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The relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction in Christian heterosexual marriages

Dissertation
Author: Felisha Talley Ford
Abstract:
This study examined the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction in Christian heterosexual married couples. Descriptive, correlational research was used to determine the relationship between level of spirituality and marital satisfaction. Bivariate regression analysis was also used to determine the predictive value of spirituality on marital satisfaction in the sample. Using non-probability sampling methods, a sample of 62 Christian heterosexual married couples were used to complete the ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale (EMS; Fowers & Olson, 1993) and the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS; Ellison & Paloutzian, 1982) which consisted of Religious Well-Being (RWB) and Existential Well-Being (EWB) subscales to assess the variables used in the study. Results from the statistical analyses showed the following: there was a statistically significant positive relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction in the Christian heterosexual married couples used in this study; there was a statistically significant positive relationship between the women's and men's RWB and EWB scores as separate groups; there were no statistically significant gender differences in the men's and women's RWB and EWB subscale scores; there was a statistically significant difference in the men's and women.'s TSWB scores; and there was no statistically significant gender difference in the EMS scores of the men and women of the study. No analyses were conducted to determine whether a significant difference existed in the mean EMS and TSWB scores of the Christian-Christian couples and the Christian-Non-Christian couples due to an insufficient response of Christian-Non-Christian married couples to participate in this study.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables vii CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem 1 Background of the Study 1 Statement of the Problem 3 Purpose of the Study 3 Rationale 3 Research Questions and Hypotheses 4 Significance of the Study 7 Definition of Terms 8 Assumptions and Limitations 9 Nature of the Study 12 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 13 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW General Overview 15 Conceptual Framework 15 Previous Research on Spirituality and Marital Satisfaction 31 Summary and Conclusions 43 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY Restatement of Purpose 45 Research Design 45

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Target Population 46 Variables 47 Measures 48 Procedures 52 Null Hypotheses 57 Data Collection 58 Data Analysis 62 Expected Findings 64 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS 66 Participant Demographics 66 Statistical Analyses and Hypothesis Testing 71 Conclusions 81 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS 83 Summary of Study 83 Discussion of Findings 88 Limitations of the Study 91 Recommendations for Future Research 93 Summary of Conclusions 95 REFERENCES 97 APPENDIX A. DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONNAIRE

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List of Tables Table 1. Descriptive Statistics for Categorical Demographic Variable – Age 67

Table 2. Descriptive Statistics for Categorical Demographic Variable – Gender 68

Table 3. Descriptive Statistics for Categorical Demographic Variable – Race/Ethnicity 68

Table 4. Descriptive Statistics for Categorical Demographic Variable – Years Married 69 Table 5. Descriptive Statistics for Categorical Demographic Variable - Denomination 70 Table 6. Descriptive Statistics for Categorical Demographic Variable – Religious Affiliation 70 Table 7. Descriptive Statistics for Remaining Categorical Demographic Variables on Demographic Questionnaire 71

Table 8. Descriptive Statistics for EMS and TSWB Scores 72 Table 9. Correlation Matrix of Relationship between EMS and TSWB Scores 73 Table 10. Regression Model Summary 73 Table 11. ANOVA of the Regression Model 73

Table 12. Coefficients of the Regression Model 74

Table 13. Descriptive Statistics for Women‟s EWB and RWB scores 75

Table 14. Pearson‟s Product Moment Correlations of Women‟s RWB and EWB Subscale Scores 75

Table 15. Descriptive Statistics of Men‟s RWB and EWB Subscale Scores 76 Table 16. Pearson‟s Product Moment Correlations of Men‟s RWB and EWB Subscale Scores 76

Table 17. Descriptive Statistics for Men‟s and Women‟s EMS Scores, RWB and EWB Subscale Scores, and TSWB Scores 77

Table 18. Independent Samples Test Results for Mean Gender Differences of EMS Scores, RWB and EWB Subscale Scores, and TSWB Scores 80

