The above video was so distressing to me the first time I saw it that I haven’t actually watched it all the way through since. I found it distressing because two people who seemed so in love and happy were suddenly hit by the realization that their labels, labels which apparently meant a lot to them, were deeply (perhaps fundamentally) opposed to one another. I imaged Jeff and Karin suddenly falling into an abyss of disillusionment, their marriage disintegrating as they sneered at each other’s partisan ballots, their love defeated by the knowledge of their insurmountable incompatibility. What can I say? I invest quickly, and I’m a little melodramatic…

But are they really incompatible? If they understand each other well enough to marry, should the names they call themselves really make a difference? Or put differently, if the names we call ourselves are not a reflection of who we are on a day to day basis, do they have any meaning?

I object to two assumptions beneath the notion that [insert group here] are only maritally compatible with [other members of said group]. Firstly, I think it’s fair to say that labels do not necessarily provide an accurate picture of who a person really is; and secondly, I’m not convinced ideological homogeneity is  possible, desirable, or even the only functional model for a life partnership.

Last year, after I stepped out of the skeptic’s closet, was the first time I deeply considered these ideas. There was some drama as my boyfriend reeled from the initial revelation. Now we tackle our questions together, because David doubts of his own and always has. Others, however, raised concerns that we were ‘unequally yoked,’ and told David that our beliefs were too different to sustain a harmonious marriage in the future. (I find the assumption that David’s beliefs fell in line with their own more than a little presumptuous.)

I had to admit, even then, that these concerns were reasonable from both an organizational and personal standpoint. Organizationally, demanding the most intimate unions consist of two people who tow the party line has the convenient side-effect of causing everyone to do their best to (at least appear to) tow the line.  Individuals outwardly embrace the doctrines of the ingroup as a prerequisite to competing for mates, and thus the fundamental desire for love is harnessed to promote the ideals of the organization. This is especially true where the ingroup is the primary community of the comprising individuals. (How many of us were practically ‘born into’ one church or another?)

If I believe the only ‘suitable mates’ exist within my ingroup, and they look or act a certain way, I will be motivated to look and act similarly so as to be judged suitable. Or put differently, if (to my knowledge) all potential husbands are Baptist men, and Baptist men only marry Baptist women, I’ll do my best to look like a Baptist. Everyone wants to be good enough to be loved. On the flip side, most people also want to be correct, and that includes choosing a correct mate.

From a personal perspective, the fear that a loved one may be drawn away from the truth by someone with different beliefs, or a genuine belief that ideologically heterogeneous relationships are doomed to dysfunction, would elicit concern from any loving parent, sibling, or friend. But is this concern warranted?

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Yoked: Two Assumptions

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