10 Ways to Live in an Unequally Yoked Marriage

10 Ways to Live in an Unequally Yoked Marriage by Jolene Engle

So you’re married to an unbelieving spouse and you might be thinking, “What do I do now?”  Or perhaps you’re thinking, “I can no longer live with this wretched man!”

In some unequally yoked marriages the unbelieving husbands aren’t hostile towards the Gospel, meaning,  they don’t mind you going to church.  They don’t mind having worship and praise songs in the home.  And they don’t mind you raising your kids in the faith.  They are not angry about your Christian faith.  But that’s not always the case for every unequally yoked marriage.

Some unbelieving husbands condemn  wives for going to church.  Some forbid them to listen to any “Jesus/church” music in the house or car.  And some husbands won’t even allow their wives to spend time with their Christian friends and family.  In fact, some would like to move their wives out of state!  Well, I got news for a man like that…Jesus will still be in Texas, New York, West Virginia, etc.  No matter where he wants to take his wife, Jesus will always be with her, because Christ is in her heart!

This post is geared towards the wife married to an unbelieving husband who is hostile towards the Gospel.  But even if your man is not hostile towards your faith, I believe what I’m going to share today will minister to you.  Goodness, if you’re breathing and married…I think these tips will help you, too. :)

10 Ways to Live In an Unequally Yoked Marriage

1.  Find a common authority in your marriage and build from there.

Ask him if he feels it would be appropriate in your marriage to treat each other with respect?  The word respect might grab his attention.

Ask him if he feels it would be appropriate if the two of you had sex?  Again, he might be listening to you now!

Ask him if he feels it would be appropriate if the two of you were kind to one another?

If a husband says no to all of these basic marital questions then I’d ask him why he’s staying in the marriage?  Why hasn’t he left you yet?  Is a marriage filled with strife, contentions, void of love and physical intimacy the type of marriage he’s always dreamed of?

You’re not looking to get into a disagreement with him here.  Nor are you looking to preach at him either!  You are simply looking to find answers to his heart.  You’re being a friend to him as you find out what makes him tick in regards to your marriage.

After you learn what he has to say,  (I’m going to assume he said yes to the respect, sex and kindness,) then you build from there in your marriage.  So when the arguments ensue, you could come back to asking him questions in a humble manner.

Hey honey, didn’t you say you felt it was appropriate for our marriage if we treated each other with respect and kindness?  Can we start over and do that?

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  Prov. 15:1

2.  Diffuse the conflict.

It’s easy for an unbeliever to feel like they’re an enemy with someone who’s a Believer.  As a wife, try not to make him out as your enemy, because he’s not.  The Lord calls the two of you one flesh.

One of my favorite verses regarding a difficult person is this one…

If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.  You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.  Prov. 25:21,22

Is it easy to heap burning coals of shame upon someone’s head?  Absolutely not!  You’ve got to die to your flesh.

I have a couple of friends that are in marriages where they are unequally yoked.  One friend’s husband is outright hostile towards her and her faith.  One day as I was sharing with her, I asked her what her husband’s favorite homemade cookie was.  Her response, “Chocolate chip.”  At the time of the conversation she was serving in our church’s kitchen making, guess what?  Chocolate chip cookies for our cafe!  I said to her she should go home and make a batch of chocolate chip cookies for her husband.  Just because.  Not to butter him up or manipulate him.  But as a kind gesture.  She looked at me like I had lost my mind.  And then I told her to make some dough, roll up individual balls and place them in the freezer.  And the next time her and her husband got into a fight she should whip them out and bake them up for him.  At this point her mouth dropped open and she gave me the stink eye that said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Being that you’re married to your guy, here’s something else you can try to soften his heart.  Start taking your clothes off in the midst of the argument.  Yep, you read that right.  I said, “Get naked.”  I’m sure he wouldn’t know what hit him.  Again, I would take this approach if I wanted to soften his outrageous and sometimes completely ridiculous rantings and outbursts.  (Mind you, I’m not talking about a guy who is physically, emotionally or mentally abusing you, but rather someone who is not exercising self-control in the midst of an argument.)  He doesn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, therefore, he’s not going to exercise self-control like a Believer would.  So keep that perspective.

3.  Show humility.

Something I hear often from wives who are unequally yoked with their husbands is that they’re constantly walking on eggshells as their husband is waiting to point out to them how they have missed the mark.  Well, here’s a new flash.  WE ALL MISS THE MARK!  But these wives feel because they’re representing Christ they need to be perfect in their husband’s presence since he’s always watching her.  Well, yes, I would agree that your witness matters to the unbeliever, but there’s a big difference between trying to please the Lord and trying to being perfect.  Perfection is not attainable here on earth.  Something I believe every marriage needs, whether the man is saved or not… is humility.

