Married, but Still Single at Church (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

By Sylvia Cabus

SylviaI joined the church as a 27-year-old singleton – just returned from Peace Corps and about to start a graduate program in international relations. Knowing the dating pool would be limited, both demographically and culturally, I wondered if I should go back overseas. (Would this impact my desired temple marriage.)

I dated both members and non-members and by the time I had to make the decision to go overseas, I felt that the decision was already made for me. I left for Kenya as a single 29-year-old.

It’s almost two decades later and I’m been married to a wonderful Moroccan Muslim man. He is so acculturated to Mormonism that he told me that he received “revelation” when he went on his pilgrimage to Mecca – and he cooks Moroccan food for the missionaries. He is regularly asked to participate in ward events, and is a familiar figure to many church members.

Yet, I’m only half a step above my previous status as a single Mormon woman. I’m married, but for all logistical and administrative purposes, I’m still single. I sit alone with my son during meetings; just the two of us hold family home evening; I have undertaken the solitary journey of raising a feminist son in the Church – even though I didn’t go to Primary and Young Women myself. I don’t know how to deal with teaching tithing, fasting, or other practices that are required and not spelled out in a manual.

Despite my feminism in and out of church, patriarchy is still an influence on my son. In the ward directory, my son and I are listed under my husband as “head of household” even though my husband is not even Christian. I depend on my home teachers and other accommodating brethren for blessings. Perhaps the most sensitive experience was when my husband was allowed to participate in our son’s blessing by presenting him before and after the blessing, and by holding the microphone. I was gratified at this public acknowledgement of my husband as a member of the ward family, but also discouraged that I, as the church member, was not permitted the same recognition.

I don’t regret joining the church, and I don’t regret marrying my husband, and I certainly don’t regret the adventure of raising our son. I’m lucky to live in an inclusive, welcoming ward where my husband is always welcome. I’m confident that we will have a special dispensation in the eternities. But the temporal reality is that, as far as church is concerned, I’m just as “single” now as I was when I was 27.

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12 Responses

  1. Jess R says:

    I am seriously dating a non-member now, and these are things I have thought about. Thank you for sharing your perspective. If you don’t mind my asking, how do you tell people at church that your husband is not Mormon? I’ve had a hard time with it because I don’t want to open the door for people to make him a ‘project’ or put the BF in a difficult position, but I don’t want to make the asker feel awkward either.

    • Amy says:

      I’ve been married for 17 years to my never- Mormon husband, and have been active in church for all but the first year of our marriage. I’ve learned to be very upfront in all conversations that my husband isn’t Mormon, just because people automatically assume that he is inactive. I also have to emphasize with every one I meet at church that we are happily married because the assumption is that only temple married families can be happy. Lots of assumptions and frustrations, and I definitely reflect Suzette’s experience in being treated like a single woman at church.

    • sylvia says:

      It’s easy for me because I introduce him as “Mohamed.” We have many part-member families in our ward though so I don’t think people automatically assume that he’s an easy target or is an inactive member. Good luck!

      • Jess R says:

        Thanks for the thoughts! We’ve talked about what he wants me to tell people vs. not, but I don’t think he understands just how persistent Mormons can be when the see a potential ‘missionary experience’.

        And the whole idea of being ‘single’ at church even after we are married is something I hadn’t thought about much before, but am definitely not looking forward to dealing with.

  2. Savannah says:

    Love this, friend. We are so lucky to have you in our ward.

  3. Kirsten says:

    It sounds like your ward has been really great to welcome Mohammed into the social aspects of things. Your post made me think about how I am becoming “single” in a way. My husband quit coming to church almost 3 years ago. From every Ensign article I’ve ever read, there should have been an outpouring of love and concern directed at me, my children and most importantly, my husband. Instead we got nothing. Like you, I sit alone with my son in sacrament meeting. It is me who tries to get in family prayers and take advantage of those gospel teachable moments. It is rare to have anyone ask about my husband at all and now there are newer members of my ward who have never even met him, including my Bishop. It’s really weird for me. I feel as if I’m in limbo as far as Church is concerned. If I were in a more social and loving ward, I think things might be different. My marriage is thriving (something the Ensign probably says shouldn’t be so) and my testimony is strong– I’m learning to live with the “new normal” of being an other in my ward.

  4. Lily says:

    It is interesting that this post, along with several of the comments, concede that being single is the lowest rung on the ladder.

  5. I can relate. I married a previously sealed widow. Yes, I had the priesthood and was a full participant in ordinances and such. But it was made very clear to me, as we took each other in a handshake (rather than the patriarchal grip) across the temple altar, that she would be “mine” and I would be “hers” only for as long as we lived. My stepchildren, whom I legally adopted, would be mine here but his there. Furthermore, if we had children of our own, they would be born in the covenant to her and her deceased husband. Thus, I was married then but would be single and childless in the afterlife.

    This was one of the primary stress factors in our marriage, which lasted eleven years but ended eighteen years ago. I then left the church, married a wonderful lapsed Catholic, and she gave me a child who was undoubtedly “ours.” The afterlife seems not to be much of a concern now. In leaving a convoluted marriage situation endemic to Mormonism, I found heaven on earth.

  6. Ziff says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Sylvia. Wow, as you observe, that your ward made a way for your husband to participate in your child’s blessing while you remained locked out sure is a sexist punch in the gut.

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