Reconcilable (?) Religious Differences

A few weeks ago I received an email from someone searching for resources that might help a married couple overcome their religious differences. I queried participants on the Psychology of Religion email list of the APA, and asked a few friends as well. Here is the resulting list of resources, ready for your files (or comments).

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Hi all-

Two weeks ago I wrote, asking for suggestions for books that might be helpful for people who are experiencing marital stresses because of religious differences. Based on your replies, it would appear that either this is a field that is ready for new books, or that the issue comes up so seldom that it doesn't merit any books! I am more inclined to think it is the former than the latter. ;-)

One person suggested that improved communication would help such a couple, and therefore recommended books by John Gottman. He has a strong research program in couples' communication, and has written several highly-rated books such as
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
The Relationship Cure
Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage

It seems to me that such advice may help some situations.

One person wrote, saying that she found herself in just such a situation. She has read the following books recently in an effort to help her deal with her husband's disbelief:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay by Mira Krishenbaum
The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner, Ph.D.
Covenant Relationships by Keith Intrater

She also has read biographies of Christians as a source of encouragement:
A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliott
In The Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham
To Fly Again by Gracia Burnham
Prisoners of Hope by Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer
There is a Broken Heart in Every Pew by Ruth Graham
Inside Afghanistan by John Weaver
Why? Trusting God When You Don?t Understand by Anne Graham Lotz
On Eagles Wings by Geoff Gorsuch
Scientists Who Believe by Eric C. Barrett and David Fisher

Depending on one's religious affiliation, there may be online groups that would prove supportive. Just as one example, there is the Faces East bulletin board that is intended to support believing Latter-day Saints whose spouses do not share their views.
From what I've observed reviewing that board's previous posts, it seems like it could be a supportive place for a person dealing with such a situation. Of course, your mileage may vary. Locating such a resource may be the (first) difficult step- As a starting point, I'd suggest starting with a google search using the terms
online support disbelief + your religious affiliation
but it may take some time before you'll find something helpful for your particular situation. You might also try the Religion and Spirituality Index at Yahoo.com.

Two other book suggestions were
Reconcilable Differences, by Virginia Holeman
How to Save your Marriage Alone, by Ed Wheat

Those are the suggestions I received. I have not read them, so I'm simply passing along to you the suggestions of others. If you are familiar with any of these books and found them praiseworthy or troubling, I'd appreciate knowing it.


Michael Nielsen said...

Here is one more resource that might be of use to people in such a situation. http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/research/rcfp/index.html

Michael Nielsen said...

A follow-up to the question, from a Jewish perspective:

Dear Michael,

Although I didn't attempt to locate any sources, I would like to suggest two possible directions:

1. Jewish and Gentile intermarriage – According to orthodox Jewish tradition, an individual belonging to the Jewish religion is permitted to marry an individual of the opposite sex who also belongs to the Jewish religion. "Intermarriage" is often considered a problem not only according to Jewish law but also for traditional and demographic reasons (offspring of such marriages usually do not continue the Jewish tradition, etc.). Since many prospective intermarriage couples are often not at all concerned with these issues, much has been written about the relationship problems in intermarriage couples (various areas of friction, etc). I am sure that many of these arguments are based on experience and may be a source fro the issue being discussed.

2. A second area deals with the "Returnee" movement to Orthodox Judaism. A number of organizations attempt to help Jews who have been brought up far from their religious traditions to "return" to their roots. In addition, many people who are looking for "something" more spiritual than Western culture often find their own way back to religious Judaism. In many cases, this process "happens" to one member of a couple but not to the other. Since Judaism is an orthopraxic religion and what some call a "way of life" religion, "mixed" couples can be extremely problematic. In some cases, if neither member of the couple si willing to change his or her ways, divorce is often the unfortunate result! In any case, I am sure that this issue has been addressed somewhere!

Of course, any literature concerning these areas may not be research or academic literature, but they may provide insights into the dynamics of religious differences among couples.