This September will be my 7 year wedding anniversary. As many of you know I grew up in church my whole life and am a bonafied church girl. I always knew I wanted to be married and knew that I would not be married to someone that was not also a believer. 2 Corinthians 6:14 admonishes us to “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” Many of us that were raised in church had this scripture drilled in us. To ensure we were aligned with the scripture we try and find someone that is also a believer, attends church and is filled with the Holy Ghost. This is a wonderful and necessary foundation. The trouble is, sometimes we stop there.

In almost 7 years of marriage I’ve learned the importance of being equally yoked in more ways than one. Yes both of you may be Holy Ghost filled; but are you equally yoked when it comes to finances, childrearing, drive and ambition? Not being equally yoked in some of the aforementioned things can be the foundation of a marriage filled with frustration.

Finances

Let’s start with finances. I was blessed to find my equal when it comes to money. We are both awesome when it comes to saving. I can be a bit more of a spendthrift than my husband but are attitude about money is the same Imagine being unequally yoked with someone that can not save money to save their lives. Money is one thing we have NEVER argued about. The only disagreement I can remeber about money was early on in our marriage. Looking back we weren’t making what we’re making now and had to be careful with our spending. I wanted an occasional date night, nothing fancy just dinner and a movie. My husband however would remind me that even though dinner and a movie would not have broken the bank at that time. it was not the best thing to be spending our money on. Those conversations were annoying to have but I was always grateful that I didn’t have someone I had to hide money from because they did not understand the value of money like I did.

Family Boundaries

Being yoked with someone that shares an understanding of the importance of boundaries is such a blessing. When coming together with someone as a union, you both bring different family dynamics to the table. Your family structure you will create with your spouse will be heavily influenced by your own upbringings. Sometimes merging those 2 worlds together can be a challenge and even an area of contention. One of you may have a harder time than the other when it comes to “leaving and cleaving” while the other does not. Understand and examine your future spouse’s family system and the role they play in their family. Enmeshed (no boundaries between members of the family) and rigid (discouragement of individuality and independence) family boundaries may be a way to forecast how these types of relationships will impact your marriage. You may find yourself questioning where you fit in with your spouse if you both do not agree and DEMONSTRATE that you put each other first.

Drive and Ambition

Drive and ambition may be the makings of a complimentary relationship. However if you are more ambitious and driven than your spouse you may begin to feel a push and pull that makes both of you uncomfortable. Joining in matrimony with someone that is content where they are while you are ambitious and don’t feel you are where you want to be yet may cause you to feel you are always pulling things along. You may feel you tire easily of always being the one that has the “vision” for the family. In turn you may cause your partner to feel pushed. Pushed into something they don’t want and feeling that nothing they do is ever good enough. Matching each other’s drive can help with the foundation of a harmonious future.

I’m not suggesting you have a list so long the only man that can meet your requirements is Jesus himself. I am recommending however you take a really good look at your list. Select your top 3-5 things you desire in a spouse. Make sure whoever you choose they are equally yoked with you in those areas and that you are ALSO able to show up in those areas for them. Ensuring you are equally yoked in more ways than one is you doing yourself a favor.

  1.  Sometimes love just isn’t enough.

Love with no commitment makes for weak bonds for a marriage.  In the last 6 years we have been through enough to know that if it were not for our commitment to each other we may not be here today.  Rings, engagement photos, and bridal showers are all cute; but when you are in the trenches none of that stuff really matters. 

2. No one really changes; but there should be some growth.

Sometimes we say we want our spouses to change, when what we really mean is we want them to grow.  In no way do I ever want my husband to change.  If he were to wake up tomorrow and was a completely different person in the same body I may not be too fond of that person.  I want the goofy, caring, loving, sweet man I married.  What I do appreciate are the opportunities he has taken to grow. 

3. Kiss More!!

At times kissing can be more intimate than sex.  It allows for a deeper connection because it causes both people to slow down and be intentional about being in each other’s space.  In that moment each person  is making the other their one and only priority.  Early on in relationships a shared kiss (especially if it is the first ) is special.  Sometimes going back to the basics is just what the doctor ordered.

