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A Moment of Clarity

Heather Olson Beal is guest posting for this week’s UP CLOSE – MAKING MARRIAGE WORK piece.  She is a mom of three kids who sometimes drive her nuts despite being genuinely great.  She lives in deep east Texas and is happy to finally be a professor and no longer a student!  She has a BA in Spanish from BYU, an MA in Spanish from Texas A & M University, and a Ph.D. in education from LSU.  Heather doesn’t cook, bake, sew, can, store, crochet, knit, quilt, garden, stamp or decoupage and doesn’t feel an ounce of guilt about it.

According to the muses at Segullah, marriage is “not all movie moments walking hand-in-hand along the beach to a beautiful sunset.” Their invitation for June guest posts even suggests that marriage is “less about romance and more about work and commitment.”  I’m not a blogger, and I’m not really even a writer, but this invitation spoke to me. You see, my husband and I haven’t been doing a whole lotta hand holding or walking on beaches. We’ve had less romance than usual, had lots of “discussions,” and we’ve done lots of work these last couple years. We seem to have had more than our fair share of crummy days, months–heck, even crummy quarters! So what’s our story? How are we sticking it out? Why are we sticking it out?

In short, we grew up in the Church, met at BYU (cue the cheesy music), got married in the temple, had three kids, served in all sorts of Church callings, and then, well, the crap hit the fan. We’ve been married for 17.5 years (has anyone ever heard of the 15-16-17-year itch?) and we’re not the same people we were. We’ve grown up–a lot. We’ve changed. We believe different things–different from what we used to collectively believe and different from what each of us as individuals used to believe.

Yeah, I’m talking about the Church. I’m talking about testimonies. Commandments. Temple marriage. Tithing. Garments. Priesthood. Polygamy. Big stuff. I could pin it all on my husband (and believe me, I’ve tried): he started it, he has more issues than I do . . . but the truth is, we’re both in this. What’s an otherwise happy Mormon couple to do when the going gets tough? I’ve heard/read of people threatening divorce. Whoa, now. Those are fighting words. That was never on the table for me. I’ve heard/read about people capitulating: the believing spouse stops going to church to keep the peace. Or maybe the no-longer-believing spouse decides to just fake it and go to church and continue to do the whole “Mormon thing,” to keep the peace.

I get that. Marriage is about compromise and negotiation. We don’t always get our way. But this is a crazy kind of peace, if you ask me. I really, really, really don’t want to go down either one of those paths. I need to find a way for both of us to be comfortable in our own skin, to be happy, authentic, and real—with  ourselves, with each other, and with our kids. I don’t want our kids to grow up and find out that one of us was masquerading as someone else. Hiding and pretending and skulking around do not a happy marriage make.

I get mad at my husband as we navigate this new terrain. I get frustrated. I cry. I yell. (Oops—mental to-do list: read The Anger Habit in Relationships.) But here’s what I’m TRYING to do, although I’m not always successful. I’m trying to remember that I married my husband; I didn’t marry the Church. I didn’t marry a gospel principle. I didn’t marry a commandment. I didn’t marry a priesthood holder (well, technically I did, but just stay with me, okay?). I married a man—a good one. A great one. A funny, smart, articulate, ambitious, supportive one. And I had three kids with that great guy. So I’m not going anywhere. I hope he’s telling himself the same thing. I think he is. If he’s not right now, that’s okay. I can wait.

I’m in good company. Harold B. Lee counseled that “the most important of the Lord’s work that you ever do will be the work you do within the walls of your own home” (Ensign, July 1973). Alma preached that “there should be no contention one with another, but that [we] should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having [our] hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21). Well, it might seem like we don’t have one faith anymore. But we do have faith in each other. We have faith in our family. In Doctrine & Covenants 45:32, the Lord says, “my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved.”

I am a disciple of Christ. My home and my marriage are holy places. I will not be moved.

[P.S. Could somebody please show me this post in a couple weeks? I might have forgotten about this moment of clarity by then.]

12 thoughts on “A Moment of Clarity”

  1. Marriage, testimony, gospel, church, family: so many strong emotions, any contradiction (or appearance of one) can end up in major befuddlement and confusion.

    I love your clarity on this one. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Heather, I love how you put this! And I love how you're staying.

    Our situations sound so similar, and while it took me (quite) some time to arrive at my present position, I'm so very grateful that I did.

    I'm having a world of problems with this comment submission…it won't post it and then says I've already commented. I've tried for 20 minutes but it won't let me say what I wanted to say. I DID talk about it in an interview on the Mormon Women Project though, so you can read that if you're interested.

    http://www.mormonwomen.com/2010/05/04/the-journey-is-the-reward/

    There seem to be a LOT of people in this situation…so it's beautiful that you wrote about it. I'm sure you will give hope to many. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Love this, Heather. A key moment of clarity I had in my own brand of interfaith marriage was this: I too often conflated typical, daily-living marriage issues with faith issues. (eg if we were both Mormon we wouldn't be arguing about the laundry… Now THAT'S a rational thought … Sheesh). I keep going back to the best advice I got before the wedding from a wise man: at the end of the day, when you strip everything else away, it's just two people trying to make it work. My home and marriage are sacred spaces, too.

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  4. I started to relate to this post because my husband of 23 years and I have struggled for years to find a happy place. But our woes are not about the church. We both have the same beliefs and same commitment level. What do you do when you're both that committed to the gospel and your married life, but one partner can't let go of expectations for the other? I came with a lot of baggage that I have worked to unload. It's been gone for awhile, but what remains is me trying to be my best self…and never measuring up. Sorry, I'm a bit fed up–can you tell? I'll stop now. I guess what I would say is that no matter what you're differences, trying to find a place of compromise and acceptance seems to be the key to making it work. I wish you loads of that good fortune.

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  5. I'm looking at this same situation from the other direction. Twenty years into my marriage, my faith has evolved into something else. Something my husband doesn't understand. He is angry that I am not the Mormon he married, but I am the woman he married. I go to church and continue to raise my kids LDS out of respect for a twenty year old promise. But I want the freedom to believe what I want. And to have my husband respect my choices.

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  6. Heather I knew I liked you as soon as I read your bio! I'm glad that you can confidently list all the things you don't do without guilt. But I have to say, you ARE a writer. Thank you for sharing your insight. Your words are honest I wish my parents had read them 24 years ago.

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  7. Two of Three, did you talk to my husband before posting your comment?? 😉

    Jokes aside, your post pains me. I decided, over a year or more, that my husband and family come first. I feel comfortable that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would agree with my decision, even if it means shifting beliefs. Oh, sure, someone could tell me that my "hunch" re: what they would think is wrong, but I'm not worried about what other people think. I'm worried about me and my house.

    Fortunately, I have not had to make any huge concessions yet–we still go to church every week and my husband still agrees to do certain things (sub in a primary class or even teach Gospel Doctrine occasionally, but does not have a regular calling). Mostly the concessions are in my head. I have let go of needing to feel like I am in control of things and am just enjoying our family life as much as I can.

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  8. hkobeal- I'm sorry to cause you any grief. I appreciate your position and hope the best for you and your family. I value your post as it gives me insight into what it is like on the other side and hopefully, a better understanding of my husband's feelings.

    Reply

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