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CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION Introduction to the Problem Studies that address spirituality and its relationship with various components of marital health are becoming increasingly necessary in family psychology research. This is due to the fact that spirituality has become more of a relevant factor that contributes to healthy marriages, because “for most people throughout the world, religion/spirituality occupy a central aspect of culture on both macro and micro levels” (Carlson & Erickson, 2002, p. 1). Some years ago, spirituality was a topic that was not popular to discuss or to include when psychologists conducted therapy with married couples (Lebow, 2004; Mask, 2004). Research regarding the inclusion of religion and spirituality in family psychology is still comparatively small, but it is expanding (Larson & Olson, 2005; Mask, 2004). Mask (2004) conducted a research project that examined the publishing trends in three family science journals and three family therapy journals from 1990-2003, and he noted that of the 3,783 articles published in 6 journals that only 61 (1.61%) of the articles focused on couple/family spirituality or religiosity. Now, the topic is becoming more accepted, and is oftentimes included in family psychology (Larson & Olson, 2005; Lebow, 2004; Mask, 2004; Wolf & Stevens, 2001).

Background of the Study With many marriages experiencing trouble and ending in separation or divorce due to lack of marital satisfaction (Giblin, 2004), it is important to discover what factors significantly impact marital satisfaction. It has been found consistently that spirituality is a strong element to

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healthy marriages (Sullivan, 2001; Mask, 2004). Although these results have been reported with numerous studies, research has also revealed that some marriages that are considered to be religiously independent, agnostic, atheistic, or have no religious/spiritual affiliation have high marital stability (Heaton & Albrecht, 1991). Additionally, it has been found by researchers that some of these types of marriages have high overall marital adjustment (Vernon, 1968) and lower divorce rates than some Jewish and Christian marriages (Robinson, 2008). Research has also supported that there is a significant relationship between spirituality/religiosity and marital satisfaction (Alston, 2007; Broomfield, 1995; Harmon, 2005; Mask, 2004). According to Wittenberg (as cited in Mask, 2004), the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction is so multifaceted and complex that “the nature of the relationship is dependent upon the way both variables are measured (p. 25).” Thus, Mask (2004) stated that there is a need for more studies to be done on this topic that incorporate multiple dimensions of the respective variables so that social scientists can “systematically” determine what it is about spirituality that contributes to marital satisfaction (p. 26). This study on the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction is distinctive from the others on this topic because it used two scales – the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS; Ellison & Paloutzian, 1982) and the ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale (EMS; Fowers & Olson, 1993) which are scales that measure multiple dimensions of the variables used in this study. Because of the multiple dimensions that are incorporated in these scales, this study should help to provide a more comprehensive understanding of what elements of spirituality contribute to marital satisfaction. In essence, however, this research focused on exploring and describing the relationship of level of spirituality on marital satisfaction in Christian, heterosexual married couples.

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Statement of the Problem The primary research problem of this study focused on the possible relationship between level of spirituality and marital satisfaction in heterosexual married couples of any racial background who were over the age of 18, had been legally married at least one year or more and were currently living with the spouse. Also, one or both of the spouses within each married couple had to identify that they perceived themselves as being “Christian” which was addressed by an item on the demographic questionnaire (i.e. “Do you profess belief in Jesus as Christ and/or follow the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus?”(Pickett et al., 2004)). This was included in the survey packet to assist in selecting qualified couples for this study.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between level of spirituality, as measured by the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (Ellison & Paloutzian, 1982), and marital satisfaction, as measured by the ENRICH Marital Satisfaction scale (Fowers & Olson, 1993), in Christian, heterosexual married couples. Overall, the study and its findings may be helpful in providing family psychologists with a deeper understanding of the impact of spirituality on marital satisfaction within Christian, heterosexual marriages by the quantitative data that were obtained and analyzed in this study.

