Is there such a thing as a match made in Heaven? Research appears to say yes. In pursuit of a healthy, happy relationship, sure, it is important to have compatibility, respect, and mutual attraction. But there is something even more important. Research validates the power of prayer, demonstrating that it increases relational commitment and satisfaction, and decreases infidelity, proving that faith promotes faithfulness.
The Positive Power of Prayer: Bless Your Relationship by Blessing Each Other
Research shows that religion positively impacts close relationships, boosting marital satisfaction and stability.[i] Including God in the marriage stabilizes and enhances marital commitment. [ii]
Practicing religion together benefits couples as well. Couples who attend church together increase marital satisfaction and commitment, while differences in levels of religious engagement cause relational problems.[iii] One study reported that the risk of dissolution was three times greater in married couples where the wife attends church regularly and the husband, not at all.[iv] Attending religious services can even reduce the chances of infidelity.[v]
In addition to joint participation in religious services, research continues to validate the power of prayer.
The Reverse Selfie: Pray For Your Partner Not Yourself
Prayer includes praying for both self and others. In a relational context, however, specifically praying for your partner can increase relational commitment, and predict relational success.
Partner-focused petitionary prayer (PFPP) is linked to both relational satisfaction and level of commitment.[vi] Petitionary prayer is praying in one´s own fashion and language for assistance with specific needs, as opposed to rote, memorized prayer.[vii]
When researchers examined petitionary prayer that focused specifically on the well being of one´s partner,[viii] results indicated that praying for your partner increases commitment, as opposed to praying for yourself.[ix]
Faith and Faithfulness: The Power of Praying For Your Partner
Praying for your partner promotes fidelity. A study entitled “Faith and Unfaithfulness: Can Praying for Your Partner Reduce Infidelity?” discovered that praying for a partner actually reduced the likelihood of infidelity.[x] In fact, praying for one´s partner was a stronger indicator of lower rates of infidelity than initial relational satisfaction.[xi]
The study assigned couples to engage in three types of activity every day for 4 weeks: praying for each other, thinking positive thoughts about each other, or engaging in a neutral activity.[xii] The praying couples experienced lower levels of extra-relational behavior over a 6-week period, as opposed to the other two groups.[xiii]
The link between prayer and reduced incidence of infidelity appeared to be mediated by the perception of the romantic relationship as sacred.[xiv] Regarding objective analysis, outside observers perceived the individuals who prayed for their partners for 4 weeks as more committed to the relationship.[xv]
How does this work? The study found that daily praying for a partner reduced thoughts about relational alternatives as compared to general prayer.[xvi] Yet the findings went beyond reducing thoughts, they showed that praying for a partner also predicted a lower incidence of unfaithful behavior.[xvii] Researchers concluded that it is the act of praying for a partner´s well-being that reduces both infidelity-related thoughts and behavior. [xviii]
In God We Trust—Praying For and With Your Partner Increases Relational Trust
Both praying for your partner, and praying with your partner, increases relationship trust.[xix] In a study entitled “Praying Together and Staying Together: Couple Prayer and Trust,” couples were assigned to either pray with and for their partners 2 times a week for 4 weeks, or discuss positive news stories for the same time period.[xx]
Results showed that praying partners felt significantly more trust for and unity with their partners than partners in the positive interaction group.[xxi] The researchers note the possibility that prayer enhances trust—and reduces behaviors that damage trust, such as infidelity.[xxii]
Pray Together, Stay Together
In relationships, praying with and for each other enhances relational satisfaction, increases relational commitment, and reduces the likely hood of infidelity. It appears there is such a thing as a match made in Heaven.
About the author:
Wendy Patrick, JD, PhD, is a career prosecutor, author, and behavioral expert. She is the author of author of Red Flags: How to Spot Frenemies, Underminers, and Ruthless People (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller Reading People (Random House). She is also an ordained minister, she has a Master of Divinity degree and her PhD is in Theology.
She lectures around the world on sexual assault prevention, safe cyber security, and threat assessment, and is an Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Certified Threat Manager. The opinions expressed in this column are her own.
Find her at wendypatrickphd.com or @WendyPatrickPhD
[i] Frank D. Fincham, Nathaniel M. Lambert, and Steven R.H. Beach, “Faith and Unfaithfulness: Can Praying for Your Partner Reduce Infidelity?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 99, no. 4 (2010): 649-659 (649).
[ii] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness,” 651 (citing Lambert and Dollahite, 2008).
[iii] Nathaniel M. Lambert, Frank D. Fincham, Dana C. LaVallee, and Cicely W. Brantley, ”Praying Together and Staying Together: Couple Prayer and Trust,” Psychology of Religion and Spirituality 4, no. 1 (2012): 1-9 (2).
[iv] Lambert et al.,”Praying Together and Staying Together,” 2 (Call & Heaton, 1997).
[v] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness,” 649 (citing Atkins & Kessell, 2008).
[vi] Frank D. Fincham and Steven R.H. Beach, ”I Say a Little Prayer for You: Praying for Partner Increases Committment in Romantic Relationships,” Journal of Family Psychology 28, no. 5 (2014): 587-593.
[vii] Fincham and Beach, ”I Say a Little Prayer for You,” 587.
[viii] Fincham and Beach, ”I Say a Little Prayer for You,” 587.
[ix] Fincham and Beach, ”I Say a Little Prayer for You,” 591.
[x] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness.”
[xi] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness,” 653.
[xii] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness.”
[xiii] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness.”
[xiv] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness.”
[xv] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness.”
[xvi] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness,” 655-656.
[xvii] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness,” 655-656.
[xviii] Fincham et al., “Faith and Unfaithfulness,” 656.
[xix] Lambert et al.,”Praying Together and Staying Together.”
[xx] Lambert et al.,”Praying Together and Staying Together.”
[xxi] Lambert et al.,”Praying Together and Staying Together.”
[xxii] Lambert et al.,”Praying Together and Staying Together,” 6.