Married to an unsaved husband

Today’s post is written by a guest – Deanna.

So I asked a friend and woman I admire –

“How do you thrive in a spiritually mismatched marriage?

An unequally yoked marriage is a difficult path to walk. But I want to encourage you by saying that one can have a happy, fulfilling marriage with an unbelieving husband. You do not just have to survive your spiritually mismatched marriage, but you can actually thrive in the midst of it.

On November 14th, I (Deanna) celebrated 28 years of marriage with my beloved unbeliever. God has had to do a mighty work in my heart and I have come to know my Lord and Savior intimately as God has taught me how to be a godly wife to a man who had no interest in spiritual things. My life verse has been, “I can do all things thru Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

As I reflect back over the years I would like to share with you some of the Pitfalls to having a marriage that thrives:

First, I had a “Holier Than Thou Attitude”. I esteemed myself above him because I was a Christian and he was not!! Oh my!!! God’s word says: Phil 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.”

Second, I had a judgmental attitude. I was often mentally critical of his actions and words.

I felt since my husband did not seek God, how could he speak into my life! I used sarcasm as a weapon. I played the martyr and treated my marriage as a cross I must bear for being unequally yoked. I did not treat my husband with respect.

Ephesians does not give us an option on respecting our husbands. It does not say “if he deserves it” or “if you feel like it”,” if he is a Christian or not”- just to respect our husbands- period! (Ephesians 5:33 “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”)

married to an unsaved husband

My focus was on my circumstances.

I focused on the negative attributes of my husband.

I focused on my pain and heartache I felt when I was sitting in the church pew alone…again. Looking around with envy at all the couples wishing my husband was next to me.

I focused on the burden of being the spiritual leader in my home. I focused on not having the spiritual under girding from him because sometimes moral support was not enough.

I focused on my children not having a godly dad. I focused on the weight of teaching and nurturing the spiritual upbringing of our children.

I focused on the pain and despair I felt when my teenage son decided not to go to church and his excuse was “Dad doesn’t, so neither am I”

I focused on the fear that would well up inside of me when I faced the reality that my husband may never accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. This fear fueled my tactics of manipulation and scheming in an attempt to get my husband to see his need of a Savior! Before I knew it, I felt responsible for his salvation!!!

I focused on my loneliness and spiritual isolation.

I focused on the deep, deep heartache of not being able to share anything spiritual with my husband. Yes, I could tell him how God answered prayer or how God’s word touched my heart, but he does not understand. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

I focused on the longing I had for the day we could worship and rejoice together over God’s blessings to us.

All these desires and strong emotions are valid and real, but my focus was wrong. My focus had to change from my circumstances to Jesus. I was tired of being miserable. I wanted that abundant life that I read about in the Bible. I began to cry out to God and asked Him to change my heart. I asked God to help me die to self and began to consciously choose to yield and be submissive to God. This allowed me take on a submissive attitude with my husband also.

I prayed for God to renew my love and passion for my husband.

I prayed for God to show me how to respect my husband when I did not feel like it or feel he deserved it. Through the power of the Holy Spirit I was able to love and serve my husband with joy, placing his needs above my own. When I am feeling frustrated, lonely or angry I cry out to my Rock and Redeemer. In Christ I can be gentle and kind, desiring to be a blessing to my man. When I fail, I ask for forgiveness and try again. 1 John 1:9, Ps 116:1-2

So, how do you deal with a husband who doesn’t believe but you do?

1Peter 3: 1-4 says, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words, by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Abiding in Christ enables a believing wife to live with and thrive in a happy marriage with her unbelieving husband. It is about a daily, sometimes minute by minute laying down of selfish ways, forgiveness, not neglecting God’s word or quiet time with your Savior and being obedient to God’s word- and pray, pray, pray. (John 15)
married to an unsaved husband

Here are some practical ways to apply God’s word:

1. I am paraphrasing 1 Peter 3:1, Keep your lips zipped. Allow your actions to speak of God’s love. Wait for the prompting of the Holy Spirit to use your words.

