Similar beliefs, values, and interests augur towards long, happy marriages. That’s why we worry when someone we know who is a Buddhist, marries a Baptist.

But what if they share similar beliefs and values in the beginning, but then one spouse’s faith stance changes and the other spouse’s doesn’t? Jack and Jessie Jones came to a MAKE IT OR BREAK IT retreat because that is exactly what happened to them.

Jessie, a devout evangelical Christian who happened to be a school teacher, married Jack, an equally devout evangelical Christian who happened to be an engineer. That was 40 years ago. Several careers and children and grandchildren later she retired. Soon he retired too.

Upon retiring, Jack began reading and studying “all the books I had bought and never read, or had heard about but never explored.” He became obsessed with discovering theological truth, “…wherever it might lead me.” It led him to abandon many of his fundamentalist evangelical beliefs and embrace a much broader, ecumenical (quasi Unitarian-Universalist) faith.

Jessie said, “I feel utterly betrayed. How can I remain married to a man for whom Jesus is no longer his Lord and his God? How can I be ‘unequally yoked to an unbeliever?’”

Good news: The Joneses are not only still married, but they renewed their vows before their children and grandchildren. We helped them embrace several huge ideas, such as (a) “We have never stopped loving each other;” (b) “Our God is big enough to love each of us, and both of us, with our differing belief systems;” and (c) “We can both stop trying to make our mate change, because “We” – our mutuality – is stronger than our differences.
Are you and your partner growing in different areas, at differing speeds, in different directions?

NEXT: WHEN THE VOW BREAKS, Part IV: She Doesn’t Even Recognize Me (Alzheimer’s)