Lately I’ve become obsessed with Venn diagrams! Ya, I know, weird…
You know those overlapping circles we learned about in elementary school that helped us determine what two separate things had in common?
I can’t stop looking at the interrelationships.
One Venn diagram that I have been looking at a lot lately is one of myself and my husband, Lee. I started paying attention to it to see if we had the Goldilocks principle down – were we overlapping too much, not enough or just right?
What I ended up discovering is our “before” and “after” snapshot of when Lee left the church.
You know how you create before and after images in your mind of a “better” time as compared to now? Sometimes I think about sitting in church, holding hands with Lee and I really long for that.
What I learned when I looked at our Venn diagram was that I have a romantic (but incorrect) view of those days. Lee was really miserable participating at church for several years before he decided to stop attending. He did not have a life outside of the church and his career. We did church things together and separately, but we didn’t both enjoy them.
In the years since Lee left the LDS faith, we have grown as a couple and as individuals. Our venn diagrams reflect that. He retired this year and that has helped him to explore who he is and what he likes. We have mindfully and intentionally developed the parts of the diagram where we overlap and we have mindfully and intentionally developed ourselves individually, and we are both better for it.
Our overlapping areas are designed to bring us closer together. For example, Lee and I have decided that generosity is a value we share. We have a budget category earmarked for generosity. Pretty regularly we look at each at about the same time and decide to “make someone’s day”. It might be a server at a restaurant or someone who helps us in the airport, or even someone just minding their own business. We find a way to give them a surprisingly significant sum of money. We usually don’t know how our generous moments turn out, but it is something fun we do together that ends up making our day and draws us closer together.
You might consider drawing a few Venn diagrams yourself (they can provide all kinds of data) to help you evaluate your relationship with your family members who have left the church. You can see and decide how much and what kind of overlap the two of you need and want, and then be intentional about developing the parts of you together that you share. I would be curious about what you observe from your Venn diagram experiment.