When you screw up, apologize.  It’s as simple as that.  I believe our world needs more humility.  Imagine if we all walked through life humble?  Wouldn’t that be an interesting site to behold?  Hmmm, we’d all start to look a little bit more like Jesus, wouldn’t we?

So try the path of humility rather than perfection.  By the way, pursuing perfection is exhausting.  Don’t even bother taking this path.  I think when your husband hears you constantly apologizing for falling short, perhaps he’ll feel a little more compassionate and empathetic towards you rather than outright hostile.  Of course he won’t always embrace this because you’re walking in the Light and he’s in darkness.  Sometimes those in darkness recoil by having the Light turned on them.  But again, humility gives them a chance to realize they don’t have to act so proud, so tough, so “I’ve got everything under control and I don’t need Jesus in my life.”

Humility says, “I don’t have everything under control and I need my Savior to help me.”

4.  Attempt to be his friend.

Take up a hobby with him.  Ask yourself what was it about him that initially drew you to him in the first place?  Think on those attributes and tell him about it.  He’ll like hearing your loving and encouraging words about him. :)

5.  Minister to him.

Make sure you spend more time ministering to him and your marriage rather than to anyone else, including those at church.  I know a woman who is always at church serving, yet on a regular basis she’s leaves her unbelieving husband at home to make his own frozen t.v. dinners.  It’s easy for a husband like this to become bitter towards the Christian faith.   Don’t let your serving others cause him disdain towards your God.  A marriage like this is out of order regardless of his faith or lack thereof.

6.  Don’t major in the minors.

If he doesn’t like chicken for dinner, then don’t bother preparing it for him.  If he doesn’t like having pictures on the wall, then don’t put them up.  My man’s a Believer but he can’t stand peanut butter.  (I happen to like it, especially in my dark chocolate ice cream!)  But if I made a dessert with peanut butter in it I’m sure he would feel disrespected and somewhat unloved because I dismissed his preferences.  In the scope of things, this minor stuff does not matter.  It does nothing for God’s kingdom.  Remember, you’re here to build God’s kingdom, not your own.

7.  Major in the majors.

Let him know you’ll do your best to be respectful to him and ask him to be respectful to you, more specifically when it comes to your relationship with the Lord.

8.  Initiate physical intimacy with him.

Every husband needs this from his wife.  Period.  Now if you can’t go there just yet, then do your best to just like him.

9.  Grow strong in the Lord.

Other things to do for your own spiritual well-being is make sure you’re attending church, reading your Bible, listening to praise and worship music with earbuds so he’s not so annoyed. :)   Surround yourself with strong Christian women who would encourage you in this journey.  You need this so you can walk in the Spirit.  And if he still gets angry and you can’t deal with his antics, then remove yourself from the situation for a time.  Go for a drive and let him know you’ll return later when things have cooled down.  Come back when you’re walking in the Spirit and not your flesh.  And then try to heap more burning coals of shame upon his head when you return.  Prov. 25:22

10.  Pray for you and your husband.

Ask the Lord to give you His eyes of compassion, grace and mercy for your man.  If you knew your husband was going to die tonight and he wasn’t saved yet, would you treat him differently knowing that he was going to Hell?

Pray without ceasing.  1 Thes. 5:17

Bottom line:  It is not your responsibility to bring your husband to the Lord.  That’s the Holy Spirit’s role.  Your role is to please the Lord by walking in the Spirit.

The unbeliever is not governed by the same Authority that you are.  They don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit who can intercede on their behalf.  And they don’t have the fruits of the Spirit:  His love, joy, peace,  longsuffering, etc. like you do.

Lifestyle Choices

Your God will be well pleased with you if you choose to walk in the Spirit.

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.  1 Peter 3:1,2 NLT

Live a poured out life for Christ,

Wives of the Bible by Jolene Engle


Need some encouragement and guidance in your marriage?  Grab my latest book, Wives of the Bible:  25 Easy Lessons You Can Learn from these Imperfect Women that Will Radically Transform Your Marriage.  


