10 Ways to Live in an Unequally Yoked Marriage
Whether you’re married to an unbelieving husband, barely believing, or a believing husband, the tips I’m sharing will help strengthen any marriage.
In some unequally yoked marriages the unbelieving husbands aren’t hostile toward 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 teaching is geared toward the wife married to an unbelieving husband who is hostile toward the Gospel. But even if your man is not hostile toward your faith, I believe what I’m going to share will minister to you. Goodness, if you’re breathing and married…I think these 10 tips will help you, too.
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.”
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Live a poured out life for Christ,
Loooove this: “Remember, you’re here to build God’s kingdom, not your own.” Great great post!!
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.
Would also like advice on this. I’m in the same boat (was amazed at how similar our stories are), and we have older kids (teen & preteen). Very difficult as he feels they need to know “the truth” about “errors” in bible, evolution, etc and is wanting to sit down as family and teach those things. I started listening to what he has studied so he & I could try to talk about them 1st and is very frightening how twisted it is — it comes out with both guns blazing & if you aren’t a bible scholar it is dizzying & overwhelming. I am frightened for my kids to hear these deceptive, word-twisting, loaded arguments.
I feel you so much here! This is my heart and struggle as well. Before my husband & I got married, I waited on my “man of God” who could be the spiritually leader of our home, & when we got married, he was. My husband was a pastor, but after getting wounded in ministry, he began to believe the lies of the enemy & has since turned from God and would describe himself as a “former believer”. I have 3 kids (ages 10, 7, & 3) & this is one of my greatest concerns.
I have had to learn to live by my motto: “Shut up & Pray!” (I Peter 3:1-2) Often I feel so heart-broken & start to feel hopeless that there is nothing I can do to make things better, but then God reminds me to just pray. That He is greater than my fears &/or my husband’s (or anyone else’s) potential negative influence.
When it comes to the kids, one of the biggest goals right now is to simply get as much Scripture into my kids as possible, so that when the lies of the enemy come or if my husband starts trying to teach them things that are contradictory to the Word, the Holy Spirit has something to work with. I constantly am teaching my kids that you go to the Bible for truth and that it doesn’t matter what anyone says, including Mommy, Daddy, or a preacher, you always compare it to the Word of God. I continue to try to teach them everything I can, especially when my husband isn’t around, not in a sneaky manner, but simply in having intentional conversations. I often play Praise & Worship music or Scriptures put to song in my van when my husband is not with us. Another time that I find some of the greatest opportunities to teach my kids God’s truths is when I tuck them into bed at night by myself. This gives me the opportunity to hear their heart and share with them as well.
It can become so discouraging when we are trying to do this on our own, but ultimately I have to learn to simply trust God. I can do everything I can, but ultimately, I just have to leave their hearts in God’s hands. Recently a friend challenged me to go down a road of “What ifs?” that played out my biggest fears, saying & “then what?” each time I would list a cause and effect fear I had. She reminded me that regardless of what could happen, God is bigger, & the ultimate question was do I trust that God is big enough to handle “it,” regardless of what “it” is. I so often fail at this, but am continuing to learn to trust God in these things.
As we seek the Lord ourselves it will be a strong testimony that will stick with our children. And even people who don’t follow the Lord, won’t object to the fruits of the Spirit being displayed or taught.
Another thing that I often have to remind myself of is the fact that my husband turning away from the Lord didn’t surprise God; He knew this when he put us together. Even though I am so heartbroken over our spiritual disconnect (& like you, most people have no clue) I have to remember that God gave me this spouse and these kids for a reason, & “He that is in me, IS greater than he that is in this world.” One of the hardest things to accept has been letting go of the expectations of what I thought my family would look like & seeking God on how to walk the tight rope of this new reality.
I hope this encourages you! Regardless, know that you are not alone in this journey.
My favorite verse: John 16:33 “…In this world you will have troubles, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.”
Jolene, Thank you so much for this post! It really is full of wise advise. For someone who walks this part of my journey often alone, I found this post so refreshing and encouraging.
Thank you! Thank you! for reminding me that God already knew the heart of my boyfriend when he brought us together, and that I have to let go of my expectations and let God take care of him while I continue to build my own relationship with Jesus/God.
