A client I saw last week has been married for close to 30 years. Over the last decade, he has been painfully aware that he has fallen out of love with his wife. They do not engage in open conflicts but rather, a cold war has descended upon the marriage. But as he is a staunch Catholic, divorce is, for him, not an option.
He arrived at this resolve through a hard process. In the preceding years of emotional emptiness and disappointment, he allowed himself to be tempted and to succumb to various sexual sins. Three years ago, he picked himself up from descending further into this spiral of destructive behaviour. Since then, he has abstained from sexual promiscuity and returned to his faith. On the marital front, however, there has been no progress.
In this state of impasse, I suggested that staying in the marriage was his way of bearing his “yoke”, akin to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 11:28—30 to take up His yoke, which is easy, and His burden light. Thus, he could view his decision to stay married and provide for the family as his burden to carry.
I posed two questions to him. The first was: Is this the yoke he is meant to carry? The second: How should he be carrying it?
We all carry several “yokes” at any one time. This may take the form of our responsibilities as a parent, child, sibling, employee or neighbour. Some are yoked by others, such as being in an abusive relationship or working under a harsh employer. Bearing the consequences of a bad decision may be another type of yoke.
My client concluded that because of his poor choice of a life partner, his marriage was his life’s burden. My view is that his decision to remain true to his choice, and not the choice itself, is his yoke.
If indeed this sense of duty and obligation is his yoke, why is it not “easy” and “light”? I highlighted that it may be due to his expectation that duty comes with sacrifice and suffering. That somehow, his disappointment, frustration, and bitterness bear testimony to his view that he made a wrong choice in his wife, and honouring this choice by bearing the burden is then the only right thing to do.
In his emotionally troubled state, I encouraged him to seek God to learn how he should bear his “yoke”. The hope and promise is that such a burden can be light and even easy. In depending on Him to help us carry our burdens, we may even find rest for the soul instead of having a troubled heart and mind.
My interaction with my client left me thinking. What yokes are we bearing? Which ones should we carry and which should we break free from? How do I bear my yoke so that it is light and easy?
Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
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