With great pleasure we bring you this post by Deja Earley to kick-off our June UP CLOSE theme of Marriage MAKING IT WORK.  Deja lives outside Boston with her husband and three cats.  Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in places like Arts and Letters, Borderlands, and Poet Lore. She is poetry editor for the handsome little online zine, JuiceBox: A Journal of the Ordinary (http://squeezetheuniverse.com/juice/) and blogs at Deja Vu: The Strange, the Familiar, the Strangely Familiar (http://dejavuearley.blogspot.com/). She works as a textbook editor, eats a lot of avocados, and has a crush on afternoon naps.  

One of the big questions I had when I decided to marry a nonmember was whether or not Sam would support me in my faith. I thought about this a lot, discussed it when it came up with those I sought counsel from, and ultimately had no reason to believe he would be anything but supportive.

And, as I suspected, he has been the model of support. When I’m having a rough time, he gently suggests I attend the temple. Even when it comes to laws that would be hard for someone outside the LDS church to swallow–think tithing–he hasn’t whispered a word of criticism or reservation. He attends sacrament meeting with me about every other week so I won’t have to sit alone. We’ve made friends with other couples in the ward; he’s accepted and fulfilled a calling to teach the teacher prep course (!), and we joined the bishop and his wife for a Thanksgiving Feast last fall. Although he’s always clear (but respectful) about where he differs, he’s allowed himself to be a part of the community. This, I understand perfectly, is out of love for me.

That’s why, several weekends ago, when I realized that I hadn’t been supporting him in his faith, I was devastated. No one asked that question before we married, no one asked if we’d support each other spiritually, and I’m ashamed to say it didn’t once cross my mind. Even in the twenty-one months since we’ve been married, I’ve selfishly lapped up his support and even pouted about having to go alone to meetings. I’ve fretted the details of living my faith while married to someone who doesn’t share it.

Shame on me. Shame on me a thousand times.

In my defense (sort of), Sam’s renewal of faith is fairly recent, really since we went to Notre Dame in Paris last summer. But I’ve had many many months to figure it out. What can I say? I am slow.

Recently, Sam has mentioned he’d like me to come to mass with him now and again, and I confess I hesitated. But a few Sundays ago, when I entered a time warp in the hour before my church meeting and realized when I went to leave that I was so late I’d surely miss the sacrament (has that ever happened to you?), I opted for a later meeting and went with Sam to his. I don’t know how to describe it. I don’t even understand everything that happened. But there was incense and music and a beautiful message, and when Sam introduced me to the priest, Father F. was so kind and glad to see me. But mostly, more powerful than all of that, was to realize what I had been missing, and, more significantly, what I had been denying Sam. He was clearly so happy to have me there, so happy to share it with me, so glad I wanted to learn the songs and figure out when I was supposed to sit and stand. We talked about getting more involved in that community, staying after for the social gathering, meeting people, making friends.

Afterwards we sat in my car, parked in front of our apartment. In the last few weeks the trees have burst into pink blossoms, and the petals are just beginning to fall. There was a breeze, and as I apologized for my lack of support and wept a little, we both watched these delicate pale pink raindrops flutter down and pool in the street and on the sidewalks. It’s shocking to me how much falling blossoms act like water, how they really do rain and puddle. And it’s even more shocking to me that Sam forgave me, said we were learning and figuring things out, and that it was okay.

It made me feel again what I felt when I was in the very depths of the decision of whether or not to marry Sam. I was staying at my parents’ house in Utah, running the quiet, ordered streets of their neighborhood, and listening to an interview with Eboo Patel, who was talking about his book Acts of Faith. Patel advocates the power and necessity of Religious Pluralism, which focuses on overlaps between faiths, uses the overlaps and differences to create meaningful communities and to effect change. And I stopped, put my hands on my knees, and was overwhelmed by a sort of vision of what my and Sam’s marriage could be. That maybe it wouldn’t be what I had planned when I was a little girl, that maybe it wouldn’t look like my friends’ marriages, but that maybe, just maybe, there was something we could do together, something important, something powerful, something that could only come when a little Mormon girl and a witty Catholic boy got together and were brave enough to stay together and raise a family in that overlap.

