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Five tips to avoid spiritual conflicts in your marriage

gwyneth paltrow
Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images

Did Kabbalah really fuel Gwyneth Paltrow's break up with Chris Martin?

This is conjecture by the tabloids and making headlines today. Of course, it is not necessarily so, and if the Star mags are saying it, it most likely isn't so at all. Nonetheless, it brings up an issue that should be dealt with. What do couples do that have a conflict of spiritual direction?

If one half of a couple wants more spirituality and one half wants less, or one half wants Christianity and one half wants Buddhism, etc. what can they do? Is this kind of conflict salvageable?

It behooves people who are dating to explore the religious attitudes and spiritual perspectives each holds before someone pops the question. After all, our life philosophy might be the most important thing to us, and often becomes more and more important the older we get. Sure, while you’re having dinner at a restaurant and going to the movies, your life philosophy may not come up at all, and many people who are dating hesitate to bring something up that might be a conflict, but it is crucial to try to start a life together on the same page, if you can.

Once a couple is married, of course, nobody can predict what may happen to either person’s life philosophy. Many people strengthen their faith, and many people change their faith as an adult, and many people explore world religions and want to adopt an idea or two from a foreign wavelength. This is often healthy and good. But it can create a strain on an existing relationship.

Here are the five tips:

1. Find out first. Avoid conflicts if possible by fleshing out spiritual and religious philosophy before marriage. Once you are seriously dating, it is time to delve into the other person’s soul. What is their life philosophy? Are they interested at all in personal growth or spiritual topics? Find out what you’re getting into before the proposal.

2. Remember your commitment. A marriage is a commitment to another person exactly the way they are. If you change your mind about anything spiritual or religious, you cannot and should not demand your spouse come along for the ride with you, and you should not divorce your spouse now that you've changed course. You do your thing. If it really is a source of spiritual awakening and growth, you’ll become a better person and your spouse will respond positively to that, and probably want to join you.

3. Pray. Of course, whether you have a spiritual conflict or not, it is appropriate to constantly pray for guidance and assistance with a marriage. Uniting two different people is one of the most rewarding, but also one of the most challenging things we humans do. And especially if your paths begin to diverge spiritually, that is the time to pour your heart out to the Almighty that your hearts should be aligned with truth.

4. Strengthen your bond. Abraham and Sarah had disagreements; Isaac and Rebecca had disagreements. Even holy people have disagreements in a marriage. This is not bad. If you have a strong marital bond, the disagreement doesn't get nasty, harsh or critical. If your spouse won’t come to your Hatha Yoga class, that’s okay. And if you really want him/her there, offer to do something he/she wants to do that you don’t, like a Knicks game or something. If you can’t be spiritual partners, look for ways to strengthen all your other areas of partnership. Be a unit.

5. Put your spouse first. No, not before God, (the Infinite is always #1) but make sure your spiritual pursuit doesn't make your spouse feel like #3. Make your spouse #2. Put your spiritual pursuits aside if your spouse needs you. Don’t start hanging out with your friends from church, synagogue, or the ashram, and neglect your spouse. You made a commitment to a marriage. Make it your priority, and your spiritual growth will be enhanced even more. After all, a marriage really the act of two people becoming one soul.