4. There are times doing what’s best for the marriage doesn’t always feel good to the individuals.

As a person that has studied marriage and family therapy I have learned more than anything the importance of individuality and autonomy.  It’s easy to get lost in your role as a husband or a wife and you lose yourself.  However, there are times you have to do things for the health and wellness of the marriage.  For example, setting boundaries with family members outside of your marital system may not be comfortable for you.  If failure to set and maintain boundaries has been to the detriment of your marriage you will have a decision to make.  No one likes to feel they are giving up anything; but sometimes adjustments are needed for a successful marriage.

5. Sometimes you just gotta let stuff go.

I’ve never appreciated the phrase “pick your battles” more than have being married.  Small moment of transparency here.  Sometimes I have a hard time letting things go.  In particular, if it is a situation where I am more than confident, I am right!  In the end it doesn’t benefit anyone to continue pressing an issue where there is no resolve.  Sometimes you have to find the peace in just letting things go.  Not everything requires a deep dive or detailed explanation.  JUST. LET. IT. GO.

6. You should find at least one thing to laugh at everyday.

As we have grown together I’ve seen how we now find a lot of the same things funny.  In my humble opinion, between the 2 of us I am the funniest. LOL.  I introduced my husband to King of Queens and his life has never been the same.  Just like kissing, comedic relief also makes for a deeper connection.  Some of the best marriages are made up of 2 people not taking themselves too seriously.  The best arguments are those that end in spontaneous laughing.  It shows just how shallow arguments can be. 

The summer progressed and we were getting closer.  Not officially dating yet, we were enjoying getting to know each other.  I still couldn’t believe we were hanging out.  Did he really like me the way I had liked him?  Still guarding my heart and feeling somewhat nervous around him, I decided I would just be in the moment and not overthink anything.

My birthday weekend rolled around and we celebrated with some friends with a trip to Kings Dominion.  As it grew closer to the park’s closing time our friends began leaving and it was just him and me.  We were sitting near the entrance waiting on my brother to come out.  Things were a bit awkward which I thought was strange because between the two of us, he was usually the more relaxed one.   We sat in silence for a little while and all I can remember is the stifling humidity and wishing my brother would hurry up. There was an anxious energy that I had only  felt from Keith one other time before (when he initially asked me on a date).  “Did you have fun?”, he asked. I nervously told him “yeah”, not knowing what his next words would be.  The details get a little fuzzy here, but I remember he took his time and asked me in so many words if I would be his girlfriend.   All I can remember next, was a flood of emotions that I could not sort out.  Sure I had high school crushes and flirted here and there; but I had spent all of my teen years avoiding getting close to guys so I would not have to be asked this question.  What was I supposed to say?  What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to act once my brother finally came out? What would my dad think?  My mouth got dry, my heart was racing and I nervously said “Yeah.”  He seemed both relieved and happy.  Relieved that he had finally asked the question and happy that I agreed to be his girl.  Were we now a “couple”?  LOL.  Poor little 18 year old me was all alone in my head.  Completely overthinking EVERYTHING.  He asked me how I felt and if I was happy.  Unsure how to respond and still very anxious, I gave the rudest response a new girlfriend could give to her new beau.  I turned to him and said, “Yeah, what do you want me to do?  A back flip?”  *insert face palm here*

Of all the responses on the planet why did I have to say that!?  Thankfully he took it in stride and decided he wouldn’t write me off just yet.  The whole way home I was full of anxiety.  Wondering if I had made the right decision agreeing to be his girl.  I started questioning everything.  Should I have consulted God first? Am I doing the right thing?  It was a pretty quiet ride on the way back. I can remember him turning his music down occasionally to check on me, making sure I was okay.  He had no idea the war going on inside my head.  Looking back now I am able to see that while it is beautiful that someone my age would want to acknowledge God with such a decision, I took myself through way too many emotional changes.  Rather than being relaxed and at ease, I felt God did not approve and that HAD to be the reason for all the anxiety I was feeling.  Not sure how or why I pinned the reason for my angst on God.  Rather than just understanding this was something new for me and that may have explained the anxiety, I made it super spiritual.  If you’ve read my blogs How my Human Sexuality Course Challenged my Spiritual and Religious Attitudes or Hey Church Girl you know by now early in my life I found it difficult to rest in God.  I often made things more difficult than they had to be.  This was something fresh and new with a great guy and I robbed myself of something beautiful because I became my own God.