2. Read or study your bible, visit with Christian friends or teach your children godly principles when he is not around.

3. “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Cor 11:3 It is very important for your husband to know he comes BEFORE church activities and friends.

4. Take your frustration, anger, loneliness or hurt feelings to God first. Pour your heart out to Him and allow Christ to quiet your heart and heal your wounds. Then, if necessary, address the issue with your husband. (Ps 62:8)

For more encouragement, I recommend the book “Beloved Unbeliever” by Jo Berry.

Do not give up hope.

After 27 years of prayer my husband accepted Christ as his Savior!!!!!


“He doesn’t get me! He hates my music, won’t go to church, and we have nothing in common. How is this marriage supposed to work?” She wept as she bared her soul. “No one understands this loneliness. No one!”

As a life coach, women invite me into their struggle. Little did my new client know she had just entered mine. I can understand the depth of her pain because I, too, love a man who does not love my Lord.

New Faith, New Struggles

Thirteen years into our marriage, I accepted Christ. As of yet, my husband has not acknowledged his need for a Savior. He believes there is a God and resents being labeled an “unbeliever,” but he thinks I’ve taken “this thing” way too far. My passion to follow Jesus seems to have led us down different paths, and we both admit that the spiritual chasm in our marriage has caused tension. Yet, I also know the Spirit has come to comfort and guide me in ways I never thought possible.

When I became a Christian, my life changed. I listened to different music, made new friends, spent Sundays at church and evenings in Bible study. Suddenly I wasn’t the woman he had signed up to marry! In addition, I claimed to love someone else—Jesus—and to my husband this new love seemed like a real threat.

Looking back, I see times when Scott felt abandoned and when his justifiable feelings of jealousy and rejection were projected as resentment and silence. My desire for him to follow me into this new life actually pushed us farther apart. And in my own lonely, empty places, I began to lose respect for my husband.

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In many ways the role of the unequally yoked wife and mother is identical to that of any Christian woman. She is to be a helpmeet, friend, sexual partner, and counselor to her husband. She is to train up her children in the ways of the Lord. But there is one way in which her duties are entirely different. She’s totally responsible, in the human sense, for her and her children’s spiritual growth.

…Not only is the unequally yoked wife responsible for the basic spiritual upbringing of her children, but she is also answerable for her own growth and maturity. This means she, too, must study the Word. She must pray, and follow God’s admonition to not forsake assembling together with believers. (See Hebrews 10:25.)

There IS a Difference Though

She can do many of these things when her husband isn’t home. But what if he doesn’t want her to go to church on Sunday? Many unsaved husbands resent having their weekends interrupted. They feel the whole day is lost by the time their wives and children get home from church.

“Lois acts as if lightning will strike her dead if she doesn’t go to church on Sunday,” Chris complained, “I’d like for us to go away for the weekend, or go to the desert or beach and spend the day, but to her Sunday is a sacred cow.”

Lois is making problems for herself by drawing such a hard line. She’s shutting out her husband and nurturing jealousy of the Lord in him. She’s telling him, by her actions, that she’d rather go to church and be with Christians than go somewhere with him.


Church Attendance

There are several things an unequally yoked wife can do to keep church attendance from becoming a controversy. One, she needs to understand the difference between loyalty to the Lord and loyalty to the church. She is not forsaking the cause of Christ if she misses Sunday services. Some unsaved husbands are so unreasonable that they forbid their wives to go to church on Sunday. ”

Instead of causing a fight, “Martha said, “I stay home with Ted, then go to weekday Bible study. I also listen to a tape of Sunday’s sermon. I see to it that I read a Bible story to the kids every day and send them to church with friends, as often as I can. Then Ted and I have Sunday mornings to ourselves. That way the kids still go to church and my husband feels special, too.”

