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What It Means To Be Equally Yoked

Being 'equally yoked' begins and ends with how much you and your partner's values and beliefs align.

Love & Relationships

I'm sure most of us have heard of the term equally yoked at least once or several times in life—but do we really know what it means? The phrase was founded in the Christian church stemming from scripture stating that Christians and nonbelievers shouldn't be in a romantic union. Being 'equally yoked' begins and ends with how much you and your partner's values and beliefs align. Here is a glimpse of what being equally yoked means from a pastor's and a therapist's lens so that everyone can apply this discernment to their romantic unions.

Being equally yoked from a pastor’s lens:

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For believers, the phrase equally yoked is often rooted in spirituality. According to Pastor Malcolm from the Brooklyn-based Pathway To Life Ministries, what equally yoked means is to be joined together. "This means these individuals should be compatible, they're able to agree on most things, and their values are aligned. This is also true in secular relationships, but biblical speaking in 2 Corinthians 6:14 'that we must not be unevenly yoked together with those who do not believe. What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness?'" she conveys. 'My question is, how can we effectively communicate when we are on opposite sides? That is being unevenly yoked!"

So if we're able to dissect equally yoked further, it starts with aligning your faith within your union, and if we don't believe in those same core foundations, it's basically a no-go in the church. But you can be unequally yoked with a believer as well because we aren't a monolith, and God doesn't just prepare the world of men to be your partner for a lifetime. He assigns an imperfect yet perfect man in your life—on His timing, not yours.

"Oftentimes, Christians are engaged in relationships that are not ordained by God. It does not mean that the believer that you like is right for you," Pastor Malcolm states. "My advice is that we seek God in everything that we do. Ask Him to send the right person."

When you and your partner's values are misaligned and you're unequally yoked:

The most essential part of a romantic relationship doesn't lie in a person's appearance (though this is important) or how many followers they have on their socials or how well they dress. It is grounded on you and your partner's shared perspective in the life you want to build together, along with continuously communicating when things are great and when they aren't and what things you're open to compromising and sacrificing.

"On Sunday when she wants to go to church, and he would prefer to hang out with friends at a bar, or just stay home or better yet just not interested in church at all," states Pastor Malcolm. "This is how you know they are unequally yoked."

I'm sure we all may have a friend or family member in what seems to be in an unequally yoked marriage or partnership. Imagine the spiritual intimacy she would love to explore with her partner and isn't able to because he doesn't believe in God, doesn't believe in prayer, or is indifferent about reading the bible together. For some households, it works out because each partner respects their differences. But for others, it tears them apart slowly and creates an uphill battle of resentment.

Being equally yoked from a therapist’s lens:

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I also interviewed a therapist to apply to nonbelievers and for anyone like myself that loves to explore the depths of compatibility versus incompatibility in our love lives. I asked licensed marriage and family therapist Kimberly Panganiban, from Choosing Therapy, an online therapy platform, to describe being equally yoked in a non-religious perspective. Her response?

"Being equally yoked (in a non-religious perspective) means that you are with someone that you can count on to work with you as a team. You can trust them to be there for you and to navigate the differences you have well."

Seeing your marriage or partnership as a team makes it easier for you to be more compassionate and understanding with your partner versus withdrawn and indifferent as you would with a competitor. "If you Google equally yoked, most of what you will see talks about being aligned in values, beliefs, and goals (religious or otherwise)," states Panganiban. "In every relationship, there will be values/beliefs/goals that your partner is aligned on, and there will be values/beliefs/goals where you don't entirely match up. This is because you are two different people, and so you will never completely agree on everything."

"The key is finding a partner in which you can live with the differences you have and work together to make those differences feel OK. We all have to decide what differences we can deal with and what we can't. But most importantly, we need a partner that is willing to manage these differences as a team."

Tips for finding a partner who is equally yoked:

The older I'm becoming, the more I'm learning to listen to my spirit and honor what I really want in partnership because ignoring red flags only hurts me most in the long run. I asked Kimberly how she'd advise individuals seeking equally yoked partners for them, what signs we should look into, and what red flags we should avoid? She had some insightful tips to share: "When looking for an equally yoked partner, you must ask yourself, 'Can I live with the differences we have? Can I trust this person? Is this person committed to the relationship?' If you can answer yes to these three questions, you are equally yoked. If not, it is probably time to move on."

"Where people get into trouble is when they rationalize concerns in the relationship and expect things to change. Most of the time, the problems people face at the beginning of a relationship are the ones they will continue to grapple with so, be honest with yourself early on in the relationship as to whether the differences you have are something you can deal with forever or not. "

The more you know and honor yourself, the more likely you will follow where your spirit or instincts guide you. Finding your equally yoked partner won't be easy, but what makes your significant other 'significant' if you didn't have to go through much to meet them—offering the best you, you can be.

Keep working on yourself; take your time dating to see people's true colors to see if this is your person. Remember, it's the slow and steady that wins the race, and who and what's for you will never miss you.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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