"Something More": The Meanings of Marriage for Religious Couples in America


Christian families, family theories, Jewish families, marriage, Mormon families, Muslim families, religiosity, Roman Catholic families


This study focused on how couples’ beliefs about marriage and religion shape the meanings they find in their marriage. Interviews about connections between religion and marriage were conducted with 57 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim couples in New England and northern California. Qualitative analyses found the major theme, common across faith traditions, was that marriage is a sacred union that is “something more": more than the self, more than the couple, and more than the family unit. To these couples marriage is divine and institutional and a vital support for their relationship. Our findings raise an interesting counterpoint to the current scholarly discourse about the deinstitutionalization and individualization of contemporary marriage. Institutionalized features of marriage may retain their strength in contemporary society as many religious couples, and perhaps many other couples as well, believe marriage is something more than the deinstitutionalized, private relationship that many scholars now see.

Original Publication Citation

Dollahite, D. C., Hawkins, A. J., & Ward, M. R. (2012). “Something more”: The meanings of marriage for religious couples in America. Marriage and Family Review, 48, 339-362.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Marriage & Family Review




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor