Can A Mixed-Faith Marriage Really Work?

Happy Marriage!

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.   

LDS Mixed-Faith Conversation Starter Workbook 

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.

A Mixed-Faith Family Father’s Day

Father's Day

If you are new to being in a mixed-faith family, seeing the differences between the believing members of the family and the non-believing members can be unexpected and painful.

For example, next Sunday is Father’s Day, and you have always spent Father’s Day at church as a family, fulfilling callings and having the Young Women/Men distribute treats for Father’s Day.  But what if dad no longer participates in church?  That can feel quite different for all members of the family. 

Especially if, rather than go to church, for his special day, Dad was hoping the family could go see the new Top Gun movie and then enjoy dinner at his favorite restaurant or a peaceful walk on the beach at sunset.

How do you handle this seeming’ mismatch between the believers’ traditional Father’s Day and the non-believing father’s wishes for Father’s Day?

It really doesn’t have to be a mismatch, there are many options for both believers and non-believers.

With a little creativity, we can find choices and make decisions that don’t have to be all or nothing propositions, with “winners” and “losers”.  When a family wants to feel loved and connected, there are many ways to achieve this. 

Perhaps you could sit down together before Father’s Day and work out what is important to your family. If dad no longer attends church, some family members may want to stay home with him, while others may want to attend Sacrament meeting and then go do things with dad as a family. Some may want to celebrate Father’s Day on Saturday so those who want to attend Sunday services can, while Dad does something he’s been wanting to do on his own. 

For those new to being a mixed-faith family, I offer the following 4 suggestions:
o Plan ahead

o Decide what’s most important to each member of the family

o Decide that there will be options where everyone “wins”

o Put family connections ahead of being “right”

You can use this formula for so many family situations, and every time you practice loving and connecting with each other as a family, decisions get easier. 

For our family, there hasn’t been just one “right” way.  Some years we make plans to celebrate Father’s Day on the Saturday before.  Some years I have gone to Sacrament meeting and then come home early to spend the day doing what Lee (my husband) wants to do on his special day, which has occasionally included going out to dinner. For our family, eating out wasn’t a normal Sunday activity.  Now it happens occasionally, and I feel that this is a choice that is aligned with my priorities, and what is most important to me.

Each year I take a solo retreat for a day or two, and I go over my values and priorities – because they change slightly from year to year. When I know that my relationship with God is my first priority, and that my relationship with my husband is my next priority, and my participation at church is down my list a little ways, I know what I value most and can evaluate nearly every choice almost instantly, so what I choose to do is inline with my values and top priorities. 

Speaking of personal values, do you know what your values and priorities are?  Perhaps now is a good time to review them again?  I’ve been working on a worksheet that helps us identify values and priorities, and I would be happy to share it with you. 

I hope this information is helpful to you.  If you have specific questions or thoughts that you would like to get feedback on, or if you would like a copy of my Values & Priorities worksheet, please feel free to contact me

Are You In A Swirling Thought Tornado?

Swirling Thought Tornado

Some of you reading this email may be in the middle of your spouse’s or child’s faith crisis or transition.  Something has caused them to have questions or doubts about LDS church doctrine, practices, history or perhaps even God. 

They may have been struggling to find answers to their questions for a while –  even before they admitted these doubts to themselves. 

Perhaps you are just now finding out about these issues your spouse or child has been wrestling with for months or even years?  

You are trying to understand how this person you love is seriously doubting the gospel that you have such faith in?

Your mind instantly goes to fear, panic and perhaps anger:

  • How could this happen?
  • WHY would they do this?
  • How can I get them back to the truth?
  • How could they do this to our eternal family? 
  • What will others think about our family now?
  • How will their questions affect my own faith and testimony?

Most likely, during your spouse or child’s search for answers to their gospel related questions, they have found few if any people to actually speak with about their thoughts.  

Now you are thrust into their faith journey.  How will you find answers to your fears and questions?

Who can YOU talk with?  Who can relate to your swirl of thoughts?  Heavenly Father?  A friend at church?  Your brother or sister?  Your Bishop?  Your Ministering Brothers/Sisters?  If these resources are able to assist you, that is wonderful!

