It's a compelling image, and nowhere does it seem more important than in our spiritual lives. We want to be equally yoked, and to have a relationship with God that is accessible to and congruent with that of our mate.
But reality will go and intrude...we develop emotionally and spiritually at different rates, and chances are that at some point (or points) during a marriage, we'll be on different spiritual pages. To keep the relationship healthy, we have to look on our spouse's spiritual place with understanding and respect.
This isn't always easy.
Some couples have small differences; one partner might be a pre-Tribulation millennialist, while the other's firmly in the post-Trib camp. It's not hard to "agree to disagree" on points of doctrine like this; it doesn't really affect the sincerity and purity of one's faith.
Where lack of respect can raise its head is the degree to which we identify with our position. This is often buttressed by a feeling of belonging to a certain group, led by a pastor whom one likes...so when we get defensive about a seemingly minor point, we're often really defending a human institution that offers us definition, It's not about faith - it's about ego.
Then there are substantive differences in faith. This would be akin to one spouse believing that the Rapture will happen,and the other looking at that event with a tolerant, disbelieving scorn.
"How can he believe that?"
"How can you ignore the Truth?"
Respect, here, has to be a choice, so that the exchange above never takes place in real life. One must simply forbear to say anything critical, because your mate has a right to his or her beliefs.
Sometimes partners in marriage develop different approaches to worship. A personal example - my wife is enthusiastic about praise & worship, while my approach is very low-key. When I was still well enough to attend church, Barb would enthusiastically take part in Praise & Worship. I'd stand politely and listen.
She felt alone, and I felt pushed. Not a good combination for a marriage,
I could have respected her through the simple expedient of participating. It wouldn't have killed me.
Barbara could have tried to understand the influences that made me that withdrawn.
We could have met in the middle, but we didn't. That lack of respect, made manifest in an unwillingness to compromise, hurt the marriage.
Finally, what if your husband or wife abandons Christianity?
This is a terribly hard question. It can quickly kill respect, because to the 'staying' spouse feels abandoned and rejected on an elemental level, while the 'leaving' spouse is entering the unknown, a life without God. That's scary, and fear longs for company.
The only way to deal with a situation like this is to respect where your mate is.You do't have to sign onto their paradigm, but you should be willing to listen.
And you should lead - respectfully - by example. Effective evangelism exists in the space allowed by mutual respect.
This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.