On divorce/What is marriage for?

By Regina.

(She is a lifelong member, reader, wife, and world traveler.)

As a preface, I don’t know the feminist response to what I am about to share, nor the “Mormon feminist” response. What I offer instead is my own response, the response of a woman who cares about women (and men)—the response of one single child of humanity.

Just over two weeks ago I stood in the kitchen of a woman I deeply love and admire, as she told me a small handful of rather simple sentences, which written would mean very little, but spoken strongly implied that her spouse was cheating on her. My initial reaction was shock, and then my second and third reactions (followed quickly thereafter) were fury and disappointment. The cheating partner is intimately connected to my own life and family, making the wife’s hurt, sad sentences my hurt (if only the most infinitesimal part of what she feels). I listened to her close, “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

I thought of her and her spouse so often during the subsequent weeks, but did not say another word to either of them. Part of this was because I moved across the country exactly one day after I saw them, and another part is that I didn’t know what to say. I was so angry at the one who hurt her and so sad for the one who was hurt.

Just a few days ago, I found out what did happen to the woman in the kitchen: her husband left her and their two very young children in what looks like a permanent leaving. The man did not hug his children goodbye. (He has one reason for that, but it is difficult for me to accept it as enough.) What he did do is grab some clothes and two of his guitars. He is at a hotel, but moving in with his new “friend” within days.

I recognize that in all such cases, involving two (or more) people, there are two (or more) stories to be told. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get to the whole truth. Sometimes it may not even be worth the grief of trying. Notwithstanding, in this particular case, it does seem clear that one party (due to substance abuse and measures of infidelity) shares more culpability than the other.

Notwithstanding that, my heart aches for everyone—the man who just closed the door on many (if not all) of the most beautiful things in his life, more for his children who will not have a present father, and the most for the woman who has been betrayed and made single through no choice of her own.

This time I have reached out to both of the adults with the best love and support that I possess. I know that in both cases it is probably not enough, either to help the leaving party not want to leave and/or get help for his substance abuse, or to help the left party feel less heartbroken and devastated. Still it is what I can offer.

A few days later I found myself in an Eastern city with an old friend. As part of that meeting I discovered that she and her husband (who I had seen with her and their child the day before) were separated. I did not feel the fury I felt in the first case, but did feel the shock, and some small, small portion of the disappointment.

When we were walking privately I asked her the reasons. She started to explain and I started to understand: There were a series of difficult moments (some very cruel) that led her to feel alone and un-supported during times when she desperately needed support. One was an unplanned pregnancy. Another was the early loss of the same. She told me that she feels happier since her separation, and I am 1. inclined to trust her and 2. strongly desirous of her happiness.

Learning of these two breaks in the same week has caused my mind to be filled with marriage thoughts and un-marriage thoughts. It has also caused me to ask many questions. The first, and possibly most important is, “What is marriage for?” The second, still important question concerns when something is sufficient to get a divorce. The third is about happiness and responsibility. I do not have complete answers to any of these questions; only partial ones.

Marriage may be for love, intimacy (both sexual and otherwise), friendship, covenant, companionship, growth, progression, exaltation, parenting, grand-parenting, financial security, safety, commitment, selflessness, support, or so forth. It may be for a combination of those things, and it certainly may be for many more (or even many less) than I mentioned.

What if one thing is missing? In the first (true) story, the husband’s complaint was a lack of physical intimacy, for a specific length of time. It made me wonder if sex is really the only thing that marriage is for. I believe it is a highly vital part, but have a difficult time conceding that it is the only part. It also seems like things may be done to improve it. An unwillingness to make a bad (or absent) situation better feels like more of a problem to me than the absence itself. But, what if two things are missing? Or three? Or four? Is it enough, then, to renege on lifetime or eternal commitments?

What of personal happiness? It is important, but it is also important to remember that not only one person’s happiness is at stake. Simply getting married seems to be an acknowledgement that someone else’s happiness matters. If there are kids it makes the mix even bigger. Each of us is an individual, yes, but each of us is an individual in a community. We were born in a community, even if it was a community of mother/daughter or mother/son. We inherited language from our community and many other things indeed. In a marriage there is a strong (and hopefully close) community that requires strong responsibility.

I feel passionately that divorce is terrible, if only (or especially) because it hurts everyone involved, but I am also glad that women and men (when each uses it appropriately) have the right to divorce. Is this a contradiction? Maybe, but I am human, and humans contain multitudes (even contradicting multitudes).

I am glad that people have the right to divorce primarily when they are in unsafe situations, whether that safety is physical, emotional, or mental. I am glad that people have the right to divorce when there are great breaches of trust (such as in cases involving infidelity), though I also admire those who go through such breaches and find forgiveness and redemption within their original marriage vows. I am glad that people have the right to divorce when the pain done to them or their children is less than the pain of staying in the relationship.

All of these things are where it gets tricky, because again, there are always multiple human sides to every human story, and what may be enough for one person may not be enough for someone else. This is also where I beg you, dear readers, to chime in. Any help is much appreciated as I mourn for those both in and out of my life effected by divorce.

  • What do you think marriage is for?
  • When (if ever) is it is sufficient to sever a marriage union?
  • How can outside parties be supportive during the times preceding, during, and after divorce? (To the wronged party as well as to the one who wronged.)

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67 Responses

  1. SilverRain says:

    From a legal perspective, marriage is to bring future citizens into a stable home.

    Eternally, mortal marriage is a proving ground, wherein we have the opportunity to learn how to knit our hearts together in preparation for Zion and for exaltation.

    As a divorcee, I also hate divorce. But I am also grateful for the way I needed to protect myself and my children.

    • EBrown says:

      I would say that from a “legal perspective” marriage is primarily about the present and future use of property. The State gives little thought to the stability of that union except under the broadest definition: duration. Thus a marriage where there is constant discord, infidelities, substance abuse, economic uncertainty, etc., which lasts until the parties die is considered “stable” from a legal perspective. Even if no children are born or survive, the law governing real property is given effect.

      • Amelia says:

        Agreed. What we now think of as legal marriage in the Anglo-American tradition began explicitly as a mechanism to protect property rights. Before modern marriage laws, which have everything to do with property, marriage could be enacted with a simple verbal act in the present tense, no clergy or government sanctioned officiant necessary–“I marry you” was enough to make two people married.

      • BethSmash says:

        Terry Jones has an interesting documentary called The Surprising History of Sex and Love (available on Netflix) where he talks about this a little bit. It’s very interesting. His argument is framed as Paganism vs. Christianity, but he does talk about marriage and how the Church (early Christian) got involved.

      • SilverRain says:

        True, but the primary purpose of securing property (a stable home) is arguably to support future citizens. It defaults to the children of a marriage.

        “Stable” was meant in the basest sense.

    • Regina says:

      Interesting insights into how different parties or perspectives view the purpose(s) of marriage quite distinctly.

      Maybe the next question becomes: What SHOULD marriage be for? (Especially from the perspective of those who are in it, or interested in being in it.)

  2. Hydrangea says:

    In Mormon marriages the stakes are especially high. We go in to matrimony with ideas of being pre-destined for each other or “meant to be.” Then there is the pressure of striving for eventual celestial perfection, bribed by ridiculous amounts of pay of off (glory.) It can all seem overwhelming if marriage isn’t jiving according to plan.

    After some painfully hard times I’ve learned to be much more realistic. I take marriage, glaring flaws and all, both for what it is and what it is not. If my husband doesn’t meet all my needs, or marital expectations, it’s not a huge deal. He’s one person (albeit a crucial one) in my universe . Yes we still strive to improve, but is it bad to admit I’ve lowered my expectations?

