Guest Post: A Bedside Confession

A solicited guest post by the always witty and grammatically-flawless turleybenson, a longtime friend of Exponent II.

My bed is the perfect kneeling-height, which I discovered in November, five months ago.

My husband and I have had the bed for well over a year.

Upon said discovery, I sort of froze with the realization that I had never knelt beside that particular bed, and tried not to think about the fact that it was possible I hadn’t knelt by our previous bed. Instead, I tried to focus on where it all went wrong.

When I was a single gal (which was up until the ripe age of 25), I was pretty devout. From the time I was a teenager, I was so straight-arrow that I can’t remember a time I didn’t read scriptures at least 5 of the 7 days of the week, and when I didn’t kneel to pray morning and night. By my bedside. I also journaled (forgive me) RELIGIOUSLY, and lived the gospel principles with few exceptions (though I feel compelled to interject, I have always been a free-thinking woman with a tiny bit of a rebellious streak). I had a crisis of faith in my early 20s, and I faced it head on, and for me, once I decided to stick with the church, I decided not to look back.

So. When did all the journaling, scripture study, and kneeling stop? I can tell you exactly:

The day after my temple wedding.

I married a wonderful, loving, active member of the church about 6 years ago. We go to church every Sunday, perform our callings, support our leaders. We are not not living the principles of the Gospel, but that’s not really saying anything about internal devotion, is it.

OK. I am really ashamed to admit all of this. On the one hand, I’ve always been pretty independent, and relied on myself for my own testimony, but on the other hand I kind of thought it would be easier once I got married. In some ways, (here’s the shameful part) I expected my husband to take over the spiritual stuff. He’s got that all-important priesthood, after all. I thought I could relax, that he would lead family prayer and scriptures and that we might even write in a journal together. I know it is possible (…I’m sure if I thought about it hard enough I could name at least one couple that lives that way…)

Though come to think of it, the more women I talk to about this, the more my story sounds pretty familiar. Like many things, spiritual growth doesn’t automatically become easy after marriage. In fact, in many ways it becomes harder. Was I naive to not know this? When I was single, I relied heavily on Heavenly Father for daily guidance. These days, I check in with my husband every few hours, and who has room for more than one man in one’s life? Is that how it is? Now, when I need advice, a sounding board, or just want to talk, I can pick up a literal phone and do it. So, what—I don’t need to try to connect spiritually with someone I only hope is listening?

And is that the way it is just meant to be? I believe with all my heart that man/woman is not meant to be alone (though, by the law of dumb luck, it doesn’t always happen that way), and so here we are: not alone together. And we are happy, and fulfilled, and understood. But I still feel something lacking that I once had. Was relying on God for all my problems a way to tide me over until I had someone else to bear my burdens?

Of course, that explanation doesn’t sit right, but I honestly don’t know the “right” answer to these questions. I don’t know if I should hang on to this guilt for my suffering relationship with God, or to just be grateful to have a physical one now with a husband. Or to realize that in my new married life, God might just have a different role for me than He used to. Surely there is balance to be struck, but ashamed though I am to admit it, I haven’t found it.

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. Janna says:

    This is a fascinating post, and confirms what I suspect happens a lot in the church – we stay devout so that we can be “worthy” for marriage. Once we have proven our “worth,” eh, what’s the point? Even though the church exhorts enduring to the end with such vehemence, there’s something about accomplishing the most important commandment (and for you naysayers who say this is not true, why is it that I cannot enter the highest level of the celestial kingdom without being married to a Mormon in a Mormon temple?) that tells us that we’ve done our duty – we are well with God.

    I am, by no means, suggesting that you or any of us strays or eases up our on devoutness consciously. Plus, so much of religion is about getting love and acceptance. Once we’ve found that in a spouse, little else may seem to matter.

    On a related note…My sister shared with me that after she married, she no longer knew how to gauge whether she was “worthy.” Her entire sense of connectedness to God was based on whether she felt she was living the law of chastity. Now that she was married and this appeared to have no salience to her spiritual life, she didn’t know what to do. (Not suggesting this is turleybenson’s experience, by the way)

  2. gladtobeamom says:

    This is an interesting subject. I wonder how many women go into marriage thinking it will be easier to be spiritual only to find that their husband does not lead the way we have all been raised to think they will.

    Most of the women I know are the spiritual leaders in their families. They are the ones to initiate most everything spiritual. Many of them are frustrated because their husband wont assume the roll they are “suppose” to fill in the family.

    I have come to realize that we are all so different and we bring all sorts of strengths and weaknesses into our marriages. It would be great to have a spouse that you could bounce everything off of. Someone you could rely on to help you with answers and thoughts. A man who lead the family etc, etc, etc.(?)Wouldn’t it be great to be on the same page all of the time?(not likely to happen)

    However, I think the majority of us don’t have the ideal. All we can do is do the best with what we have. Some of us whose spouse may struggle with spirituality, have to move on and decide to take it on ourselves as individuals (or not). We all have our moments where we might be the one to takes the lead while the other struggles or lets someone lead us while we struggle.

