Spirituality and Relationships

couple in sunset light

I was asked to contribute to a book a friend is writing on Radical Acceptance in relationships and it made me think about how the different religious and spiritual paradigms would approach such a question. It seems clear that they would do so in relation to their core values and teachings, so I put together a fairly short paper on what this would look like.

Take the best of them and happy relating!

Firstly, the Mystical Perspective:

From a Mystical perspective, relationships are seen in the context of a greater wholeness. Mystics understand that we are all connected as the fabric and expression of One Being.

People feel complete when every aspect of themselves can show up, be seen, and loved. Very often problems occur in relationships when we feel unseen, unheard and unacknowledged. But in truth, as we ease our own barriers and defenses, we become better equipped to serve each other. As we release pain and disconnection from ourselves and our past trauma, it becomes easier to find a deeper home in love.

The mystics teach that most often, the real cause of our suffering, no matter its form, is alienation from our true essence – and reconnecting with our deepest being is, in turn, the single-most powerful source of love, growth, healing, and awakening. We when do our own inner work, then we are able to relinquish the need for our partners to affirm us, and we are more able to meet from a place of centered loving awareness.


Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul — the true “self” of every person, called the ātman — is eternal. According to the monistic/pantheistic theologies of Hinduism this Atman is ultimately indistinct from Brahman, the supreme spirit.

According to the Upanishads the soul, retains impressions, carrying them over into the next life, establishing a unique trajectory for the individual. Thus, the concept of a universal, neutral, and never-failing karma intrinsically relates to reincarnation as well as one’s personality, characteristics, and family. Karma binds together the notions of free will and destiny.

Karma translates literally as action, work, or deed and can be described as the “moral law of cause and effect”.

Connected to Karma is the idea of Dharma, the purpose of one’s life. Hindu Marriage joins two individuals for life, so that they can pursue their dharma together. Ways to create harmony in relationship are connected to the different types of yoga, a word that means union. Ultimately the goal of each individual soul is union with Brahma, but in this life one can practice union in one’s intimate relationships thereby affecting one’s Karma in a good way. The different yogas are Bhakti Yoga , the path of love and devotion, Karma Yoga, the path of right action, Rāja Yoga, the path of meditation, and Jñāna Yoga, the path of wisdom.

Buddhist Perspective:

Buddhism teaches that when life is lived from a place of disconnect, estranged from understanding that we are all part of an inter-related wholeness that constantly changes, then we suffer. And we project the cause of our suffering onto others. We become filled with insecurity, full of likes and dislikes, feel and feel disconnected from loved ones.

The Buddha also taught that we suffer when we are attached to the outcome of our actions or wishes – to our ego fulfillment. Then we become selfish and ego-centric at the expense of the needs of those around us.

The solution, the Buddha taught, is to overcome selfish cravings, and to release from the narrow limits of self-interest. We can do this by understanding of our place in the grand scheme of things, deciding to live from a heart-centered place, choosing to be truthful, and tactful and refraining from abusing those around us in any way. We can also engage in occupations that promote healthy living and spiritual progress, develop caring and compassion and practicing loving kindness.


The idea of relationship and marriage in Judaism is that two halves become one, by completing and complementing each other. “A man should therefore leave his father and mother and be united with his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

There is an understanding in Kabbalistic Judaism that man is made in the image of God, that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. There is also an understanding that God has both masculine and feminine attributes. Those attributes are mirrored in relationship, and both of those attributes contribute to balance in the world.

The essence of marriage in Judaism is the commitment to pursue life goals together, to mirror the Divine attributes and to participate in Tikkun Olam, the reparation of the soul of the world. That is done through acts of kindness, compassion, honesty, integrity, loyalty, caring, sharing, and loving. The practice is done in both in a larger social context, and in the context of more intimate relationships.


For Christians the major emphasis is following a path designed to produce more fully realized human beings “created in the Image and Likeness of God” and as such, living in harmonious communion with God, the Church, and the rest of world. This human potential is considered to be realized most perfectly in Jesus Christ, precisely because he is both God and human, and is manifested in others through their association with Him.

Christianity teaches that it is important to attend to body, mind, and soul (or spirit), and these can practiced in relationship by paying attention to works of mercy,” both spiritual and corporal, such as providing for and feeding the family, living a principled prayerful life and keeping in mind that the union is as much of the heart as of the intellect.

A good Christian relationship is one that embodies the values of peace, patience, respect and love, remember above all the words from 1 John 4:16: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”


In accordance with the five pillars of the Muslim religion: – creed, charity, fasting, prayer and pilgrimage, the qualities that are honored in an Islamic union are a positive attitude toward life – Muslims say “Al Hamdulillah” (Praise be to Allah) for whatever He does or does not give; the importance of men helping their wives and the importance of women being mates and helpers to their husbands. Both men and woman have rights over each other when they enter into a marriage contract. The husband is financially responsible for the welfare and maintenance of his wife or wives and any children they produce, to include at a minimum, providing a home, food and clothing. In return, it is the duty of the wife to safeguard the husband’s possessions and protect how wealth is spent. If the wife has wealth in her own capacity she is not obliged to spend it upon the husband or children, as she can own property and assets in her own right, so the husband has no right for her property and assets except by her will.

Following the example of the Prophet couples are required to be trustworthy; respectful toward each other, joyous and playful; forgiving of each others mistakes; fast together on Mondays & Thursdays; connect with Allah through ritual of prayer; go on the Hajj to Mecca if possible, and participate on one’s own inner hajj to examine and work with the inner ‘nafs’ or ego constrictions in order to overcome them.

Native American:

The concept of spirituality pervades all Native American life, beliefs, values, and behavior. All of life both animate and inanimate is understood to be inter-related and sacred. Consequently, spirituality plays an important role in marital relationships. Family structure varies from tribe to tribe in terms of gender roles, from the matriarchal structure seen in the Navajo to patriarchal structures in many other tribes. Gender roles and expectations are directly related to the dynamics within couple relationships, but above all emphasis in the relationship is placed on honoring nature, harmony, balance, spirituality, community interaction and health and wellness.

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