Rationale A quantitative research design that is based on descriptive, correlational research was used because the purpose of quantitative descriptive research is to assess and evaluate attitudes, opinions, processes, and other measurable data of large groups of people that affect the

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phenomena of interest (Hopkins, 2008). Also, using descriptive research helps to identify associations between variables which is the focus of this study (Hopkins, 2008). The correlational research method was the most appropriate method to use for the study to determine the relationship between two variables, level of spirituality and marital satisfaction. According to Leedy and Ormrod (2005), “a correlational study examines the extent to which differences in one characteristic or variable are related to differences in one or more other characteristics or variables” (p. 180). The results of correlational analyses also provided the results needed to help determine the predictive value of the predictor variable of the study (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). Therefore, bivariate regression analysis is used in the study to predict the value of the criterion variable based on knowledge about the predictor variable, since it was concluded that one variable was significantly associated with the other (Johnson & Kuby, 2004; Leedy & Ormrod, 2005).

Research Questions and Hypotheses ResQ 1: Is there a significant relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction in Christian heterosexual married couples? HO1: There will be no significant relationship between spirituality (i.e. TSWB individual scores), the predictor variable, and marital satisfaction (i.e. EMS individual scores), the criterion variable, in the Christian heterosexual married couples. HA1: There will be a significant relationship between spirituality (i.e. TSWB individual scores), the predictor variable, and marital satisfaction (i.e. EMS individual scores), the criterion variable, in the Christian heterosexual married couples.

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ResQ 2: Is there a significant relationship between the women‟s Religious Well-being (RWB) subscale scores and the women‟s Existential Well-being (EWB) subscale scores? HO2: There will be no significant relationship between the women‟s Religious Well-being (RWB) subscale scores, the predictor variable, and the women‟s Existential Well-being (EWB) subscale scores, the criterion variable. HA2: There will be a significant relationship between the women‟s Religious Well-being (RWB) subscale scores, the predictor variable, and the women‟s Existential Well-being (EWB) subscale scores, the criterion variable. ResQ 3: Is there a significant relationship between the men‟s RWB subscale scores and the men‟s EWB subscale scores? HO3: There will be no significant relationship between the men‟s Religious Well-being (RWB) subscale scores, the predictor variable, and the men‟s Existential Well-being (EWB) subscale scores, the criterion variable. HA3: There will be a significant relationship between the men‟s Religious Well-being (RWB) subscale scores, the predictor variable, and the men‟s Existential Well-being (EWB) subscale scores, the criterion variable. ResQ 4: Is there a significant difference between RWB subscale scores of the men and RWB subscale scores of the women? HO4: There will be no significant difference between the RWB subscale scores of the men and the RWB subscale scores of the women. HA4: There will be a significant difference between the RWB subscale scores of the men and the RWB subscale scores of the women. ResQ 5: Is there a significant difference between EWB subscale scores of the men and EWB

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subscale scores of the women? HO5: There will be no significant difference between the EWB subscale scores of the men and the EWB subscale scores of the women. HA5: There will be a significant difference between the EWB subscale scores of the men and the EWB subscale scores of the women. ResQ 6: Is there a significant difference between the Total Spiritual Well-being (TSWB) Scale scores of the men and the TSWB scores of the women? HO6: There will be no significant difference between the TSWB subscale scores of the men and the TSWB subscale scores of the women. HA6: There will be a significant difference between the TSWB subscale scores of the men and the TSWB subscale scores of the women. ResQ 7: Is there a significant difference between the men‟s ENRICH Marital Satisfaction (EMS) Scale individual scores and the women‟s EMS individual scores? HO7: There will no significant difference between the men‟s ENRICH Marital Satisfaction (EMS) Scale individual scores and the women‟s EMS individual scores. HA7: There will be a significant difference between the men‟s ENRICH Marital Satisfaction (EMS) Scale individual scores and the women‟s EMS individual scores. ResQ 8: Is there a significant difference in the mean TSWB scores of the Christian-Christian married couples and the Christian-Non-Christian married couples on the SWBS? HO8: There is no significant difference between the mean TSWB scores of the Christian- Christian married couples and the Christian-Non-Christian married couples on the SWBS.

