I write this as I just passed my one year mark of “inactivity” due to my faith transition. In retrospect the faith transition feels easy compared to the impact it had on my relationship with my husband. I felt sure about my transition and the associated feelings and choices and the need to step away. I was not prepared for the intense marital struggles that would ensue. But here I am, on the other side (for the most part) and wanted to share some things that helped and some things that did not help.
As a little background, I met my husband in a singles ward just a few weeks after returning from my mission in the Philippines. He was serving as elders quorum president and I was teaching Sunday School. It was basically Molly Mormon married Peter Priesthood.
Before we were married we had a conversation that went something like this.
Me – “You know God will always come first.”
Him – “Of course.”
I totally believed that we needed to prioritize the church over anything, including our relationship. In fact, prioritizing our relationship was probably NOT a good idea, it was akin to idolatry.
We diligently raised our family in the faith and served countless hours in a variety of callings.
It turned out that raising four kids while being very active in demanding callings is in and of itself challenging to a marriage.
After we had been married for around 15 years my faith transition occurred. It is complex and layered and is a story for another time. What it did do was deeply impact my marriage.
Or maybe what it did was bring to the surface all the unresolved issues we were burying under our very busy church focused lives.
Botton line is that when I found myself in a faith transition it turned out that our marriage also needed a transition.
Here are some things that helped and didn’t help as I grappled with my faith transition and my marriage transition.
-Being honest with myself and my husband about what I was feeling and about decisions I was making as it related to my beliefs, my church attendance and my recommend and other similar issues.
-Taking things slow and recognizing that there was no need to rush.
-Taking responsibility for my own feelings and taking responsibility for my choices both past and present. This was a bigee. I needed to have compassion for many of my past choices and courage to make many of my present choices.
-Finding support. I spend countless hours talking to supportive friends who were able to hear me and hold space for my new thoughts and feelings. My husband was not able to do this for me because he was freaked out too. It just was not somethings he could handle at that time. (see below). Note: I also think it important for people in a relationship to have other relationships as it puts less demand on the marriage relationship.
What didn’t help:
-Blaming the church, men, patriarchy, leadership, etc. This was of course what I wanted to do and please note there is nothing wrong with anger. However, blaming others for my choices was ultimately not helpful.
-Withdrawing. There was a period when I did not feel supported or even safe to talk with my hubby about what was going on in my head and heart and I would emotionally withdraw. When I withdrew from the relationship it prevented connection (which I really wanted) and I was basically undermining my own relationship goals. Emotionally withdrawing is different than getting support from others.
-Convincing. I really wanted my husband to go on this journey with me. I really wanted to convince him that I was right and he needed to understand things like I understood them. It is like forcing a flower to bloom or spring to come sooner. Ultimately I needed to learn that his journey is his own and need not reflect mine.
I realize that one never really arrives at a destination in a faith process or in a relationship. They are both ever changing and developing. I see that my marriage and faith will probably always be in some stage of transition or change. My faith transition taught me just as much about my relationship and my own commitment to my marriage as it taught me about God and my own commitment to my spiritual path.