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Together and Apart

The newest post in our “Up Close” series comes from FoxyJ, who lives in Utah County with her husband and two children. She loves reading, cooking, and riding her bike (except on hills). She blogs at Yellow Wallpaper and her husband blogs at The Fob Cave.

Growing up, I never liked the idea that opposites attract. I was always a bit of a social oddball and didn’t make many close friends, let alone garner many dates or interest from guys. All I wanted was a husband who would share my quirky sense of humor and love of reading. When I first met my husband one of the things that attracted me most was the fact that we were so alike; we’d served in the same mission, and then returned to BYU at about the same time with the same double major in English and Spanish. After spending a few months as ‘just friends’, we took a spring term Spanish class together and were engaged by the end of eight weeks. During the first two years of marriage we spent plenty of time together, usually arranging our schedule so we took a few classes together and met up during the day for lunch. At church we had shared callings too: first as nursery leaders and then as ward missionaries.

By our second anniversary I had finished my undergraduate degree and had our first child, so things shifted and we didn’t quite have the same intense closeness as before. But we still had a strong marriage, or so I thought until my husband sat down to talk with me one night and revealed that he had serious doubts about the Church. I was too shocked and scared to say much, so we shelved the discussion and didn’t bring it up much for the next little while. He gradually began to withdraw himself from activity, asking to be released from his calling and stopping temple attendance.   He continued to attend church with me on Sundays, mostly to support me in my calling, but his heart was no longer in the Church anymore.

We went on like that for another year or so. During that year I had our second child and we moved to another state for my husband to start graduate school. My son’s emergency delivery and a difficult recovery combined with the move to throw me into a serious depression. I barely noticed my husband’s own distress, and by the end of his first quarter of graduate school we were both hanging onto our sanity by our fingernails. In despair I went to my new bishop, who recommended a counselor in a nearby city. To my surprise, both the counselor and my bishop urged us to get divorced. They counseled me that it would be better to start over with someone new, an active, ‘worthy’ Church member. My husband and I were in so much emotional pain at that point that it seemed to be the best idea for both of us. He found an apartment and I worked on finding a job. For several months we lived apart and juggled the kids between us. Then one day we realized that we still liked each other and that we still did have a lot in common. We decided to give things another try, both for ourselves and our children. Things were different; my husband did not want to attend church and we have made other shifts in our relationship.  We both realized, though, that we needed each other more than anyone else. Our marriage does not look like I thought it would eight years ago when we got engaged. We’ve both changed a lot, and while some of those changes aren’t the ones I was expecting, I’m learning to be happy with who we are now.

We recently moved (again), and one night as we were arranging our new living room together my husband turned to me and said “we make a great team.” I had been thinking the exact same thing; even if we don’t share everything that we used to we still can find ways to work together. And I’m glad to know that in many ways we are still on the same team, even if it’s not as obvious as it used to be.

33 thoughts on “Together and Apart”

  1. What a great gift that you have your husband in your life. Marriage is tough. I am a little taken back that both the (I am assuming LDS family services) counsler and your bishop suggested Divorce and for you to find a "worth" church member. See I am married to a non-member and though he does not share my religion he does share my belief in us and in God in general. Sure we have tough time, what marriage doesn't? But in the end he is who I love and need to be with. Good luck with your future, it sounds like you are already doing great!

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  2. I beautiful, honest post. You teach us that even skilled counselors and bishops can be fallible as they seek to advice others, that marriages where the partners have different religious beliefs can succeed, and that love is a powerful, healing force.

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  3. Thanks you for this. My marriage is not where I want it to be and it's easy to dismiss all the good things as well as the bad. I need to take a step back and reasses what's working for us. Thanks for reminding me of that.

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  4. What a beautiful and honest post. Truth is beauty, beauty is truth.

    I do relate!

    My husband does not share my faith – at all. We have married late in life, as I have mentioned here several times. It is my first, and only, marriage at 50. He is 63. I have spent my whole life practically at church: committees, bells, choir, quilting, cooking, VBS etc etc etc
    I made the vow that we would do what he wanted – if he wanted to go, then we would, if not, i would never say another word – i have a Bible and Hymnal.
    He then decided we would go 1 – 2 x a month to his worship, Quaker and their book studies, etc. I go, and was actually made the Coordinator for Adult Religious Ed – i thin it is because i was the only one that read the whole book in the study, hehehe

    We struggle sometimes with this – but such is life and as you have found – our husbands are worth it! I admire you and your husbands decisions!