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HA8: There is a significant difference between the mean TSWB scores of the Christian-Christian married couples and the Christian-Non-Christian married couples on the SWBS. ResQ 9: Is there a significant difference in the mean EMS scores of the Christian-Christian married couples and the Christian-Non-Christian married couples? HO9: There is no significant difference between the mean EMS scores of the Christian- Christian married couples and the Christian-Non-Christian married couples. HA9: There is a significant difference between the mean EMS scores of the Christian-Christian married couples and the Christian-Non-Christian married couples.

Significance of the Study The topic is relevant and significant to the field of psychology because the resources to discover the associations of spirituality on factors of marital health including marital satisfaction have been “underutilized” (Giblin, 2004, p. 43). According to Wolf and Stevens (2001, p. 46), even though there has been a “heightened awareness” concerning the importance of religion and spirituality in family psychology, the field has just recently started to regard religion and spirituality and have begun to include it in its literature that focus on couples/family (Lebow, 2004). This study and its findings may be helpful in providing psychological researchers with results that reveal whether spirituality has a significant relationship with marital satisfaction within Christian, heterosexual marriages. It also may be beneficial in providing psychologists with a greater understanding of the role that spirituality plays in fostering marital satisfaction in Christian, heterosexual marriages. Understanding the relationship between spirituality and

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marital satisfaction will help to discover whether spirituality can aid in improving marital satisfaction which may be an important factor in leading to overall marital health not only in Christian marriages but also in non-Christian marriages (Larson & Olson, 2005).

Definition of Terms In order to provide clarity concerning the context in which each variable of the study will be used, the criterion variable is defined which is marital satisfaction and the predictor variable which is spirituality. Also to be defined are the terms Christian, heterosexual married couple, Christian-Christian (CC) married couple, and Christian-Non-Christian (CN) married couple. Spirituality, for the purpose of this study, is defined as a sense of spiritual well-being that is two-dimensional including well-being in relation to God and a sense of life purpose and life satisfaction within or outside formal religious structures (Ellison, 1983). The key variable that will be used to translate the construct of spirituality is total spiritual well-being measured by the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS; Ellison & Paloutzian, 1982) that consists of two components including religious well-being and existential well-being. Marital Satisfaction, according to the conceptualization of the term upon which the EMS (Fowers & Olson, 1993) is based, is defined as “the subjective feelings of happiness, satisfaction and pleasure experienced by a spouse when considering all current aspects of his [her] marriage” (Hawkins, 1968, p. 648). The variables that the marital satisfaction construct will be translated into are level of marital satisfaction which covers ten areas of the couple‟s marriage which are the variables that the ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale (Fowers & Olson, 1993) will be measuring.

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Christian a person who professes belief in Jesus as Christ and/or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus (Pickett et al., 2004). Heterosexual married couple is defined as a man and a woman who are “legally married and currently living with the spouse” (Scheider, 2008, p. 8). Christian-Christian married couple is a married couple in which both spouses self-identifies that they are Christians on the demographic questionnaire used in the study. Christian-Non-Christian married couple is a married couple in which only one spouse self-identifies that he/she is Christian on the demographic questionnaire used in the study.

Assumptions and Limitations Assumptions Theoretical assumptions include the assumption that the studies that have been included in the research from which the theoretical framework of this study is extended are studies which produced results that indicated that spirituality significantly influenced various aspects of life including relationships and that these studies were ethical, valid, and reliable (Ellison, 1983; Moberg, 1979). Another assumption is that spiritual/religious practice is displayed in marriages and that within the Christian heterosexual marriages used in the study, religious values, faith, and commitment are illustrated (Onedera, 2008). Topical assumptions include that this study is focusing on a topic that will add to current literature similar in nature and fill a gap in literature by using two multidimensional scales to measure and explore in a systematic manner the relationship and predictive value of spirituality on marital satisfaction (Mask, 2004). Another assumption is that the results of this study will be useful for family psychologists who have an interest in the research topic.

