a different sort of happily-ever-after

“I don’t’ think there has ever been a premarital couple who is closer than Beau and I are. We’re one of the rare lucky ones whose union far exceeds the sum of it’s parts…one plus one equals a billion. I have a feeling the best thing I’m going to have in this life is my marriage with Beau.  I KNOW our marriage will be a happy one for both of us.”

These are the words I wrote in my journal as a young woman, deep in love with my pre-missionary sweetheart.

I’d been searching for The One, someone who would become one in heart, mind and soul with me, all my life.  I’d come from a dysfunctional, abusive family situation, and as part of my survival tactic, I looked around and found people whose relationships reflected what I wanted in my life.  A unified marriage was my highest priority, and I couldn’t believe how fortunate Beau and I were to have found each other.

Two years passed, and a month after returning from a faithful mission, we were sealed in the temple.  At last!  We will never have anything come between us ever again, I thought.

We resumed our studies at BYU.  Right from the start there were some things we struggled with, but never did it cross my mind where we were headed. Though we never read scriptures together, and seldom had couple prayer, we did attend church weekly, and both fulfilled callings.  I figured we were just lazy and busy, and in my heart I was always angling towards being more faithful as a couple, figuring it would happen eventually.

We’d been married for 9 years and I was pregnant with our second child the night we had a conversation that would turn my world upside down.

I don’t believe in God or Jesus anymore.  I just don’t think that if there WAS a God, he’d need a middle man.  The only reason you believe in Christ is because you were raised in North America.  If you’d been raised in Japan you’d believe in Buddha.  Or Muhammad if you were raised in the Middle East.  Religion is  just culture, and faith is just a tool religions use to keep people coming back.

Because my own lack of spiritual preparation, I was ripe for a fall, and this discussion yanked my entire spiritual foundation out from under me.  “He’s a scholar.  Scholars search for truth, without any agenda of their own” I thought.  How could I trust the spiritual experiences I’d had?!  How can anyone know anything for sure?

Thus began a personal journey of disillusionment and depression that lasted for years.  Beau never tried to pull me away, though he did hope that I’d come to the same conclusions he had on my own.

And I’ll admit, leaving was very appealing.  We lived in areas without a strong LDS population, and I was serving out a life-sentence in the Primary Presidency.  My “lamp” was bone dry, and religion had become a huge wedge in my marriage. Eventually I concluded that maybe if I left the church, I’d be able to remove at least ONE boulder in my life.

Literally the moment I decided to leave, unmistakable miracles started occurring, which gave me pause.  I trudged along undecided for a while, but the truth was, I wasn’t happy in the church, and decided to leave, again.

So I’m not sure why, because I hadn’t read it in a long time, but when the August 2005 Ensign arrived, I flipped through and came across the First Presidency Message entitled A Testimony Vibrant and True
I had never liked reading scriptures.  I’d go so far as to say I hated it.  But as I read that challenge from President Hinckley to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, and the promise that there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God, for some reason I decided to accept it.  I viewed it almost like a Hail Mary…a parting gesture on my way out of the church.  To prove that I really did try, but that it just hadn’t worked.

It took over a month of reading every day before something started to change within me.  I will never forget the moment it actually came alive for me…almost like a motion picture, I could see the stories unfolding in my mind, and feel the spirits of the people written about. I feasted for hours, finally tasting the fruit of the spirit, and developed, to my great surprise, a tiny speck of bona fide faith in Christ.

I’d never questioned the church growing up.  I’d accepted it and believed, even thought I “knew”.  But till this experience, I realized that I had never had genuine faith in Christ.  This tiny speck of faith is more powerful than knowing, or hoping, or believing.

My (slow) change of heart has seemed like a mixed blessing at times.  I know Beau was somewhat disappointed at not being able to leave religion behind us together.  But he continued to support me in raising our children in the church, attending weekly with me. He served in callings, paid tithing (at my urging), wore his garments, obeyed the commandments etc.  For all anyone knew, he was a regular (albeit not gung-ho) member.

Eventually though, he started edging away. I’d grown used to living with a closeted heretic who was active, and I have struggled to adjust. His dream is to eventually have complete separation from the church, which would be much easier if we relocated and he could start fresh in a community where no one knows us.  But our kids and I are happy where we live now, and would prefer to stay put if possible.  We are in a wonderful ward, with a strong youth program, and lots of great members whose example I’m counting on to help me raise my children.

Happily, our children are doing okay.  The oldest found out this year about their dad, and handled it very well.  I daresay it has actually strengthened their testimony to know where Beau is at, and we enjoy an increased closeness due to our shared faith.  Now when I gather my children to my side and read them the scriptures every morning, my oldest is much more supportive and helpful than before.

