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  • Writer's picturethewelltherapy

Pulling Together

I often sit with couples in conflict. It is literally painful to watch and listen to them interact – the antithesis of pulling together. The opposite of one flesh. A recipe for discontent, feeling devalued, and disunity. If that is their goal, they are killin’ it. #marriage

Sadly, it’s in practically every couple that sits in my office that some version of this is happening in their lives and relationships. Often, they even attempt to draw me into taking sides.

It feels to me like being seen as “right” is the prize rather than being blissfully together.

In this hypothetical scenario, one spouse hurt the other with words and actions and tried to win the favor of extended family by telling a version of things that made them look virtuous and the other a scoundrel. Those efforts at gaining favor with extended family were somewhat successful. The one spouse achieved feeling “right” and “good” in the eyes of others. But it came with some damaging consequences when those family members turned against the other spouse with accusations and blame, creating an even larger chasm between the spouses.

The hurt spouse was stonewalling and cold-shouldering the other — returning hurtful actions for being hurt. The one who did the hurting was ashamed and while futilely trying to make amends, was getting rebuffed by the cold shoulder. Please note: both of these spouses wanted to be seen as right and virtuous. Neither was wanting to exercise humility.

As I’ve worked with and watched couples physically turn away from each other and shoot painful looks and words at each other, this verse with an image comes to mind:

2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV), “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

Perhaps the most common interpretation of this passage is a caution about close partnerships between believers and unbelievers – to be very cautious about entering into marriage and other partnerships with people who have vastly different spiritual belief and value systems. While important and utterly valid, I think it is so much deeper in meaning and contains instruction about good functioning relationships in general.

Read that again – it does not say don’t be yoked with unbelievers. It says do not be UNEQUALLY (emphasis mine) yoked with unbelievers.

Picture this:

An ox with a yoke around its neck and hooked up to a plow, the other side of the yoke is insecurely attached to the second animal, or if it is fully attached, the animal is either lying down or pulling in a different direction.

What direction would these animals be moving and if they are making progress, what would it look like?

I imagine in my mind’s eye that one would either be dragging the other along unwillingly — greatly increasing the workload and impeding progress.

Or the one with the yoke securely attached might be walking in circles around the immobile ox – dragging it in circles too. What a ridiculous image!

In either circumstance the load is not lightened at all, but multiplied! And little or no progress is being made on the problem. Have you ever been in or seen a relationship that resembles either of these images? Oh, the frustration for both parties!

Sadly, this is what happens in relationships all too often. Couples drag one another around trying to be right, or get his or her way, or walk around in circles engaging in repetitive relational conflict. In this way they neglect to share burdens and pull in the same direction.

The yoke is intended to make the workload lighter by splitting the weight of the load between two. What might have been unbearable if shouldered by just one, becomes manageable when shouldered by two moving in the same direction.

Moving together in the same direction willingly. That’s the key to being equally yoked. This is what covenant relationship means — same goals, pulling together in the same direction. #equallyYoked

It does not matter if they are moving through joy, grief, sorrow, tragedy, euphoria, trouble, tough parenting, job changes, cross country moves, unemployment, sickness, extended family difficulties, or anything else. They are yoked together and decidedly intent on moving through it together making the work of whatever they are walking through lighter because it is shared. When one gets a little tired, the other pulls a bit harder. When they need a rest, they both decide together to take a break. If they need to circle back, they are united in the decision to turn around. #pullingtogether

Equally yoked means sharing the load, pulling in the same direction, and working with your partner.

It is helpful to examine your own role, words and actions.

Are you the one dragging the other? If so, perhaps effective communication is missing and goals are misaligned.

Are you pulling in opposite directions? Once again effective communication may be missing and learning how to get to a win-win (compromise) could help you pull together in the same direction.

Are you the one being dragged? You might not be comfortable with assertively speaking about what you want, or your spouse might not be hearing what you have to say.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is possible to humbly get to a win-win where both spouses pull in the same direction with effective communication, compromise and conflict resolution skills.

No cajoling or manipulation involved! Just your hearts, and a humble willingness to give up your “right” to be “right”.

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