This post is part 1 of the series Supporting Your Marriage When Your Spouse Changes or Loses Their Faith
Kayla is . . just the best. She was in the dorms with my freshman year at BYU. When I first announced I was starting a blog, she took me right under her blogging wing and helped me out in a number of ways. She’s still my go-to whenever I have any questions. I’ve been following her blog, Freckles in April since it started four years ago. I call her sensei.
I’ve been impressed with her recently has she’s discussed her faith transition- she’s always been so praising of her husband through the whole thing. I’ve known many who are not so praising of their spouse when they have a change of beliefs. I wondered what their secret was. So I asked them.
But my faith DID change. I went from a fully believing Mormon to a questioning Mormon to an agnostic who considers herself ex-Mormon over the course of 4 years. It wasn’t until the last 6 months of my struggle prior to leaving our church that I finally came clean to my husband. I wasn’t sure where to even START and I had heard too many stories of couples in similar situations who ended up divorcing. I was terrified.
Fortunately I married a good man who loves me even though I couldn’t hold to that promise I made so many years ago. He told me that it would be silly of him to expect me to never grow and change from the person I was at age 20.
One of the most important things we’ve done to maintain our marriage during my faith transition is TALK. I try to explain why I find certain things painful or uncomfortable, or I explain the ways in which my understanding has changed, and he listens and asks good questions. He tells me about the good and positive things he sees in the church while I listen and see that good. We’ve always been decent at communicating with each other but we’ve gotten really good at it in the past couple years.
Aaron’s nonjudgmental listening and question-asking are the best things he could have done for me as I struggled. I was feeling so tender and raw and he was earnestly trying to understand where I was coming from rather than convince me of his point of view or change my mind. I knew he was hurting from my changes in belief but he never put that on me or pointed fingers. He has defended me and bolstered me all along the way.
Conversely, I try to be supportive of his continued belief. He finds peace and joy in the church and I have no desire to rob him of those feelings by pushing my own agenda. For the most part I still attend church with him and our children because I know it’s important to him that we have that experience together (plus it’s less confusing for our young children who are not yet able to grasp the nuances of faith). I haven’t pushed my beliefs on him and he hasn’t pushed his on me. We’ve let each other be and focused on love.
1. Practice GOOD communication. This means no accusing or blaming. Try to understand your spouse before you try to make them understand you.2. Remember that life goes on…and it will look pretty much the same. It may feel like a monumental shift has happened in your home but then you’ll realize that you’re still going about your day-to-day life and watching Parks & Recreation together while eating Oreos and it’s all fairly normal. If you’re worried about how much things are going to change you may find comfort in the fact that things probably won’t change that much.
3. It’s ok to seek professional help. Aaron and I managed to wade through and figure things out on our own but I kept the number of a marriage therapist handy just in case. Going by what I’ve seen in my interactions with other people who have left the church but have believing spouses, therapy is pretty common and extremely helpful.
4. You CAN make it work. I think one of the most helpful things for me was seeing that other people had come through the same thing and were happily making it work. It was proof that we could do it. You’re going to have to discuss and compromise and reevaluate and then discuss some more but you’ll get there. Finally, at some point you’ll look at your spouse and realize, “Hey…we’re doing this. And we’re ok!” It will always require that you work together, but isn’t that the very heart of marriage?