And I can say this for that ideal: I don’t know if we’re there yet; I don’t think we’re yet “powerful,” but I have been astonished to find that, although we’ve had our rough spots in the last few years, exactly none of those rough spots have been related to our differing faiths. That aspect of our relationship, the part where we don’t agree on every point of doctrine, has been nothing but intellectually and spiritually enlarging.

At least it has for me. And for Sam, well, I hope to show him I can be as unswervingly supportive as he’s been to me. I’m grateful he’s shown me how to do it.

June 7, 2010

47 Comments

  1. Michelle L.

    June 6, 2010

    Oh I drank this in Deja! Beautifully expressed.

    And although my husband and I share the same faith it made me introspective, wondering–“Where do I expect support but not give it?”

    p.s. I love the Catholic church and have attended mass many times with friends and relatives. Sometimes I’d like to steal a bit of their ritual for our own meetings! Especially the part where you walk forward to receive communion. I love the purposeful feeling.

  2. hkobeal

    June 6, 2010

    Loved this! #1–great question: where do I expect support but not give it?

  3. april

    June 6, 2010

    Very well-written! I agree completely with how important it is to embrace the good in all religions to find our common ground, while staying true to what we believe. There are so many beautiful things to learn from other faiths! And as Mormons we have so much to offer, but it will never be received well unless we are also willing to listen and learn from others too. 🙂

  4. anon for this

    June 6, 2010

    as the wife of a formerly-believing mormon man who no longer does, i wanted to thank you for sharing your insight. and how wonderful that you’ve had it so early in your relationship!

    i wish i’d been as wise as you on this matter; could have saved a lot of hurt and pain if i’d been quicker to learn what you have learned (I gave an interview about my journey with this topic last month at http://www.mormonwomen.com

    but the fact is, we’re all on our own time-table, and i have lessons yet to learn (like Michelle asked in comment #1…what other areas do I expect something without giving in return?)

    you’ve prompted a new thought-thread for me. i thank you! ♥

  5. Selwyn aka Kellie

    June 6, 2010

    Thank you for such a thought inspiring post. Support means more than we assume it does…

  6. Kerri

    June 6, 2010

    Such a beautiful post. Thank you.

  7. mom o' boys

    June 6, 2010

    Absolutely beautiful post. The two of you are creating a supportive team that will be the foundation of a nurturing marriage. My husband has been questioning his faith in the Mormon church for some time, and it’s taken me some time to accept this and respect his decision whatever it is and realize that we can have a beautiful marriage no matter where we stand in our faith. I think all of us can look at ways we can support each other. Thank you for sharing this.

  8. April

    June 6, 2010

    As a convert I often feel a little uncomfortable when a member voices a superior tone about their faith. Growing up I always felt my church to be true. I thought Judism was the church before Christ and The Catholic church was the church after Christ and one of them had to be true. I believed fully in Jesus Christ and so my church had to be the true one.
    I say this only to point out that everyone is raised in a home with beliefs and to them these beliefs are true. As uncomfortable as it would be for a Mormon to start investigating another church it is just as equally for non-members to investigate our church.
    So glad you were able to see the importance of appreciating your husbands beliefs as well as your own. I agree that so much good can come from building on common beliefs in the overlap. It won’t always be easy but I hope that all your aspirations come true!

  9. Rebecca

    June 6, 2010

    What a beautiful expression of love! Your husband sounds like an incredible man–to love you so much that he will attend church with you so you won’t have to sit alone. Then to embrace it enough to serve in a calling! He sounds true blue. Your example seems like the way the Savior would work with the “overlap.” Thank you for sharing.

  10. Malisa

    June 6, 2010

    Cool. Very cool.

  11. Ben S

    June 7, 2010

    This is great! I’ve got a lot of holy envy for the “smells and bells” kind of Church experience, so I think you’re lucky to “have” to attend it every so often. We had to hold Stake Conference in a cathedral-like building once, and I really wanted to do a Latin version of “If you could Hie to Kolob” 🙂

    Would you let us add this to our collection of experiences about interfaith marriage?
    http://www.patheos.com/Topics/Public-Square/Interfaith-Marriage.html
    (They’re not all there at the moment, but the Muslim-Mormon marriage is, I think, one of the most difficult.)

  12. Melissa Y

    June 7, 2010

    Such a beautiful perspective–thank you for sharing!

