Freckles in April: July 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

Marriage After a Mormon Faith Transition

Twelve years ago today a tall, skinny, smart guy (totally my type) asked me for my email address after sacrament meeting at church. You can read more about that here but in honor of the anniversary of the day I met my husband I thought I'd share this post.

My college friend Celeste has an excellent blog devoted to marriage and several years ago she asked me to write a guest post for her about how my marriage survived my change of faith. I had been out of the church for about a year at that point and finally felt like we had reached a happy place. I stand by the post I wrote back then but I've updated it a bit to reflect a couple more years worth of experience and the "new normal" we've settled into. 

When I went through my faith transition I think the thing that scared me the most was that I might lose my husband. We went into our marriage being on the same page and then, over the course of a year or two, it's like I jumped into a completely different book. When we were talking about getting engaged I clearly remember him asking me if I could commit to a life of service to God in our church. At the time I though, "Well of course! I mean, what else would I be doing?" I was raised in our church and couldn't fathom that my faith would ever change.

But my faith DID change. I went from a fully believing Mormon to a questioning Mormon to an agnostic ex-Mormon over the course of about 4 years. It wasn't until the last 6 months of my struggle prior to leaving our church that I even talked to my husband about it. I wasn't sure where to even START and I had heard too many stories of couples in similar situations who ended up divorcing. I was terrified. 

Fortunately I married a good man who loves me even though I couldn't hold to that promise I made so many years before. He told me that it would be silly of him to expect me to never grow and change from the person I was at age 20.

One of the most important things we've done to maintain our marriage during my faith transition is TALK. I try to explain why I find certain things painful or uncomfortable, or I explain the ways in which my understanding has changed, and he listens and asks good questions. He tells me about the good and positive things he sees in the church while I listen and acknowledge that good. We've always been decent at communicating with each other but we've gotten really good at it in the past couple years. 

Aaron's nonjudgmental listening and question-asking are the best things he could have done for me as I struggled. I was feeling so tender and raw and he was earnestly trying to understand where I was coming from rather than convince me of his point of view or change my mind. I knew he was hurting from my changes in belief but he never put that on me or pointed fingers. He has defended me and bolstered me all along the way.

Conversely, I try to be supportive of his continued belief. He finds peace and joy in the church and I have no desire to rob him of those feelings by pushing my own agenda. I attend sacrament meeting with him and our kids every other week. I haven't pushed my beliefs on him and he hasn't pushed his on me. We've let each other be and focused on love. We're far from perfect at it, but we are really trying.

To other couples in a similar situation, this is my advice:

1. Practice GOOD communication. This means no accusing or blaming. Try to understand your spouse before you try to make them understand you. Make your peace with the fact that you probably won't change each other's minds. Talk with the goal of understanding, not converting. Find common ground wherever possible. 

2. Remember that life goes on...and it will look pretty much the same. It may feel like a monumental shift has happened in your home but then you'll realize that you're still going about your day-to-day life and watching Parks & Recreation together while eating Oreos and it's all fairly normal. If you're worried about how much things are going to change you may find comfort in the fact that things probably won't change that much. 

^I got a lot of pushback on this point when my post first went up over 2 years ago and I'd like to edit and say that individual mileage may vary. I heard a lot of stories about spouses who lost their faith and became alcoholics and adulterers. In those cases I'd like to refer to point number 3 below. 

Also, commenters made the point that the husband leaving the Mormon church affects the family a lot more than the wife leaving due to no longer having the priesthood in the home. Side-eye at institutional gender inequality but yes, I understand that point as well and how that adds an extra layer of complications. But, unless your husband was the type to give daily priesthood blessings or something, I'll still argue that your day-to-day won't change much and I think there's a lot of comfort in that. The big days (baptisms, wedding, etc.) will be hard but they're not easy at our house either (maybe someday I'll write about the weirdness of my son's baptism day). Please check out point 4.

3. It's ok to seek professional help. Aaron and I managed to wade through and figure things out on our own but I kept the number of a marriage therapist handy just in case. Going by what I've seen in my interactions with other people who have left the church but have believing spouses, therapy is pretty common and extremely helpful. [edit: I ended up going on my own]

4. Find your balance. Compromise. Bend. Find middle ground together. We have Family Home Evening as often as we ever did (which is to say, not often) but we have it on secular topics like "how to identify and handle your emotions" and "conflict resolution." Scripture and prayer still happen most nights but it's usually just Aaron and our 7-year-old who participate. My family attends church regularly and I go to sacrament meeting with them every other week. Aaron goes to the temple once a month, usually in the early morning hours so he's not leaving me alone with crazy kids at the witching hour after work, which would definitely make me resentful. Set boundaries for what's ok and what's not and make sure that you're being reasonable. No one ever wants to give ground but if you want your marriage to work then you're going to have to. This might mean attending church sometimes with your believing spouse or not freaking out if your ex-mo spouse goes out for a drink with friends occasionally. 

I'd like to point out that this takes time. Possibly a LOT of time. I left the church over 3 1/2 years ago and our balance took a long time to settle. It still shifts occasionally when someone's needs change or there's something we think we can do better.