  3. April says:

    I am so sorry for your friends and what they are going through. As for your questions, before I was married, I used to say that I would immediately divorce any man who would ever cheat on me or beat on me. It seemed logical, plus it rhymed. Today, I am not so sure. I value my marriage so much that even if these extreme scenarios were to happen, I might be willing to look for safe ways to redeem the marriage. I really don’t know what I would do. So I guess I am in no place to tell anyone else what they should do, either.

  4. IDIAT says:

    Well, we shouldn’t go into marriage with any notion of predestination. In fact, there is a good article in “Helping and Healing Our Families”, a book on the POTF, that says that notion of “the one and only” leads to many problems. Church leaders have consistently said there is no such thing as “soul mates.” I think we marry first and foremost because it’s a commandment. We can list a thousand reasons to get married, but church leaders have essentially said all marriages are meant to be eternal, and therefore marriage and family are training grounds for the eternities. I can’t excuse adultery. Husbands and wives should try all avenues of relief before allowing that to happen. When to divorce? There is no one answer. I guess you know it when you need to know it. My casual observation is that many instances, expecially among the younger set, they aren’t willing to work things out. Marriage sometimes requires more effort than at other times, and I don’t get the feeling of stubborness and stick-to-it-ness that is sometimes required from both sides. Support? I guess just be a good friend, don’t take sides, don’t be quick to judge. There is almost always two sides to the problem. Unless you’re a professional counselor, it’s probably best to be a simple sounding board. Do the same kinds of things you would do for someone who is grieving and mourning.

    • Amelia says:

      The idea that we marry “first and foremost because it’s a commandment” really troubles me. I think anytime we form the kind of deeply intimate relationship that involves such complete interdependence based on conforming to any externally imposed requirement, even one imposed by deity, we’re just asking for trouble. We should marry first and foremost because the partnership that marriage forms will be for the mutual benefit and improvement of all parties to the marriage–emotional, spiritual, physical, etc. That it means we have complied with one of the apparent requirements for exaltation should be a secondary concern. Far too many marriages are entered into because it’s what is done and that is just a really flimsy foundation for such a significant relationship, even if the “what is done” is being outlined by God. Remember that it was Satan’s plan that we do things because we have been told that it’s what we need to do. It is Christ’s plan that we do them because we as individuals have learned and grown and come to understand the rightness of a course of action.

      • IDIAT says:

        What comes first — the deeply intimate relationship and then marriage, or marriage then the deeply intimate relationship? Did Adam and Eve date each other before they were married? Did they love each other? Do husbands and wives in other cultures where arranged marriages are the norm get into marriage for their mutual benefit and improvement? Tough questions to answer. I think the dating and engagement phases are important, but it’s the post-marriage relationship that fulfills the commandment. I know we shouldn’t marry just for the sake of getting marriage. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that. It’s romantic to think we enter into marriage for all the right reasons, but like I said, the reasons could fill volumes. Marriage feels different to me after 30 years than it did after the first 30 days! God also commands us to multiply and replentish the earth. Again, people shouldn’t have children simply because God commanded it; yet, in fulfilling that commandment, He knows we will be happy. I just think of the command to marry as being along the same lines. And there is something to the aspect of obedience. If we are obedient, we will be blessed. Therefore, as a general rule, and though personal circumstances will vary and require adaptation, men and women should actively seek to marry.

      • DefyGravity says:

        We know next to nothing about Adam and Eve. And they, in theory, we the only people on the planet and “made for each other” which makes their situation extremely different from anyone else’s. So I don’t believe setting them up as an example really works here.

      • Amelia says:

        In my opinion, the deeply intimate relationships should come first, though that relationship would naturally become even more intimate and deeper after marriage. But I admit that I don’t take a very conventionally Mormon view of the matter.

        And I agree with DefyGravity that Adam and Eve are a false example given their very particular circumstances. As for arranged marriages in other cultures–yes, I believe they are entered into for what is perceived the mutual benefit and improvement of the partners. That benefit might be economic, social, or physical, rather than emotional or spiritual, but it’s still benefit nonetheless. And I think that even in arranged marriages, the ones that really work are ones in which the individual needs and concerns of each partner are carefully weighed and considered and each individual is given the chance to assess whether the relationship would be one that would in fact be of mutual benefit and improvement. If those were not the circumstances of an arranged marriage, then I would say that it is an improperly arranged marriage in which the two parties have been treated as chattel rather than as human beings.

        I agree that in fulfilling God’s commandments we can find happiness. But that is not the same thing as we *will* find happiness. Especially if we have fulfilled those commandments in a pro forma fashion without very thoughtful and careful consideration beforehand. I have seen far too many young Mormon couples who rather blithely entered marriage believing that because they loved each other (or what they could know of each other after just a few months) and because it was God’s will to marry, they would naturally find happiness, only to discover that they were confronting some serious incompatibilities. I think the only commandment we should make an active habit of seeking to fulfill are the two great commandments (which are really just one): to love god, self, and other. As we do that, I think we’ll be led to possible mates and ultimately marriage and family. But it wouldn’t happen in the kind of unfortunate circumstances that cause problems in the marriage because we’ve entered it without enough forethought and consideration, but with perhaps too much blind trust that doing what’s “right” will of course lead to happiness.

      • Kip says:

        @ Amelia:
        But people in arranged marriages that have been treated like chattel do sometimes find happiness in there relationships. I don’t know offhand if the numbers are known at what rate, but my understanding is that happiness in such relationships is higher than what one might expect.

        I think people tend to approach happiness in two ways.

        Some people decide to make the best of their circumstance and be happy under most conditions they find themselves.

        Some people decide that a certain set of circumstances are what will make them happy and then seek those circumstances.

        It’s been my experience that the second approach doesn’t normally work so well, which leads me to believe that happiness is more about one’s state of mind than about one’s circumstance. i.e.
        Happiness seems to me to be something you do rather than something that can be done to you.

    • DefyGravity says:

      It irritates me to hear people rag on “the younger generation” and how we don’t like to work and just throw marriages out the window. As a member of said generation, I’ve seen agony over divorce among Mormons my age, and much of it is because of the way the church deals with marriage and young adults. The church teaches marriage, but rarely gives the tools to do so successfully. The church is so gung ho to get everyone married and having kids that they don’t prepare young adults for marriage. They don’t teach them to determine what their priorities are and to see if those priorities are compatible with those they are dating. They condemn “hanging out” making it difficult to just get to know someone in a casual setting. They teach that “any worthy man and any worthy woman can have a successful marriage,” that if you have enough faith it will work out. Then, taking the church at their word, kids my age marry quickly, assuming that because they are both Mormon, things will pan out. Couples get married because they are “commanded to,” as you’ve said. Too often the mentality is “The church says I’m supposed to get married and that I can make it work with anyone if we both have faith. So, you’re an RM and I”m worthy and we’ve been dating for 2 monthees and get along and so we should get married because we’re supposed to and there is nothing worse in the eyes of the church then being single.” I have a friend who had that exact mentality and is now struggling with her marriage because she did not know her husband well. He has all kinds of expectations of her that she did not know about and does not want in her life. If they had been told to look for compatibility rather then “worthiness” they might have ended up in a better relationship. I know plenty of worthy men who hold recommends, served missions, pay tithing, etc. Most of them would drive me crazy to be married to.

      So how is it the fault of the couple if they do exactly what their leaders encourage, marry quickly and early, and the marriage breaks up because not any worthy woman and man can make it work. That is the fault of the teachings, not the couple.

      I’ve seen many couple my age divorce. In none of those cases was it done with a causal, “well we don’t want to work,” attitude. It is painful and comes after work and pain, after doing exactly what the church “commanded” them to do. So kindly don’t judge those of us in our 20s and 30s as flaky and lazy.