  13. Sue

    June 7, 2010

    I really enjoyed reading this loving example of mutual respect.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    =)

  14. AR Colvin

    June 7, 2010

    I notice that the majority of the posts are from ‘females’ stating how good they feel about her perspective and needing to support her husband.
    If this sister would have been able to check the statistics of how many LDS sisters [and brothers] there are as they get older who wish that they had a marriage partner who they could go to church with and to the temple; they would more than likely not have gotten married. That is if we could look into the future.
    After about 5-10 years of marriage and a few children [if the marriage lasts that long] and you are down to the everyday grind of life you realize that you need someone with you that is going where you want to go.
    Almost any marriage counselor worth anything will tell you not to marry someone outside of your faith – if you practice your faith.
    When you have children where are they going to go to church? If one of you is Catholic are they going to be baptized and get a God-father or God-mother? Active believing LDS don’t believe in infant baptism.
    There are so darn many problems in life for active LDS, Catholics, Baptist, Methodists and etc that we don’t need to complicate them by marrying outside of your faith.
    Now I can hear most of the sisters that posted [probably very young] saying – but she loves him so much and he loves her and it FEELS so GOOD, it will all be okay.
    Sorry sisters & brothers the long term statistics don’t work in your favor.

  15. Deja

    June 7, 2010

    Thank you so very much to those of you who posted your kind thoughts and encouragement. I’m overwhelmed.

    Deborah, thanks again for the Exponent shout-out.

    Michelle L, I found your gorgeous blog sometime back through my sister Kira, so I’m giddy that you commented first.

    Anon, your interview is great, and I’m delighted in general by how much I’ve read from women in similar situations (linked from these comments). I had no idea there was so much out there on this subject, so much that resonates with my experience. I am so grateful, as it often seems like there just isn’t a road map for me.

    Ben S, I would be delighted to have my little piece added to your website. What do you need from me?

  16. Deja

    June 7, 2010

    Mr. Colvin: While your concerns and questions are valid, you seem to be suggesting these are not questions/concerns that have occurred to me. Trust me; they have.

    I think we’re blessed to only need to work out our own situation, our own marriages and relationships with God. And, as you pointed out, each one of those constitutes difficult ground, but also blissfully, beautifully, astonishingly unique ground. Please keep in mind that what you see here is only one slice, and that all the slices are, in the end, my own.

  17. Eleanor Smith

    June 7, 2010

    I’ve been married for 40 years, and of the 20 years my husband has been a social LDS, and as I look back he really has been that way for all of our married lives. It’s a very lonely feeling to come to know that a part of you is missing. He has no desire to return to the temple as it “doesn’t offer me anything”, so it becomes a lonely place to be when I’m by myself. I somehow think that going into a “mixed” marriage is better than finding out after marriage that it’s going to be “mixed” after all even though it didn’t start out that way. Is anyone else experiencing this and what advice would you give?

  18. Deborah

    June 7, 2010

    I know Deja has already read this, but here’s an essay about my interfaith marriage, with comments from lots of people in interfaith marriages, and full of links on the topic.

    The final three links might interest you, Eleanor, as they are about mixed-faith marriages that start-out as Mormon-Mormon marriages (including a great post from Segullah last year).

    http://www.the-exponent.com/2010/01/24/my-interfaith-marriage-reflections-five-years-in/

  19. Tadzio Jones

    June 7, 2010

    Colvin:

    Why did you put the word ‘females’ in quotation marks? It’s a little condescending, don’t you think? Your attitude seems to suggest that overwhelming majority of the ‘females’ who made positive comments on this post are swept up in some kind of romantic fantasy, incapable of thinking rationally, making intelligent decisions for themselves. We all have our own lives to lead; does personal revelation play no role in yours? Or do you simply believe that your personal revelation is superior to Deja Earley’s? Are you the (ahem) ‘man’ of the house? I might suggest that, if YOUR marriage survives the next twenty minutes or so (I can’t imagine how it would), you ask your wife how she feels about being married to a man who thinks that ‘females’ are incapable of making the best choices to suit their individual, rather than merely statistical, circumstances. Perhaps you should liberate yourself from this idea that statistics rule our lives. And you might want to start listening to what women have to say, rather than evaluating it, or someone might just liberate your woman from you. That’d complicate things at the Temple, I suspect.