Meeting Together

Christian fellowship and assembling together to pray and worship are important. When they happen is a variable. Rose said she was relieved when her pastor told her that the early church met every day and night, in homes all around the city. They ate, studied, and worshiped together whenever it was possible. Nowhere does the Bible say we have to go to church every Sunday morning. It says we are to meet together frequently, as a corporate group of believers.

A Christian woman who is married to an unbeliever may have to adjust her schedule to meet both his and her needs. She should not ignore, nor overemphasize, Sundays. Lil said, “I always went when I could, but I was always ready to make exceptions.” Many women suggested that the wife ask her husband several days in advance if he wants to make plans for the weekend or if she can go to church on Sunday. That way he doesn’t feel left out.

Differences Don’t Have to Be Devastating

In the human sense, shouldering the total spiritual responsibility for herself and her children is an overwhelming task. It not only involves raising and disciplining the children in a godly manner, going to church, and studying the Word, but it also encompasses implementing God’s behavior standards in everyday life situations. That, most unequally yoked wives agree, is where some fundamental difficulties arise. Conflicts over morals, spending money, social activities, and friends, are common.

“It gets lonely,” Martha used. “Lots of times I look like a party-pooper. I’m the killjoy, the fall guy. Sometimes it’s just me and the Lord, but when it is, I remember His grace is sufficient.”

How can an unequally yoked wife do what is expected of her, in a Christian sense, and still not invoke the wrath of her husband when she must, out of necessity, take a firm stand on scriptural issues? The overwhelming counsel of women who have leaned from experience is that she should not make a “religious” issue out of the problem.


For example, if an unsaved husband wants his wife to do something dishonest, instead of saying such things are against what the Bible teaches, she should say they’re against her personal moral principles. And it’s true, they are. Karen was caught in that kind of quandary when her husband falsified their income tax. They file a joint return, so she had to sign it. He hadn’t tried to hide what he was doing: padding their contributions list, including what she supposedly had donated to the church, and claiming personal expenditures as business deductions.

She knew she couldn’t sign the return. “I wanted to yell at him and ask him if he didn’t know that cheating on taxes is wrong, but instead I prayed a lot and asked my Bible study to pray, too. One dear grandma told me not to tell Will that God was the reason I couldn’t sign. She suggested I write a list of all the reasons why I wouldn’t, apart from the fact that it’s against one of the Lord’s commandments.”

That’s what Karen did. When Will asked her to sign it, she told him she couldn’t because it went against her moral standards of right and wrong, and that, most of all, since falsifying income tax returns is a felony, he was asking her to be his accomplice in crime.

Stood Ground

“At first he was furious, accused me of overreacting, and used the old ‘everybody does it’ line. But I stood my ground, so he had no choice but to change the figures, because our tax was due and the forms had to be sent in with both of our signatures. It was hard not to give in to his pressure, but I didn’t,” Karen concluded.

Although she was resisting because she knew that signing the return would be breaking the law of the Lord, God never became an issue. But her husband saw that his wife is a woman who sticks to her deep, moral convictions.

To Go or Not to Go

Social activities and friends are another source of conflict; but again, difficulties surrounding them can be minimized if an unequally yoked wife will use common sense. One problem she consistently faces is “to go or not to go.” To what extent should a Christian wife expose herself to the world? Where should she draw the line? The general consensus of opinion, by women who have learned how to deal sensibly with such predicaments is, if it isn’t a sin, go.

In other words, if an unbelieving husband wants his wife to go to an X-rated movie, that would be sin because she would be exposing herself to lustful, erotic, mental, and physical sexual stimulation. If he asks her to experiment with the possibility of an open marriage, that’s sin, because Scripture clearly condemns extra-marital sex. If he asks her to lie for him, that’s sin, because we’ve been commanded not to bear false witness.

But, if he wants her to go to an office party, where everyone will be drinking and using foul language—that is not sin. Connie said, “Look, I have the Holy Spirit within me and my body in His temple, so I just take my altar and go with Brock.”