    I admire you and your DH decisions – I commend you and say that you have a courage, that will get you thru – Peace and Light and Blessings to you!

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  5. I'm the person who wrote the "Finding Faith" piece, mentioned above, so I won't go into my history here.
    Being on the same team is a huge accomplishment. I think if my husband and I were to ever seek counseling, I seriously doubt it would be about issues related to faith.
    But it is a challenge with children, especially with this year's Primary theme.
    I'm mortified that you were counseled to divorce. On the other hand, as a therapist I only work with individuals because couples work is so much harder for me. I just get feeling so overwhelmed I think they should split because it would seem easier. Maybe that therapist should stick to individual work, too.
    Life is full of challenges–none of us is immune and we often don't get to pick the ones we get. It sounds like you are making the best of a challenging situation. God is loving and fair, so we do our best with whatever we've got, regardless of how it came to us.

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  6. I am in a similar situation to you… but in the first year of it.

    It has been a hard adjustment for me. I fell madly in love with my valiant, RM husband at BYU and now (10 years later) I'm having to re-define what love means.

    Respect? Shared goals and vision? Validation? Trust?

    Him changing his faith in actuality changes so much about him and about our life together. I hardly recognize him. The things that built my love for him initially have been shattered.

    Honestly, I feel like I am giving everything I have to try and fall in love with someone I would never have gone on a date with. Someone I would never want my daughter to date… someone I would never want my sons to be.

    And in order to stay and be a "happy" family, I have to compromise things that have always mattered most to me.

    But I covenanted to love and receive him as Christ would. And to forgive as I want to be forgiven. Right?

    And my biggest heart break is over my children and that I cannot provide them with the spirit-filled, faith-based home they completely need.

    But even divorce doesn't change who their father is, or that he will teach them his views (by word and deed).

    And I know the "right" thing to do is more love and more love. Some days it's easy, and some days it's not.

    Some days I cry a lot. Mourning the loss of the man I knew. Mourning the loss of all our shared dreams-

    And it's ironic that my husband's loss of faith has made mine even stronger. I know God knows me and that His love and my Savior's divine strength sustain me in life. My faith in Him makes me stronger and softer and more hopeful and more heart broken. I cannot live a day without His help.

    You all seem mortified by the counselor and bishop's suggestion of divorce. But, I have spent a lot of time seriously wondering which direction would be best for me and my kids. And some days it really feels like divorce would be healthier.

    But, I was glad to hear that 8 years later you are happy to be married still. It gives me hope. Perhaps I will succeed in falling in love with this new man. And seeing in him many good things. And learn to be OK with the very different path my life and my kids' lives will take. I will hope for that!

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  7. Thank you for you really honest post. I think relationships are carried far more on our choices and less on fairy tale emotions, even our expectations. I think reality is surprising more complex and faceted- emphasis on gritty dirty hard.

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  8. I'm echoing so many others in saying, 'THANK YOU" for this post. I've been thinking so much about the WORK of marriage (and in fact, have a post planned for next week). We talk so much about romance and dating but the key to marriage is hard, honest work– thanks for inspiring us with your story.

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  9. This really got me to thinking about redefining – what would happen if my foundation of love for my husband was shattered? How would I rebuild it? Imagining it all was a bit emotional, it was a good thing to think of though, in a way just to remind me that peoples relationships and marriages don't all have to look a certain way…

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  10. Shelly, Blessings to you. Sounds like in your first year of marriage before you have kids, to have your husband totally change, would require some serious thought. I am one who was not appalled by the suggestion of divorce. But I have never had to deal with loss of faith in the man I'd chosen to marry. I don't think I could have children with a man I married thinking he was one way to find he'd changed even before we'd had kids. But that might be because I never had such exclusive love for one person that I couldn't imagine finding another spouse. That said, my husband and I only stayed married during the difficult times because we'd promised not to divorce, but our problems haven't ever been of a serious nature.

    This post is beautiful because she is honest in how things were for her. I just know that in my marriage (before kids and 19 yrs. of shared life) I would probably have divorced my husband if he had lost his faith. But I admire the sisters whose love is stronger than mine. Go by the Spirit! Everyone's path is lit for them individually.

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  11. Same is the case for me and my husband. We are in VERY different places in our lives and I have been "advised" by many that the best option is divorce. We both consider it from time to time but always feel that we love each other too much to part. It is indeed very difficult, but we make it work somehow, for now.

    Thank you for this post. I really love hearing from and about members who have atypical marriages and lives; it gives me comfort and inspiration to carry on.