    -Tadzio Jones

  20. mom o' boys

    June 7, 2010

    AR Colvin, I would just like to say that Deja seems like a very thoughtful woman and has, I’m sure, thought through these concerns and issues (as she has stated anyway). Please reserve your judgments and your bearing of statistics. If you are assuming that all the commenters are young, we are not. I have been married almost 15 years myself, and I lived for more than 16 years with 2 people who were both LDS and had a very unhappy, painful marriage (including a father who on the surface seemed like a great Mormon, but in all essentials of Christianity like honesty and kindness was completely lacking). The decisions we make as we marry are very complicated. Only the Lord knows our hearts and our situations. We do not see the end from the beginning.

  21. Allison

    June 7, 2010

    I am glad to hear that your husband is supportive and is interested in his own faith.
    I am not going to criticize you because I don’t know you. But I am going to talk about my own experience.

    As a woman in a mixed marriage with a person who has lapsed long ago in his faith, I am not so lucky. That is my own “fault” for choosing to marry him. He is supportive of my callings, paying tithing, and tries not to criticize unless he doesn’t understand and I have to explain something (like Fast Sunday.)

    I have to stick up for AR Colvin (comment #15).
    I have been married to a non-member for 14 years. I was previously married to an RM who apostatized shortly after our temple marriage for 10 years. Both times, I dismissed signals that were there that told me that things would NOT be smooth sailing in the future because I was so in love with each man during courtship.
    I was very spiritually weak both times (more so the 2nd time,) and now I have a much stronger testimony and more mature understanding of the gospel and relationships.

    I have seen men join the church (one in my ward recently after 2 years of marriage despite his own fervency in another church and my own grandfather after 20 years of marriage.) But they are the MINORITY and it does not get any easier over time. Hopefully it will never become a bigger problem for you.

    I don’t have children so I haven’t had to deal with the negotiations that go along with that.
    But I have seen it happen constantly in the urban area I live in. Mexican girls want a
    “Quicinera” at age 15 that goes along with a Catholic ceremony and it has become like a bat mitzvah in my town. So even if they are baptized and their mom or dad is LDS, if the other parent is Catholic, they often cave to the other parent to have the party and the ceremony so they can fit in with the culture.

    Again, I am not criticizing you personally. You have done a pretty good job of thinking about it and working together with your husband. I wish I had done as well as yourself. But Colvin is right about the stats which fit my own experience and the experience of others.

  22. Ben S

    June 8, 2010

    “What do you need from me?”

    Drop me an email with permission.

    moc.liamg@namkcapsneb but reverse it 🙂

  23. lee

    June 8, 2010

    This is so sad. Because yes, you can build something beautiful together, but according to your own beliefs, it won’t last.

    Unless, well, the big unless. I hope it happens for you and the witty Catholic boy.

  24. Marintha

    June 8, 2010

    lee,
    I’m not sure you know what her beliefs on the subject are. So let’s not speculate.

    Deja,
    Beautiful post on looking outwards and supporting spouses. There have been many times in my own marriage when I’ve finally clued in that I wasn’t giving where I was receiving. I’m so grateful that is one of the important lessons in marriage I am learning.

  25. Marintha

    June 8, 2010

    I am stunned at some of the responses here. As Mormons we believe that marriage is ordained of God, not just temple marriages, not just Mormon marriages—but marriage. I fully expect support from my religious community that will strengthen my marriage, and recognize it as sacred. I try and support those around me, including the numerous sisters in my own ward who are married to someone who doesn’t share our faith. I view their relationships with their husbands as sacred, not something to be denigrated as if these married sisters should run out and file divorce papers tomorrow.
    I am reminded of the recent article in Mormon Times, which you can see in our side bar under footnotes. It tells of the reality of sisters in Taiwan who though married, are usually the only members of the church in their families. I think of the many sisters around the globe who face the reality: either get married to a nonmember and have children, or live life without it. In some parts of the world if all the sisters refrained from marital vows until they found a member, very, very few would ever marry. Primaries would be non-existent in these places. Many examples of good, strong marriages wouldn’t exist.
    I hope, and believe, that people making such coarse comments concerning Deja’s marriage vows would not dare do so to a sister sitting next to them in Relief Society who happened to be married to a nonmember, who felt she made a good decision—one that we aren’t part of. Segullah is a community where women from all walks of life can share their experiences as they make decisions that they feel are best for them. Further comments that are backhanded slaps in the face will be moderated. Consider this a warning.

