Sunday, December 4, 2011

Religion didn't destroy my marriage, but it played a big part.

I received word that my divorce is finalized. We filed in September which is when I went incommunicado on the Blog, on Facebook, everything. I wanted some time for reflection. I’m not sure that I reflected enough but I need to get back to writing and I guess it’s time to write about this.



Towards the end of 2008 I found it increasingly difficult to endure the cognitive and ethical dissonance that occurred as a result of my faith in the LDS church. This was something that had been building for a while with the usual uneasiness of reading certain bible stories to my children, and so on. Those discomforts were punctuated by my deep discomfort with the bigotry I heard preached from the pulpit in support of Proposition 102 (Arizona’s version of the higher profile Prop 8 being voted on in California at the same time). I found it impossible to accept the position of the 'Prophet' on this and once you start questioning the legitimacy of the Prophet, it's hard to keep the house of cards still standing. I tried to wrestle with my doubts privately for months but it was soon clear that this was going to be a bigger process than I thought and it was time to include my wife*. Midway through 2009, I let her know that I was having a major crisis of faith. It was a struggle for us from the beginning. For those who aren’t intimately familiar with the doctrines and culture of the Mormon Church, it may be hard to understand how deeply emotional and profoundly, eternally consequential this struggle would have been—but understand that there are few things that could pose a greater threat.

For many months, while I worked on resolving my doubts, she worked on reconciling herself with the fundamental change she thought she saw happening in her life-partner, praying for it to go back to how it was supposed to be. We had inspirational and terrifying discussions. We went to counseling. We dug deep into the foundations of our relationship and found that without the church we were one very shaky ground. Crucial issues like trust, acceptance, worth and equality, security, value systems, joined our now-divergent worldviews as sources of conflict instead of unity. Most of these issues existed before my departure from the faith, and I'm sad to say some were deeply aggravated by it. I can't lay all of that exclusively at the feet of the religion. I can however, say with certainty that had religion not established itself as the true source of ethics and morality that issues like trust and acceptance might not increased as issues we had to work through.

We spent well over a year working through those conflicts as more and more were exposed. I worked with the Bishop and others to reclaim my faith. I went to individual counseling. I finally asked to be released as Elders Quorum President and stopped going to church altogether sometime early to mid 2010. Angelica* and I worked at it for several more months after that. Finally we separated early this year.

In the end we didn’t come to the same conclusion about what the consequences were for issues we faced. I was the one that finally decided that we needed to end it. Angelica disagreed with me; I think she still does, but I wasn’t the first to give up on us—just the first to stick to the decision. I had spent tears on the other side of that threat plenty during the months prior.

One of the things I had to relearn was something that we both knew from the beginning; we even talked about it when we got engaged. It is this: Love isn’t the most important part in making a marriage work—it’s not even the second most important part—and love can’t keep you together by itself. More than love, you need (1) commitment and (2) some key compatibilities for a marriage to survive the storms of life. “Love” comes in as item (3). Perhaps number 4, now that I think about it, maybe even 5…anyway…I also realized later that those are all completely independent of each other. They barely even inform or motivate each other.

The new, hard lesson was the other side of that truth which is this: Love isn’t the most important part of making a marriage work and love alone can’t save one that won’t work. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, period. Not even between to loving, compassionate, beautiful people. Not even when those people really want it to.  

So yes, my apostasy was a milestone and a central issue in the ending of my marriage and yes the deep, conflicting feelings we had on the issue of religion would have been an ongoing source of major conflict (especially with regard to our children) and yes, that played a large part in my decision. But, if you ask me, the greater damage that religion did to us happened at the very beginning, when it took over, and took the place of the relationship itself. The commitment, the duty to the marriage as an institution and its key role in God’s plan was the first absolute. We had HUGE issues that we never would have, should have, or could have ignored had eternity not been the foregone conclusion. It turned out that we were only partially committed to each other. We were much more committed to “the marriage” and the idea of what we “should be” for each other and for the Church. My role as a worthy priesthood holder was, in many ways, more important than my role as husband friend or lover (Yes, brothers and sisters, I understand it’s all connected, and well-defined but it’s not as simple as that, is it?). Maybe if we hadn’t been so focused on how happy we were supposed to be, we might have been able to see much sooner some of these critical  threats.

On that note, one might think that I should owe the time I had to our faith, allowing us to ignore all that stuff. But I would argue that we may have had an easier start, but I think that ultimately it did more harm than good. That is not to say I regret the time I had with Angelica. I am deeply grateful for my time with such an amazing woman and for the unbelievable joy it was to love and be loved by her. I am grateful for that time and for the amazing children that we will forever share as their parents.

We are going into our first holiday season as a family with divorced parents. There are challenges and heartbreaks but there is hope and reason for rejoicing too. I will probably be telling you all about it.

Thank you for your time and attention.

*I will be using the name Angelica in place of her real name.