Spirituality’s Affect on Relationships
When I went to social work school, we were taught to view people from a “biopsychosocial” perspective. This means that the biological, psychological, and social aspects of human beings are all important in understanding what makes someone who they are. Today, we add a spiritual component for persons who define themselves that way. To me, spirituality is a broad term that refers to connection to something larger than ourselves. This may take a religious, mystical, or humanistic (devotion to improving the lot of others) view or simply a way to otherwise find meaning and purpose in our lives.
How does this affect relationships? People to whom we are close can have a tremendous impact on our spiritual lives. Just as spirituality entails a connection with something larger than ourselves, a close relationship is more than the sum of its parts. It creates a third “person”—the couple. Members offer not only love and acceptance, but also encouragement and challenge to grow. Similarly, relationship to God, Higher Power, or humanity supports and challenges us in our quest for meaning.
In my psychotherapy practice, I help individuals who are so inclined to explore their relationship with God and to find their vocation, the work which makes them feel fulfilled and alive. In some cases, I refer the client to a clergy person or spiritual director for further work. In working with couples, I learn that spirituality may form a bond or lead to conflict in the relationship. But as with any conflict, if challenge is tempered by respect and caring its resolution can lead to renewed spark in the relationship.
When I met my partner, Robin, his religious orientation stirred in me a sense of pain. For years, I had longed for the comfort of an all-powerful God in whom I could not believe because of the evil and suffering in the world. I had a glimmer of faith as I wondered if a man as good as Robin could love me. Robin himself was discontent with the Episcopalian church which had rejected him years ago when he came out. I encouraged Robin to attend Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) and pursue his long-buried dream of ordination. At MCC New York, I felt drawn to the passion of the minister, and though it frightened me, I began to go to her for spiritual direction. From her, I learned that God’s power lies in infinite presence and love, not in pulling the strings. When Robin and I moved to Richmond so that he could be the pastor of the MCC here, I found tremendous support at that church and at Richmond Hill, a spiritual retreat center. And when Robin and I moved to old Stony Point, he challenged me to reconnect with my Jewish roots and attend nearby Congregation Or Ami, where I have found my spiritual home.
What is your spirituality–your relationship with God, or with humanity? And how could this help you improve—or find—a close relationship?
Jonathan Lebolt, PhD (“Doctor Jon”) is a licensed clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and group psychotherapist specializing in relationship issues. He lives with his partner of 14 plus years, Rev. Dr. Robin Gorsline, and their princely pooch, Cocoa. Robin and Jonathan are proud grandfathers of a beautiful one-year-old girl, Juna. Feel free to contact Doctor Jon at his website.
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