  26. lee

    June 8, 2010

    Wow, didn’t mean to offend. Its pretty simple Mormonism (if that’s what you are) that you are either sealed or not sealed. So all I am trying to say is, I hope it happens sometime.

  27. Michelle L.

    June 8, 2010

    I too, thought it was pretty clear that Deja had carefully considered all the implications of marrying outside her faith.

    As a blog editor (and a delighted reader), I appreciate her thoughtful, honest writing. And with a sensitive subject such as “Marriage: MAKING IT WORK” I hope we can be respectful of all our contributors in the coming weeks.

  28. Deborah

    June 8, 2010

    Thanks for rising to the defense, Marintha and Michelle. When you are a Mormon in an interfaith marriage, you get used to well-meaning but . . . rough . . . remarks about your choices. I wish it didn’t come with the territory, but it does. (This is what we women in interfaith marriages gossip about when we get together . . . the latest crazy thing a random ward member or great-aunt said about our marriage 🙂 )

    It’s the awkward other side of our incredibly (and otherwise positive) focus on temple marriage. Marriage outside the temple can strike many as a tragedy of sorts, and therefore empathetic (and well-meaning) souls often imply that my marriage must be a trial or painful cross to bear. I once had a woman (who has since become a close friend), tell me that if I wasn’t troubled by his non-Mormoness then I didn’t truly understand the gospel; in essence, my mourning of my marriage would be a sign of a strong testimony . . . ! I have learned how to navigate these comments pretty well, I think. To laugh or sigh them off, knowing that what I have is beautiful and blessed. But early on, it was much harder; I had a thinner skin and was so nervous about being judged. Here’s a consequence to consider when you are tempted to judge (even sympathetically) part-member marriages: I had no desire to have my husband see this side of my beloved religion, so I chose NOT to attend most social functions to spare him this (and proselytizing attempts– that’s another story). It is certainly easier now, but for me the hardest part of being in an interfaith marriage is not the other partner in my marriage!

  29. dalene

    June 8, 2010

    Lovely post, thank you. I appreciate the thought, beauty and respect that is part of your message. Personally I am grateful we generally try to live our lives listening to our hearts and not by some book of statistics.

    While I understand there are challenges inherent in an interfaith marriage, I have watched with admiration some of the women I know in such marriages as they love, respect and support their husbands, who love, support and respect them in turn. I am well aware of partners of the same faith who, for whatever reason, are not so fortunate.

    In any relationship it seems wise to consider what you’re giving more than what you expect to get back. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  30. Deja

    June 9, 2010

    Thank you, Marintha and Michelle and Deborah. I must admit that Lee’s comment discouraged me. I haven’t been married as long as Deborah, and thus haven’t built my thick skin. It’s certainly thicker than it was when I began, and I’ve had my share of “rough” reactions to my decision. The most common response when people find out is to tell me a story of someone who married a nonmember and eventually they converted and now they’re bishop, etc etc. It’s a well-meaning comment, I know, one designed to give me “hope.” And it’s (remotely) possible that Sam will get baptized and I wouldn’t be opposed to that by any means, but I’ve come to feel that outcome is unlikely, and–this is the part that’s hard to understand for some–there isn’t a part of me that longs for his conversion, as I did so fervently when we first started dating. The removal of the longing is something I consider a blessing, a gift of the spirit. I love him NOW; we make it work NOW; I gain so much from having his differing perspective in my life. I wouldn’t trade it.

    I love that Deborah said the hardest part about this kind of marriage isn’t the other person in the marriage. So true. And I could explain (to Lee, to others) why what you’re assuming I believe about my marriage’s temporary nature is most certainly not what I believe. I could tell you of the powerful, clear, spiritual reassurances that Sam won’t be torn away from me on the other side, but I won’t do that here. I don’t think the beauty and power of my marriage minimizes the beauty and power of a temple sealing in any way, but they are different; I’ll grant that.

    I’ve come to suspect something close to what Marintha alluded to about our growing international membership, the growing diversity of our membership: as the gospel’s reach extends, marriages like mine are only going to become more common. I don’t think it serves us to take a judgmental stance towards them, to make assumptions about what kind of person chooses to be in one, to do anything besides offer up the same sort of unflinching support we’d give to any marriage.