I didn’t know who I could talk with nearly 6 years ago when my husband finally admitted to himself and to me that he had lost his faith in God.  After 8+ years of my husband struggling to find answers to his faith questions.  His faith was gone…

Around the same time, but for different reasons, 2 of our daughters also stepped away from the church.

I tried to speak with a few family members and friends to work through my thoughts.  Unfortunately, they could not really relate to what I was experiencing, and they had their own thoughts about my situation. They could not help me sort through what I have come to call my “thought tornado”. Thoughts swirling around and around.

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I have experienced all of these feelings as a believing spouse and mother, and I have spoken with numerous people about their experience with a spouse or child in faith transition – and beyond. 

I would love to give you answers to all of your questions, and “make it all better”, but unfortunately no such formula exists.

Each couple and family situation has characteristics that require different approaches.  There are similar issues, but personality, history, relationships, communication styles and timing all factor into choosing options for successfully moving through these emotion-filled situations.

My goal as a life coach is to provide support for LDS women that want to remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, even when their husband or child loses faith and chooses to walk a different path.  If this is you, I would truly like to assist you in this journey.

I wish I could drop by as a friend, so we could just talk, but since that is not really feasible, could I offer to meet with you face to face on Zoom?   

I invite you to set up a FREE 30 minute appointment.  No obligation, No hard selling sales pitch.  This is simply a time for you to share whatever is on your mind with someone that understands.  If you find our time helpful, we can consider further discussions.

“Ask A Coach” – Responses To LDS Mixed-Faith Family Questions

LDS Mixed-Faith Family Questions

I am excited to announce that the first 2 episodes of “Ask A Coach” have been posted on my YouTube channel!   My goal is to provide some solutions to questions that often come up in LDS mixed-faith families. 

Episode 1 Questions:

1. “Are you okay if Dad and I still talk about our church experiences around you?”

2. “Will they turn away from the health habits they’ve followed their entire lives?”

3. “My husband just told me that he doesn’t believe the church is true and he wants to tell me all the reasons. What do I do?”

Episode 2 Questions:

1. “How are we going to tell our children that my spouse is leaving the church?”

2. “The language we use to describe each other as “believers” or “non-believers” is important.”

I plan to address a few questions in video format every couple of weeks.  I will let you know when the episodes are posted and the questions I address.

If you are in a mixed-faith family – I NEED YOUR HELP!

I know what my mixed-faith family questions were and are, but I would like to address YOUR questions.  Could you take a moment and send me an email with a few of the questions YOU are looking for answers to?

My goal as a life coach is to provide support for LDS women that want to remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, even when their children or husband lose faith and choose different paths.  If this is you, I would truly like to assist you in this journey. 

Thanks!

Rethinking Sin, Salvation and Everything In Between

All Things New

Recently I’ve been reading the book titled “All Things New, Rethinking Sin, Salvation and Everything In Between” by Fiona and Terryl Givens. Reading this book has changed the way I think about several gospel concepts, and I am very excited to share what I am learning. 

Several of my Instagram friends started talking about this book “All Things New”, and I resisted getting on the bandwagon until one day Fiona Givens spoke to the LDS Life Coaches group I below to. I was so excited by what she had to say that I bought the audio book and listened to it.  Then I wanted to be able to underline phrases and concepts, so I bought the paperback book too!  The book is now underlined in many colors and dogeared. 

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is a history of Christianity with a focus on the nature of God. The Givens write about how the view of Christianity changed from the early church through the teachings of Luther, Calvin and Augustine, and how the modern restoration fits in. They discuss how the way we view God, has changed over time, from a loving God to an angry, punitive God, and how these views damage our relationship with Him.

The second part of the book looks at our language and how the distortions that have crept in over time have damaged our language and understanding of basic gospel concepts.

Because I have understood several concepts so differently, I’ve returned again and again to read the chapters on Sin, Repentance, Forgiveness, Salvation and Obedience. I’ve also researched these 5 words in the Gospel Library app, looking in the gospel topics section, topical guide, and the Bible dictionary.  I’ve even read recent General Conference talks with this book playing in the back of my mind. I love finding teachings in General Conference talks that support these thoughts. In Elder Christofferson’s talk, “Our Relationship with God”, he said that repentance, obedience, and sacrifice matter because “they are the means by which we collaborate with Him in our own transformation from natural [wo]man to saint.” I love the idea of collaborating with Christ to become a saint.