Noticing the Contrast

Many unequally yoked wives attested that by going with their husbands and participating in whatever way they could, they felt they strengthened their marriages. An unsaved husband can’t help but notice the contrast between his wife, who’s friendly, laughing, and having a good time, and those people who are loud and boisterous because they’ve had too much to drink. Her genuine enjoyment will overshadow their pseudo, artificially induced pleasure.

Some women believe that going to worldly social functions with their husbands creates opportunities to witness. Sally told how she met Beth, a co-worker of her husband’s, at a dinner party at George’s boss’s house. “When I asked for tonic water with a twist of lime instead of a cocktail, she asked me if I have a problem with liquor. I told her no, I just don’t like to drink. We started talking and it ends up she has a secret drinking problem. Now I’m helping her with it, and we first met over cocktails.”

Barbara stressed that no one can make her sin or detract from her godliness unless she lets him. She said that when she knows she is going into a worldly social situation, she fasts and prays that day. That way God can fortify her to spiritually withstand the things that are offensive to her. “I ask Him to show me the lostness of the people there and give me opportunities, no matter how small, to share some of what I have in Christ with them.”


Another problem centers around ongoing relationships. Many couples have similar interests, regardless of their spiritual status, and enjoy the company of the same kinds of people. Their individual friends are acceptable to both the husband and wife. Their mutual friends are ones with whom they have a lot in common. But sometimes, in an unequally yoked marriage, the believer’s desires are so different from those of her unsaved mate. She cannot accept her husband’s friends, or people with whom he wants them to socialize as a couple.

Frequently, an unequally yoked wife is afraid of her husband’s friends will lead him farther away from the ideals she’s praying he’ll develop. She’s afraid that if she accepts his choice of companions she’ll be condoning the relationships. Yet if she nags or overtly condemns his cohorts, she’ll only intensify the problem.

The women I interviewed suggested several helpful ways of approaching and dealing with this dilemma. First, an unequally yoked wife must accept the fact that she’s not responsible for what her husband does. She can’t force him to behave in a certain way, nor can she choose his friends for him.


She should be aware that the more negatively she reacts to his choice of acquaintances and activities, the more he’ll resist her interference. He purposely may pick certain types of friends just to defy her wishes. He may want to show her that he is his own person.


she should evaluate her husband’s associates on the basis of their individual personalities and character, rather than on externals. Just because his buddies smoke, drink, or swear occasionally doesn’t mean they’re highly immoral. If they use drugs and engage in illegal activities, that’s a different story. She has to learn not to overreact to normal worldly externals.


She should use “reverse psychology.” Instead of degrading or snubbing her husband’s friends, she should help him cultivate deeper relationships with those who can offer positive input. Dana shared that she found that if she talked favorably about the friends she liked, and was hospitable to them, the less favorable affiliations eventually dwindled.


The unequally yoked wife would be wise to see that her husband’s friends feel comfortable and welcome in their home. “I used to cringe when I bought booze for Dave to offer his pals when they came over,” Dana said. “But I decided I’d rather have them hanging around our house. This way I could have some influence on what happens. It’s better than having them sitting in some bar or going to a home where there’s an ‘anything goes’ atmosphere.”


She must realize that her unsaved husband sometimes wants to go off alone with his friends. That doesn’t mean he’s deserting her or their family. “I used to resent it terribly when Brian would go fishing or hunting for a weekend. I also resented when he’d go bowling or to a ball game with the boys,” Kerri admitted. “One night when he asked if I’d care if he and five of his buddies went skiing the following weekend, I flipped. I ranted about how he was always looking for excuses to get away, which isn’t true. I told him how selfish he was to want to spend our money on himself like that.

“After I calmed down, he very quietly asked me how I’d feel if he’d have said those kinds of things to me when I asked him if I could go to the women’s retreat our church had.” Kerri confessed that she was so convicted she started to cry. “He’d been so sweet about my going. He kept the kids. I was so ashamed.”

