This is the article submitted to the LDS Church’s Blog:
Who do I choose, God or my husband?
I never thought I’d be in a mixed-faith marriage. We hadn’t even celebrated our first wedding anniversary before my husband told me he no longer identified with most of the truth claims of the Church. I was hurt and confused. We both were. I had imagined this honeymoon stage playing out very differently. Rather than focusing on this new exciting thing to be married, we were trying to compromise on theology, lifestyle, and what felt like our entire future.
Where do we go? How do we navigate this journey? Who do I choose?
“This isn’t fair.”
My husband’s beliefs changed and as a result I’m the one who suffers the consequences. Or at least that’s what it felt like. It wasn’t until we started to become more open about our faith journey with those around us that I realized I wasn’t the only one suffering. My husband was having a very hard time with this transition too. Having been mostly surrounded by LDS friends and family his whole life, it seemed to him that nobody was really interested in understanding him as much as they were interested in trying to fix him.
That’s when it hit me. Rather than seeing the situation as a dichotomy (he’s either with me or against me), in reality, he was just begging to be understood at a deeper level and I was needing that same understanding from him. Navigating a faith journey that deviates from family and the surrounding community is no easy task. Getting married with the understanding that we shared similar beliefs, only to have that foundation ripped out from underneath both of us is no easy task. Feeling “forced” into a faith transition because a spouse believes differently is, again, no easy task. It can be complicated, messy, and confusing for all parties involved. I believe both sides deserve more love and understanding.
Prior to this experience, I hadn’t truly considered legitimate reasons as to why someone would not want to come to church or choose to doubt their previously “bulletproof” testimony. While we don’t necessarily agree on all of those reasons, I can understand why it is difficult for him to want to attend church, or to believe as he once did. As I’ve focused more on understanding him and loving him where he currently is on his faith journey – not where he was or where I hope he’ll be – he too has come to understand me and recognize the ways in which his faith transition has impacted me. Through this process, we’ve come to see that in more ways than not, we are still very much on the same team and can respect each other’s differing beliefs while remaining authentic to ourselves.
It was this act of “moving in” together (HUGE emphasis on together) that changed the dynamic of our situation and also changed the way I worshipped. I stopped looking for things that separated my faith from others — my husband included — and started focusing on the good people had to offer. And that’s not to say it will be easy. We just blessed our daughter last year. I recognize each new stage will present its own set of difficulties, but I hope by our open communication and “same team” policy that we will both be able to speak our truth and do what feels right.
To me, the Savior embodies what it is to practice perfect love. He loved when it was uncomfortable, not reciprocated, and even ridiculed. His love did not discriminate based on convenience or what society deemed as acceptable. A simple, yet powerful commandment He told His disciples, one that He repeated three times over, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35). I am so glad this commandment didn’t include disclaimers. Can you imagine, “Love one another, except when someone does not believe or act as you do, then please disregard commandment”? It sounds absurd when it’s in this context, but when life gets real and loved ones disagree on personal matters, this simple but powerful statement can get lost in translation.
Unfortunately, we are not alone in what can often be a difficult, isolating journey to navigate our religious beliefs. Faith and religious activity are personal and as such they don’t always follow the same trajectory as that of a spouse, friend, or neighbor. The last few years have given me a front row seat into the lives of many who, like us, are fighting to stay in the Church. If only we could see the amount of bravery it takes for some to simply show up, I’m sure we would embrace everyone who walks into the Church doors with open arms, all judgment and assumptions aside.
Though I could pick sides and choose who to love, it’s such a relief knowing I don’t have to. I get to love God. I get to love my husband. I get to love others independent of where they find themselves on their faith journey — no strings attached.