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  12. I really appreciated this post, FoxyJ, because I'm in a similar situation. Like you, my husband and I are RMs who married in the temple. Within the first couple of years of our marriage my husband encountered significant challenges to his faith he's never been able to resolve. At times he's been nominally active, but even then he's never really believed.

    During one period when my husband was drifting away from the church after having been active for a while, I went through a period of intense guilt over his choices. I've always had lots of questions and issues of my own, and I felt responsible for introducing him to my questions and doubts. (In retrospect, I can see that I was taking too narrow a view of his history. His questioning was already well in evidence in his adolescence, long before I met him.) It was an immense relief when a bishop was able to help me lay down the burden of guilt and genuinely honor his agency by not taking responsibility for his choices. That was a turning point for me.

    We had worked out our parallel religious lives and achieved a considerable degree of equilibrium when our daughter arrived last fall, very unexpectedly, after twelve and a half years of marriage. That changed things again. At times I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of being completely responsible for her religious education. And I worried, and still worry, what she will learn about her father at church.

    However, there have also been peculiar benefits to my situation. One is that I've been forced to take responsibility for my own and my family's religious devotion. I know that I can never freeload, expecting my husband or anyone else to take the initiative on prayer, scripture study, and church attendance. It's entirely up to me to make sure those things happen. And I think that responsibility, daunting as it sometimes is now that I have a child, has made me stronger and surer in my faith and convictions.

    I also think honest communication and the willingness to accept one another's divergent choices is vital in marriages that become interfaith over time, as mine has. Last night my husband and I were sitting at the kitchen table debating our different views, as we have a thousand times now, without rancor and with considerable humor and affection. (It certainly wasn't always so! But time and experience have a way of mellowing disagreements.) Clashes in fundamental values still cause problems from time to time, and occasionally we're both stunned at how different we are, both religiously and temperamentally, but as FoxyJ said, we've realized that we make a good team. And we're friends, and committed to each other. That's enough for us.

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  13. Foxy, was it a counselor at LDS social services who told you to get a divorce? That just seems like an odd piece of advice for a secular counselor to give . . .

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  14. .

    I don't think I've ever told you this, Foxy, but at one point my parents were advised to do the same.

    I have always been grateful they did not follow that advice.

    And so have they.

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  15. I feel exactly like Shelly in the first half of her post! The gospel is everything to me and I don't know how a husband who no longer believes it fits in.

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  16. Thanks for all the kind comments everyone. I did worry about putting up this post, but hoped it would be helpful to others. Life is a continual journey and things are always changing.

    For those who are wondering, the counselor was LDS but not employed by LDSFS. As far as divorce goes, I would never presume to tell another couple what they should or should not do. But the thing we both realized after a while was that we would still need to have some kind of relationship with each other even if we did divorce, and so it was worth it to us to work on fixing that relationship as a married couple. Especially if you have children you will still have to figure a lot of things out after you divorce, so it's certainly not the 'easy' solution it often seems to be. You just have to decide if the pain of ending the relationship is greater or the pain of attempting to fix it and live with your new reality.

    Shelly–my heart goes out to you; we've actually been married 8 years; my husband has been inactive/disaffected for about 4 and it's been two years since we got separated and got back together. It's not easy and there are many things we're still figuring out. Raising children is different from how I thought it would be, but I have also learned to rely on the Lord so much more than I thought I could.

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  17. Every life is different, and every marriage even more so.

    Thank you for sharing how your marriage is, as I believe it helps everyone to know that there are no "right" ways to be married, or stay married. Marrying in the temple does not guarantee happiness, which can be a cruel and hard lesson to learn.

    Good luck with everything, and thanks again for sharing.

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  18. Always a pleasure to read what you write. Thank you for sharing your story. I think, sometimes, we hide from others that which we believe they will not understand. You and Mr. Fob do not do that, which opens doors for others to see inside and perhaps recognize that each of us has unique challenges, but also commonalities as we live our lives the best way we know how.

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  19. One of the hardest, and most important lessons to learn about marriage is that you are not responsible for the choices of your spouse.

    I have a BIL who is throwing everything away right now, his kids, his wife, because "I never really believed it". It's heartbreaking to watch.

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  20. One of the things I really admire about couples and/or individual spouses who work on their marriages is that they are remaining faithful to their temple covenants. Now, I understand that there are a lot of caveats that come with not having your spouse live up to their temple covenants too. I'm sure it makes it very, nay, extremely difficult to want to do so, when you feel distrust and anger towards them for not also keeping their covenants. Nevertheless, in the end, we will be judged according to how WE, personally, kept our covenants.