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Methodological assumptions include the assumption that the quantitative research method is the most appropriate for this study since it is correlational in nature and since interval data will be collected from two surveys. Another assumption concerning the methodology as it relates particularly to the types of statistical analyses that were used, correlational analysis with Pearson‟s r and bivariate regression, is that they would yield the statistical results that would help to answer the research questions of this study. Correlational and bivariate regression analyses are designed to answer questions concerning the relationship between variables and to determine the predictive value of predictor variables respectively (Johnson & Kuby, 2004). One of the major assumptions of using these types of statistical models is that the variables used in the study are normally distributed so that the relationships and significance tests would not be distorted (Osborne & Waters, 2002). It is assumed that the participants in the study would respond to the survey questions honestly and not in terms of social desirability to increase the validity of the results and that they would complete the surveys independently. Additional assumptions include that the two assessments would yield data that are valid indicators of the constructs of the study and that the selected participants would be representative of the typical heterosexual married Christian couples in the United States.

Limitations One of the limitations of the design is that purposive sampling was used to recruit students for the study. This limits the generalizability of the results from the study because the participants were not selected randomly. Even though the opinions of the target population is secured in a quicker and less costly manner using purposive sampling methods, there is the risk of losing adequate proportionality because certain subgroups in the respective population may

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be more accessible (Trochim, 2006). This type of sampling method limits the study‟s findings to the participants involved in the study. However, using this sampling method is less complicated and time consuming than probability sampling methods. Using these methods addressed the research questions of the study effectively and efficiently, and the results of the study may serve as descriptive and exploratory information about the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction in Christian, heterosexual couples using multidimensional instruments to measure the variables used in the study. Further studies can address what specific aspects of spirituality – existential or religious well-being - are predictive of marital satisfaction in Christian married couples or address what other aspects of marriage life are influenced by spirituality in Christian married couples using probability sampling methods, if desired by the researcher. Another limitation is that data for this study was collected using self-report measures (i.e. surveys). This means that the scores from the scales that were received were based on the subjective moods and perspectives of the participants concerning their level of spirituality and marital satisfaction. In addition, participants might not have been honest with their responses on the surveys because they might have been inclined to report socially desirable behaviors and opinions and deny socially undesirable behaviors and opinions (Himmelfarb & Lickteig, 1982; Stocke, 2007). Social desirability bias can seriously compromise the validity of self-report data by creating false associations or suppressing real associations (Stocke, 2007). Additionally, a limitation of the design is that correlational studies reveal whether a linear relationship exists, but it does not assign causality to the relationship (Field, 2005). However, the purpose of this study was not to identify causation but correlation between the variables and the predictive value of the predictor variable of the study. Also, because ordinary

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correlation and regression analyses express the nature of linear relationships between variables, curvilinear relationships that may exist between the variables are not detected with this type of research design. A delimitation of the study is the use of only Christian, heterosexual married couples as participants. Since spirituality is such a broad and subjective construct, delimiting the participants to “Christian” makes the range of spiritual beliefs and practices narrower and more aligned with the definition of the spirituality construct used in the study. This delimitation is also fitting because the authors of the SWBS reported that of the various religious groups that were used to gather normative data, the religious samples reported were predominately Christian based (Ellison & Paloutzian, 1982). This delimitation also provides clarity on the focus of the research and emphasizes the fact that the results are only generalizable to the Christian, heterosexual married couples.

Nature of the Study Regression analysis was the most appropriate statistical test to use in this study because it reveals more about the linear relationship between independent or predictor variables and a dependent or criterion variable. For instance, regression analysis can reveal the predictive value of a certain variable by indicating how well a criterion variable can be predicted based upon the scores of one or more quantitative predictor variables (Johnson & Kuby, 2004). Bivariate regression analysis was the specific statistical procedure used to address the primary research question (ResQ 1) of the study to predict the value of marital satisfaction (criterion variable) based on knowledge about the level of spirituality (predictor variable) of the participant population. According to Howell (2008), bivariate regression analysis is used to determine the