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Written by Jolene Engle

Jolene Engle

Jolene loves Jesus, her husband, and her boys. She has dedicated her life to searching the Scriptures and applying God’s truths to help Christian women, wives, and moms around the world experience a deep and abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. She shows women how to apply practical and biblical truths that encourage and inspire them to live a life that is poured out for Christ like the perfume from an Alabaster Jar (Luke 7:37). She’s the author of the books, Wives of the Bible: 25 Easy Lessons You Can Learn from these Imperfect Women that Will Radically Transform Your Marriage and How to Create a Christ-Centered Christmas for Your Kids.

11 Comments on 10 Ways to Live in an Unequally Yoked Marriage

  1. Falen
    April 23, 2013 at 5:04 am (1 year ago)

    Loooove this: “Remember, you’re here to build God’s kingdom, not your own.” Great great post!!

  2. anonymous
    April 23, 2013 at 6:55 am (1 year ago)

    I needed this! Thank you so much! I have been struggling with this or about 1.5 years now, as my husbands views of God, our religion, and the world have changed. I am constantly wondering if I said or did the wrong thing, or if someday he’ll open his heart to God again. My worry also, is how to raise my 2 year old. Before we were married, we agreed that we would raise our children in the gospel. Now, I want to and he doesn’t. He lets me teach her what I want, as long as he has the same opportunity, which scares me. I want to badly for her to know what I know, but I’m afraid that if I teach her too much, he’ll double his efforts to teach her “his” stuff. Also, I don’t want to cause more tension. But, maybe she will be an example to him by knowing so much. I just don’t know where the balance is. I have a friend who has a 4 year old who knows so much and already has a testimony. I want that for my little girl. I asked her what she does to teach him, and she said she and her husband talk to their children almost every night. Most of my friends don’t know my situation, and assume my husband is a believer. She told me that my daughter will be just fine and she’s sure we’re teaching her a lot too. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  3. Fawn @ Happy Wives Club
    April 23, 2013 at 10:54 am (1 year ago)

    Such great content, Jolene! I’m not sure how you manage to write such rich posts each day but keep it up!

  4. Hannah
    April 26, 2013 at 8:58 am (12 months ago)

    This was such an informative post. I do not live in an unequally yoked marriage, but I know several women who are. I’m going to pass this along to them for encouragement. I especially liked the 3 questions you started with – those would definitely get my man’s attention if I needed it. This post was rich with helpful ideas with one extremely important basis- love your unbelieving husband like Jesus!

  5. Hannah
    April 26, 2013 at 9:01 am (12 months ago)

    I’ll add too that when I was first married and my husband and I argued a lot… and I mean, a lot, I did try the whole taking the clothes thing off in the middle of the argument. Let’s just say that little act diffused any remaining frustration and anger very quickly.

  6. Rosa
    April 29, 2013 at 1:37 pm (12 months ago)

    I ran across this blog totally by accident – and I must say so many things on here are things I need to read! I need to know that there are lots of other women out there who feel like I do! I ran across this article in particular because I am a child of a unequally-yoked marriage. It is very hard for the children of such a marriage to grow, develop, and be mature enough not to play one parent against the other or take sides. If there are any other young unmarried adults reading this, please take it to heart that you MUST find someone who is an equal match for you. No amount of love and caring can ever make it right for either you or your children. I am 19 and will wait until I can find someone with whom I can be equally yoked. One of my biggest challenges is that I must find other families to observe what a beautiful thing an equally yoked marriage can be. While I know what it is intellectually, I need to see it played out in real life, and it is not to be found at home. It may be a little harder for me to build that beautiful home, but it will be worth all the effort.

  7. Deborah McCarragher
    May 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm (12 months ago)

    Great post Jolene. Yours is yet another resource for women living in a spiritually mismatched marriage. I also maintain a blog for unequally yoked marriages and wrote a book to encourage women in that very situation.

    I love the line “The unbeliever is not governed by the same Authority that you are.” This is indeed one of the most important things for believers to remember as they walk with their unbelieving spouse. God draws them by His Spirit — we plant seeds and wait for another to water and God to bring forth the increase.

    Thanks for a post well written and Biblical based. Blessings,

  8. Nanci
    July 8, 2013 at 3:56 am (10 months ago)

    Thank you so much! I needed to hear this. Sometimes I think, what else can I do? I’m doing all that I can. Truth is I can work on my humility, and instead of getting defensive, I can work on diffusion. Again, thank you.

    • Jolene Engle
      July 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm (10 months ago)

      Nanci, I’m so happy to hear it blessed you!

  9. Rachael
    July 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm (10 months ago)

    I love the suggestion of get naked in the middle of a heated argument when your guy is losing self-control. I am so going to try that one!