Rather than being filled with anticipation to see my new boyfriend the next morning, I tossed and turned all night. Wrestling with my thoughts and anxious feelings made for a restless night.  Sunday morning was getting closer and closer and I was contemplating every way I could avoid him the next day at church.  

My family was traveling down to Atlanta for T.D. Jakes’s Megafest.  This conference was apart of our family vacation that year.  I’d managed to get through the entire Sunday service and not make contact with Keith.  He called me to say that he had missed seeing me and had hoped to see me before I left for vacation.  While on the phone with him I acted like a complete weirdo.  I didn’t know what to say so I made up something stupid as to why he hadn’t seen me.  He had no idea I was actively hiding out in the church building, watching from afar until I was sure he was gone.  Thinking back now I would not have blamed him if he chose to end things and moved on with someone a little more “sane”. 

We stop in North Carolina and I am going back in forth in my head on what I should do.  Do I call this guy and tell him I couldn’t be his girlfriend? What reason would I give?  Would he understand if I told him it was God that told me to end things with him?  When and where would I have a private place on this trip to call and talk to him about how I was really feeling?  I reached in my back pocket, pulled out my little red LG flip phone, scrolled to his name in my contacts and began drafting a text.  I send him a message that contains the 4 dreaded words no man wants to hear “We need to talk”.

It was the summer of 2005.  Mario’s Let Me Love You, Mariah Carey’s We Belong Together, and Chris Brown’s Yo ( Excuse Me Miss) were all radio hits.  The final season of the Newylweds (which I am STILL devastated about) had aired.  I’d just graduated high school and started my first job.  Before I graced the campus of THE Virginia State University, I had finally been asked out by my long-time crush. 

He was tall, dark, laid back and most of all respectful.  I’d had a crush on him for years but played the “big brother/little sister card”.  Some of you KNOW what I am talking about.  That one guy that may have been in your circle that you were crushing on. Unsure how he felt about you, you played it cool and called him your “brother” or my personal fave “best friend”.  Anything was better than nothing.  Never being the type to be forward or one to “shoot my shot”, I let those feelings linger.  We’d known each other most of our lives growing up in the same church; but never had anything more than a few exchanges of laughs. 

One night after a church service he had asked me out.  I was caught COMPLETELY off guard and thought that he was joking around.  He had never expressed an interest in me nor dropped hints that he may have liked me in any other way than the “big brother/little sister” dynamic I had fostered.  Feeling uncertain about how serious he was I laughed it off and never gave a real response.  A week or so passed and he asked me again. Maybe he was serious the first time after all.  We picked a Friday and decided he’d pick me up from work.

Yall! I was nervous as can be.  Growing up in a house with a father that was present caused my dating experiences to be limited.  He never technically said I couldn’t date.  Just assuming the answer would be  “NO” I never bothered having the conversation with him.  In high school there was no dating, no one was taking me out, I tried my best not to get close to any guys so I wouldn’t be asked out on a date and have to tell them no.  Asking my dad if I could go on this date had me shaking in my boots.  The only reason I was probably even allowed to go was because my father knew he came from a good home and knew his family.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  That entire night before and all day at work I was so nervous my stomach was in knots.  He arrived at my job.  I opened the car door and the smell of Curve cologne greeted me as Bobby Valentino was playing.  He could definitely sense my anxiety but I do not know if he knew this was my first time ever going on a date.  I’m sure he did his best to make me feel comfortable but I found it hard to be as relaxed and laid back as he was. LOL.

This was something new for me and I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel…