“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
For the last couple posts I’ve been discussing the concept of being ‘equally yoked.’ Today I want to talk specifically about one underlying assumption of this concept that I take exception to. My problem with the ‘equally yoked’ concept is that it assumes that ideological homogeneity is a desirable thing in a romantic relationship. The base idea behind the desire to be ‘equally yoked’ is that is somehow more ideal to have a life partner that thinks, and believes, in essentially the same way you do. Personally, I disagree.
Of course it’s extremely important that life partners agree on the ‘the big questions.’ Do they want children? How do they want to build their family? Why do they favor their particular religious preference? Why do they favor their particular political preference? How much will these preferences affect their daily life? How much does agreement on these issues matter? These are the kinds of questions that make or break marriages. But note that these aren’t ‘what’ questions, which can be answered in a word. They’re primarily ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions, which require introspection to answer, and open personal conversations that explore the depth of how a person came to be who they are, and how they are developing. For me, as someone who is (god, I hate this phrase) ‘spiritual, but not religious,’ I see every relationship with atheists, Christians, and all shades of people in-between, as an opportunity for me to grow in empathy and understanding, and to have the soundness of my own beliefs challenged.
While this is not exactly the situation I’m in, I always figured that if I were in an religiously mixed marriage, I would pursue a relationship like this; a relationship where neither party is ‘watered down’ in their convictions, but instead is refined by the questions and thoughts of the other person, and are capable of supporting one another in their beliefs, even as they disagree. It’s the most beautiful expression of the ‘true to you’ principle I’ve ever seen. (The ‘true to you’ principle is the notion that I will encourage you in these values even if I don’t agree with them because I love you and want you to be your truest self. This means I may even discourage you from coming to my point of view if you appear to be doing so out of impulse or a desire to please me.)
If we don’t have to come face to face with the differences in others, how can we ever expect to grow, to have our own ideas tested, to have our minds strengthened and our empathy stretched? For me, it isn’t as important that my partner and I think the same things, as it is that we understand how the other person thinks, and are at peace that we respect each other’s thought processes enough to support them in it. Essentially, whatever my partner believes, I need to ‘have faith’ that his mode of thinking will lead to actions which add to (not detract from) the richness of our lives and the world around us. To me, respect, not similarity, is the root of an abiding love.
- Love Means Helping other People Keep their Promises (hugoschwyzer.net)
- That Whole ‘Unequally Yoked’ Thing (guest Nancy Rue & Giveaway) (juliecantrell.wordpress.com)
- Losing Our Religion (npr.org)
- Yoked (lifeontheapex.wordpress.com)
- Yoked: Two Assumptions (lifeontheapex.wordpress.com)