If you’re wondering about how to better your marriage with sacred text, you’re in the right place. In preparation for Valentine’s Day, we thought we would focus a bit on the marriage relationship specifically. This is a continuation of the conversation we aired in episode 15: “Holy Script!” Sacred Text in the Home, with Dr. David Dollahite and Dr Loren Marks. We look specifically through the filter of sacred text in this episode, but much of what we discuss applies across the board for reading with your spouse.
This week we are again joined by Doctors David Dollahite and Loren Marks of the American Families of Faith Project and professors at Brigham Young University. The first part of the interview, which we published last month (Episode 15), was focused on families interacting with sacred text, while this second part focuses more on the marriage relationship specifically.
In this episode we talk about:
1. Our thoughts matter and words matter even more, as they turn into actions and, as the poet Emerson said, our character. Faith is not a magic pill. Many times it becomes a tool of power or to dominate. There is danger to faith when not applied with compassion and wisdom. It has been shown in studies many times over that religion, faith and spirituality is powerful- potentially powerfully positive, but also powerfully negative.
2. Use approaching sacred texts in a marriage as a way to honor the agency of each person involved, their time or their styles of study. Doing it to check off a box, imposing one’s approach, views or values over another’s, trying to do it when one party is not ready, or is distracted, tired or not ready to engage can be problematic.
3. We also looked outside of sacred texts and touched on the closeness that can come from couples reading other literature together. Dr. Marks and his wife would read out loud to each other as they did the dishes.
4. We touched on the role that mental health plays in marriage when it comes to faith and an individual’s readiness to participate in joint study. They referenced studies that show problems that can arise from the intersection of faith and mental illness in marriage and families, however, they also emphasized that, “Those couples that are able to draw from their faith, their sacred texts and their traditions, ways to be compassionate, understanding, flexible, long suffering, gentle, patient, etc. etc. etc., will do well. Those people who choose to try to dictate to their spouse how they should think about or how they should act in relation to their faith, those persons who insist that their spouse agree with them or toe the line that they would like toes, or change themselves to be more like I am…those marriages are going to have serious trouble.”
5. In our attempts to stay synchronized as a couple and in a place where we can both be ready to use our sacred texts in our marriage as well as our families, they mentioned a concept from marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman called the “Magic 30 Minutes.” When couples take 30 minutes of their day to talk to each other and listen. When kids are involved, it is almost impossible to talk to each other, so some couples use a cup of coffee together, or a walk or a drive together to stay on the same page.
6. As we apply our sacred texts and the examples of couples and marriages within them, to our marriage relationships, we should maintain a view inward- how does this apply to ourselves, how can this make ourselves better, as opposed to asking the other person to be better or do better.
7. Approaching scripture study as a couple as well as with our children gives us a wonderful opportunity to honor both members of the couple’s preferences and work through differences. “We have had to balance and take turns and try to honor each other’s preferences. Our children have seen us work that through. They are well aware that Mom feels strongly about this and Dad feels strongly about other things, but they have seen us try to work well together and allow both of us to have the thing that we think is most important be a part of what we do [in our family study].”
In Loving your Spouse and Sacred Text we mention:
Jane Austen (author) pictured here is Sense and Sensibility
Extracts from Adam’s Diary – Mark Twain (we are including this version with Eve’s Diary as well)
Be sure to listen to last week’s episode, 17: How We Read with Rachel Lambourne to hear some great ideas of how Dr. Dollahite’s daughter uses books in her home (and get a whole ton of great reading recommendations!).
Also, stay tuned for our upcoming interview with Dr. Marks’s father, Larry, author of a book called Reading is the Key, teaching us a tried-and-true method of teaching our very young kids to love reading from the beginning.