She says she learned that, in Brian’s eyes, her going to a church retreat is no different from his going on a skiing trip. She learned that her going to Wednesday night church is the same in his thinking as when he goes bowling. “It’s something we do with our separate friends,” she concluded.

An unequally yoked wife has to remember that all of her husband’s friends aren’t wicked, lecherous people who want to lead him down the path of destruction. When they plan activities with him they aren’t doing it to take him away from his home and family. They just enjoy being with him.

Pray Alone and Stay Together

Ultimately, the only way a Christian wife can cope with the constant barrage of conflicts she faces is through prayer. Prayer helps her maintain her perspective and equilibrium. It’s her source of godly wisdom, the microscope through which she can examine her actions and motives, and get direction.

We often quote the promise in James 1:5. But just as often we fail to apply it in the setting in which it was written. In context, James is saying we should ask for God’s wisdom when we encounter various trials. When our faith is being tested, we need God’s strength to keep on keeping on. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” “Consider it all joy … when you encounter various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).

So it is during those times of conflict, when the unequally yoked wife feels she is going to cave in. She may feel that God has given her more than she can handle. But when she is forced to make decisions about controversial areas we’ve discussed, she can call on the Lord. That is when He will give her more wisdom than she needs.

This article comes from the book, Beloved Unbeliever: Loving Your Husband into the Faith -written by Jo Berry, published by Zondervan Publishing House. This book could truly help those who are married to unbelieving spouses. Jo knew what it was like to live with an unbelieving spouse. She also interviewed dozens of women who are married to unbelievers. In this book they share the greatest difficulties they encounter(ed) and practical ways to handle the problems.

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Tagged: differences, unbelieving spouse

Filed under: Spiritual Matters Unbelieving Spouse

The following is based on an Instructional Statement of The Alliance.

From the dawn of human history, marriage has held a special place in the heart of God. It was God who ordained the institution of marriage when in Genesis 2:18* the Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” In Ephesians 5, the union between Christ and the Church is used to illustrate the relationship between husband and wife.

God intended marriage to be a monogamous, lifelong union of flesh and spirit: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Although polygamy was sometimes practiced in Old Testament times, the Bible makes it clear that God intended marriage to exist between one man and one woman for as long as both of them remain alive (Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians. 7:39).

For the Christian, the basis of all marital love is the love of Christ for the Church (Eph. 5:22–31). Marriage is entered into in mutual covenant as a solemn, binding agreement before God and man (Mal. 2:14). In Ezekiel 16:8, marriage is used to illustrate the relationship between God and Israel and is described as a covenant entered into on the basis of swearing or an oath or a pledge. Therefore, men and women should enter marriage with a lawful contract and pledged vows, preferably solemnized by a Christian minister.

A believer should not marry a person who does not know Christ as personal Savior (2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Corinthians 7:39). Love for Christ is never to take second place (Matthew 6:33).

Divorce is a departure from the purposes of God. Jesus explained that provisions for divorce in the Old Testament were an accommodation to the hardness of people’s hearts and a necessary evil (Matt. 19:8; 19:6). The church, therefore, should seek always to discourage divorce as a solution to marital problems. The Bible teaches that even when a Christian is married to a nonbeliever, the believer should continue to live with his or her spouse if at all possible (1 Corinthians 7:12–13).

While divorce is always contrary to God’s intentions, it is permitted in certain circumstances. Jesus said in Matthew 5:32 and again in Matthew 19:9 that a person is not to divorce his or her spouse except for the cause of fornication. The Greek word used for “fornication” refers to habitual sexual immorality. It implies all kinds of immorality, including adultery, which desecrates the marriage relationship.

Divorce is expressly denied for the immediate purpose of marrying someone else (Mark 10:11-12). Therefore, a believer should consider divorce only as a last resort and because of sexual immorality—never as a reason to marry someone else. When one partner of a divorce has become involved in adultery, the offended spouse is permitted—though not required—to get a divorce. If an unsaved husband or wife refuses to continue to live with his or her spouse and departs, the believer may agree to this separation (1 Corinthians 7:15). Such separations may result in divorce, and in that case the Christian is guilty of no wrong.

