asked him to join in our meeting to help clarify and bring reconciliation. Long story short, the Lead Pastor was not very forgiving but came across very arrogantly, and aggressive. We ended the meeting.
My husand and I discussed what we discovered, and I wrote a report to the Bishop and to the Governance Board what we found. We didn’t put the Lead Pastor in a good light for his attitude was not becoming. Needless to say, our report didn’t go over very well. The Board member who wanted the Associate Pastor gone demanded that the Board send him a letter immediately terminating his position, and for him to “clear out his office asap”, and demanded that I apologize in writing to all whom was mentioned in the report I submitted. He never took into account the recommendations of what needed to be done to resolve this issue in a Biblical way. This Board member was livid…and even after reading the report the Board had blinders on….even my husband…who co-wrote the report listened to the one Board member and his venom.
So I felt that because there wasn’t a atmosphere of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility or love shown in this situation, I felt that I had to resign from the church altogether for I could not sit back and be dictated to by the Board that had shown it’s “might” not in an “almighty” way. My husband said I was being childish. Then another Board member and his wife resigned because he was disgusted with what the Board had done and that he was a part of such behaviour. That made my husband think twice. He then decided to sit down and really listen to the Associate Pastor and his wife’s position. Then he asked the ex Board member and his wife their view of things. WE all came to the conclusion that this was easily fixed issue, but the one Board member who was determined not to have the Associate Pastor in the first place was fueling the fire that caused the Board to react in the manner it had. Because of this my husband decided he would resign from the Board. He had me write the letter he dictated to me..
I just discovered today that he lied to me. He had a meeting with the Lead Pastor and recanted his resignation. He lead me to beleive that he had resigned for weeks, only to discover it was not the truth. And what I find so sad about this whole thing is that there was a petty list of “accusations” made against the Associate Pastor by the Board member who didn’t want him…..and in this list everyone of us who attend the church fall in line with something on this list. But never on this petty list was lying. My husband stated that he felt he could not tell me the truth because he and I were on differing sides and we were going in different directions. He has placed the blame on me for what has happened at the church. He basically told me that the Board is moving on, but apparently you are not, so I cannot talk to you about things going on at the church anymore.
My question…..do I go back to a church whose leadership is so unforgiving and not willing to do the right thing? My husband’s M/O is always to “let’s not talk about it and hopefully it will not come up anymore” kind of guy…..bury it under the carpet attitude that doesn’t fixt things. And now to discover he has lied to me about this is hurtful.
Wow! What a terrible set of circumstances! I will pray that God will give you His wisdom in knowing what to do. James 1:5 is my Go To verse when I don’t know what to do. And I will pray for you, my sister! Jesus said that we will be known by our love, so be careful not to become bitter. Lean into God!
I’d like to relay a situation I had a few years ago. I attended an Assembly of God church for over 25 years. The church was like family to me, but the pastor, with his wife, retired, and
the building was sold to a similar denomination. After that I decided to try another church on the other end of town. It was similar in many ways to what I’d attended all those years and I
was familiar with the name of the pastor and her husband that everyone called Bishop. I wasn’t sure about the pastor being female, but the sermons right at first seemed biblical so I
decided to wait a little longer and see. I was hungry for fellowship, since the congregation I’d been in for a long time scattered to different churches, and the people I’d attended
with for so long were no longer altogether in one place. Maybe this new beginning in a brand new church would be good for me is what I was hoping. I knew only a handful of
people there, but some were friendly enough so I started to feel more comfortable. Imagine my surprise when the bishop, the pastors husband who was preaching that day,
stopped mid sermon and made a very negative remark, and it was obvious he was looking directly at me when he said it. I’m not one to just imagine that, but I still pushed it
away and continued to attend the church, eventually on Wednesdays as well as Sundays. Over the next few weeks he seemed to want to make me the target of several negative
remarks. I have NO idea why, since I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary, and I’d never had a conversation with him, I was just another person on the pew, so why he went
out of his way to single me out I have no idea. After the fifth or sixth time, I contacted the church to ask to meet with him, and it was my intention that if he wanted his wife, the pastor
in the room with us, I had no problem with that. I had nothing to hide. I was basing this on the scripture to meet one on one with the offender but I know many churches frown
on a male alone in a room with a female besides his own wife, so it was fine with me if she or anyone else was in there. He said immediately he did not have time and wouldn’t have time
anywhere on his calendar. Apparently he recognized my name and knew why I’d be coming by. This particular pastor I’m sure would have found the time and cleared his schedule
for the mayor or someone else “important” but not for someone without “clout” like me. Plus he figured out why I was coming and that didn’t help. I only asked for ten or twenty minutes at most….If he had any charge against me,
or he thought he did, why just take someone’s word for it, without letting me in on what was going on? How could I possibly defend myself against a charge, if I didn’t even know one was leveled against me. The bishop, (this was a non-denominational church and “bishop” was not a common title in a church like that one) never met with me, he never apologized, and he was never held accountable. I tried to find out who was on the
board, but either it’s a big secret, or there is no board, except maybe the few “Yes” men that he seems to surround himself with. I tried once or twice more after that, and he actually
