Growing up in a Christian home, the topic of being equally yoked in marriage always comes up. Usually, it’s in the debate for or against inter-religious dating and marriages, and 9 out of 10 times it is the main topic at every singles’ conference/fellowship/service…
Being equally yoked goes beyond religion. Even though the term is gotten from the Bible, today I am borrowing it to talk about the importance of COMPATIBILITY in relationships and marriages.
So, before you say yes, are you equally yoked?
Even though we all wish to have passionate love from now until the end of time, the truth is, it is compatibility that makes most relationships/marriages work. While it is most likely love that brings the couple together, it is compatibility that keeps the marriage going day in day out, year in year out.
We all know this illustration, or maybe I am speaking from my personal experience. Two people meet, they supposedly fall in love, the rush of wedding planning kicks in, they get married and then the reality sets in (my mother calls it ‘reality channel’). In our culture, the chances of living with the person before marriage is very slim and you can’t know so much about the other person unless you’ve spent enough time with them (even that is relative).
The relationship after the marriage often ends up being filled with explosive arguments, fighting, separation and may lead to a divorce. Gone are those days where people stayed in toxic marriages for the sake of society which may explain the rise of divorces in Nigeria today. In marriages where both people decide to stay, they end up resenting each other and living totally different lives, like flatmates in their own homes.
Compatibility can mean many things to different people, but the basic things include values, ideas, habits, preferences, interpersonal and communication styles that have a lot in common.
Based on last week’s post, we know that we cannot change people so what we should be looking for is someone we are compatible with, especially in the following key areas.
- Religious beliefs – Let’s start with the most obvious since I am borrowing the phrase from the bible anyway. Having two people who are both ‘deeply’ religious in different beliefs could be a major issue, however, I have seen that it is not really about the religion but about the morals, beliefs, and doctrines behind them. For example, two Pentecostal Christians could get married, however one of them is more inclined to the works, i.e signs and wonders, demon chasing, miraculous healings, countless fasting, water from Israel e.t.c while the other does not put so much emphasis on such things and would rather focus on practical living as a Christian. It might look like nothing to you but where a marriage is concerned, it could lead to a series of debates, like ‘what church do we attend?’ ‘why do you pay a tithe when we have bills to pay?’
- Gender Roles – This is a very crucial one. It can be very difficult to move forward if, for example, a man thinks that a woman’s “job” is to be a wife and mother and that his role is to be a breadwinner, and his wife wants to work full time outside the home. Often, couples do not explicitly discuss what each partner thinks about gender roles prior to marriage (especially the division of labor when parenting), so each partner feels blindsided and disappointed when they cannot agree on these things. Our attitude about gender roles comes from our backgrounds and observations of our own parents, for example, being raised in a male dominant home as a woman could affect the way you relate with a man who was raised in a female dominant home.
- The role/influence of extended family – Sometimes, one person has not individuated much from their family of origin, and this can be frustrating for the other partner, who feels they have married a child and not an adult. Like, when you have a man who calls his mother for advice every day and a wife who prefers to be independent and does not ask her family for much, there can be a great deal of conflict. This type of conflict becomes worse when one partner’s family starts criticizing the other partner, either outright or passive-aggressively, and this person does not defend the partner. In-law “drama” can sometimes be the death-knell of a relationship, particularly when it is extensive and one partner feels that the other does not understand the severity of the problem. Sounds very Nollywoodish I know, but it is important that both of you understand the role of extended family in your union and before you take that plunge you should be able to tell if your husband/wife-to-be has indeed individuated from their family. Always remember that you and your partner-to-be will become a new family, a new team.
- Character and personality – Yes we often say, opposites attract, but that has a limit. After a while, you may wish that your introverted partner would stop choosing to stay home on another Friday night or that your extroverted/talkative partner would shut up so you could think for a second. Be honest with yourself, can you really be with someone who is your complete opposite for the rest of your life or would you prefer that would be some similarities personality/character wise.
- Sex – Sex is about having compatible libidos, each partner’s desire for sex, though this will change with developmental issues such as having children or aging. But it is also about both your needs really getting met, being able to educate your partner by saying what you like and don’t like, them being able to listen and not use it as a medium to attack your ‘sexual experience’. If you are in a celibate relationship, are you both open to talking about what your sexual expectations are in marriage? Is sex about connection or fun, or primarily about procreation?
- Finances – Do you both agree where money is concerned? You need to be on the same page about debt, budgets, savings, investments, joint accounts and other things such as vacations, eating out vs staying in e.t.c. I should also add here that marriage essentially involves a complete surrender of your rights for the benefit of each other. Neither you nor your partner will have the right to make major purchases without full disclosure and agreement of the other. Your money will become their money, you will no longer spend it however you please (even if it is helping out your parents pay a bill). Other than the financial answers, you will find that financial responsibility and spending often tells you a lot about someone’s character, are they resourceful or wasteful? Are they self-indulgent or self-controlled? Pay attention to these traits while discussing finances before you say yes.
That’s it for compatibility this week, I didn’t plan for the post to be this long but I guess I just had to write as much as I could on the topic of compatibility before and after marriage, as it was one of my major issues after I got married.
Compatibility does not necessarily mean agreeing on everything all the time, but simply being able to work well together. Compatible couples will argue (that’s a given), but the beauty of a compatible union is that the couple can generally find ways to reconcile their differences, agree to disagree or compromise.
So, before you say yes, are you equally yoked?
Use the comment box below and let me know what you think, do you agree that compatibility is equally as important? are there other areas of compatibility you think I’ve missed?