      • Regina says:

        I’m not quite sure that what IDIAT was doing was ‘ragging on the ‘younger generation.'” She was simply making an observation, which she qualified as “casual.” She also didn’t place every instance of not being willing to work things out to “the younger set,” though admittedly, she did attribute many such cases there. It is quite possible that many cases Are there. I have read several studies/New York Times articles indicating as much. Some of these suggest statistically that there may really be less longstanding commitment in some marriages between younger people and that more younger people enter marriages with divorce in their mind as an acceptable backup plan. This may not be as apparent in older people since earlier generations carried greater social stigma against divorce. At the same time, I am wary of any talk that acts like things were perfect in the past, or among one group of people, because I know that that is not true.

        It is also possible that IDIAT was not speaking specifically of LDS young people, or that in particular cases she was aware of that their wasn’t as much dedication to a marriage as there could have been (though that is really tricky, and probably not possible to say from an outside perspective.)

        You did bring up very interesting points concerning young members though, who like you said, very much ARE trying to follow God’s commandments but are not finding as much success or happiness therein as they grew up believing. I also agree that young singles are not taught very many of the keys for successful marriages, from the same people who are so strongly encouraging marriage, if only in the fact that a large portion are removed from church settings where they could serve and work alongside families and folk of various ages. It always seemed strange to me when I was in singles wards to be spoken to so much about marriage, but given very few examples of what good marriages are, with most of them in family wards, an hour, or building away.

        You also highlight why a desire to get married, or a desire to marry to fulfill God’s commandment is not always enough, perhaps not even very often enough.

      • Amelia says:

        I’ve dated a number of non-Mormon men, some of them with roots in other religious traditions. Most of them have expressed real shock that given the church’s emphasis on marriage it does such a piss-poor job of preparing its members for marriage. And it really does. In some of my boyfriends’ churches, there was an extensive pre-marriage counseling requirement to being married by the congregation’s pastor. That counseling included all kinds of things about the basics of building a strong marriage–communication, finances, sex, children, etc., etc. Based on the conversations I’ve had with Mormon couples getting married, we really don’t have anything comparable. The pre-marriage counseling done with the bishop seems to be more about making sure the couple is still in good standing and has good church-y practices (prayer, reading scriptures, etc.). Maybe it’s different in different circumstances, but given lay leadership completely untrained in how to counsel people I doubt it’s really what’s needed with any regularity.

        I agree witih DefyGravity that the church really does its young people a disservice with its high pressure emphasis on marrying young and quickly and its failure to equip them with real world tools needed for building a successful marriage.

      • charlene says:

        Amelia, I married a Lutheran and we were required to do premarital counseling to be married in the church — the pastor had been formally trained by a secular organization. It was a really good experience. I do wish the LDS church did anything comparable; it’s a little mind-boggling to me that it is so focused on families and yet does not support them in this way.

    • Regina says:

      It is interesting to me that the idea of predestination was brought up, because that was not something that I had given any thought to, in my own marriage, or in writing this post. I agree with you that framing marriage in that way is not particularly helpful.

      I have mixed feelings about the idea that “we marry first and foremost because its a commandment.” Some of these mixed feelings stem from the fact that the first couple (the one intimately connected to me) are not LDS (and only one of those partners ever Was LDS). Couples outside of the church find all sorts of reasons to want to marry (or not marry) each other. Perhaps I am just looking for something more universal that can encompass these types of couples as well, though there is not a specific “pat answer” I am looking for.

      Concerning couples inside of the church, the reasons to get married likely vary as well, and the order of those reasons likely varies even more. I am not even certain that wanting to get married because it is a commandment should be the highest reason, though I suppose it is possible. This uncertainty may be because while I believe that wanting to get married is a righteous desire, I don’t think that righteous desire is a sufficient reason to get married. I witnessed one very sad case where a single mother wanted to be married so desperately that she married someone she didn’t know well, after a very short time, only to to get annulled shortly thereafter after very early and very bad physical abuse.

      Thank you for your comment, and thank you especially for your suggestions at the end. It does seem best to treat each of them as though they are mourning, because in some very real ways they are.

      • IDIAT says:

        Ask your husband to write down the reasons he wanted to get married, and then separately, the reasons he wanted to marry you in particular. And then you do the same, and compare answers. You might find the answer to your “why do people marry” question. At a minimum, you’ll gain some insight into what makes you both tick.

  5. The hardest part in working out how to help commiserate in anothers divorce/seperation is in avoiding condemnation of the other party, simply because you rarely have all the information on what is going on. Even though in your first example its seems pretty easy who was at fault and have a desire to hurt the person who hurt your friend, you would be hurting more than helping, no matter how good your intentions might be.

    For those inside the divorce, it is never something taken lightly, on a whim, or from one single mistake (even if the mistake is adultery). As an outsider, we can hope to see some of this erosion ahead of time, and support them in their efforts to fight it. But once the people seperating have determined that its beyond repair, the best that can be done is to support and strengthemn them in their life moving forward.

    The Saturdays Warrior “one perfect match for each person” idea is super problematic. Could you imagine telling someone who never married that maybe their “perfect match” either died or wasn’t worthy enough for them? Or that a couple should break up their marriage because they aren’t really the “pefrect match” and are causing two other people problems because they married the wrong person and messed up the system? Of course, this also ties in to one of the most common ways to commiserate – “He wasn’t really your perfect match anyway”. -Not- helpful or comforting.

    To your question on when “enough is enough” – there really isnt a hard line, though imo there are a number of things well beyond the line (like continual and/or unrepentant abuse). Each marriage is so different, and the circumstances of divorce so varied, that it’s impossible to give an easy answer. I know that in my own divorce, the troubles built up in many ways over some time. I don’t know if anyone else would have been able to say when my marriage should have ended, but at least I had confirmation for myself when it was time.

    • Regina says:

      While it does seem pretty clear in the first case who is more culpable, I hope I never expressed a desire to hurt the person who hurt my friend, as that is not, and has never been my intention. I simply want to love them.

      I agree that there are no hard lines or hard rules for divorce decisions.

  6. Emily U says:

    I’m always sad when I hear about divorce, even (and I feel absurd admitting this) celebrity divorces like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. I’m not sure why – partly I mourn for the children, I think. But I know people change and individuals that started out good together sometimes don’t end up well together. My grandparents divorced and both found very happy second marriages, so in their case it was a good thing. I could never answer what is sufficient cause to sever a marriage because it’s different in every case.

    What is marriage for? I like SilverRain’s answer. There is something refining about living with the same person for a long time – lots of opportunities to practice patience, forgiveness, and honest self-examination.

    • Regina says:

      I am always sad to hear about divorce too. Always. I particularly grieved when Zooey Deschenel and Ben Gibbard split.

  7. Nate C. says:

    That was a touching essay. EmilyCC and I discuss this topic a great deal. I believe that there are as many reasons for marriage as there are marriages. I was surprised to recently learn from a group of close friends that infidelity is not a deal-breaker for the majority of that group. This surprised me because, for me, infidelity, while not an automatic divorce, signals the end of a romantic or sexual relationship. I don’t give out trust easily, and once broken, I don’t give it a second time. I also place the same condition on myself. If I were to ever cheat, I would not expect EmilyCC to “work through” that difficulty with me.

    This was not a shared sentiment among our friends. I was the only one who believed that. I guess I am still a little old-fashioned.

    • Regina says:

      Thank you. It followed a quick series of touching/difficult moments, and I needed to flesh out my thoughts on the matter (though there are many more). My husband and I have talked about some of these issues too, and once I asked him if there is anything I could do that would make him divorce me. He very nearly said, “No.” Then I asked him about some of the specific and plausible reasons for divorce. He still said, “No,” though I suspect it may turn into a maybe or a yes if something terrible were continuing and unrepentant. He is very, Very committed to marriage in general. In these regards I am almost certainly less committed than him, because there Are possibilities that would make me want to get out so strongly, in a way that makes me think I actually would, but it is hard to say in the theoretical, and I sincerely hope I never have to face it in the practical.

