“Why do you need to talk about ‘problems in the church’ with your spouse?”
Hellmut asked me to post this. It’s from a recent thread on FLAK, on the topic of marriage. I wrote:
I attribute my divorce squarely to the church. Simply because the church forbade us from talking about the one topic we needed to talk about (problems in the church). If a couple cannot talk about its problems then a marriage cannot survive.
Which led to the perfectly reasonable question,
Why do you need to talk about “problems in the church” with your spouse?
Or put another way, Why do fish need to talk about “problems in the water”?
DW married the church, not me, and I was becoming an irritation. It’s right there in the temple marriage ceremony – you make promises to the church, not the other person – they are just a vehicle to allow you to fulfill your church fantasies.
Our real problem is that, after seventeen years of reading church history (me) and seventeen years of attending Relief Society (DW) we had nothing in common. Except physically being at church. This may not be the case for everyone. The more you have in common, the greater the chance of saving your marriage.
Why didn’t I create some new ‘non-church’ foundations for the marriage? Because all the real estate was already bought by the church. Every area of DW’s life has “Property of Gordon B Hinckley” stamped on it: how to spend money, how to raise children, what movies to enjoy, how to spend weekends, what we do when we get up (very early, to teach seminary), what to do when we go to bed (pray then collapse exhausted, nothing else thank you), at meals, the words we use, the jokes we enjoy… there is no ‘non-church.’ Everything is church.
My being non-church basically meant I didn’t feature in DW’s mind, except as an annoyance and reminder of her biggest failure – marrying a man who couldn’t cut it where it mattered (i.e. regarding church). It’s worth mentioning that before joining the church (1 year before we met), DW was never interested in marriage. But the church’s picture of returned-missionary-and-temple-family was just too enticing for her. At the time I had no intention of ever leaving church, so this suited me just fine. Yes, it’s my own fault for lacking foresight. But I was young and she is beautiful…
At counselling, we were asked to remember times we loved each other. DW remembered all the times I was active at church. Those were the only times.
Why didn’t I just shut up and go through the motions at church? Because our local branch is very small, so being a back row NOM isn’t an option. Back in 1997 I wanted to shrink into the back rows of church. I could have been a NOM forever on the back rows. But instead they made me Branch President – despite my strongest protests and literally begging for release. It was the worst four years of my life, and even DW could see it was destroying me.
In hindsight perhaps we should have moved to a big ward where I could have faded into the background and remained a semi-active NOM, but there were economic reasons against this.
Without Mormonism we COULD have built a good marriage, despite our differences. None of our differences (outside the church) are insurmountable. Sometimes I catch glimpses of how we are really similar deep down, buried deep beneath those endless layers of Mormon silt. DW was once a new convert and a feisty rebel (that’s why I fell in love with her). Meanwhile, I’ve always been the kind of guy who can’t compromise on truth and does everything 110% (it’s the Aspergers) – whatever I set my heart to, I do it with passion. I think we could have made an exciting team, instead of the living death we became. My passion for The Truth complements her flexible humanity. But neither of those things can survive Mormonism.
DW is an intelligent woman. We could have talked this out. But the core issues were off topic.
It’s the classic case of the elephant in the living room, except this one was so big we couldn’t even see each other.