did it again, purposely singling me out, adding insult to injury. Just the fact that I asked for a meeting, in a cordial way, not trying to be confrontational, I just wanted to find out what
was happening…. I gave it my best but it wasn’t good enough, so I just left, and will never return. In retrospect I realized that before all this happened, I’d try to sign up for membership by adding my name to a list that was out in the foyer, after which I would be contacted by the staff, but I was never able to add my name because something would happen and I would always be distracted and forget to put my name down. Now I see it was God keeping me from doing that…He knew what was coming and not having to ask for my name to be removed later on made it easier to just walk away later…I must have tried 7 or 8 times and it almost became comical all the times I tried but left church without having put my name down for membership. Leaving that way was so much easier than having to explain to anyone why I would not be returning, because I hadn’t signed up in the first place….False accusations in
many churches are not being handled properly by leaders. They preach to us about what we must do to be good Christians, but they themselves often ignore the parts of the bible they don’t like, or aren’t “convenient” for them. I want to mention my husband has always gone infrequently to church with me, but we have a good marriage and get along pretty well. It’s just that he doesn’t like going to church as much as I do, but I wonder if the bishop would have done something like that if my husband had been with me in that church every week. I just don’t think he would have. He would not have done something so publicly blatant if my husband attended church regularly. My being alone made me an easier target, possibly. I didn’t even tell him what happened, because I knew he would insist on confronting the bishop, and he would not take no for an answer. He’s very protective of his family…I didn’t want trouble I just wanted to leave….I knew God would restore me without human intervention, and I’d make it through this like I’d made it through so many other things….So I left without telling my husband why because I didn’t want him to be even more resistant to attending church than he was (and still is). All this to say, the bible says the devil is the accuser of the brethren, he’s the father of lies, and
a slanderer. You would think that anyone that has gone through the steps of becoming a pastor, (or in his case a “bishop”) would have known better by then, and not believe everything
someone tells them about someone else, without meeting with the accused person first. There are many reasons someone would lie on someone else even in a church setting. It could be jealousy, or some kind of revenge, or maybe they feel threatened that someone else could go further than them or take their place, and they try to stop it from happening. I’m certain
from your comment that one of those reasons is why the associate pastor you wrote about was pushed out by the board. Especially since the charges were petty, and not a good reason for pushing him out. Petty things can always be pointed out in a kind way giving the person time to change what needs to be changed, but to expect complete perfection in one board member while ignoring the faults of the others is not exactly a godly thing to do. For me, it’s now years later, but I’ve only told one friend plus my son (he was grown by then), what happened there, because I’m not interested in naming names or hurting anyone. I just needed to talk to someone, so I confided in them. If someone mentions the name of the church I keep my mouth shut, but if
they were to ask me if I think they should attend there, I’m not sure how I’d answer. I don’t want to fuel any gossip, so I don’t volunteer anything, but I also don’t want them to possibly
be subjected to spiritual abuse, and at times I wondered if the sermons truly were lining up with God’s Word, after I’d heard a few of them. One scripture that comes to mind is the one where God says have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. So there may come a time when I would have to say something, it just hasn’t come to that yet….The last thing I want to do is cause
division, but often it’s not the people in the pews causing division, it’s the leadership; in your case, it was the board trying to handle this on their own, without consulting the Word of God first. And if the head pastor would have responded correctly, it would not have had to go that far….You stood up for what was right, and not “popular”, and I want to commend you for doing the right thing. I wish more staff members and those in church leadership would have that much courage!
The word of God said, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the holy spirit.” Jesus has much to say about church. The church is the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom. I am a church. Jesus loves the church. God created man in his image, both male and female. Jesus said to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jesus said he who has ears to hear, let him hear what the spirit has to say to the churches. Man is the work of God, God’s creation can not do the works of God. Man can do nothing without God. A man has nothing except for that which descends down from heaven. He who is commanded by God is God’s. A church that commands the husband is lawless.
The church is the bride of Christ. It’s not the building, it’s the people. With that said, how can a believer be connected to the body of Christ without being a part of the church? If a finger is severed from the body, if withers and dies. Yes there are issues in churches, some even are severe, but walking away from church and have a solo spiritual life makes you ineffective at completing the great commission of Christ and leaves you open to attack and corruption from the enemy and the world. The disciplines all had issues but they worked through them together, as was Christs will. The literal final prayer Jesus prayed with his disciples was that they would be one as he and the father are one. We are not in control of others in our church or the Church authority Christ has ordained for them to be in their positions, we are only in control of our response to those who mistreat us. There are severe examples of abuse that yes require us to move on from the church we attend, but many times these abuses do not constitute or measure up to this kind of response, especially when they are disagreements on theology or what we view as “offenses” to our pride or ego.
All you said is in harmony with what the bible says.