  31. lee

    June 9, 2010

    I’m sorry. I must admit that for me, the sad and worrisome aspects are a huge distraction to being able to understand and appreciate the good in the situation. I am sure it is there. Of course I know many people in mixed faith marriages. Of course I know many people in temple marriages that are not that great at the moment. I know we need to forget all that and just love each other.

    But at the same time, there is really no way to minimize the importance of covenants/eternal families to Mormons. We aren’t capable of setting all that aside,even for a minute. We can’t tell ourselves its no big deal. Maybe we hyperventilate a bit while we’re trying to perfect the saints, redeem the dead and proclaim the gospel. Its our everything. But through it all runs the golden thread of hope, –hope for all of us.

  32. Marintha

    June 9, 2010

    Deja,
    Sometimes I think we focus too much on the next life. I hear too many people talk as if in the next life suddenly their marriage will be perfect, although they struggle here. I have watched family members so focused on being sealed in a marriage, that they harm the lives of their children, and rush into terrible marriages for the sake of a temple sealing. It’s good to step back and think temporally sometimes–and focus on making the now wonderful for those around us. Afterall, we can only be unselfish in the now.

    Lee,
    I don’t think you see how unhelpful your comments are. I can see wanting to discuss temple covenants and marriage choices with a daughter or son, or a very close friend BEFORE they get married. But after someone is already married, what’s the point? It really is trampling on their marriage vows and disrespectful. I’m not sure what outcome you expected out of your comments.

  33. Annie

    June 9, 2010

    Lovely, beautiful post. As Michelle aptly said at the first comment, this is a poignant opportunity to ask myself “where do I expect support but not give it?” For me, it applies not to my marriage but my sibling relationships. I am the only of my siblings who is still a member of the church and I have felt a bit abandoned (and even a little rejected personally) rather than seeking to understand where their faith resides. I hope this will help lead to some authentic, enlightening conversations.

  34. lee

    June 9, 2010

    Marintha, on this we agree: I don’t see how unhelpful my comments are. But no doubt you are going to tell me. Another mainstream Mormon gets quashed on Segullah. I’m sorry if being an unequivocal believer in temple marriage makes me a meanie. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just trying to say that in these situations, a normal Mormon reaction is to be kind of worried, sad, and very hopeful for the people involved.

    As Deborah above stated, you’re going to meet alot of Mormons who consider a mixed faith marriage a bit tragic. Do we all have to go away and stop it so you can be comfortable? Do we not all believe the same things, ultimately? That an essential ordinance is an essential ordinance? I understand people do not want to feel pressure to convert, etc, and that was never my intent. I guess I just wanted to balance out the first 25 comments who said this was “beautiful” by saying that it saddens and troubles me somewhat. I think that’s an honest and usual reaction, and not a personal attack.

    And I do hope my perspective is helpful to someone who might consider a mixed faith marriage.

  35. Deborah

    June 9, 2010

    Of course, you (spoken generally) don’t need to go away. But I hope you will give me (spoken generally) the benefit of the doubt that personal revelation was involved in my choice.

    And don’t please allow your sadness to get in the way of getting to know me, and perhaps discovering that what I have is, truly, beautiful and blessed.

    And be aware that I am HIGHLY aware of how uncomfortable interfaith couples make many members, and how thousands of us in such marriages feel the difference in us every single Sunday, coming singly to a married church. Expressing your worry probably will not have the affect you want (if you want that effect to be strengthening the bonds of sisterhood).

    And imagine me, newly married in tears over a rough comment, kneeled in prayer and the spirit might quietly whispering that I have chose the right path *FOR ME,* that this man was the partner *FOR ME,* that I should not let such remarks (by well-meaning members) come between me and my husband, or me and my church. And the spirit reminds me that the scriptures are chalk full of competing commandments (Don’t Eat! Procreate! . . . Don’t Kill! Hey, There’s Laban!), and it’s up to individuals to ponder carefully to make decisions that will help them and their families progress.

    Know that those (sometimes hard-fought) moments of peace give me the strength to keep coming to church. And then remember that Mormons believe not in a single judgment, but in eternal progression — that we have, I believe, the most hopeful Christian theology.

