Weaving Connection and Virtues with Faith: Insights from Couples and Beyond

Hee-Sun Cheon | Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy / Director of Story-jangeedle, a Playback Theatre Ensemble (Sotryjang2.com)

Thank you JakeKristie Drake-9

In my recent study, I was fascinated by the exploration of how couples with faith cultivate their sense of “we-ness,” also known as couple identity and the intricate role their faith plays in this process. I conducted interviews with couples who self-identified as committed, non-distressed, and Christian. Through these in-depth interviews and subsequent analysis, these couples provided profound insights that illuminate wisdom applicable to various types of relationships in life.

Most couples asserted that “we-ness” requires intentionality that is based on a sense of commitment and faith is the foundation of their commitment, “being the bedrock of it all.” Interestingly, the couples shared how their secure “we-ness” contributed to the development of their self-confidence, efficacy, and self-trust. Recent studies seem to reinforce similar findings. For instance, Ahmad and colleagues (2017) discovered evidence suggesting that a strong couple identity enhances a woman’s coping self-efficacy regarding breast cancer, leading to improved psychosocial adjustment. I believe this finding extends beyond couples’ relationships. In fact, individuals who experience a stronger sense of “we- ness” or shared identity with significant others feel an enhanced sense of security and confidence in managing adversities, whether psychological or physical.

As a therapist, educator, and mother of two uniquely different children, I found it particularly intriguing that couples emphasized relational virtues as fundamental elements in their development of “we-ness.” These virtues include, but are not limited to, gratitude, forgiveness, willingness to sacrifice, curiosity, and respect. The couples elaborated on how their faith in God enhanced these relational virtues, fostering deep gratitude for finding one another, supporting each other through various adversities, respecting each other’s differences, and navigating forgiveness during challenging relational moments.

My students, who are embarking on their journey as therapists, often seek quick fixes to assist their clients with skills, interventions, and exercises – those masterful quick tricks. However, those couples helped me re-appreciate the importance of relational virtues and how we embody them in our relationships. When these virtues are embodied and extended, we feel authentically seen, heard, and understood, facilitating our growth into more resilient, creative, and grounded individuals.

Reflecting on this, during the month of May in which we honor mental health awareness and motherhood, I pause, take a deep breath, and ask myself where I want to direct my intentionality and which relational virtues, I aspire to embody in my interactions with the people whom God sends my way.

Reference:

Ahmad, S., Fergus, K., Shatokhina, K., & Gardner, S. (2017). The Closer ‘We’ are, the Stronger ‘I’ am: The Impact of Couple Identity on Cancer Coping Self-Efficacy. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 40 (3), 403-413. DOI: 10.1007/s10865-016-9803-1

This research was supported by Faculty Research Grant through Seattle Pacific University.

Hee-Sun Cheon, Associate Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy / Director of Story-jangeedle, a Playback Theatre Ensemble (Sotryjang2.com)

Center for Faithful Business

Seattle Pacific University

Dr. JoAnn Flett, Executive Director

Email

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