The concept of being equally yoked is deeply engrained in Christian culture and personal belief systems. This term, rooted in biblical scripture, refers to the idea of partnering with someone who shares your faith, goals, and values. While this principle can certainly help develop harmony within relationships, it can also be a source of significant harm and damage. In this blog post, we'll be exploring the potential damages that can come from the belief in being equally yoked and how it might hinder relationship development, personal growth, and cause people to stay in abusive relationships.
1. Limited Relationship Choices
One of the most significant damages caused by the belief in being equally yoked is the limitation it places on potential partners. This belief often dictates that you should only consider people to date or marry IF they share your religious or spiritual beliefs, potentially overlooking those who might be a great match in every other aspect. Ultimately, you have a narrower pool of potential partners, making it more difficult to find someone you're compatible with in other important areas, like personality, interests, or life goals. This restriction can lead to a scarcity mindset, making it difficult to find compatible partners, and could also result in choosing someone who isn't the best fit in all others areas. It can also create anxiety and pressure, making the search for a compatible partner more challenging and stressful.
2. Unnecessary Guilt & Pressure
The belief in being equally yoked can create unnecessary guilt and pressure. People who adhere to this principle may feel guilty for developing feelings for someone outside their faith or belief system, leading to emotional distress and inner conflict. The pressure to maintain a relationship with someone who meets these criteria, even if the connection is lacking in other important aspects, can be severely damaging to a person's well-being and happiness. There's also a pressure to make sure you find someone, as a life partner, who religiously and spiritually matches with where you're at in your journey, leaving little room for the natural complexity of what it means to be human.
In some cases, even when two people are equally yoked in their beliefs, their relationship can face challenges related to the intensity of faith-based expectations. This can create undue pressure and potentially lead to tension or conflict because both partners might have different interpretations of what it means to be equally yoked.
We're also constantly growing, changing, and evolving. If you think back to who you were at 20 years old, you're most likely not that same person today. The same is true in relationships. Who we first start dating isn't the same person 10 years down the road, and we're not the same, either. Our faith and spiritual journey might not look how it did a few years ago because we're constantly evolving. In equally yoked marriages, the goal is to always stay on the same page spiritually. Because that just isn't possible, there can be immense guilt and pressure placed on the people in the relationship to believe the same thing spiritually, even if one person in the relationship might not believe what they used to anymore. This completely disregards the role complexity plays in humanity and the space all people deserve to explore, growth, and stretch their autonomy.
3. Stifling Personal Growth
Another detrimental aspect of this belief is how it can hinder personal growth and self-discovery. Being in a relationship with someone who shares your exact beliefs and values can limit your exposure to difference experiences and perspectives. Growth often occurs when we're challenged, and being with someone who has different beliefs, values, and goals can give us incredible opportunities for learning and personal development. It promotes the complexity of humanity and helps us leave our echo chamber. In a world that's becoming increasingly diverse and interconnected, interfaith and intercultural relationships are more common than they used to be. The belief in being equally yoked can create challenges for people who want to build these types of relationships, causing them to hesitate due to fear of not finding someone who shares their exact beliefs. In reality, these relationships can be incredibly enriching and fulfilling, despite the differences.
4. Abuse in Equally Yoked Marriages
Abuse, whether physical, emotional, verbal, or psychological, can permeate any relationship, regardless of whether both partners are equally yoked. This harsh reality challenges the misconception that spiritual or religious alignment alone is a safeguard against abuse. It is not. In equally yoked marriages, it can actually be harder for outsiders to detect abuse due to the facade of a strong spiritual connection, which abusers can manipulate to maintain control.
There are a few unique challenges that exist in equally yoked marriages:
Spiritual Manipulation - Abusers in equally yoked marriages may use their partner's faith or spiritual beliefs against them, using spiritual authority or passages of scripture to justify their abusive behavior. This manipulation can lead the victim to believe that they don't have a choice but to endure abuse for the sake of their faith or to keep their spiritual union in tact.
Fear of Judgment - Victims of abuse in equally yoked marriages may fear the judgment and condemnation of their religious or spiritual community. This fear can lead to silence, isolation, and a reluctance to seek help because they might be concerned that their faith community will not support their decision to leave the abusive relationship.
Perceived Lack of Support - Victims in equally yoked marriages may struggles to find the support they need because friends and family members, who share the same faith, may not fully understand the dynamics of abuse within the relationship. This lack of understanding can further isolate the victim.
Abuse in equally yoked marriages is a painful and complex issue, and it's essential to acknowledge that faith or spirituality should never be used to excuse or perpetuate abusive behavior. Support, understanding, and professional help play a crucial part in breaking the silence and providing a path to healing for those facing abuse within these relationships. It's a journey that requires courage, but no one should ever have to endure abuse, regardless of their spiritual beliefs.
At Root Counseling, we give clients the space they need to explore their belief system and how its impacted their life. To schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, you can visit our website here.