The things that have helped me the most so far are amazing relatives, great-hearted friends and ward members who include us despite our atypical situation, and our own efforts to do the basics: prayer, church attendance, Sabbath observance, etc.  I sometimes play great talks during breakfast  from Education Week, firesides, and General Conference etc.  But probably the biggest help for us have been these three books, which have made our study of the scriptures SO much more meaningful.  I highly recommend them to all. For those with small children, the picture-versions of the scriptures held even my youngest child’s attention (no small feat!)

Heavy on my mind through all these years has been the subject of agency.  For a while, I felt trapped by it.  God won’t violate our agency, and in good conscience I can’t use guilt, manipulation, coercion or emotionalism to persuade Beau to believe.  But finding that balance between my wants, and allowing him to live as he chooses has been a struggle and strain on our relationship, and I have often failed to live up to my ideals.

I’m not strong yet, and am more aware than ever of just how easy it is for us to lose our way when we omit the basics from our lives.  But I am hanging in there, and still pray that one day (hopefully in this life), Beau will have his own Saul-Paul moment.  He once had a strong testimony, and I know that Heavenly Father knows him, loves him even more than I do, and will not easily give up on him.

Because of this process, this journey we are on, my own faith in Christ has sprouted.  It has made me into a better person, and though I can’t say it’s the life I’d have chosen, I dare say in a strange way I can appreciate it.  Through all my darkest moments, I know His spirit has been with me, even when I was beyond feeling (which lasted a long time).  There have been countless tender mercies in my life, and I am aware that the way to refine my dross is by enduring the purifying process of the fire.

Many people who know our whole situation have at various times suggested I give up and move on and find a more compatible match.  But I can’t make decisions now based on fear of the future.  I love Beau, and he loves me.  We have our trials, but as long as I can keep my pride in check, and continue to live the gospel to the best of my ability, I know our family will be blessed in ways I can’t presently fathom.

23 thoughts on “a different sort of happily-ever-after

  1. Thanks for sharing. I’m in much the same boat as you.

    Yesterday and today, however, 4 miracles have occured. 1.) My dh got called yesterday to be EQ 2nd C.
    2.) He was forthright with the High Councilor, and then later in the evening, the EQ Pres, about his unbelief in the doctrines and that he doesn’t have a temple recommend by choice, etc.
    3.) After talking with the EQP, he agreed to wear a white shirt to church. (This has been a very sore point with him for a long time.)
    4.) He accepted the call.

    The Lord’s arm of mercy has reached out to him. He has accepted and has taken a leap of faith in accepting this calling. I am so grateful.

    I pray that God will be able to catch and lead both of our husband’s hearts back to Him. I am anxious to see what direction my dh takes from here. I am so grateful for this opportunity and for the acceptance of him where he is.

    My prayers are with you.

  2. You ar very brave! and I applaud you! I don’t meet up to my ideals either in a similar situation. Trust the Lord is easy, till you have to, is it?

  3. that was one of the most touching stories i’ve read, and it was beautifully written. thank you for sharing. it really makes me want to to do better at the day to day things like scripture study so that my lamp will always be full.

  4. Thank you. This was a beautiful way of celebrating my sabbath. You also reminded me that I need to do better with my scripture reading. I’ve fallen off the boat again this year. Thank you for your faith, your hard work, your endurance. Your children will be blessed through your example. We are blessed to read your story.

  5. WOW.
    When I read this I could tell how carefully and lovingly you wrote this as to not make your husband the “bad guy”. This post seemed the model of a strong marriage that was able to allow both parties to be who they honestly felt they were. You are a strong, wonderful woman who is powerful enough to have her own faith but wise enough to let her husband find his.
    You are a wonder, bless you!

  6. Thank you so much for your honesty and for sharing that. I think finding hope in our “not what i bargained for” parts of life is such a powerful approach to take. Keep on trucking, your strength and determination are admirable!

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I am currently working hard to come out of a long, difficult period of doubt and disillusionment. I particularly love how you said, “This tiny speck of faith is more powerful than knowing, or hoping, or believing.”
    I admire your faith and your strength.

  8. And THIS, is the love of Christ–being strong within ourselves and not allowing that pride to damage the people we love. Best of luck to you.

  9. Thank you for your inspirational and faith-promoting account. I feel inspired to treat others with more tenderness, love more deeply, and read the Book of Mormon more faithfully. I am grateful for your faith, honesty, and diligence.

  10. There is no other way to learn compassion and understanding than to go through the fire and survive. Peace & harmony will come one dew drop at a time, no matter what we are required to go through, as we strive to live the gospel more fully. Such a beautiful, truthful and hopeful post!

  11. Can I just say that “you rock my world.” Really, you’re so strong, and someone should tell you.

    Life is not easy at times, and your time seems to be long. But, I’m sure there is a light.

    I repeatedly told my husband before we got married, that I was only getting married in the temple because he wanted it, being divorced, I understood eternity and I wanted to live together first. But that’s not what he wanted, and somewhere deep, I knew it wasn’t what I wanted either. So we did it. We got married and moved across states and I really didn’t want to make the effort of finding church pals. Husband would let me leave if I wanted, go at my own pace. Eventually, I found my place. I rarely see my “happy hour” friends anymore — I feel a part of my church and like my testimony can buoy me.

