Daniel’s Story

I have gone over this conversation several times in my mind, but as I try to write it down the force, the flow and the emotional impact that I felt in my life don’t seem to come through.  I will first share where I thought my life was headed, then how my wife’s change of direction in life really hurt me, because of my expectations.  (Expectations and emotion cannot really hurt us, they are just sensations in our mind and body, but it sure did not feel that way at the time).

I had some goals and dreams about what my life would be like.  I was looking for a great girl to marry for Time and All Eternity and with whom I could help raise some children.  Of course my hope was that our children would be successful in life and strong in the Faith.  My main vision of the future was that I would provide physically for my family while working with my wife to guiding them spiritually.  As a couple, her parents would be my parents and mine would be hers just as my parents had done.  We would raise our children in the gospel.  If the kids made some mistakes that would be their decision and we would still love them but we would have taught them correct principles and helped them walk the correct path.  We would do activities as a family, like hiking, camping and bike riding.  We would participate together, we would be “one”.

I dated a lot of girls, but when I meet my wife she was a person I could talk with.  Other girls I could get talking, but Brooke was different she would talk but also could get me talking.  From my view point our backgrounds were similar.  We had both been to college (BYU), gone on missions, were attending institute and the singles ward.   She went to the temple weekly and attended the ward FHE.  It seemed to me we had the same values and beliefs.  She may have been more pious than I, which was one reason I was interested in her.  I felt the gospel but she really knew the gospel.  She remembered facts, knew the apostles, and could quote the historical facts.  I must have felt at some subconscious level that partnering with such a person would make living my “religious life” and raising my kids in the gospel easier.  I could have marry others but I felt that their lack of devotion to the gospel would cause difficulties.  Brooke and I had similar interest as far as camping and hiking.  She liked to exercise and is a great teacher.

I thought I was a pretty good catch, my parents had taught me to pick up after myself, put the toilet lid down so bathroom looked nice, hold the door for a lady and “sacrifice” for your spouse.  My father had taught me do the dishes every night, play with the kids, and that a man and woman can be one in so many wonderful ways. Brooke must have agreed that I was a good catch because after a short pause she said yes when I proposed to her outside the Temple.

Fast forward several years and four children later.  We were doing what I had imagined.  We were not perfect but we were working toward the goals and the type of family and life that we had discussed before we got married.  When my two oldest were young we had two FHE evenings a week (their idea).  My girls were always excited about church, knew the answers in Sunday school and would practice teaching the discussions when the missionaries came over.  They were planning on attending going on missions, marrying in the temple and going to BYU (we took them out west for a special trip, you can call it brainwashing if you want… to see the temple square and BYU, my wife’s idea).

Then things started to change.  It started with small things that I noticed my wife doing or saying, these things confused and frustrated me.  I did not understand why she was acting the way she was.  Strange things would happen like the Sunday I came home from a Church meeting and the kids were out riding bikes.  We as a family had agreed not to ride bikes on Sunday as a way to keep the Sabbath day holy.  I asked what is going on, and her reply was “they said they wanted to ride bikes and I told them, go ahead and do it if you want”.   Then she looked at me as if to say, well that’s my move what yours.  I did not know what to do or how to react as I was so caught off guard.  I left it alone and decided to talk about it in the next family council on Monday night.

It was a confusing time for me and we seemed to grow farther apart and more emotionally distant.  She may have hinted or even tried to talk with me about her new ideas, but I could not hear them.  I would rationalize away the evidence that I was seeing or hearing.  She had not “come out” to me about her new ideas and thoughts and I could not hear or believe it until she was very plain and bold in confronting me with “it”.  Even when she did confront me and open up to me about her new thoughts and beliefs I was not as understanding as I should have been.  I was still having a hard time “believing” what she was telling me.  I though or perhaps wished that this was a “phase”, or that she was having a rough time but it would go back to normal.   I felt she was not thinking this through or not honoring us (the kids and myself).   I was upset as she was taking my hopes and dreams and many of the reasons I “married” her and throwing them into the swamp of “Kiss your dreams good bye”.   In retrospect I see a lot of “I” focused thoughts, during a time that she could have used my understanding and support.

When my wife started criticizing the church and changing her stance on church standards the kids took notice.  Now they question the church, are less willing to listen to morning scriptures (that may not be uncommon for any kid).  Furthermore most of the time they don’t bow their head or close their eyes during prayers.  At the time I could only point it back the adult in our family who had started rolling her eyes during FHE or who would just ignore the lesson and play on her phone, the one who would not close her eyes or bow her head at prayer and who was ridiculing male leadership and testimonies in the church.  I felt like I had failed.  My success as a father, as a spiritual guide for my children was shattered and my confidence in revelation was in question.  I had always felt that my choice of a wife and our lifestyle had the Lords approval and now I wondered if that was true.

At this point I had to really rethink my life and what was going on in my marriage.  My wife and I struggled as we tried to talk about her changes.  She brought it up many times but my distress and emotional volatility did not start to dissipate until I had worked through and used three “aspects of creation”.

The first aspect was commitment and my decision to recommit to the marriage.  The second was releasing my expectations and replacing them with gratitude for what I did have.  The third aspect of creating was to take action.  I am currently acting by working on my thoughts and how they affect my life. In addition my thoughts revealed to me areas in my marriage/family that I could turn non-action into action to help my children and myself develop a better relationship to God. These actions and new thoughts are enabling me to create a better marriage.  The coaching we offer teaches about how to throw out your expectations or manuals for the other person.  Then it helps you work through tools that enable you to take action in your life.   These are tools that we as a couple believe in and are grateful for. We have seen their effect in helping to strengthen our marriage.   Good luck!

Brooke’s Story

My story begins as the little girl who was very obedient. I loved being a mormon. I loved being a very good mormon. I did everything right, I knew all the answers in Primary class (my dad taught early morning seminary and we knew the scriptures). I memorized the articles of faith, got my faith in god, did personal progress, achieved the Young Women in award. I had perfect attendance at early morning seminary.  Attended BYU. Served a mission. Married the elders quorum president in the temple. My husband was called as bishop when I was 27 years old and I had a one year old. I was thrilled. I had two more babies during his six years as bishop and taught early morning seminary all at the same time. I always had 100% visiting teaching. I was completely dedicated to the church. It was my life and my identity. I never questioned anything. It was all true, all wonderful.  I literally read and prayed everyday for 25 years. I maybe missed two days in those 25 years. 

When I was pregnant with my fourth child I could no longer ignore a discontentment I had turned away from for years. I can see vestiges of it in early experiences but refused to fully face it. However, at that time in my life something inside me refused to let me ignore this voice any longer. The voice inside of me was saying variations of, “there is more to you than this”, “you have so much ability and potential that is not being capitalized”, “you have so much to offer” but most of all it was saying “the next ten years cannot look like the last ten years”. What this meant was I felt like I was not living my life purpose and this was inherently confusing. I had been living the ideal mormon woman’s life how could that not be my life’s purpose? 

I had never seriously asked myself what I wanted in life. I had just believed what I had been taught. Happiness comes from being a good mormon, a wife and a mother. I never considered that I may want a career or maybe did not want children. These were simply things I never even considered. You grow up, go to BYU, go on a mission have kids and then teach them to do the same things, right?!. 

Recently I read a section from the current person progress manual. It reads:

In your journal list talents you have and others you would like to develop. Read Matthew 25:14–30. Learn a new skill or talent that will help you care for your own future family or home (for example, playing the piano, singing, budgeting, time management, cooking, sewing, or child care). Share with your family, class, or Young Women leader what you have learned. 

Explicitly here, but implicitly in so many situations I was taught (and fully believed) this was an acceptable adult woman’s life – exclusively home and family. I even took 5 years of piano as an adult to try to make up for my lack of piano lessons as a child. I firmly believed other paths were selfish, harmful to children, and frankly unfortunate. Math, science, and critical thinking were not listed as important skills in any lesson I ever attended. 

As I started to ask myself what I enjoyed and wanted in life, I realized my desires were, well, dangerous. The answers I came up with were opposite of the ideal I had been taught. I wanted to get a job that used my intellect, make money, put my kids in day care, and hire a house cleaner.

I started to realize that the unrest and dissatisfaction I had been ignoring for years was because I was ignoring my true desires. I had been carefully and diligently living someone else’s ideal life. This was a serious revelation. My life had been a facade, a mask, the real me needed to come out. Ten more years of living a false existence was going to be untenable. 

As this process unfolded, this process of re-identification and personal discovery, I began to see my religious beliefs in a more nuanced light. Ironically, I was institute teacher during a lot of the early phases of my transformation. As I prepared for lessons, I found I was interested in new ways of thinking about transitional mormon ideas. These ideas were “delicious” to me. I loved the new ideas and new concepts. 

Simultaneously, as I went back to work and was a “working mom” I started to realize how many mormon men live. To put it bluntly they have a cheap sitter, housecleaner and cook. They go to work and then come home to dinner and a clean laundry. That life looked pretty good to me. However, who would cook my dinner and wash my dirty clothes? If I wanted to work, I also had to do all the “women’s work” too. No good.

I started to see patriarchy. Once you see it, you simply cannot unseen it. I realized I had been told a lie, a deep institutional lie. This lie was dangerous because it was causing bright capable young women to hide their talents and live a false life and to pretend they love it. I know it sounds harsh. I am sure many woman actually prefer child care and singing. But I do not, this lie hurt me on a soul level. 

I could no longer support a church that systematically teaches sexism. I could no longer believe in an hierarchy that I had no voice in. I could no longer sustain leaders that taught other young men and women that this type of life was god’s plan for them. I could not because it would be against my personal integrity and again the divine as I had experienced it. I knew I needed to do what I felt was right, even though many of my church peers no doubt would see it as wrong, and that was to change my actions so they were in alignment with my new belief system. . 

Eventually I knew I needed to tell my husband what was going on in my head and in my heart. I knew keeping this from him would cause more harm than sharing it with him. I did not want to. He had married me because I was such a good mormon girl, not because I was an intellectual feminist and a critical thinker. I love my husband and knew this would cause him suffering and pain. I knew how I would feel if the roles were reversed. Why would he want to be married to a liberal attorney who hated cooking? Those traits were definitely not on his list of must haves for a future wife. In fact they may have been on the list of who not to marry. 

Needless to say the “coming out” was not a walk in the park. I had been thinking and analyzing this for months, even years. Daniel did not have this luxury. In fact, after I told Daniel that I had a shift in my beliefs, we did not actually talk about it for weeks, perhaps even months. It was just there in between us, like the elephant in the room. 

Over time, I slowly stopped doing all the things I had previously championed like family scripture study, family prayer. I stopped attending the temple, I stopped paying tithing on my earnings. Otherwise things looked pretty similar. After a year or so after that, I decided to not renew my temple recommend. Then after that  I  stopped attending sacrament meeting.  This rocked the boat. Now things got personal. This was something the kids could see, this was something others could see. This was a problem. Of course I empathized with Daniel. After all how many conversation did we have previously where we lamented over the story of a spouse failing like this. In fact before we were even married we had a conversation where we both agreed that no matter what God came first, even before our marriage. I had become a covenant breaker, a promise breaker and a dangerous influence on our children. 

The funny thing was I had never felt more in integrity with myself and more at peace with God. I also never felt more turmoil in my marriage. 

I really wanted Daniel’s help and support. This is intense stuff I had been going though. When I finally built up the courage to be vulnerable and share what was going on I felt rejected, closed off and a “problem”. I felt that Daniel expected me to be the same person at 40 that I was at 24 when I married him. My brain wasn’t even fully developed! I felt like he was rejecting my humanity, the part of me that needed to grow and change and evolve. I felt like my ideas and beliefs were judged. Since church was ‘right’ I was clearly ‘wrong’. Needless to say that was painful. 

When I learned about the model, the manual and especially about unconditional love, I was able to start thinking differently about Daniel and about the relationship. 

I was able to see this transition as a chance to transform the relationship into something even better. I was able to let  go of judgment for myself and of Daniel. Another big shift was reframing my beliefs about marriage and relationships. I formed the new belief that a mixed faith marriage can be wonderful. He can believe whatever he wants. I can believe whatever I want and we can still have a great relationship. In fact having different points of view enriches and enlivens the interaction. 

There are many things we are still working on, and there will always  be things we need to work on. This is a relationship and not a destination. All relationships are a work in progress. Having some great tools in our toolbox is critical to the success of our relationship. Coaching is one of the best tools and has proven super  beneficial and even necessary to the ongoing success of our marriage.

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