The Spiritual Glue in Our Relationship

spiritual-glueI know without a doubt that my love language is quality time. I ache for good conversation, for people and spaces that allow me to be known, heard, valued and supported. The theologian Michael Himes affirmed this desire in me when he wrote, “Few needs are as pressing and as often go unmet in our world as the need for a place to converse.  We all require somewhere, some circle of companions, where and with whom we can enter into the demanding task of trying to say what we experience and to understand what others say in response…”

One of the practices Andy and I developed early on in our relationship in order to do just that was our weekly spirituality night. I had been introduced to spirituality nights in my year of service as a Jesuit Volunteer. It was a time for us to come together and learn about one another’s spiritual practices. One week I had everyone bring a song that spoke most deeply to them at the moment; another week one of my housemates had us write letters to people we loved as we focused on gratitude; another week we watched and discussed a documentary. Spirituality became an all-encompassing word to help us enter into a more reflective conversation with one another, our circle of companions — about what was going on in our own lives and hearts and in the larger issues of our world.

Spirituality nights for Andy and me have become all-encompassing, too — from finding the space to share frustrations and concerns about the nitty-gritty, day-to-day aspects of our relationship, to sharing hopes and dreams about our future and discerning how we can integrate certain values like simplicity, service and social justice more deeply into our relationship.

These spirituality nights allow us to share the things going on in our hearts which we may not bring up in the busyness of our daily routines. Each week, we have an opportunity to sit back and listen deeply to each other.

At the beginning of our relationship, these nights were a very practical way to get a read of how our relationship was going. We were still learning so much about one another and figuring out how best to communicate. Having a weekly opportunity to really open up about our relationship was very helpful. We’d each reflect on how we felt the relationship was going — ways we loved each other well and ways we fell short of what we could be. We offered each other practical feedback in those early days, recognizing that the little things can have a profound impact: Can you use your phone less when we’re together? Can you hold my hand more in public?

As time has progressed, we’ve needed the time less as a temperature check and more as an opportunity to integrate prayer into our relationship. Although we take turns leading each week, we’ve established a solid ritual for the evening that incorporates both individual and shared prayer:

  • Opening prayer: We open with a simple prayer, either from the heart or using a written prayer or poem.
  • Song: We choose a song that connects with the theme of the evening.
  • Individual prayer: We then spend 15 to 20 minutes praying and journaling individually with a certain scripture passage, blog post, reflection question or other material.
  • Sharing: And then we take turns sharing insights from our reflection with each other.

These spirituality nights have become the glue of our relationship, and our best quality time in the week. They allow us to share the things going on in our hearts which we may not bring up in the busyness of our daily routines. Each week, we have an opportunity to sit back and listen deeply to each other.

It is easy to think we’ve covered things because we see each other every day. I’ll recount the events of my day to Andy over dinner, but often I don’t have the energy to go into depth about the emotions of the day. Sometimes that’s because I don’t even know what my heart is feeling until I make time for silence and prayer. There is a lot that can be going on under the surface that doesn’t come out until the right space is made for it.

Some weeks, we have profound experiences in prayer to share with one another. Other weeks, we simply relish the silence that is so often missing from our daily routine. Regardless of our insights, inevitably, each spirituality night draws us closer together. Each week I am reminded that I’ve got a companion to journey through life with, to ask big questions of, to pray with, to challenge and, simply, to sit with in silence. These nights certainly meet my need for quality time, but they also tap into the pressing need we all have for a place to converse.

Sarah Otto is originally from warm and sunny Phoenix. She moved out East for the Master of Divinity program at Boston College, fell in love with her husband, Andy, and stayed. She currently works as a campus minister at Providence College.