Unequally Yoked Marriage? Here’s What to Do When Your Spouse isn’t a Believer

🌺  Written by Brittany Ann

In an unequally yoked marriage? Whether your husband is totally opposed to Christianity or just not that interested, here’s how to cope.

Unequally Yoked Marriage - If you're a Christian married to a non-believer, this is a great read!Should Christians marry non-Christians? Unfortunately for many starry eyed single Christians out there, the Bible clearly states the answer is no.

We find this in 2 Corinthians 6:14a, which reads, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.”

 

(Please note: This isn’t because non-Christians are somehow “less than” or “not good enough.” And it does not in any way imply that someone who isn’t a Christian can’t be kind, loving and a wonderful person or that they can’t help you grow in faith. Most are lovely people, and I’m sure plenty would even encourage you to grow.

BUT if you truly want to make God your #1 priority in life and spend your days growing in Him, it only makes sense that you’d want your other half to share the same goals and dreams for your life. In an unequally yoked marriage — you’re headed in different directions spiritually.)

 

But what about if you’re a Christian already married to a non-Christian in an unequally yoked marriage? What should you do then?

After all, life can be messy sometimes and things don’t always work out as planned.

Perhaps your faith wasn’t that strong when you married, and you’ve grown since. Or perhaps you were once both strong Christians, but he fell away.

Either way — now you find yourself in a situation where you’re wanting to grow in faith while he could care less. Maybe he’s even hostile towards Christianity. That’s a very tricky situation to be in. And that’s when we turn to the Bible.

 

* Married to someone who is a Christian, but just a different denomination? Learn what to do when you and your spouse have differing beliefs here. 

 

 

The Bible on Unequally Yoked Marriage

 

For information on how to live peacefully as a believer in an unequally yoked marriage, we turn to 1 Corinthians 7, which has a section devoted to the topic:

 

And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

–1 Corinthians 7:13-16

 

It’s a short passage, but combined with the rest of the chapter, cross-referenced with other portions of Scripture and combined with practical advice from other spouses who have been on both sides of the debate (ie: I did a LOT of research on this one, folks!), I do believe it is possible to grow in faith while still married to an unbeliever, and here’s how:

 

1. Respect His Right to Decide

 

Whether you agree with your husband’s beliefs or not, the truth is that he is still an adult and he is still entitled make his own decisions. You cannot force, nag, manipulate or pester him into caring about Jesus and Christianity, nor should you try to. It’s his choice.

As I wrote in my previous article, You are Not Your Husband’s Holy Spirit: “There is a Holy Spirit — and you’re not him!”

Even if you’re in an unequally yoked marriage, it is not your job to change your husband, make him grow or get him to convert. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job, not yours.

 

You can invite your husband to church if you think he might come. You can share some of your testimony if you think he might be interested. You can tell him about the cool Bible story you just read if you think he’d care.

But you can’t force him to believe or care. You have to let him choose for himself.

 

*Related post: When Your Husband Makes Decisions You Don’t Agree With

 

2. Take Responsibility for You

 

Just as your husband has the right and responsibility to choose what he will believe and how he will behave, you also have the right and responsibility to choose for yourself how YOU will behave.

This means that if you choose to be a Christian, you also choose to act like one. 

This means practicing the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23)

It means living out all of the characteristics of love listed in 1 Corinthians 13: patience, kindness, no envy, no boasting and no pride. It means no dishonoring others, putting yourself first, angering easily, or keeping record of wrongs. It means rejoicing in the truth, always protecting, always trusting, always hoping and always persevering.

Can you say you do all of these things consistently?

(Seriously — take a good long look at those lists. How well do they describe the way you treat your husband when you disagree?)

 

Because the Bible does not say “Respect your husband IF he does things your way” or “Submit to your husband IF he is kind to you.” Being in an unequally yoked marriage does not let you “off the hook.”

Rather, the Bible says you are to submit to your husband SO THAT it will be a testimony to them.

 

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. — 1 Peter 3:1-

 

Now, of course, this is where it gets very tricky. Because we know that while we are to submit to our husbands (using the Biblical definition of submission), we also know that we are supposed to submit to God first of all. And it can be REALLY tricky to know where that line is!

 

*See Also: What Strong Christian Women Need to Know About Submission

 

You want to be polite and respectful, but you don’t want to go so far as to let your husband be a complete jerk to you while you’re just a helpless doormat. That’s not okay, and that’s not what Biblical submission is about at all.

But on your wedding day, you made vows before God and man – vows to love and honor and cherish – and God still expects you to keep them. 

 

A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. — 1 Corinthians 7:39

 

**Please note: There ARE some very real exceptions to this, including – but not limited to – divorce and adultery. You can find more on this topic here: Is Divorce Ever Okay?

 

3. Seek to Understand

 

Okay, so once you understand your husband’s rights and responsibilities within your marriage and your rights and responsibilities within your unequally yoked marriage (because you both have both — though I can’t adequately cover them all in this article), what happens next?