      I really love your suggestion that there are “as many reasons for marriage as there are marriages.” I think that you are right.

  8. Janna says:

    I really enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) book Committed. It offered an interesting, although not comprehensive, look at the history of the institution of marriage and current trends.

    • Regina says:

      I really loved “Eat, Pray, Love,” and started reading “Committed” when I was engaged. I didn’t finish, mostly because I was busy planning an actual marriage, but would still like to one day. I definitely think that a historical look at this institution is important, and can help tease out some of the wheat from the tares/myths about marriage.

  9. ssj says:

    I have a hard time defining what my marriage means to me and why to be married. I married young, and because of cultural expectations. I was too young to really value it and really comprehend the decision I was making. I knew I loved my husband at the time, but he was my first real relationship.

    I do value my relationship with my husband a lot. I’m grateful to have him as a partner in life. However, it’s still hard to describe what I think marriage is for. In many ways, I don’t think I chose to get married. I got married because I was culturally expected to.

    It also really frustrates me to hear people say that people ‘don’t give it their all’. I mean, did you live in the relationship? Did you spend every minute with them? How do you really know that they didn’t try?

  10. CatherineWO says:

    This is a topic that has been much on my mind recently because two of my brothers are in the process of divorce. Circumstances are very different for the two couples, but there are similarities too. Both couples have been married for about 30 years and have had ongoing marriage problems for many of those years. I am quite close to one of these brothers and to his wife, so their divorce has been difficult to deal with. I have reached out to both of them and have listened at length to their sorrowful stories. I have made it clear to both of them that I would not share anything told to me by one of them with the other of them. This has really helped me to be supportive of them. I have also tried very hard not to speak judgementally about either one of them to anyone. I love them both dearly, and it makes me sad to see their relationship end. However, they are both so much happier, and who am I to begrudge them whatever happiness they can find at this point in life? Regardless of how hard two people try to make a marriage work, sometimes people change in ways that cannot be reconciled, and circumstances change in ways we cannot control.

  11. Amelia says:

    For me marriage is about learning to love as fully and perfectly as possible. I think marriage and parenting are two of the key forums (though not by any means the only forums) we have in which to learn how to obey Christ’s two great commandments. Loving others as/and self. And, by virtue of doing that, loving God.

    It’s for a lot of other things, too, and I imagine each marriage has its own other things. And divorce happens for just as many reasons. I personally think one of the best things that has happened in the last century is divorce becoming more available. No one should be in a marriage because they have no choice. They should be in the marriage because they choose to be. I don’t think marriage should be left easily, anymore than I think they should be entered easily. But I do think that, once someone knows that they can no longer remain in that marriage, they should be able to get out as easily as possible. And that their reasons are their own responsibility, no one else’s.

    On sex in marriage–is it the only thing? No. Of course not. But dysfunction in the sexual component of a marriage must have many reverberations into many other aspects of that relationship. And this is yet another area in which the church does an absolutely *terrible* job of preparing its members for marriage. It’s really no wonder that there are Mormon couples whose marriages end for reasons to do with the sexual component of their relationship (by the time I was 25, I knew at least five friends about my same age for whom their marriages ended due to problems related to sex).

  12. charlene says:

    I’m glad my husband didn’t have the same attitude toward sexual relations that your friend’s husband did, because there have been two times in our marriage where he’s gone for a lengthy time without (once because of my undiagnosed-for-many-months thyroid problem, once because of a somewhat-difficult birth); the first time, we didn’t even know for quite a while what was going on, which must have been pretty hard on him.

    I’ve thought about divorce a lot lately, mostly because my sister’s friends are starting to get divorced (mine are mostly not, but my friends generally married later than hers). I am of two minds about divorce because of reasons that have to do with personal fulfillment or the lack thereof. On one hand, it doesn’t seem to me, when I write those words on the page, like a very good reason for turning one’s back on lifelong and/or eternal commitments and promises. On the other hand — the sort of communion and plain fun I have with my husband makes me feel a lot of sympathy for those who can’t find that with their spouse — if I were with someone with whom I could not be my true self as I am with my husband (my last two boyfriends come to mind, and I was pretty serious about them and could well have married either of them had things gone differently), I really think I might have filed for divorce by now, and would have hoped that people would have compassion for my situation. Um. If that makes any sense.

    • Regina says:

      I am glad he didn’t also. I think in any (even healthful) marriage there are ebbs and flows, depending on births, nursing, moves, stress levels, health (as you mentioned), etc. I imagine that in my friend’s case the ebb would have returned to a flow eventually, which is one of the many reasons why it is all very sad.

      Your remarks about ‘being one’s true self’ is also interesting to me, because I think I had that more with an ex-boyfriend than I do with my husband, which occasionally makes things very difficult.

  13. Brem says:

    I most identify with the marriage is a proving ground idea. We are to become like God who is full of love, patience, forgiveness, and selflessness and whose whole purpose is to bring to pass the immortality of [wo]men. I wholeheartedly agree with DefyGravity that the church does a poor job of preparing young people for marriage while simultaneously talking about it ad nauseum. The amount of marriage talk and focus on marriage and family used to really bother me. I felt like married members were set up as morally superior to those who were single. I still wish the leaders would change their approach, but I feel like I finally understand why it might be such a huge topic of discussion and it goes back to this proving ground idea. What better school for learning patience, forgiveness, love, etc. than marriage? And once children are brought in to the picture what better way to get practice at working for someone else’s exaltation or progress rather than just focusing on yourself? There are a lot of ways to learn these same lessons outside of marriage, so I don’t think that those who are married are automatically more Christlike than those who aren’t. I know a lot of married people who are selfish and petty. But I do think that marriage has built into it some pretty amazing elements that are really conducive to helping us become like God if we will take advantage of the opportunities. Again, I think these lessons can be learned just as well outside of marriage through a variety of relationships and life experiences, but I can’t think of another social institution that offers so many opportunities to forgive, serve, and love all in one tidy (or not so tidy) relationship as marriage. The trick is actually applying and internalizing all the little daily refinements we can learn in marriage to everyone else so that we really are becoming more Christlike in general instead of just becoming a better spouse but remaining hard hearted or dense in relation to everything and everyone else.

    • Regina says:

      If nothing else, marriage IS a proving ground, perhaps in part because any difficult (but hopefully beautiful) situation like that can reveal all of one’s weaknesses. My own marriage has revealed that I am not very good at forgiving (as well as a multitude of other points). It can be a great place to practice becoming like Christ. I also appreciate your acknowledgement that there are additional avenues and settings that can have these same effects.

      Thank you.

  14. IDIAT says:

    For those that give a hoot: “Helping and Healing Our Families” Deseret Book, Eternal Marriage Student Manual, free online on CES website, and offered as a class at BYU and Institute, Marriage and Family Relations Sunday School manuals, free, Gospel Library App. Oldest daughter at BYU, once engaged, took some kind of pre-marriage class, I think offered through school. The Ensign has hundreds of articles dealing with marriage. The New Era also has articles on marriage preparation. And I’m sure, if an engaged couple asked their bishop for guidance, he would gladly meet with them to discuss things other than morality. Then there are all the talks in sacrament and conference that discuss obtaining and developing Christlike traits, the same traits that are helpful in marriage. Maybe the marriage prep has existed all along, but people have overlooked it. Should the church set up some type of mandatory pre-marital counseling? It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but then I imagine people would still complain if it was not conducted by a “professional.” No comment needed. Just my opinion.