    I am the opposite of the author. I was not to good at reading, praying etc. before marriage but now after marriage I have found that I need to have that connection with God. I am far from doing it all, all of the time but I certainly found how much it helps me to be more consistent in doing all the things that help me to connect more spiritually with God.

    I have discovered my role at this time for me and my family and I am just trying hard to except it and move forward. Having that connection helps me and my relationships with my family.

    I believe our connection with God to be a very individual thing and that it must be done as individuals even in our marriages. We can certainly help each other along if you have that kind of relationship but we still have much we have to do for ourselves to have that connection.

    Sometimes or rather most of the time I have a hard time trying to put my thoughts in writing so I hope that some of this made since. To sum it up I believe that having a close relationship with God as an individual helps strengthen your relationships with other people especially your husband. None of us are perfect and sometimes we need the guidance of our Heavenly father to help us be patient, loving, forgiving, or understanding of the other imperfect beings we have to deal with every day. I would hope my husband would do the same so he could get help living with me as well.

  3. G says:

    great post!

    Exactly the same thing happened to me (minus having ever had a crisis of faith that I had to work through as a single. That only happened after I was married).
    It really depressed me for the first few years, the sudden lack of spiritual motivation that I felt almost instantly upon saying the wedding vows. I had been quite intense previously in my callings, my devotion, my study and prayer. I kept trying to ‘get it back’ (so to speak), setting goals, etc… but it just was no longer there.

    Really, I think that I would still firmly believe in the church if I hadn’t married, it was the gradual realization that these roles as wife and mother, that had always been touted in church as my ultimate attainment and purpose, were just not my role, and that the church had been wrong about that that led to my (previously unthinkable) questioning of the church.

  4. G says:

    yes! me too me too!
    It really depressed me the first couple of years, and I would attempt to ‘get back’ who I was by setting goals etc… but to no avail, I had lost that devoted person that I had been as a single as surely as I had lost my virginity (I don’t think those two were connected in my case, it is just that as I lost the one I also happened to lose the other)

    ironically, I only started to feel ‘spiritual’ again when I began to read about other faiths, began to lose the LDS centric view of devotion.

  5. Caroline says:

    I had a similar experience. I was more religiously devout before I married. I prayed, I read the B of M, etc.

    But after I got married, that changed. And it’s not because my husband doesn’t do all that stuff. He still kneels at night and prays and reads. But something happened for me…. I think it might have to do with the fact that religious devotion is a real private thing for me. I didn’t like reading and praying when someone else could see me do it. (that’s weird, but there you go).

    Also I think a contributing factor is that I feel so safe in my marriage. Mike is my spiritual, religious, emotional rock. He’s a constant. He doesn’t change. That security allowed me to venture into different realms and try different things – attending other churches, reading other religous texts, etc. I always know that Mike and Mormonism will be waiting for me, no matter what spiritual adventures I go on.

  6. Kristen says:

    After years of contemplation and discussion with my husband, as well as other married couples, I have been able to come to a couple conclusions about why I also felt more lost and confused after my temple marriage. First, I realized that just like an awkward middle school kid, I was going through an identity crisis with my husband. I knew exactly who I was as a single woman, but I wasn’t sure who I had become as a married person. My husband had the same problem. This couple identity crisis impacted our spirituality because we weren’t sure how to be spiritual as a couple and neither of us recognized that we were failing in this area.
    Another thing happened. Satan started to take notice of our crisis before we did. I, like the author of the post and others, felt like I had almost made it to the finish line by getting married in the temple and that Satan might let off a little. What I didn’t anticipate is that because marriage is essentially:
    “accomplishing the most important commandment (and for you naysayers who say this is not true, why is it that I cannot enter the highest level of the celestial kingdom without being married to a Mormon in a Mormon temple?)”

    …of course Satan is going to work even harder on those of us who have entered into this covenant. I’m not diminishing the challenges of being single and remaining faithful. That is really hard. I’m just saying that when I finally did get married, I felt that being a “faithful” daughter of God became even more difficult for me because I had let my guard down, my goals and “sins” were less overt, and in the beginning my husband and I weren’t sure that our marriage was something we wanted to fight for throughout eternity.

    Here’s the positive ending to my post: Through God’s grace and tender mercies, my husband and I made it through the identity crisis, recognized our lacking spirituality and are remedying it each day. Because of the promises we made to God on our wedding day, we have both come to realize that our marriage is worth fighting for until the end. I feel that we have had a lot of divine help and we both are very happy right now with our marriage and our personal testimonies.

    I hope this post wasn’t too preachy. The truth is, I just found this website today and I’m really excited about it. It is refreshing and comforting to connect with women who share the same ideas and concerns as I do. Thanks.

  7. turleybenson says:

    Thanks for all the comments so far. As I said in the post, I know this is a really common phenomenon in the Church, which is probably why I felt comfortable sharing it, despite revealing something sort of troubling about my married life.