Seek to understand.

Talk to him. Don’t just assume where he’s at or how he feels; find out how he actually feels and what he actually believes and why.

I will warn you, this may be painful. You may not like (you probably won’t like) everything he has to say. But remember step #1 — that’s his choice. Your choice is simply to get to know him and understand his thought process as much as you can.

 

For example:

  • Does he believe in God? Or is he convinced there is no God, open to the idea of an alternate god, or unsure?
  • What does he believe about the Bible? Does he believe any of it is true ? Does he think it’s ridiculous brainwashing?
  • How does he feel about you being a Christian? Is he supportive, indifferent or opposed?
  • How does he feel about church? Does he just think it’s boring and a waste of time, or is he totally opposed? Are there certain aspects that he feels strongly about?
  • Is there a particular reason or experience that turned him off from Christianity, or is he just not interested?
  • How did his family handle religion growing up? 

 

As you are having this conversation, be very careful not to show judgment or argue. Yes, you are absolutely allowed to have feelings too, and yes, there are some misconceptions that you may want to clear up. BUT now is not the time and place for that.

Because if he feels like you are judging him, trying to change him, or not really listening, it may cause him to shut down and close up. This is not what you want. You’re just trying to gather more information and put yourself in his shoes so you can understand the situation and get some insights in how to best approach it.

 

4. Discuss Expectations and Non-Negotiables

 

Of course, even once you’ve laid a foundation of respect and understanding, you’re still going to have to figure out how to navigate all of the small decisions that you will need to make in your family on a day-to-day basis.

Decisions such as:

  • How will you spend Christmas?
  • Will your kids go to private Christian school, public school or homeschool?
  • What kind of movies, music and reading material will you bring into your home?
  • Will any of your family members attend church and how often?
  • Will you tithe or give to those in need? To whom will you give and how much?

 

If you wait until these issues come up to talk about them, life is going to feel like a never-ending tug-of-war between who gets their way the majority of the time.

Instead, you’ll want to talk about as many of them as you can in advance, preferably when you have time to sit down together and have an actual conversation – not just in passing comments here and there. Of course, there will likely be issues that come up seemingly out of nowhere (you can’t anticipate everything), but the more things you can discuss, the better.

 

And how do you decide who gets to do which thing “their way?”

Start by finding out which topics are MOST important to each of you. Perhaps Christmas has always been a huge deal in your family, but it wasn’t really in his. If it’s a huge deal to one of you and the other doesn’t really care that much, there you go.

Next, find out which parts or aspects of the issue each of you care about the most. For example, maybe you BOTH care about Christmas, but you really want to go to church and he really wants to sleep in and open presents with the kids. Why not take the kids to church the night before or later in the day and do both?

 

If there are any issues you absolutely refuse to budge on, don’t give him false hope by saying “maybe.” Just be honest with each other with the what and why — but do it in a polite way.

But honestly, there really should NOT be many issues like this AT ALL. Almost everything can be figured out by working together and finding a solution that works for both of you (even if it isn’t what you prefer).

 

In our family, we go to a Catholic Church I’m honestly not a huge fan of. But I’d MUCH rather our family all go to a church that isn’t my favorite, than have that be a source of stress and contention in our marriage. I can supplement with Christian radio and Bible studies and sermons online all I like, if I feel the need. Going to a church that isn’t my favorite isn’t the end of the world and there’s no need to make a fuss about it.

My husband respects my right to not convert to Catholicism at this time (see #1 above!), and I’m more than happy to send our kids to Catholic church and school.

Yes, they’ll learn the “Hail Mary” (which I’m not a fan of), but it isn’t going to kill them. This is what works for us.

 

5. Choose to Focus on the Positives

 

Would it be nice if you and your husband had the exact same beliefs? Sure. But that’s not your reality, unfortunately.

So instead of complaining about it, why not choose to focus on the positives and make the most of it?

  • Is your husband a good person? That’s great!
  • Does he love you and your family and treat you well? Praise the Lord! (If not, go here)
  • Does he let YOU go to church even though he’s not interested? Fantastic!

 

And one of the biggest positives? Your differing beliefs will absolutely challenge and grow your faith – in a GOOD way – if you let them. 

When you and your husband believe the exact same thing, your beliefs go unchecked. You can rest on faulty assumptions and habits that are just your way of doing things.

But when you don’t agree and you try to come together, it absolutely forces you to examine your beliefs, know why you believe them and make sure they are actually true and solid.

For me, I found out a lot of the things I had been taught growing up weren’t actually true!

 

Learn what you believe and why enough to defend it, and your faith can grow in amazing ways as a result. And that’s a very, very good thing.

 

6. PRAY!

 

And last but certainly not least — PRAY!

Just because your husband isn’t receptive to faith now doesn’t necessarily mean he never will be. We serve a God of miracles — a God who can do ANYTHING. Nothing is impossible for Him. Even an unequally yoked marriage.

Will your husband one day be on fire for Christ? I have no way of knowing. But I do know that as you are faithful to what God has called YOU to, He will be with you every step of the way. 