    • Amelia says:

      Having never taken the “eternal marriage” class or marriage prep while at BYU, I was curious about this manual. I did a quick perusal of several topics including abuse, birth control, and problem solving in marriage as well as skimming past quite a few others. This manual is no different from many other church manuals in that it is little more than a repository of quotes from general church leaders (all men; I did not see a single quote from a woman) on the given topic (loosely defined in some circumstances). The most recent quote on birth control was from Elder Oaks in 1993 and didn’t even mention birth control; instead it was an admonition not to value temporary concerns over eternal ones that conveyed the very strong implicit message that limiting the number of children you have is selfish. On abuse, much of the content was about worthy priesthood holders being respectful, etc., which in my mind is essentially useless because patriarchy plays right into the mentality that allows for abuse of women by men in the first place.

      As with most classes taught in the church, the value of any class taught with this manual would be entirely dependent on the quality and background of the teacher. I could easily imagine it being potentially as harmful (if not more) as helpful in the hands of some Mormons I know.

      This is the problem with so much of what is written and taught about marriage in the church–because we think of it primarily as a spiritual and religious requirement in our scheme of how the eternities work, we assume that spiritual and religious teachings are adequate to preparing people for marriage and equipping them for problems in marriage. I simply don’t think that’s true. Not of Ensign articles or new Era articles or conference talks or anything else.

      The only sacrament meeting talk I’ve ever walked out of was about marriage. It was full of trite, insulting, reductive advice about gender roles and marriage. I would shake in my boots at the prospect of having long term healthy marriages in the church if I really thought that most Mormons really turn to things like sacrament meeting talks as a source for good advice about how to navigate their marriages.

      The church is not enough in itself. Yes, being christlike is an important first step in the direction of strong relationships in general and I genuinely believe that being Christlike in marriage will help make that marriage stronger. But I agree with AFT (below) that it’s not enough in itself. There are very practical, day-to-day skills and knowledge that would help. And our church does essentially *nothing* to help its members acquire them. And, with the kind of marriage prep materials it provides in this kind of CES manual, it sends a very strong implicit message that we don’t even need those practical skills and knowledge.

  15. AFT (Anon for this) says:

    This topic hits home for me. What is my marriage for, in its current state? My marriage has been very, very stressful, and I have serious doubts about my ability to stay emotionally alive.

    I have two small children whom I adore. My husband is in the process of making some critical changes. I won’t go into detail–I’m not perfect at all, but for two years he was engaged in conduct that, by his own admission, was very much undermining the marriage and was not fair to me. I want to be optimistic, loving, and passionate. But I often feel emotionally tired, lonely, spent, hurt, angry. I don’t want to feel that way, but I wonder if it is too little too late. Intellectually, I don’t want to give up. But sometimes I wonder whether I feel so shut down emotionally and have put up so many walls for the purpose of surviving that we can’t ever have a real marriage again. I’m sad that I let myself get to this point. I’m also sad that so much of the communication between my husband and me is shaded with caution and defensiveness.

    Can I authentically engage with my husband anymore, or is the relationship just so broken that it is better to be apart? Will I be a better, happier mother and person in general apart from my husband? If I stay in this marriage will I continue to retreat into myself? Our children’s happiness weighs heavily in my mind. If the quality of our marriage doesn’t change, would they be better off with us together or apart?

    Every day I’m trying to take charge of my own happiness, work on things within my realm of control, be kind to my husband, and have more courage to say what I think to him. My husband has children from an earlier marriage, so I know first hand that getting divorced does not turn back the hands of time and creates a new set of problems.

    But I really don’t know what my marriage is for at this point. Although I’m hoping to feel differently about this, and I don’t have any plans to leave, my current state of feelings makes me feel very sympathetically towards people who feel that their marriages are beyond repair and choose to divorce.

    I know this is not a marriage advice blog, but if anyone has felt that their marriage was really broken and managed to rebuild it in a healthy way, I would love to hear about it.

    • Sheryl says:

      dear anon…

      oh how I feel your heartache, your emotion, your questioning, your numbness… how I wish I could put my arms around you and share with you hope.

      I will not go into detail of what took place in my marriage because that is not what you are asking for. just know it was about as horrific and unimaginable and deceitful and evil as it could possibly be… this became a real life and death situation for my husband and yes by absolutely no fault on my part – as I found he was a master of disguise and had become this as a survival tool from childhood which eventually became something he could no longer distinguish real from unreal.

      with that said YES… you can find happiness again with your husband.

      after my discovery of his “other life”, the fight for him to change was very long and I felt often that my feelings didn’t matter because we were so focused on his recovery, change, etc.

      at the time I was so VERY alone. no one understood, and I felt I had to stand strong or others would see me as selfish. I was told over and over that we needed to focus on his recovery, then I could focus on mine. so the selfishness thoughts were not by my own feelings initially but from within my own family support group, my bishop, the church counselors, etc! altogether this could have lead me away from the church and even my family. but it didn’t because I know the gospel is true, even if I was so very alone in life. I just pulled all my emotions inside away from the world and then poured them out to Heavenly Father because not a soul on earth could comprehend the pain I was in.

      eventually 4 years later after my husband fell again, and again, and again, fearing… even knowing this last fall and any future ones would and were effecting my growing children. It was no longer about me, but keeping my children safe from the same pain I was in. I packed my kids up drove 13 hours to my moms leaving my husband. this was the first time I had walked out, the first time the family (my bro/sisters/parent) knew I could no longer do this.

      how fast that news traveled. WOW the calls that came, old boyfriends, even best friends from my life before I married; men who in so many ways seemed more successful, financially stable, stronger, righteous priesthood holders, faithful, without garbage … etc. I was so confused. it was wonderful to know I would have so many options even with my children in tow (and major health problems too). WOW… I could not believe the windows the Lord showed me.

      I needed guidance… divorce?

      I needed to know… and no earthly person could give me an unbiased opinion – because no earthly person knew everything my family had been through, nor the pain, the suffering, the deceit… but more importantly only the divine knew all my pleas, and my every thought emotion etc. 12 years of marriage, 7 failed adoptions, 3 kids… 18+ years of friendship… I can’t even begin to share the millions of thoughts from any happiness (that believe me was EXTREMELY hard to remember) to all the pain.

      I wondered how much of our marriage had actually been real? any of it??? I knew my love and my side had been genuine, but was it all in vain knowing now that my husband was past feeling? Was there any possibility for us?

      The friendships of old flames continued and one especially who had always just been a very close friend. He had been through a closely similar situation with his own ex-wife. I was very honest about not being willing to date or even entertain the idea until a divorce was finalized once I realized that he was very interested in pursuing a relationship. At this point I knew I needed the Temple.

      Much prayer and fasting later, I paid a sitter to watch my kids at a hotel and drove to the temple. I cannot share the beautiful experience I had there, because there are just not words to explain how the heavens opened up.

      while heading through the veil, the Lord spoke to me. I heard him. My eyes were opened and I saw who my husband was spiritually. I was given a glimpse of his worth. the Lord without any judgement to me told me that divorce was my choice and that I would in no way be brought to judgement over it. that my reasons were just. but then he also showed me my husbands worth. he showed me that he was worth more than I could comprehend with earthly eyes. mercy set in… I understood that my marriage was eternal and that there was so much more waiting after this life than the sickness that had illed my husband on earth. I also realized that love and mercy and long suffering were just what the Savior had given each of us. I knew at that moment that I was willing to stay in my marriage. At this point it had to be his choice to leave. and even then I would never grant a temple divorce not out of spite, but out of mercy knowing that he was more than he realized and he would be healed at some point from his “problems”.

      when I got out of the temple… the man who had been perusing me called within minutes. I told him that I would not be divorcing my husband.