  36. sunny

    June 9, 2010

    Lee,

    The unhelpful nature of your comments lies in the fact that you did, in fact, address them toward Deja’s experience. Doing that is not unlike telling an already single mom how hard single motherhood might be, how the odds are stacked against her, blah, blah, blah. How is that helpful? The choice has been made. There is nothing to be undone. All that remains is to support and love and hold that motherhood (or these marriages we speak of in this thread) as sacred as we hold our own. And not because we pity. But because we truly regard them as worthwhile, complex, and honorable as our own.

    Secondly, you did in fact express a desire for Sam’s conversion. In your very first comment. And in your second. These sentiments of pity-filled hope are what drive many a part-member family away from the church. Contrary to what may be popular belief, it is not so often the harping of the non-member spouse that invites the member spouse to eventually leave the church (when that happens), but is so often the harping of members hellbent on “saving” that family through conversion. When one’s family is questioned, devalued, or pitied long enough, a person generally desires to distance themselves from those who disparage their family. If your parents thought you made a poor choice in your spouse and regarded your life together as “tragic”, how many holidays and weekends would you be wanting to spend with them? Same thing here.

    Third, you then go on to say you wish to help those who may consider a mixed-faith marriage. This is not the thread for that. The need to do that would mean that this thread had somehow encouraged marrying outside one’s faith. The defense of temple/same-faith marriage was not provoked by the sentiments in this post or thread, having not been attacked, denigrated, or questioned. This was a post about faith, selflessness, and love. Your comments were simply off-topic.

  37. Kathryn Soper

    June 9, 2010

    Well said, Sunny.

    Lee, valuing temple marriage is undoubtedly “mainstream.” Insisting that we pity good, solid people in good, solid interfaith marriages is “obnoxious.”

  38. Cheri

    June 9, 2010

    Two favorite comments from this thread:

    “I love him NOW; we make it work NOW”–this is the thing called charity that we all seek in every relationship, to stop trying to fix a person and just love them exactly as they are, the way the Lord loves us

    “we have, I believe, the most hopeful Christian theology”–yes, yes, yes!

  39. Sam

    June 10, 2010

    lee,

    let’s dispense with this disingenuous banter about your sadness. as the husband in this ‘tragic’ marriage, it seems clear to me that what you actually feel isn’t sadness; it’s superiority. it seems further evident that this superiority is an uneasy one; i suspect that if you were really convinced, you’d let the rest of us go on being wrong without feeling like you had to repeatedly clarify and justify your point of view.

    maybe i’ll say a Hail Mary for you.

    more likely, i’ll forget about you altogether.

  40. Deja

    June 10, 2010

    Well, THE Sam couldn’t resist weighing in …

    But as for myself, I guess I can sympathize with what you mean, Lee, as, honestly, I felt a little sorry for people in part-member marriages. When my brother (who left the church) got married outside the temple, I felt sad, and I was haunted by that sad feeling when I was thinking about marrying Sam. But all I can say is that it was different, then. It was different to be in a relationship with a PERSON, not a “nonmember” and to love that person. And not love like a giddy schoolgirl, but the most mature, long-term (we dated 2 years), intellectually and emotionally meaningful relationship I’d ever had the privilege of being in. And my wedding was far from sad. Far far far from it.

    I love what Deborah says about personal revelation, about that being the foundation of what she’s chosen, and I can say it was for me, too. Look, I know that’s shocking. No one (NO ONE) was more shocked than I was when I realized that’s how all of my heartfelt prayer was answered: not with God magically converting Sam or with God taking away my feelings for him, or sending me a dashing Mormon man to replace him, but with a quiet, merciful message that when it came down to the person I loved and the faith I loved, I didn’t have to choose. That changed my perception of everything. Just everything, including God and His love. “The most hopeful Christian theology,” indeed. So I guess I can understand where you’re coming from. And what I wish you knew, Lee, is that you probably understand where I’m coming from, too. More than you think.

    This is not a squashing of a mainstream member. I AM a mainstream member. That’s been one of the hardest things about this transition, the immediate assumptions made about what “kind” of Mormon I am, based on the fact I made this decision. I’ve always lived this gospel with everything I’ve had. I’ve always relied on personal revelation. This, shockingly, was the extension of that way of life. Eternal families is the basis of our faith, yes. One of them. And personal revelation is another. It’s the beginning of it; it’s what happened to Joseph in the grove of trees.