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strength of the linear relationship between an independent/predictor variable and the criterion/dependent variable. All statistical analyses for the study were done utilizing SPSS Statistics GradPack 18. To address ResQs 2-3, the Pearson‟s product-moment correlation (Pearson‟s r), a type of bivariate correlation analysis, was employed for each question. Pearson‟s correlation coefficient is useful with interval data so that it can accurately measure the linear relationship between two variables (Field, 2005). These were two-tailed tests since the hypotheses did not indicate a specific direction to the hypotheses being tested. SPSS was used to analyze data collected from the participants and a correlation analysis was run per research question. To evaluate ResQs 4-9, independent t-tests were used, one per research question, to identify whether significant gender differences existed between the mean subscale scores of the SWBS and the total scores on the EMS and SWBS and to identify whether significant differences existed between Christian-Christian married couples and the Christian-Non-Christian married couples using the TSWB scores and the EMS scores. In addition, various descriptive tables demonstrated the characteristics of the sample that was used.

Organization of the Remainder of the Study Chapter Two will discuss the relevant literature associated with the two constructs – spirituality and marital satisfaction - used in the study and the association between the two variables. Chapter Two will also discuss previous research conducted on this topic as it specifically relates to Christian married couples. Chapter Three will discuss the research methodology selected for the study and describe the characteristics of the sample population, the instruments to be used, the procedures for data collection and analysis, IRB or ethical issues

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relative to the study, and expected findings for the study. Chapter Four will describe in detail the systematic processes used to examine the collected data and to statistically analyze them consistent with the research questions. Chapter Five will conclude with a summary of the results from the data analyses conducted in Chapter 4, and a discussion of the limitations of the study as it was conducted will also be included. Lastly, recommendations for further research on this topic will be discussed in addition to the application of this study‟s findings to the field of family psychology.

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CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW General Overview In the literature review, three main areas will be covered that are significant to this study. The first section will discuss various definitions of spirituality from previous research and the literature related to the conceptual framework upon which the definition of spirituality that will be used in this study is based upon. This section will also include discussions reflecting literature related to the influence spirituality has on behaviors, specifically social and relational behaviors, and reported sex and gender differences in level of spirituality. The second section will discuss literature that addressed marital satisfaction including various definitions of the construct and the specific conceptual definition that will be used in this study for marital satisfaction. This section will also review literature on sex and gender differences in marital satisfaction. The final section will focus on previous research on the association between spirituality and marital satisfaction in general and then specifically as it relates to Christian marriages and non-spiritual/non-religious marriages. Lastly, a summary of the literature review is included to identify common findings and conclusions resulting from the research discussed. Conceptual Framework Spirituality There is a lack of psychological theories that focus on spirituality/religiosity partially because only just recently has spirituality and religious issues been addressed in the field of

Full document contains 117 pages
Abstract: This study examined the relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction in Christian heterosexual married couples. Descriptive, correlational research was used to determine the relationship between level of spirituality and marital satisfaction. Bivariate regression analysis was also used to determine the predictive value of spirituality on marital satisfaction in the sample. Using non-probability sampling methods, a sample of 62 Christian heterosexual married couples were used to complete the ENRICH Marital Satisfaction Scale (EMS; Fowers & Olson, 1993) and the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWBS; Ellison & Paloutzian, 1982) which consisted of Religious Well-Being (RWB) and Existential Well-Being (EWB) subscales to assess the variables used in the study. Results from the statistical analyses showed the following: there was a statistically significant positive relationship between spirituality and marital satisfaction in the Christian heterosexual married couples used in this study; there was a statistically significant positive relationship between the women's and men's RWB and EWB scores as separate groups; there were no statistically significant gender differences in the men's and women's RWB and EWB subscale scores; there was a statistically significant difference in the men's and women.'s TSWB scores; and there was no statistically significant gender difference in the EMS scores of the men and women of the study. No analyses were conducted to determine whether a significant difference existed in the mean EMS and TSWB scores of the Christian-Christian couples and the Christian-Non-Christian couples due to an insufficient response of Christian-Non-Christian married couples to participate in this study.