      I returned home within a few days. I let my husband go… I loved him but I would no longer question him. I knew these were his choices and it was making me sick to worry about them. I focused on my own spiritual strength and teaching my children to have their own as well. The Lord had given me the ability to let the choices of my husband no longer consume me. I only had love for him and I prayed constantly for him to be awakened.

      It happened… 2 years later he is a strong man, an amazing father, he was given the priesthood again. He fights everyday and arms himself from the world.

      I fell in love with him… maybe for the first time. This is not the man I married. He is not even someone I ever knew before. I will never see him as that other person again. I saw his worth, I know his value, and even though he may even fall again, I know he is a spiritual son of God and that beyond the sins of earth he is remarkable. however, he has a testimony for the first time, he is making choice for him for the first time (not for those around him).

      Will you have fear, will you have doubt, will you get over the numbness? Yes to all. But you can also push out those thoughts, remember this life is short in the realm of things. You stay faithful… you will be blessed. Even through the pain you will be blessed.

      There is hope. I can say with all my heart I feel blessed to be my husbands companion. I love him though it all and THAT is what changed him… that is what changed me.

      It will come, through long suffering comes the purest love.

      my prayers are with you.

      • Amelia says:

        Sheryl, thank you so much for sharing such a deeply personal experience. I’m so happy for you that you and your family found your way through what sounds like painful, difficult time and that your family and marriage are stronger now.

        I especially appreciate that through your answer you share what helped you but also make it clear that your spiritual answers included acknowledgement that divorce is a legitimate option in such difficult circumstances. These decisions are so very personal that it’s important to remember that each situation will be unique, no matter the similarities. I also really appreciate your honesty about how alone you felt and how others’ well-meaning answers actually contributed to your pain by (inadvertently, I’m sure) making you feel selfish for having your own emotional and spiritual needs. I think there’s a lot of strength to be found in the spiritual practices you used to find solace. I also think it would be helpful, if possible, for spouses in a similar situation to find their own support group for their own needs–a group of people whose partners are dealing with similar problems, a therapist of your own, etc. AFT, I hope you’ll remember that no matter how much your husband needs help it’s both normal and acceptable for you to need help yourself.

      • Sheryl says:

        I believe what changed for me was knowing that I was free from judgement from the Lord. I was free, He had even shown me that my life would not end, there were others who would love me. but most important, I knew the Lord agreed that my pain was rightfully felt. Knowing where I stood with the Lord gave me the freedom to make my own choice – no longer being weighted down with the weight of the world. I could breath for the first time…

      • Amelia says:

        For me that’s the most wonderful part of the gospel–knowing that God sees my heart and knows my needs and will provide, one way or another, for them. I sometimes lose track of that confidence. But it means so much to me when i find it again and can hold to it. I like the way you express that–that he understood that your hurt was legitimate and that knowing that freed you of the weight of concerns anchored in the world. It reminded me of that wonderful verse in which he urges us to come unto him and take his yoke upon us because his burden is light. One of my very favorite scriptures.

      • Sheryl says:

        Thank you Amelia. I appreciate your input! It is loving and very thoughtful.

      • Rachel says:

        Sheryl, your story is so moving. Thank you, thank you for sharing it. You heard the call of a sister in need, and you offered real relief. It was also good for me to hear some of the things that you said, because it is easier to see our spouses, or our family members, or ourselves without love’s/God’s perfect vision. What a blessing that your eyes were opened, and that you no longer saw through a glass darkly. I can imagine that that would make all of the difference. I haven’t had that vision, but commit to Try to see my husband’s worth–his Real worth.

        Also wonderful that you received confirmation that whatever choice you made would be blessed. If you divorced, you would be blessed. If you didn’t divorce, you would be blessed. God really is with us in whatsoever places or circumstances we find ourselves. Thank you for that reminder.

    • Rachel says:

      I don’t have as many wonderful insights, or possibly even as much concrete hope as Sheryl has offered, but did want to chime in that I hear you, and that my heart feels for you.

      I don’t know what the best path is for you, and sincerely pray that you will know what you need to do for yourself and for your children. I hope that you can still find joy in things that have historically brought you joy, even when you have felt yourself placing so many walls around you for survival. I also believe that human beings are very resilient, and that things can mend, and forgiveness and time can rescue things that look beyond rescuing. This may not be the case for your marriage (though I hope it is), but I am certain that it is the case for yourself and your well being. You can be happy again. You can trust again. You can love. You can do all number of things again that may feel impossible now. I have seen that in other of my personal relationships, though primarily between myself and a sister, and myself and a friend, rather between me and my spouse. Things that are broken can be healed, especially when both parties want it to be healed and are willing to work towards those ends. Sometimes it is just baby, baby steps, like being willing to be vulnerable again in one small thing, to give the other person a chance to show trust.

      • AFT (Anon for this) says:

        Thanks Rachel, Sheryl, Amelia, and other posters for sharing your experiences and words of encouragement.

  16. AFT (Anon for this) says:

    I also agree that because the LDS church puts so much emphasis on marriage, it should do more before, and especially after, weddings to help strengthen marriages. It’s not enough to talk about having Christ-like qualities, although that is very important.

    • Amelia says:

      AFT, I’m so sorry for the hurt and struggles you’re dealing with right now. Having never been married, I have no firsthand experience of similar problems or advice to give. But I wanted at least to say that I respect your thoughtfulness in considering what course of action is best for yourself, your children, and your husband. It sounds like a very difficult situation. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I hope you find resources and people who can help you as you move forward.

  17. Also Anon for this One says:

    Some of what Sheryl shared also resonated with me. My husband had a serious addiction when we got married, which had begun when he was 14 and continued into our marriage. He had worked with probably a dozen bishops, and gone through periods of better and worse, but things eventually deteriorated to the point that all trust in our relationship was gone. He truly was unable to distinguish between his two parallel lives. I knew that internally he was a good person, but his deep shame and self-loathing coupled with nonexistent coping mechanisms were destroying his ability to function as a father and husband, not to mention causing havoc in his professional life.

    The turning point for me came when our loving bishop called me in to talk about my feelings and how my husband’s choices were affecting me. Always before, bishops had been focused completely on my husband and HIS problems. I had not considered divorce at that point, even though I was emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. We had two young children, and I had always been taught that divorce was the worst possible thing that could ever happen. My bishop was the one to bring up divorce, and assure me that if it ended up being my decision, he would support me and be with me through the whole process.

    I cannot even describe how much it meant for me to have one person (and my ecclesiastical authority, at that) tell me that divorce was an option. Suddenly, I felt supported, loved and trusted to make a decision in the best interest of my family. It was frightening to picture myself divorced with two children, but it also gave me hope to realize that even if the “worst” happened, the Lord would still love me, and my world would not end. I went to the Temple and felt strongly that I should give my husband an ultimatum, and tell him he had six months to change.

    Miraculously, he DID change. It wasn’t instantaneous, but by the time the deadline I had set came, I could look back and see how far he had come. He told me that the ultimatum I had given him had been the final piece he needed to really take charge of his life and find a way to change. My husband and I have both acknowledged to each other that we wouldn’t have been willing to work hard enough or try long enough through so much pain, if it hadn’t been for our children.

    It has been three years since that ultimatum. I look at my husband sometimes now, and I’m amazed at how well he is able to cope with even serious challenges. And now that he no longer carries his burden of guilt and shame, he has been able to develop a much closer relationship with God. I used to worry that he would slip back into his addiction without me knowing it, but I can tell from how he acts every day that he now knows how to solve problems in healthy ways. I always loved him, but now I trust him and feel like I can rely on him.