    The truth is, we have a really happy marriage, and despite a few difficulties, always have. I wonder if in some ways for me, the fact that I already had a missing male figure in my life (a dad that was never really around, physically or emotionally), I transferred some of that dependence onto God. Then, when my husband entered the picture, perhaps I transferred again. I certainly wouldn’t call myself co-dependent or anything, but there is that.

    I’m really interested to know that some people have experienced this and figured out a balance, and how they did so. And I would also add, my husband feels much the same way, though I was perhaps somewhat more internally devout than he when we met.

    Anyway, thanks for letting me share.

  8. jks says:

    Interesting post and comments.
    I think that becoming a married person changes so many things, including our habits.
    Just getting a boyfriend (my eventual husband) changed my weight because I was busier and I suddenly quit painting my nails because I used to do that in the evenings.
    In addition to changing our rountines and habits, we are in different roles and have different dynamics in many relationships.
    I was less depressed during PMS after marriage. I felt more stable because there was someone who I could count on.
    I also think that becoming a wife and mother creats NEW ways to feel spiritual. I had to work on my marriage. I had to learn to deal with negative feelings toward my husband in a positive way. I had to become more Christlike.
    In my 16 year marriage, I feel I have grown in so many ways and I feel closer to my Heavenly Father through these experiences. Honestly, I could be better at prayer and scripture study. Yet, in some ways I always have a prayer in my heart. All my actions each day have to do with trying to become the person God wants me to be. I look at my children on a daily basis and know I am trying to raise them to be who God wants them to be, individually realize their own potential. I look at my husband and I try to love him the way Christ does. I look at my family and see miracles.
    Every hardship I have endured in my marriage has brought spiritual experiences for me. I may not have felt the spirit strongly during post partum depression after baby #2 but since then that experience has helped me grow. I will always look back on my husband’s bout with cancer and remember the feelings the spirit gave me and the knowledge and comfort I was blessed with. When my children have experienced hardships I have seen the hand of the Lord in blessing me with helping me find information I needed, or with making decisions. I have also been blessed with increased understanding and faith in the atonement.
    Life is a journey. Each stage of life with bring different experiences. You might turn to the Lord in different ways. You might feel the spirit in unique experiences. The Lord sees your heart, he doesn’t count prayers or chapters read. If you let the Lord know you want to serve him each day–that you will do his will each day–you may find that he will guide you to help you know how you can best give of yourself at this stage of your life.

  9. Jessawhy says:

    Thanks for this insightful post. I, too, can relate with your story. Also with gladtobeamom who said that women are raised as spiritual leaders (men are raised to be scouts?) and that makes for an imbalance in some marriages.
    For me, after diving into seminary and BYU religion classes, I was most disappointed to find that my DH wanted to do solo scripture study. My early attempts to have fascinating gospel discussions were met with resistance, and when I persisted, we ended up in a fight. (he wanted to tell me the “T”ruth about questions I loved to wonder about.)
    On the other hand, my husband has always had a more personal relationship with God. He has always had longer prayers than I do, and he says he doesn’t get sidetracked (Is that possible?) a thousand times during his prayers. So, that’s good.
    He’s also way more patient than I am, maybe that’s an indicator of personal righteousness.
    But, this is such a great topic, it should be a lesson in Laurels.
    I also liked G’s comment about jumping into the role the church teaches and feeling like it’s not the right one. That’s a hard place to be.
    Which is why I love this site, too. It’s a way to rise above the dirty dishes and diapers.

  10. FoxyJ says:

    I have experienced the same thing, and it’s only gotten harder during the last few years since my husband stopped attending church and participating in stuff. The comment about an “identity crisis” really resonated with me–it takes me a long time to adjust to things and find my groove. I was always a very scheduled person before my marriage–had the same bedtime routine (scriptures, journal, prayer) at the same time every night. Seriously. I actually feel so much better now that I’ve gotten older and more flexible in my routines and things. Also, the whole identity crisis thing. It takes a while to find your place with another person (at least it has for me). After nearly 7 years of marriage I feel way more comfortable with my husband than I did during the first year or so. I’ve felt that way about parenting–now that I have 2 kids and the oldest is 5, I’m a much more comfortable parent.

  11. xofvm fklqwbgr ksypz vqxac bwzvjg vjulxh mqkbo

  12. Kiri Close says:

    maybe just kick back and enjoy this time of ‘unknowing’ what to do.

    u went so ‘hard’ in the church for so long that you are now simply bored.

    so just chill,girl, and enjoy the nothingness for a while. scriptures (even just one verse with 10 minutes of contemplation is enough for you right now!) can be approached so many different ways.

    Prayer, too, comes in many forms: conversations with God(as if He&his wife was your girlfriend over at your house gossiping with you), singing, thinking, reflecting (even while you’re doing something random)—many great forms of ‘prayer’ and connecting with the folks upstairs.

    no worries, girl. you’re doing great.

    Now just relax and enjoy the vast and fabulous nothing. It is filled with answers you haven’t yet felt, but if you let yourself swim in it, by next year (just a random time marker) you’ll be amazed at your new spiritual location.

    ;o)

Leave a Reply