For the past two years of their four-year marriage, Grizelda has been praying, hoping that Pat would put action to his assertions that he is a committed believer. She breaks down in our counselling room, as she opens up to us, "with every new year, I keep hoping that maybe this is the year Pat will be restored to his original self who was crazy about and very committed to God."
You see, one of Grizelda's deal-breakers while single was spiritual compatibility. Pat had told and kept assuring her in their 18 months of dating before tying the knot that he is a committed and active believer. Sure, she believed him. Why not? After all he had visited her church no less than five times without dragging his feet. In fact, she had ticked that box when she established his enthusiasm about church since he would often invite her to his own. This of course, meant the world to her.
The marriage only lasted a year. And that's how long the honeymoon stage of their marriage had lasted. Not only did he lose his mother within that year, the woman he defined as the "absolute love of my life", Pat also resigned from his job out of anger. He felt often overlooked when opportunities to climb up the ladder arose -- one day he wrote the email he now regrets to his employers telling them of his immediate resignation. The company accepted.
Grizelda is now carrying the household willingly, although Pat didn't consult her when he resigned from work. In fact, she only knew about it when he stayed at home one day. All things went south from there. She sits with her kids in church trying not to feel resentful as she watches other families around her. Pat no longer comes to church. She's frustrated and worn-out of trying to drag him along to church for the past two years.
"I often have to fight the lump in my throat," she said. "My mind races, I'm angry, worried and scared all at the same time. I try not to think about it, but what if he dies tonight? I get so tired of praying and waiting. And I'm tired of the tension at home. I know it's wrong, but as I sit and count the couples, I can't help thinking, 'why doesn't God do something for me?!'"
Pat now even has problems with Grizelda going to church, one of her most dearly-held values. For the mid-week prayers and other church activities, he would try make other commitments for both of them just so that she can miss those activities. She breaks down into tears when she tells us, he has now gone anti-church and anti-Christ altogether. She is worried about her two boys growing up within this troubled environment.
Other than sharing spiritual values, you should at the very least adhere to basic common values around humanity, mutual respect, and be law-abiding citizens.
Unless a yoked team of oxen moves at the same pace and travels in the same direction, the yoke chokes one and pinches the other. Spiritually incompatible marriage often hinders the believer's life with God and can cause both partners much pain and discomfort. Couples who are in incompatible marriages often land there in one of four ways. One partner comes to faith after marriage. One partner returns to faith after a prodigal period. Both partners are of different religions. And one partner is growing spiritually and their partner is not making any effort.
Whatever the circumstance, the partner whose faith in God is intact is key to how things turn out at home. A "holier than thou attitude" has to get out of your relationship. At no stage should your partner feel you esteem yourself above him just because you're a believer and he isn't.
Furthermore, check the judgmental attitude out of your home. We established that Grizelda was often mentally critical of Pat's actions and words. She felt since her husband was no longer enthusiastic about God, how could he critique her life? Sarcasm became a weapon. She played the martyr and treated her marriage as a cross she must bear for being unequally yoked. She did not treat her husband with respect.
Instead of focusing on the pain of sitting in the church alone... again, and looking around with envy at all the couples wishing your partner was next to you, why not focus on how best you can adjust your behaviour in order to influence his attitude toward spirituality?
Having a spiritually incompatible marriage comes with many, many challenges. However, the behaviour should not cross the boundary of common human decency. There are many behavioural traits that are just unacceptable beyond spirituality. Other than sharing spiritual values, you should at the very least adhere to basic common values around humanity, mutual respect, and be law-abiding citizens.
Beyond that, pray for your partner, believe right and behave right in order for you to be a good witness for Jesus Christ. Preaching at him, Bible-bashing and placing more emphasis on church activities at the expense of your marriage will further drown your relationship. Your partner is not an evil demon. He is your partner, for life. And in the order of priorities, your partner comes first after God. Church, and especially church activities, are below your partner in the order of priorities. More important than going to church, you first need to ensure that you've prioritised your partner at home. That's the church your partner first sees. It's in you.