Almost six years ago, my husband decided to stop attending church. He had been struggling for a number of years with his belief in God, but finally felt that he couldn’t continue to attend church. I was surprised and taken off guard. I knew he was struggling with his faith, but I never expected that he would stop going to church with me.
I was so afraid of what would happen next now that he wasn’t attending church. What else would change? Was he going to be a different person without the church? Were we going to argue all the time? Was I going to have to go along with his changed beliefs for us to stay married?
My fear became consuming. I was always thinking about what would happen next, wondering if the changes he might make would become so great that I wouldn’t be able to stay with him. I really liked my life and I didn’t want to make any changes.
We’d had a good marriage up to this point. We were business partners as well as life partners, and we had learned to talk things out using a giant white board and logic. We decided to apply that skill to this problem.
We started filling up our white board with my questions about how things might change. He presented his ideas, I presented mine. It was a multi-day, many-hour series of discussions. On many of the topics, we decided that there would be “no change”. For example, he continued to pay tithing, wear garments, observe the Sabbath and observe the Word of Wisdom.
He stopped praying and reading the scriptures or other church materials. He didn’t renew his temple recommend, however he did continue to visit his Home Teaching families monthly because he loved them and didn’t want to give that up. I continued to bless the food for both of us. We agreed that he wouldn’t listen to podcasts or You-Tube videos that presented the church in a poor light for a little while.
These were meetings where we both compromised, and we didn’t always agree on everything. Nevertheless, these meetings brought us both a lot of relief. He was afraid that I would leave the marriage and I was afraid that he was going to change so much that I would have to leave the marriage.
We gave each other space to process the changes.
Our initial discussions worked so well that we decided to use the list we created to review our “LDS Mixed-Faith Lifestyle” each year.
Now it’s an annual tradition and every year around Mother’s Day, we choose a weekend to get away, enjoy some yummy food and hammer out our vision of what our marriage and life together will look like for the following year. We still use our original list as a foundation, but over the years it has morphed into a “how we can grow together as a couple” weekend, with both of us making changes in ourselves to be a better couple together.
Our original “lifestyle review” was so much help to us that we decided to format it nicely into a workbook and share it with you. I called this helpful document the “LDS Mixed-Faith Conversation Starter Workbook”. You won’t do things our way, you will figure out how things work best for you. However you choose to have a discussion, this list of topics that we’ve developed can help you see where you want to focus your time and attention.
If you wonder if two people can still be happy in their marriage when they have such different ideas about their faith, the answer is YES THEY CAN! This workbook can provide a good start for discussions if you find yourself in this situation.
The list looks simple, but discussing the 60+ lifestyle topics listed in this workbook can greatly reduce the fear and anxiety about what’s next for everyone.
NOTE: If you have a friend or family member that may benefit from this workbook, please take a moment and forward this blog post to them.