    I am resolved to give my children better “marriage prep” than we got. Many times during my ordeal, I wondered how this could have happened when I did everything “right” (BYU, mission, temple marriage, FHE, church activity, etc.). My upbringing was much healthier than my husband’s, but looking back I realize that I went into marriage very naive about a lot of things. I didn’t recognize some of the unhealthy and manipulative things my husband did as being outside of normal. If I had known more about relationship skills, what is and is not acceptable and normal, and warning signs, I could have saved myself a lot of anguish and heartbreak.

    I am so grateful that for us, the Atonement, counseling, support from loving friends and family, and our love for one another, were enough to save our marriage. I am a stronger, more resourceful person than I was before. And I have also gained a tremendous amount of empathy for people whose marriages haven’t made it.

    • Amelia says:

      Thank you, Also Anon, for sharing your experience, too. It’s wonderful that you had a bishop who understood that when one person struggles with serious addiction and repeated destructive behavior, s/he is not the only person that needs help–that those close to that person also need loving support. That’s something I think we too often lose sight of. And I’m so glad to hear that you and your husband were able to work through your problems and reach a place of greater trust and love and strength.

      I also think this: “I am resolved to give my children better “marriage prep” than we got. Many times during my ordeal, I wondered how this could have happened when I did everything “right” (BYU, mission, temple marriage, FHE, church activity, etc.).” is a really important point. I think faith is a very good thing. And I do believe that God blesses us when we strive to do what we know is right and good. But there’s a lot of danger and potential for hurt in letting that faith prevent us from finding very practical real world skills to help us deal with the problems life will inevitably turn up. There’s that old saying that God helps those who help themselves and I really do think that God works through the practical know-how that we seek out to bless our lives.

      On a side note, this kind of honest, vulnerable sharing of experiences here at the Exponent means a lot to me. Sometimes it’s hard to do this kind of sharing in a real world forum like Relief Society (though there are of course wonderful, helpful things that happen in those forums, too), but it’s this kind of sharing that sometimes really helps others find strength and courage and just to understand they’re not alone. I’m so glad that there are those who feel safe and comfortable commenting here to help people they don’t even know.

      • Rachel says:

        “This kind of honest, vulnerable sharing of experiences here at the Exponent means a lot to me” too.

        The last few comments have been truly beautiful, and tender, and a little tear inducing. I am grateful for everyone for sharing, and hope that those who need support at this time will get it.

        I also can’t help but think that this is what Relief Society should be like. There should be this kind of trust. Sometimes I try to open myself in those situations too, to try to give others the chance to be open back. Sometimes it has deeply meaningful results and sometimes it doesn’t.

      • Diane says:

        Well, said Amelia, thank you Anon and Sherly

    • Rachel says:

      I second Amelia’s gratitude–both that you shared your very important story, and that you (and other’s) see this as a place of trust. It has helped me many times, and it is lovely to see you helping a fellow sister. Kudos to your bishop for talking to you in a real and understanding way, and kudos to you for doing what you needed to for your family. I am so glad that it worked out the way it did and that your “6 months” call for action was just what your husband needed to get pieces of his life in order, but am equally glad to know that you would have had support had things gone differently. Thank you again for sharing.

  18. Diane says:

    Since I’m 47 years old and not married I didn’t feel like I had a right to comment on this topic. but, a few post had me thinking.

    First, I’m not sure that I would feel comfortable as someone has to make statements regarding any famous person marriage. We only see the public side of these people. We don’t know their private side so to comment on such a personal thing seems to be a little mean spirited.(no matter how nicely the sentiment that was expressed was put)

    The second observation that I have noticed and have actually stated to a co-worker(talking about the very topic) who gave me a resounding “Amen” is this: Marriage is so much easier to enter into, as opposed to getting out. In stead of pre- marriage counseling like some churches offer. I say that once a proposal has been made, there should be at least a one year waiting period(mandatory) Sure, this sounds a little tongue in cheek, but think about all the topics a couple could potentially work out and on prior to marriage.

    • Regina says:

      While I can’t speak for the first person who mentioned celebrity divorces, I can speak for myself. Divorce makes me sad. Period. Divorce makes me sad when it involves persons that I am deeply acquainted with, or when it is with celebrity “personalities” that I do not know at all. Part of it may be that it just makes me wonder if marriages can last, when so often we are shown marriages that haven’t. It may make me a tad bit nervous for my own marriage, though I know someone else’s marriage is not related to the way my spouse and I relate to each other. This is more true if the famed couple “seems” good together. I also don’t think I am offering a value or moral judgment on person’s or celebrities when I say that hearing about divorce makes me sad. It is just what it is. I certainly understand that I don’t know anything about their real life, or whether or not the divorce is actually a positive thing for one or both of them. Like I said in the original post, that while I think that divorce is terrible, I also think there are extenuating circumstances that make divorce a good thing for some people, and I am glad that people have a right to get divorced. I also mentioned there, but will mention it again, that it is not possible to see every side of an issue, or to make an outside judgment.

      Counseling/guidance/the proffering of real skills is an excellent idea, though some couples would need less, and others more than a year.

  19. Susan Wilson says:

    It is an interesting question as to what is marriage for. I can only answer with what I have experienced and come to understand. One of thing is that marriage provides opportunities for growth and development, particularly in gaining an understanding of the Atonement and the worth of each of God’s children, despite their behavior, that is harder to gain as a single person. I say this very carefully, not implying for a moment that marriage is superior to singleness (it is not), or that any of these things cannot be gained by someone who is not married – this of course is not the case. I have been married twice, first to a man who was an addict, abusive, self absorbed and unfaithful. The second to a man who lacks self awareness, is self absorbed, avoidant and a narcissist (to quote our therapist.) Neither of these men are bad men, both have made a significant number of poor choices that have genuinely limited the options subsequently available to them. Both are deserving of a “second/third chance” to get it right, ie to repent and do better.

    As I came to know both of them better, I did not want to marry either of them as there were aspects of their characters that really disturbed and concerned me. I took my concerns to God, and was told in no uncertain terms in the case of the first that if I didn’t marry him, I would not have that opportunity again. It took me nearly 20 years to understand what that “opportunity” was. It was the opportunity to participate in the sealing ordinances of the Temple. Although I have divorced him, and the sealing between us no longer is valid through his breaking of that sealing covenant and my choice to divorce (God does respect divorces), the other aspects of the sealing covenant remain in place, for which I am exceedingly grateful. The sealing between myself and my Heavenly Parents, the Family of Man, and all the other parts of the sealing covenant are intact and I do live under its protection. I would not be without it. My child is blessed by that sealing remaining intact too.

    The second marriage, although to another LDS man, is civil only. He has chosen not to deal with events in his life which preclude him offering a sealing to me and he did not tell me that, he left me to find that out for myself. That was his choice, and I respect his right to have made that choice even though I personally found it to be very hurtful. So why am I married to him? Well, again, I became extremely disturbed and concerned by aspects of his character, particular choices, his unresolved family of origin issues, his unresolved first family issues (his was divorced too) and I took it to God and told him of my concerns. The response was that I didn’t have to marry this man, and I would not be judged for making the choice not to marry him, but if I did, then through me would come the opportunity for not only him, but a large number of his immediate and extended family members to, if they so chose, find healing from what had plagued their lives to that point. After some thought I decided to marry him, and asked God to “help me survive it”. It has been unbelieveably hard on me, actually it has made my first marriage look rather good by comparison. Quite a few years later I can however see some healing beginning to take place. That is a very good thing, for they are good people worth a great deal to God. The price to me? I am not so sure about that. I have and continue to struggle to find meaning in the suffering I have endured at the hands of all these people, spouse included. I have made many mistakes as I have struggled to find a way forwards. I have never been so alone, it is only God and the Saviour who have kept me from being destroyed by it. I have come to understand why the Apostle Steven asked what he did on behalf of those who were about to stone him. I have asked the same thing on behalf of my second spouse and his family, and I mean it. I consider that a blessing of great worth to me to have come to this understanding. I still struggle every day of this marriage, but God gives me enough that I somehow survive and struggle on.