    Of course our stories are different, but I do know we’re not meant to be alone — and I think its because God wants us to help each other.

    You rock — sorry for the long comment.

  12. “Many people who know our whole situation have at various times suggested I give up and move on and find a more compatible match.”

    Why is it that people think it’s a better choice to leave a happy marriage (albeit one in which one spouse goes to church and the other doesn’t) in the hopes that you’d find a good, active, compatible spouse? I don’t know of many available single guys out there who’d want to marry a 33-year-old with 5 kids – not to mention the time spent surviving as a single mother trying to raise divorce-scarred children before you meet that “Mr. Right”.. Eternity is such a long time; so many changes and possiblities can happen between now and death, not to mention what can happen in the Spirit world. If someone’s husband was in an accident and paralyzed, I think people would look down upon the wife if she chose to bail and leave him for someone “more compatible”. So why are they so quick to encourage a wife to divorce her husband if he’s “spiritually paralyzed”?

  13. I just want to say I understand what you are going through and I think you’re doing the right thing by staying committed to your marriage. You are right to give your husband permission to decide what his relationship with the church will be. When he’s ready, he’ll let faith back into his life, but coercion never works.

  14. Thank you for your beautiful story. Having watched you grow in strength these many years, you have become a strong woman for the Lord. Thank you for your example of unconditional love – of trust and faith. You will see miracles unfold through your dedication to this worthy soul that you love. Never give up, never!
    Love you, dear friend!

  15. Thanks for your story. Although my husband has a testimony, he is definitely less gung-ho about church. It is difficult sometimes to make sure I let him take care of his. We are a team in so many ways and you are used to trying to fill in gaps that your spouse has, but when it comes to certain things you really can’t and you can’t be embarrassed about what others might think, etc.
    The hardest is when it comes to raising your children. I tell myself that it is far more important that my children live in a happy home with a father who is involved and who loves them than having a home where everything is done exactly my way to the high standards I sometimes want to insist on.

  16. Thank you for this post. It was really what I needed to read right now. I guess my guy and I are going in the opposite direction. We were (2+ yrs ago) both fairly apathetic Protestants who never went to church and then I found the LDS Church and now I’m way more involved than I ever thought I’d be. I just received my endowment and that has started a whole new way of protests.

    I know that J wants me to leave the church and go back to my non-religious state or find a different church. But I can’t turn my back on Heavenly Father. And at the same time, I’d be happy if he joined my church. But like you said, he has agency and I can’t and won’t try to make him believe. We agreed last night to live and let live in terms of religion for the next few weeks-month. Of course, I think I have the advantage of a more hopeful outlook. Eternity is a long time and I believe than Heavenly Father can work miracles in that time frame.

  17. I am so glad you have come to a point where you are able to see specks of light after this long long midnight you’ve been going through my friend. You have been so strong & faithful through what has been so much harder, more complex and more desperate an ordeal than you depicted in your post. You have an amazing capacity for forgiveness and perseverance.

    I’m not one to advocate walking away from marrital commitment normally but I was one of those who personally felt your agony so deeply over all the other unmentioned stuff going on that I wanted you to leave Beau to save what was left of your spirit. I don’t know how you do it, finding objectivity in a deeply emotional situation is a gift. I am glad you’ve found a way to cope in your marriage on the common ground you still share. It does seem like your once-condemned relationship has improved dramatically in the past 2 years and I am so releived for that. I love & cherish you!

  18. Beautifully written from such a beautiful soul!!!
    Thank you thank you thank you for your strength in seeing the positive. Your attitude of gratitude is one that I aspire to.
    So, if YOU can hang in there for a few months and gain a testimony of the great book we have been given, than I can put donw my novels and read and pray for a miracle. I can “Hail Marry” with the best of them!:)
    I am loving knowing how many sweet sisters you touched just by sharing your story. Kudos to you from one of your greatest fans!!
    xxxx With love, The greatest e-stalker of all time :)

  19. This year I have learnt on a deeper level just how personal marriages are. Each marriage has a totally different set of people involved, each with their agency, each with the opportunity and potential to seriously hurt the other deliberately or obliviously.

    Thank you for sharing your life, the strength that you gain from it, the support you have from your husband even when life isn’t “perfect”, and the work you have put and are continuing to put into your relationship. Thank you for sharing.

  20. I have been very touched by the comments left here. I’ve read a number of your blogs, and have a sliver of awareness about the diversity of trials we all face. Every story we tell is only part of the story, and yet we all share common elements and experiences in life.

    I love the title that Segullah gave my post, for isn’t each of us living a different sort of happily ever after? Life isn’t a fairy tale for any of us. I am so thankful we have each other to ride the waves of life with.

    Writing this and reading the thoughts shared here has blessed me in unexpected ways, and I hope it buoys up many others who stumble upon it.

    Thank you Segullah!

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