Scripture permits remarriage after divorce under certain circumstances. If, after being divorced, one of the original marriage partners dies, the remaining partner is free to remarry. Romans 7:2 and 1 Corinthians 7:39 make clear that death dissolves the marriage relationship.

When an adulterous relationship has brought about a divorce, the party who is innocent of adultery has a right to remarry (Matthew 5:32). The right to marry anyone guilty of adultery is denied and as well as to marry anyone who obtained divorce for the express purpose of remarriage (Mark 10:11–12).

The consistency between the Old Testament and the New Testament is recognized as Jesus interpreted it. The passage in Deuteronomy that Jesus quoted in Matthew 5:31 and Mark 10:2–12 indicates that the “putting away” of a wife dissolves the marriage and allows remarriage. Jesus did not change the nature of divorce as dissolving marriage and permitting remarriage; He simply rejected all rationalization and excuse for divorce and made clear that only the innocent party whose former marriage was revoked by divorce could remarry without guilt.

According to 1 Corinthians 7, remarriage on grounds of desertion alone is not permitted. When two unbelievers have been divorced and one is subsequently converted and neither has remarried, the Christian should attempt to restore the marriage. If the non-Christian refuses, this makes the marriage the same as the kind described in 1 Corinthians 7:15.

If a person is divorced on other than the above scriptural grounds and his or her former partner remarries, that partner by remarrying has, according to scriptural standards (Matt. 5:32 and 19:9), committed adultery and has dissolved the original relationship.

Remarriage is never commanded; it is, in some cases, only permitted. Divorced persons who have scriptural grounds for remarriage should enter into such remarriage only with the greatest caution. It’s rare for a marriage to fail for any cause in which one of the partners is completely innocent. A believer who seeks to remarry should demonstrate an attitude of repentance for any part he or she may have had in the original failure. Such individuals should receive counseling from the church so as to avoid repeating destructive attitudes and behaviors.

Persons who remarry after being divorced on other than scriptural grounds are guilty of adultery (Matthew 5:32). A Christian clergyman should not perform such marriages.

Persons who have been divorced on other than scriptural grounds who subsequently become Christians are not absolved from the necessity to remain unmarried by having become Christians. While it is true that we are made new creations in Christ, we continue to bear legal and moral responsibilities that existed before conversion. Those who entered into marriage while non-Christians must honor the terms of their marriage contract even after they are in Christ.

Persons who were divorced and remarried without scriptural grounds prior to conversion should not feel obligated to withdraw from the subsequent marriage after conversion. The remarriage that was entered into wrongly constituted an act of adultery, which broke the former marriage. With the former marriage having been dissolved, the remarried person is responsible to be faithful to the new contract. Having broken the former marriage, a person is living in adultery only if he is unfaithful to his present marriage contract.

Persons who are divorced, or divorced and remarried on scriptural grounds, are entitled to the full privileges of fellowship and membership in the church. A believer who was divorced—or divorced and remarried—on other than scriptural grounds while still a nonbeliever should likewise be received into full Christian fellowship. The grace of God in Christ forgives all sin; the person in Christ is a new creation.

Discretion must be used in the choice of divorced and remarried persons for leadership roles in the church. While all believers are equal members of the Body of Christ, not all members are qualified equally for every office in the church. The offices of elder (spiritual leader) and deacon (business leader) in the church are to be filled by those of high moral and spiritual qualifications, whose pattern of exemplary Christian living is so established that it may be followed.

The church should discipline a believer who knowingly secures a divorce on other than scriptural grounds, knowingly marries someone who was divorced on other than scriptural grounds, or whose divorce was granted on other than scriptural grounds and who remarries. The believer should be granted the full privileges of Christian fellowship only after a demonstration of genuine repentance for deliberate departure from scriptural standards.

* Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations throughout are from the New International Version of the Bible.

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