Sorry to hear your struggle. I’ll tell you a story of my life that you may find helpful. Growing up I felt very close to my paternal grandparents, they were always so sweet, loving, patient, and always doing things for the family, with the family, always going the extra mile. They weren’t church goers, although my grandmother taught Sunday school in her youth and had been very active in the church. When I moved far from home (4000 miles) to go to school, I would remember their words and their ways during difficult periods, it would lift me up and give me hope. After my grandmother had passed, I was having a conversation with my grandfather who was 92 at the time, and we were talking about spirituality and the importance of faith. I actually didn’t know that he was a devout Christian because he never talked about spirituality, God or the bible ever, so it was a real eye opener. My grandparents have been such an inspiration to out whole family and a huge influence, not because they taught us any words of the bible, but because they lived a beautiful example. This has taught me how people follow actions much more than words. If we want to influence others, we must be the good example, and then we will have a powerful positive influence naturally. Hope this helps.
Such great content, Jolene! I’m not sure how you manage to write such rich posts each day but keep it up!
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!
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.
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.
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,
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.
Nanci, I’m so happy to hear it blessed you!
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!
This! All of this! I have recently turned my life over to Christ as sovereign. My husband is an unbeliever. These suggestions will helpmeThank you.
Awesome to hear this, Julia!
What a blessing this was for me! Have me hope!
There was a link to the ministries that are unequally yoked. I forgot the name of the church that you had a link to the church.
I stumbled across your website when I went looking for advice on whether couples (we are not married) can last and stay happy when I am firm believer in Jesus as my Lord and attend service regularly but my boyfriend doesn’t have an interest in attending church. He tells me that he believes in God though. His primary reason for not wanting to go is because his ex-wife was “churchy” (his words) and pushed him to attend. This created a wedge between them and eventually (although not the only reason why) they divorced. That was 15 years ago.
I attend church even if he is at my house. I come home telling him what I learned, tell him how much fun it is, the good music, how laid back it is good sermons…. etc Occasionally he asks questions, or at least seems interested in what I am telling him. I don’t press, or ask when he’ll come, just show him how much I like it and hope it’ll sink in. Sometimes I get the feeling that he will come with me, but that hasn’t happened yet.
Then we hit a snag this week. We were talking plans for the weekend and the subject of me going to church while we are at my parents came up. I said me not we to him. I did think of asking him if he would like to go (knowing my mom, she might ask on her own) but then i backed out. He noticed my hesitation and silence and knew what it was about He came out and said he won’t go. I said that he doesn’t have to go to my parents church, because if he were to ever to consider going, I’d want him to come to my church. At that point he said he doesn’t want to go at all, and the mood changed into a semi tense and touchy discussion. I reminded him that he agreed to keep an open discussion on this (prior conversation) and asked why he told me that if he doesn’t want to go? All he could say was “i don’t know” and instead of discussing it any further, he said he wanted to go to bed and said good night. Somewhere in there I did apologize that the subject got brought up this way and it’s not how I planned it going. That was three nights ago and I haven’t heard from him since. Here he stands with a bad taste in his mouth about church from a past 15 yrs ago, and I have always had any past boyfriend who I was serious with come to church with me. I’ve never had someone flat out say no. We have an amazing relationship outside of this topic. He is wonderful, and brings out the best in me. We make future plans and I see us together.
What can you suggest??? Open to any and all suggestions.
I love to have lessons that help us shine. Thank you
it still seems kinda unrealistic. i’m growing calloused and angry and while i see the point of biblical scripture where it basically seems like your saying if your spouse doesn’t commit adultery or abandon the marriage stay married because God hates divorce and it’s an opportunity to influence the stupid spouse with the holy spirit and it’s an opportunity to expose the children to the influence of Jesus, it doesn’t tell me how to do that…don’t get divorced..ok and why? So i’m supposed to subject myself to an idiot forever? I just don’t know what to do or better stated how to do this…how do i stay unequally yoked to somebody when I’m in pain and hurting and my needs aren’t being met? I don’t want a cheesy answer but a practical, brutally honest and biblical based answer.
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