Most Catholic couples have probably heard the common advice said in Catholic circles about keeping Christ at the center of their relationship. Praying together and encouraging each other in the Faith is certainly necessary in order to maintain virtue in the relationship and for both people to grow closer to God. Prayer should always be the foundation of our lives. And because nothing good can exist without him, it is especially important to put him at the root of decisions, friendships and relationships. But sometimes it’s hard to find practical ways to incorporate the Faith beyond the usual going to Mass or praying an occasional Rosary together.
When I began dating someone and the relationship grew more serious, I remember having this desire to keep God close to us and to acknowledge him, just as it says in Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”
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This may be easier said than done, however, and it took a few attempts, ideas and some failures for me to learn what works best for us. There are so many opportunities and ways to deepen your prayer life together. And so, learning from others, and taking from experience in my own relationship, I have developed a list of a few helpful and practical steps for developing your faith within your relationship.
Step 1. Have a conversation
If you are feeling that there needs to be more prayer, Scripture or devotions in your relationship, the first thing to do is to voice this to your partner. If he is strong enough in his own spiritual life, he will likely have been having similar thoughts, or he will at least be open to the idea. If he isn’t open to the idea, it is definitely worth a conversation to see where the disagreement is. Maybe he needs some help in his own spiritual life first, or maybe he doesn’t think there is anything lacking. Regardless of whether or not it’s true, the conversation ought to be had.
I once suggested to my boyfriend that we read a psalm every day. At the time, we were in the middle of praying a novena together, and he said it was a good idea, but he wanted to incorporate the psalms at a different time so that we could fully focus and dedicate ourselves to the novena. The point is, have the conversation. He may have ideas and opinions, too.
Step 2. Consider ideas
One of the many beautiful things about the Catholic Church is that there are an abundance of devotions, prayers and ways to deepen your faith. Jesus Christ, out of his perfect generosity and love, instituted the Church for humanity to worship God and have a relationship with him. It is important to take advantage of all the gifts the Church has to offer, especially with your significant other. A great place to start is by frequenting the sacraments together. If you normally go to confession alone, why not ask him to come along? This will keep both of you accountable and create a beautiful space for both of you to pray silently, do penance and reflect on ways to remove sin from your lives. Daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration are also incredibly important when available to you.
For some prayers and devotions, it simply depends on what works for you. The Church suggests praying the Angelus, a traditional prayer to Mary, at 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. every day, or at least choosing one of those hours. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is also traditionally said at 3 p.m. on Fridays to remember the Passion of Our Lord. You could also pray a novena together leading up to the feast day of a particular saint (some of my favorites have been the Holy Family, St. Joseph, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Augustine and St. Thérèse). The key is consistency and commitment. If you, for example, have a set time of day when you pray together, or a specific day during the week when you pray a Rosary together, then you can both expect it to happen at the same time, and you can plan your time together accordingly. Reading Scripture, the Catechism and the writings of saints are also great ways to grow together spiritually and start conversations about the Faith.
All of these can also be applied to long distance relationships if that is where you are now. My boyfriend and I attend the same college but are long distance during Christmas and summer breaks. We still pray novenas together, pray over the phone, and read spiritual books together even while we live on different coasts.
3. Follow through
One thing I have learned is that you cannot rely on the other person to always remember or always suggest praying. Even when we have a set time (for example, we always pray Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours at 9 p.m. on Monday nights), things can get in the way or distract you. The devil is always working to pull you away from prayer. It is important to take responsibility and depend as much on yourself as you do on your significant other to remember prayer.
Again, consistency is key. If you have limited time together, it may be hard to choose to use that time to go to daily Mass, say a Rosary, or say Liturgy of the Hours. And remember there might be temptation to just have fun or save prayer for tomorrow. But the best use of your time together will always be when you are kneeling, side by side, looking up to God.