The #3 most referenced reason Marriage Gets Messy: Unequally Yoked.
By popular Christian standards, my dear friend and relationship guru, Grey, thought she had reached the pinnacle of achievement for a Christian woman. I think you’re going to be so encouraged by her experience.
Grey’s Unequally Yoked Story
While my peers were listening to Aerosmith or Pearl Jam on their morning commute to high school I was listening to James Dobson’s Focus On The Family radio show.
So, I was convinced that being pleasing to God meant I had to become a good wife. Also, my husband had to be Christian. The apostle Paul instructed Christians to not be “unequally yoked”(NKJV) with unbelievers, right??? Also, he had to be a “committed” Christian and I knew all the rules thanks to my evangelical tradition (and James Dobson, of course)! He couldn’t drink or chew because we don’t date the ones who do.
At 19, I found my Christian man and we began our “equally yoked” marriage.
Not only were he and I Christian, we were Christian leaders. Daily, he hosted a live Christian radio show. I managed programing and covered the news and weather for that same local Christian station. Also, we were on staff at our church. He was a youth minister and I was a worship leader. We shared our faith…loudly, but we totally stunk at marriage.
Two years later…we divorced.
Being Unequally Yoked May Not Mean What You Think It Does
Though we were what Christians typically refer to as “equally yoked,” we tanked fast. It takes more than just being married to a Christian to make marriage work. Let’s be clear, in 2 Corinthians 6:14, Paul was not talking to couples contemplating marriage. He was warning believers not to hitch their wagons to false teachers. It’s time we stop misusing that verse.
Another verse commonly misused to resolve the mess of being “unequally yoked” is 1 Peter 3:1. There women are encouraged to win their spouses over with their conduct. For decades, this verse has been used to encourage wives to evangelize their husbands and to convince them to profess a faith in Jesus Christ when, in fact, Peter was simply encouraging the women to behave in a loving way so that their husbands didn’t kick them out of the house leaving them destitute (and possibly imprisoned!) as was common in that Greco-Roman patriarchal society. Let’s leave conversion and salvation to the Holy Spirit and get back to loving our spouses…even when they are not believers.
Besides, there are all sorts of ways to be “unequally yoked” to your mate even if both are Christian!
After my divorce, by “biblical” standards, I was free to remarry. So, I did. Only this time I asked ALLLLL the compatibility questions. My hubby tells me I asked so many questions he thought to himself, “What have I gotten into?” It still amazes me that he agreed to counseling with a Psychologist before we were even engaged!!! We had great starter tools for a successful marriage and even then, we have had serious struggles over the past 15 years.
Making Marriage Work – No Matter How You’re Unequally Yoked
Marriage can be work! But some studies show that the work of wedlock is a bit less for some.
Studies (here, here, and here) made the case that the more a couple has in common the more likely they will remain happily married. The more equally matched the couple, the greater their chances of marital success. Couples who go the distance are typically close in age, similarly educated, and share faith, interests, habits, and values.
However, there are no perfectly matched couples. My marriage certainly isn’t. We have significant differences in age, education, interests, habits, and values. We will be unequally yoked…always! We are very different people trying to do life while sharing a closet, kitchen, checking account, and kids. And after years of marriage we have even grown and changed from the people we once were.
Maybe you can relate. If so, this might encourage you!
We Are All Unequally Yoked
Dr. John Gottman, says 67% of conflict in marriage is unsolvable. That means 2/3 of the time there will be differences! After 30 years of studying marriage, Gottman observed success in marriage is not dependent on how perfectly matched or equally yoked a couple is in religion, education, age, or values. Success in marriage is directly affected by how committed we are to repair and forgive.
Gottman also places great value on what he calls love mapping (really getting to know each other’s world), nurturing fondness, creating shared meaning, and being gentle when addressing hard things. These are all things we can control and for a masterpiece marriage we must focus on our own behavior.
I can testify to John Gottman’s research! About four years ago, our marriage was rapidly deteriorating. A marriage and family therapist placed a copy of Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work in our hands. It changed EVERYTHING!!! When we are practicing these principles, marriage is as Dr. Gottman says. It is the closest thing to heaven on earth. When we are not, it’s more like hell.
Now, I am enormously encouraged to know that absolutely no one is equally yoked. Yet, we can still be committed to making our marriages work!
No matter how your marriage is unequally yoked, there is hope! Liz and I have developed a few practices to propel you toward that hope.
5 Ways to Overcome the Messes being
Unequally Yoked Makes in Marriage
Commit To Your Partner Despite Differences
Our marriage license and vows were not followed by any disclaimers. Our commitment to each other is not contingent on our spouse being exactly who we thought they were on our wedding day. When we focus on our differences we turn away from and even reject who our spouse is right here, right now. Let’s commit to and love them as they are.
Become Curious Instead of Competitive
It is true that 2/3 of our differences in marriage are unresolvable and we will have to agree to disagree. But let’s not stop there. Let’s listen closely and learn why these differences exist. When we are curious instead of competitive (or defensive) we can begin to understand what is underneath our spouse’s views and values. We begin to learn them more intimately, and when we understand we can show them respect by avoiding those tender and tense places when possible.
Focus On Common Interests
Spend more time doing what you both enjoy than fighting about your differences. We are not going to change each other. We must stop pushing. Change is the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours. By focusing on common interests, we deepen our bond and build shared experiences that lead to stronger commitment.
Show Grace And Humility
When disputes arise, remember to forgive and reconcile. Just because we don’t agree on everything, doesn’t mean we get to hold a grudge. Also, disagreeing doesn’t always mean we are right. Occasionally, we may realize we’re the ones who missed the mark. If we show grace and humility when we are right, our chances for reciprocation are greater when we are wrong.
It’s been said before, the best place to fight for our marriages is on our knees. So, where there are irreconcilable differences, ask God to give you and your spouse His peace and wisdom. But do not only pray for peace. Prioritize it! Peace is a practice and a discipline. We are called to live in peace with all people as much as possible (Romans 12:18).
By employing these 5 strategies, you will make significant strides toward withstanding the messes of being unequally yoked and you’ll be on your way to a masterpiece marriage.
Don’t miss the other posts in this series:
2. Communication Breakdown
and the #1 reason marriage gets messy is because God Isn’t Invited
Grey Zachary is a Disciple of Christ, Red Shoe Woman, Wife of an Army Chaplain, Mother (Bio & Step), and a Texas A&M Student of Psychology. She holds a certificate of Modern Music Ministry from Visible Music College and a license in Cosmetology. She is a writer and new blogger. After working many years in several fields she discovered that she is passionate about one thing, people. Grey is excited to begin helping others create their best world one friendship at a time.
Find her at greyzachary.com.
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Thought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul Survival, Monday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.