    Aside from all that, let me say again, thank you to those of you who have commented here. I don’t know what I thought would happen when I submitted my post for Segullah. I think I expected some naysaying comments, but I don’t think I expected the wealth of wise, generous, loving people that I see here. You have made me weep. You have made me believe again in a faith-based community that I perpetually worry doesn’t understand me. But you understand, it seems. And I am so grateful.

  41. Brit Carman

    June 10, 2010

    Thank you, Sam. And amen! I wonder how often our “worry” or “sadness” isn’t exactly as you’ve articulated: a strange and latent sense of superioty, which another’s actions somehow give us license to express. I would ask those who see it as a “normal mormon reaction” simply to consider the ways in which that reaction is based on our very limited, human understanding of the plan of salvation and an empoverished take on omnipotence, charity, and love.

  42. Brit Carman

    June 10, 2010

    Deja, you posted while I was scratching out my response. You’re heart is insanely beautiful.

  43. Natasha

    June 10, 2010

    I loved this.

  44. Angela

    June 10, 2010

    Deja, thank you for this post, and your last response was so charitable and wise it made me very grateful to have Segullah in my life as well.

  45. Deborah

    June 10, 2010

    “That’s been one of the hardest things about this transition, the immediate assumptions made about what “kind” of Mormon I am, based on the fact I made this decision.”

    Yes! I have become a bit of a repository for interfaith stories — since I have been open about mine on the Exponent blog, I have had many women write to me over the years (which I love love love). And this is a nearly universal emotion for women in our situation. The last two e-mail exchanges I have had are from women who are newly married who are reeling from the way people have assumed that they have changed their belief structure or rebelled or “wandered” in some way. I’m grateful for Deja’s story because it’s not only beautiful (what a writer you are), it’s also another voice in the chorus that might help increase others’ understanding of the sisters in their wards. (And Deja, I wish you were my neighbor!).

  46. Katie

    June 26, 2010

    I feel disappointed by AR Colvin for discrediting potentially successful marriages and the counseling profession.
    AR Colvin and I must be different types of marriage counselors (or maybe AR Colvin is not a counselor at all). First of all, I consider myself to be a marriage counselor who is “worth anything” because of my license to practice marriage and family therapy, extensive years of service, research on marriage and couple relationships, continued education, etc. I can honestly say that it is not the position of any marriage counselor to “tell you not to marry someone outside of your faith – if you practice your faith.” I am disheartened by such a judgmental statement. Counseling is to help you build skills and clarify and manage issues (among many other tasks). AR Covin makes a great point of identifying potentially destructive issues, and I encourage any mixed-faith couple to review those and/or similar questions. However, much of the research in marital therapy will tell you that it is not the issues that are the problem; IT’S THE MANNER IN WHICH WE COMMUNICATE ABOUT THE ISSUES THAT PREDICTS SUCCESS OR FAILURE.
    Further, in my personal life I can attest to the beauty and devotion shown in a mixed-faith marriage. I am a non-Mormon married to a practicing Mormon. Our children have been raised LDS. As with any differences between core values of members of a couple, my husband and I have experienced some strain here and there. I would not expect this to be any different in any other marriage as no two individuals have the exact same core values or agree on how to carry them out. But, we have a successful and intimate marriage and we are proud of each others’ enduring faith for our spirituality and the sanctity of our marriage.
    So, AR Colvin, I thank you for suggesting people really explore the challenges mixed-marriages face. However, I also encourage you to be more focused on the universality of marital struggle and not dismiss mixed-faith marriages because “the statistics are not in your favor.”
    Further, I recommend you do more research on the statistics of successful mixed-faith marriages. For example, in 1993, a study was conducted that noted a 40% divorce rate between non-Mormon and Mormon marriages (which is still 9-11% lower than the national average rates of divorce).
    To the author of this post, I thank you for sharing your candid experience and your ability to be humbled and grow. Those traits will serve you well in your marriage and in life.
    For readers of this post, single, married, mixed or unified, please don’t be afraid by AR Colvin’s statement that a counselor would advise you to not marry a person outside your faith. Counseling is a great way to open yourself and your relationship to deeper growth and can be useful in times of strain. Judgment such as AR Colvin’s has no place in the counseling relationship. Should you come across a counselor that makes you feel judged, I recommend you find a new one.

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