One of the things that I found so interesting was reframing the concept of “Sin”. When I grew up, I thought sin was terrible and felt I had to be perfect all the time. I didn’t want to do anything that might create sin, and when I did sin, I couldn’t face my own weaknesses or shortcomings. In reality, I was trying to be “my own Savior” by being “good” all the time.  I was also rationalizing things that I did as not really sinful, because sin was horrifying. This way of thinking caused pressure on me all the time to always do things the “right” way. It didn’t really bring me closer to Christ, it actually kept me away from Him. 

The example the Given’s used to reframe the concept of “sin” was from the new world as Christ did ministering and healing, not preaching, rebuking or judging. They suggest looking at “sin” as being wounded, and wounded so deeply that we are separated from God and that we need to be “healed” of our “wounds” to return to God.

I started asking myself how I had been wounded this week or how I might have been the one to wound others. At church, I approach Sacrament time by thinking about wounds and how God was able to help me heal from my wounds and minister to others that are wounded. I really resonated with this teaching and I found that thinking this way helped me be more willing to see my own hurts and how I hurt others. I really felt changed and I saw myself having more love and compassion for myself and for others. I am seeing things in a more optimistic way and I am more willing to change myself rather than hide away from sin.

So I offer an enthusiastic two thumbs up for this book. I think that it is especially appropriate for mixed-faith families, as I have witnessed people who I love that have been wounded by their association with the church. Seeing them as wounded changes how I view them and our relationship. Now I just want to be better at loving them.

If you read this book, I would love to hear how you felt about the concepts. I would also be interested in hearing about any of your favorite books that have helped you with your mixed-faith family.

How to Speak with Love When Referring to Those Who Have Left the Church

thoughtful businesswomen discussing problems in bright workspace

Just a brief note about some exciting news: I was featured on the Latter-day Life Coaches Podcast today! 

“How to Speak with Love When Referring to Those Who Have Left the Church”

We discuss the importance of how we speak about, and how we speak with those we love that are experiencing challenges to their faith.  

Here is the link to listen:      https://ldslifecoaches.com/

                 or

Here is the link to watch:      https://www.youtube.com

I’d love to hear what your favorite take away is!  You can simply click here to provide your input or submit any questions you would like addressed in future Q & A podcasts.

Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Feel free to share this information with a friend or loved one that may benefit from this podcast.

The Choice Has Always Been In You

The Choice Is Yours

I like to put my own name and pronouns in the scriptures that I am studying. Personalizing the scriptures help me internalize it more. Recently, I’ve been learning about agency – my own and the agency of everyone around me. Today I want to share with you what I learned about agency from thinking about this scripture:

Jennifer should be anxiously engaged in good causes and do many things of her own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness in the world, for the power is in her, wherein she is an agent unto herself.” (see D&C 58:27-28)

RIGHTEOUSNESS

I feel that I bring to pass righteousness in the world when I do simple things like decide to smile and say hello to every person I meet on my walk. I bring to pass righteousness when I recognize that my actions may have hurt someone and apologize quickly, frequently, and sincerely. I bring to pass righteousness when I look into the future and see my interactions with others, then choose how I want to show up, and take actions to be the person I want to be.  Making my own choices and taking action is very powerful – and I love feeling powerful. It’s exhilarating!

POWERLESS

There was a time when I thought I was always at the mercy of situations and people around me.  They all had power over my life. If the weather was terrible, it meant I couldn’t do what I planned that day and it made me sad.  When I thought that my children were unhappy, it meant that I needed to be unhappy with them. When my husband’s actions made me angry, I thought that meant that I could be mean back because “he made me angry”.  I thought that was the way things should be – but I also felt POWERLESS with every one else creating my feelings.

POWERFUL

Then I learned how to take responsibility for myself and not be at the mercy of events or people around me. I learned how to coach myself using the self-coaching model, and it helped me see that my thoughts create my feelings and my feelings drive all my actions.  

Thoughts → Feelings → Actions

I’ve learned that it is ME!  I am responsible for how I act and react in every situation. I also learned that I have the power to choose my thoughts, and no one can take that power away from me unless I let them.