 

*Related: 5 Powerful Prayers Every Wife Should Pray Over Her Husband

 

Alright, now I’d love to hear from some of you with more personal experience in this area!

Are you in an unequally yoked marriage? What is it like and how do you get through it?

 

About the author

Brittany Ann is an author, speaker, and founder of EquippingGodlyWomen.com, a popular Christian-living website dedicated to helping women be “all in” in faith and family.

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  1. WOW. How surreal it feels reading all these post. I feel like each one is my explanation of my marriage. 26 years of an unequal yoked marriage has been very exhausting. In the beginning I would avoid church and church functions just to “save a fuss” and “keep the peace”. Little did I know that, yes it kept the peace in the home, but the unrest within my soul was growing. I craved God more and more every day. I got back in church through a friend, but there was no continuity. I still longed for more. After we lost my stepmother, my dad and I grew very close. You see, I was raised in a Christian home and family was important. Mind you we had our issues as everyone does. When I started dating my husband he pulled me away from my family slowly to a point of almost no communication. When my dad and I became close it built a new bond between us (my dad and I). My husband accepted my dad more and I saw a glimmer of light at the end of the long dark tunnel. I got my dad to start going to church with me on Sundays. I used and still use my dad as my excuse to get to go to church. I wished it did not have to be that way. I dont get to go to church every Sunday because I work a job that requires me to work every third weekend. About a year ago I started going to a church with my best friend. I love it and I feel blessed there. My son and I joined the church several months ago. I still get grief from my husband that “I dont want to do anything with my family because I have my friend and that church stuck up my ___”. That’s not true. I dont go for my friend, I go for my God. There is so much more I could write, but I know for a lived fact that being unequally yoked is the biggest mistake anyone can ever make. It has bee so hard raising our son in an unequally yoked home that, yes he has been saved, but I see his dads attitude and beliefs in him too. Now that he is an adult and I see some of his choices, I feel like I failed him, but most importantly failed God by not raising him in a Christian home. As i get older the burdens of my husband, son and other family members, keep getting heavier and I dont know how I can bare any more. I long to serve God and be the Christian he wants me to be, but the road blocks keep getting in the way and are becoming harder to get through or around. I just pray for Peace, Peace that surpasses all understanding. God bless you all!!!

  2. My husband is a really jealous and overprotective person torch me. He doesn’t let me go anywhere alone. I can only be out with him or he’s mom. So if I go to church it’s only with him or my mother in law. He wants to go to church only every other week, so if he wants to stay home I have no choice but stay home as well:( I’m the only one at home who lives for Jesus. And I don’t have contact with other believers who I can talk to and pray with. He does believe in God but is not filled with the HP yet. I pray almost 8 years for him to change until now.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that. That’s so difficult, and definitely not right. Are you able to connect with other believers online? Both in communities (like Facebook groups) and even watching sermons or doing Bible studies online? I can’t really give you good advice, not knowing your situation, but I would absolutely call a church in your area and talk to a pastor about this, because it’s not right.

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  4. The phrase unequally yoked has nothing to do with marriage in context. It was about idolatry. Even focus on the family was transparent in recognizing this: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/what-it-means-to-be-unequally-yoked/

    One can be unequally yoked also if you want to apply it to marriage if you are Christian. Just because two people are Christians does not mean they are compatible.

    Is it wise for a Christian to marry a non Christian? No. Bu don’t use that scripture divorced from its true context.

    1. Yes, and then they go on to say that the same concept – while not originally about marriage – applies to marriages too <3

      And I agree - it doesn't always means they're not compatible. But it does add extra considerations into a marriage (just like when spouses disagree about any important topic)

  5. Pingback: How to Encourage Your Christian Husband as a Spiritual Leader - Salt 106.5
  6. My heart is comforted by this. I have been struggling so hard spiritually. And I realize that this is a GOOD thing! I met my husband in Jamaica and I assumed because he read the word, that he believed in God. We read scripture to one another, prayed together but after we were married and our discussions deepened regarding God, I found his beliefs were different. He spent a lot of his time reading these mystical books as well and I feel they helped shape his perception of Gods word. I do not agree with his ideas and our conversations about Jesus became incredibly heated and always ended with me in serious anxiety, hurt, regret and even had me question my own beliefs. Then after speaking with my sister, she told me something that was so profound. She said to me, “Amber, Iron sharpens Iron. You say it feels like spiritual poison, I say maybe God is using this to grow your faith!”. I still struggle with my husband and his outlandish ideas about the Word, but I am pushed right back to God and I see my relationship with Him strengthening with every obstacle. I’m praying that while I don’t engage with my husband anymore in his religious talks, the way that I live my life will be a testimony. Please pray for my marriage 🙂

  7. My husband claims he is a Christian but I just can’t see it. He is wonderful in many respects, but he just won’t take the lead when it comes to seeking God and leading me and our children to the Lord. I am so frustrated and feel like such a failure!

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