    I assume the conversation will go something like this, "Did YOU or did YOU not, keep these covenants that you made?" Sure, our spouses actions will also be judged; but, we will be accountable for whether or not we keep our covenants, in-spite or not-in-spite of what our spouse does. At least, this is my finite understanding of it.

    I'm not trying to open another can of worms here, but I often think about this dedication to covenants when people criticize the early members of the church who were involved in polygamy for fleeing the country (i.e. going to Mexico) or hiding from the government, in some cases. It's kind of the same. They made a covenant and then, that covenant was against the law. But, what would you do? Leave your spouse? Divorce them? What about the covenant you made? These men weren't exactly trying to evade the law and the government, they were just choosing to keep the covenants they made. Because they had made them.

    Situations may change; but that doesn't change the covenants we have made. I sincerely believe (and hope) the Lord will bless us for remaining faithful to those covenants in the end.

    Thanks for a beautiful post.

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  21. Whoa, polygamy—let's not go there.:-) As far as keeping covenants go, I agree that sometimes in our marriages it's a matter of hanging in there and keeping our covenants. I also agree that the Lord will judge us on how we kept those covenants. But I am leery of advocating keeping covenants at all cost (which I don't think you were doing, Kelsie). What about situations of abuse? I know of several sisters who have stayed in physically or emotionally abusive marriages for the sake of their covenants—to the great detriment of their children. I have a friend who was contemplating leaving an abusive spouse, but who was afraid to break her temple covenants. As she prayed about it, she felt she should get a divorce. She told the Lord, "But you hate covenant-breaking." And the response she heard in her mind was, "But I hate abuse more." I currently have a friend who is suffering in an emotionally abusive and very unhappy marriage. Her children are suffering and the effects of their dysfunctional upbringing will no doubt haunt them the rest of their lives and shadow their own marriages. But my friend keeps clinging to the idea that she made covenants, and she needs to keep them. Keep them at what cost?

    Anyway, sorry about the threadjack but I think we need to be careful of advocating keeping our covenants no matter what, because it makes those who struggle in abusive marriages feel even more confused and guilty.

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  22. What an amazing post. The comments have also been heartfelt and thought provoking. It's funny how life never really rolls along how we planned. Hearing all your stories really helps me realize that there really isn't such a thing as a "normal" marriage. We just follow the spirit the best we can.

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  23. FoxyJ, I always find it heartening to see you write or talk about your marriage, which I know has been complicated for both of you, but is a marriage I love hanging out with. It's encouraging to see two such good, honest, genuine, and hilarious people find a way to make it work despite the difficulties. You're my heroes. (please read that in the voice of Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.)

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  24. I never said, "Never divorce." In fact, I do think that abuse is one of those situations where priesthood leaders may advocate a dissolution of marriage. Furthermore, there are probably numerous individual situations that could be listed here where divorce is far and away the best option. But, I opted not to list those out.

    What I meant by my *general* comment, and perhaps, did not do a good enough job at conveying was that I can see why couples or individuals stick it out. And I ADMIRE THAT. I surmise that they do it because they are keeping their covenants.

    And I was not trying to imply that those who don't stick it out, are out and out "covenant breakers." That's not what I said. Please don't read into my comment or take anything personally.

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  25. FoxyJ,

    I like to think that if you two can make it, the rest of us should hush up and love our spouses. Having been a faithful reader of yours for several years, I've been through the ups and downs of your relationship. I'm always impressed by the care and thoughtfulness the two of you devote to your marriage, and how open and honest you are about the choice you've made to be together.

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  26. Thank you so much for this post. I have been meaning to comment, but life keeps getting in the way. The husband of a dear friend of mine left the church. It has been so difficult for her. I don't think she ever received advice to divorce him. And honestly, why should she? He is a good person, a wonderful husband and father. His own feelings about the gospel haven't changed those aspects of him. They keep moving forward. I know there are moments of tension, but they are both trying. And I admire both of them.

    Anyhow, thank you for being honest as you described your life. For many of us, life doesn't turn out as expected. We all have moments which seem to tear at the very fabric of our beliefs. To me, true strength and courage comes when we press forward, in spite of shattered dreams or changed realities. We find happiness in what is and continue to hope for good things.

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  27. This is wonderful. My wife and I have worked with the same bishop and (probably) the same counselor, and that they suggested divorce is a surprise to me.

    While I'm grateful for leaders who seek inspiration and professionals who excel in their field, it's good to be reminded of their humanity. I'm really glad you two are still together.

    Bless you both.

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