IT TAKES PRACTICE

I didn’t learn how to use the self-coaching model instantly, it took practice, LOTS of practice, and I still make mistakes. I’ve actually learned that part of my power comes from knowing I am not perfect, and when I make mistakes, I can turn to Jesus and let Him help me.  I’ve discovered that using my agency to take responsibility for me has brought me closer to the Savior, because I can see how much I need Him. I never realized the power of the Atonement when I was blaming everyone else for what I did. 

I am continually learning to love myself, to love and trust God, and to love those around me. My desire to share these things that I am learning with others was the genesis of creating my Becoming A Whole-Hearted Woman program. I started putting my whole heart into becoming the woman that I wanted to be. 

I CAN ASSIST

If you want help defining and becoming the woman YOU want to be, to feel the power of being the one who has control of her own life, I would love to assist as your guide and coach. You have the power within you to be happy, joyful and loving, no matter what is happening around you. Let’s talk. 

You can reply to this email or follow this link to set up a time for us to chat.  This costs you nothing and will provide some useful tools.  We can talk about how you can stop feeling out of control of your life and how powerful it feels to be in charge of your life.

When General Conference Is Hard

General Conference

GENERAL CONFERENCE TIME

While I was raising my family, General Conference was a special weekend. I really wanted my children to enjoy listening to the talks, and so I created special conference traditions, mostly around food and games.  I was trying to create family memories of being together and listening to talks from the Church’s General Authorities. I really loved being able to share my favorite General Conference moments with my family, and listen to them share their favorite talks, temple announcements, and church news.

THEN THINGS CHANGED

Several members of my family no longer participate in the church or in General Conference. My husband has stepped away from the church and so have some of my adult daughters. We have a good relationship with each other, but they each have their own relationship with the church organization. A couple want to hear some news of the church, however others don’t want to know anything. 

GENERAL CONFERNCE NOW

I have tried a whole bunch of ways for me to participate in General Conference – with varying degrees of success. I’ve listened to Conference in our living room, in my office with headphones, and on my phone.  I’ve visited my active brothers or sisters’ homes and watched Conference with them.  I’ve even taken myself on Conference retreats. Unfortunately for me, General Conference is just not the same as it used to be. Not only am I missing the people who used to watch it with me, but I also hear different messages than I used to. 

Some talks used to really resonate with me, and others didn’t as much.  I would listen and prayerfully seek inspiration about how to apply the lessons to my life. Now that my family doesn’t look like the “ideal” LDS family, I find that some talks are VERY painful to hear.  

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW?

I ask myself, what’s going to become of my unbelieving family members in the next life?  I know that I love them all very much and it can really hurt to hear how they are portrayed at General Conference.  Sometimes the messages imply that their life will never be as good on earth or for eternity as mine, because they no longer believe in the Church. 

MY NEW APPROACH

Since I am a believing member and I love each member of my family, I really have to approach General Conference with A LOT of self-compassion. If I need to take a break during a talk, I do. If I need to read certain talks rather than listening to them, I do that too. I prepare for each General Conference with a believing heart, I pray for those who speak to us AND I don’t force myself to participate when it hurts. 

There are additional ways I participate after General Conference, and one of these ways was for me is to join an Instagram group called Inklings. Each week a different General Conference talk is discussed online.  When there is discussion around concepts that were hard to hear during General Conference, sometimes talking them over with other believers brings insight. 

SOUND FAMALIAR?

If you find that some parts of General Conference are hard to listen to, I encourage you to also allow yourself some self-compassion and discover how you can find joy in the gospel messages, and protect your heart at the same time. 

Sometimes having someone to talk to helps. 

MY OFFER TO HELP

In support of those that may be in a similar situation as mine, I offer coaching support.  My main program is called “Becoming A Whole Hearted Woman” and it is a 12 week, 1:1 program for women, to help them understand themselves, their purpose, and how to balance the church and their family.

If the time is right for you, between now and April 4th, I am offering my 12 week, $1,500 program at a “General Conference Special” price of only $900.  And to make it more convenient, you can split this into 2 payments.  If you have been looking for some solutions to these challenges in your life, I recommend that you look into my program.

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