    I do believe that marriage has many purposes and for some, it’s not always immediately to find your “eternal companion”. Years later, I see the purpose of my first marriage – it gave me the sealing to my heavenly parents, a treasured child, a personal understanding of abuse and suffering, what they can do to a person and how hope, healing and life are possible, how to use that knowledge to help others, also some of the necessary skills to enable my survival in my second marriage, for which I am deeply grateful. I am beginning to see the purpose of my second marriage, I can see the beginnings of some healing taking place, for good people who really do need the healing balm of the Atonement. I see an emotionally and spiritually damaged spouse being given an opportunity to confront himself and overcome himself, and he will succeed, if he so chooses. I have found inner peace, the peace of God that “passeth all understanding.”

  20. Sherry says:

    Touching post with deep emotions. I can speak from my experience with a 29 yr. LDS temple marraige then a 9 yr. NOMO marriage. The LDS marriage was a difficult one and SEX was a huge part of it. X believed I belonged to him, especially my body and there are numerous parts of LDS culture to support his belief (temple sealing ceremony words). Over the years he raped me (yes rape) and innumerable times I gave in when he wanted sex rather than suffer another “rape.” I was not a frigid woman but his desire to own my body was perverse. I was a SAHM mom to nine kids, the first six were born in the space of less than eight years. When I began using birth control, he read to me from the CHI and told me how wicked I was. For him sex equated to power and control, which belonged to him. We stayed together for so long because I was terrified of no longer having a chance at the Celestial Kingdom. Once I saw the light, I realized that X’s abuse would not change I had to re-think my life. We were a high-profile couple/family and it was terribly difficult because he was arrested, lived with the Bishop, etc. Hellish. Neither one of us spoke openly to ward members about what was going on. One thing I HATED was the phrase “BROKEN HOME” in reference to a divorce. My home was a thousand times more broken when I was married than after I divorced. Now that X and I are divorced, I had my sealing to him cancelled. My soul simply had to sever that connection to my abuser. When I met NOMO, the circumstances were so different. We were best friends first, we took the BYU compatibility test (we’re extremely compatible) and we talked about EVERYTHING!!!!! He had never been married nor did he have children; I have enough kids and baggage for us both!! My point is that my 2nd marraige to a NOMO is much happier and healthier. Sex is important but not THE most important thing. We enjoy each other’s company and talk together for hours. My youngest daughter, 15, is still at home and a wise therapist once told me that the most important and long-lasting thing I can do for her is to let her see what a happy marriage looks like. My marriage to X was a nightmare of feeling trapped and always wishing I would be treated with respect. My marriage to NOMO is so comfortable and peaceful. I am very blessed in my marriage yet my ward has ostracized me because of marrying a NOMO who doesn’t want to join the church and especially since X re-married in the temple. It’s insane the we live in the same ward and I attend seldom. I feel very hurt and betrayed by the lack of loyalty in my ward, to me. X was always in the limelight and I was mostly at home with kids. SO, my mature wisdom is that marriage is for companionship, freindship, family, support, love, romance, and sex. New DH is truly my best friends. Lest it seem that we are in our own little world, I will add that we are both active in our community and are busily engaged in working and family too. I feel more free and calm and happy than I EVER was with X and can’t imagine loving Heavenly Parents telling me that new DH isn’t worthy of the CK, to be with me forever. He’s done more to heal and help me than anyone else.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you’ve found a good relationship after so long in a bad one. I hope all of your children can take to heart the differences between a good relationship and a bad one.

      One question – would you want your children to seal you and your husband after you’ve died, or would you consider doing the work for your husband after he died? How does he feel about that? (okay, I guess that was two questions)

    • Regina says:

      Sherry, I second Frank’s gratitude. Thank you for sharing your mature wisdom with us. I am glad you did what you needed to do to be safe and whole, and am especially grateful that your second husband assisted (rather than hindered) that process. Concerning heaven: I genuinely believe that things work out in the end, partially, if not entirely, because God judges on the heart, and our God is a God who sees.

      Lastly, I am sorry that your ward family didn’t share with you the same support that they offered your ex-husband. That must have been incredibly frustrating (to say the very least). Though the time may have past when you needed that support, I offer you my support now, and hope you will feel welcome in your (or some other) ward. You have every right to be there, and should not have to miss out on any blessings because of the hurtful choices of someone else.

  21. Sherry says:

    Truly it’s immaterial to me. The most important thing is that I am NOT sealed to X, and that’s a story for another time. While no one could give me a straight answer as to whether my children are still sealed to me when I cancelled my sealing to their dad, I believe we are still sealed. I have done nothing to invalidate my temple blessings. New DH is what some people call a “dry Mormon” meaning he has no vices, nothing in his past that is ugly and seems like a Mormon anyway. He is a friendly guy and generous and thoughtful. All ward members can see is that he has taken the discussions several times and politely turns down offers of baptism. Sometimes he jokes and says when his wife can baptize him, he’ll join! We’ve talked about the after we die part, but frankly, as I said earlier, I can’t imagine Mother and Father punishing DH in the eternities by keeping us apart. He deserves a bright place in heaven for his treatment of me.
    Early in our marriage I had expectations that he would join and life would be “normal” ie; back in the tidy Mormon box I was used to. With time, I now realize my expectations were based on what the LDS church teaches. – there is only one way to be righteous. There are many paths in life and mine is a happy one, which most LDS people don’t understand. I feel deeply judged and pitied as most members label us and don’t get to know us. My church attendance is small as I can’t stand to hear lessons with “pat” teachings and answers. Church lessons tell me I have no chance of the CK/ my life and family are not good enough/ we are to be pitied/there is something wrong with us/ ad nauseum. So black and white…and sad. We rarely have HT, are ignored at activities, and are generally treated as less than.
    The way I stay sane and healthy is to limit my church attendance altho I make sure DD gets everywhere she need to be – she loves church and YW and has a healthy degree of skepticism about the church. Most people feel sorry for her being in a part-member home, which I find hilarious when it doesn’t feel hurtful.
    Marriage is supposed to be fun and uplifting and loving, as well planning for the future, helping each other grow and develop, and making the owrld a better place. Raising kids makes it more stressful and trying to adhere to doctrine about marriage that makes you feel trapped or living up to someone else’s expectations or just plain sad is so wrong.

    • Rachel says:

      I wonder if another ward might be more welcoming and friendly to you and your husband. Have you tried attending a nearby ward?

      I also like that your DH has historically been willing to meet with the missionaries, because whether or not he ever gets baptize, understanding what you believe can only help him understand you more.

      He sounds like a wonderful human being, and I am glad you found him/am sorry for the time that it took.

    • lanwenyi says:

      Sherry,
      I SO understand where you are coming from. My husband and my ward sound much like yours. I have taken to bringing my ipod touch to church and playing games or having “hallway church” when the hurtful lessons are going on. My husband is a wonderful man (and a perfect match for me), but he has NO interest in being baptized. I also believe in a loving God that will not keep us apart.

      I hope that the people around you can be more open and accepting in the future. If you find a way to help them, let me know. I’m extremely tired of the pitiful looks, “someday he’ll come around” speeches, and the “poor people who don’t have an eternal marriage” talks. My marriage is happy and loving, so I choose to ignore, because I can’t think of anything nice to say to them.

  22. Thanks, Sherry, and thank you again for sharing your stories. I hope everyone can find such happiness in a relationship, and look forward to it continuing to the eternities, no matter what state they are in right now.

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