5. You CAN make it work. I think one of the most helpful things for me was seeing that other people had come through the same thing and were happily making it work. It was proof that we could do it. You're going to have to discuss and compromise and reevaluate and then discuss some more but you'll get there. Finally, at some point you'll look at your spouse and realize, "Hey...we're doing this. And we're ok!" It will always require that you work together, but isn't that the very heart of marriage?

Edit: Sadly, both couples that I was referring to in my last point have since divorced. However, I'm past the point of needing to see other couples making it work in order to have faith in my own marriage. WE are making it work. Honestly, we're about as happy as we ever were before when I was a believing Mormon. We have rough patches but they're the same issues we dealt with before that are mostly due to the fact that I'm prickly and he's a bit clueless. Normal marriage stuff unrelated to religious conflict. We've gotten to a point where church doesn't come up much anymore. He quietly lives his faith in the same way he always has and I barely think about church at all except for when I wake up every other Sunday morning and realize I should probably wash my hair. I'm respectful of his faith and we've been able to find compromise and common ground when it comes to issues that pop up. 

My point is: it's doable. If you're still at the beginning wondering how on earth you're going to make it work, I want to reassure you that you can. It gets easier. Feelings become less raw. Expectations adjust. Everyone sort of settles in and makes some sort of peace with the situation. It takes time but if you're both willing to work at it then you can get there.


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Friday, July 7, 2017

In Which I (Kind Of) Surprise My Husband with a Trip

In December I wrote out my resolutions for 2017 (which, as I go back through, I am seriously rocking that list), including "Take Aaron on a surprise trip."

Last week was the week, my friends.

Aaron is not super happy in Arizona. We're here for the long haul due to deep family and career ties but he loves to daydream about retiring somewhere (anywhere) else. Back in January he made a comment about how we should retire somewhere near both a body of water AND a forest and maybe we should start checking out some potential options. My brain went, DING! TAKE THAT MAN TO TAHOE.

If I had done a shorter weekend trip then I think I could have pulled off a total surprise of the "Pack a bag, we're taking a trip today!" variety but going to Tahoe meant more time and more money (which I didn't feel comfortable spending without his knowledge) so I did tell him that I was planning a surprise trip. Telling him also allowed me to get some input from him when making some trip choices. I gave him two options: we could fly directly to our destination (Reno) OR fly to the nearest big city (San Francisco) and spend a couple days doing the tourist thing there and then drive 4ish hours over to our final destination. He chose the big city option and I think involving him just a little bit got him even more excited.

We stayed at the Marina Inn in the Marina district in SF. It was old and kind of beat but with cool details. Which is basically San Francisco in a nutshell.

I got our SF hotel through and our condo in Tahoe through AirBnB. I also got a couple Groupons for activities. This made it so our credit card statement never showed exactly WHERE we were going, just a general charge through a non-location specific company.

Got a Groupon for Bay City Bikes so we could bike the Golden Gate

I kept the details of the trip a secret for MONTHS only to have Google Calendar spill the beans for me a week and a half before we were to leave.

See, Google likes to be SUPER helpful and when I got confirmation emails about our flights and hotels, it added them to my calendar. Fortunately, I noticed that early on and quickly moved everything to a secret calendar. EXCEPT! Google (again, trying to be helpful) assumed that I wanted to share that calendar with Aaron since all my other calendars are shared with him. So in late June Aaron came to me with guilt all over his face. "I think I know where we're going. It showed up on my calendar today."


On the plus side, we spent the last few days before our trip planning more specific things and it was fine. Still, it would have been a lot more fun to just give Aaron his plane ticket the morning of and be like SURPRIIISE.

Maybe next time.

The Brian Head wildfire made for a really dramatic drive through southern Utah

I drove my kids up to Utah so they could spend the week playing with cousins then I caught a super early morning Uber to the airport and flew to San way of Phoenix. There were no direct flights so yeah, I flew back home and then Aaron and I were on the same flight up to SFO.

We spent two perfect days in the city. We ate amazing food and walked (and biked) all over and reeeally enjoyed wearing jackets.

The best places we ate while in SF:

The Grove Fillmore- Recommended by Kristen Pear. We walked the mile-ish from our hotel and had a suuuper yummy breakfast. It was the perfect cozy spot to eat on a foggy morning.

Super yummy breakfast at The Grove
Delarosa- a Yelp find while we were in the area, this place had excellent pizza. We both love burrata and they have a burrata margherita that was SO GOOD. Aaron got spicy coppa on his half but I had mine straight and we both loved it. Perfect little lunch spot.

La Boulangerie de San Francisco - right around the corner from The Grove! We walked the same mile the next morning to get breakfast from this little French bakery. I had the turkey and brie croissant and Aaron had some kind of breakfast sandwich and the sour cherry lemonade before we split a chocolate croissant. All excellent.

We had dinner in Chinatown one night- some of what we ordered was really good, some was pretty mediocre. Not really worth recommending but it DID put us right by Coit Tower so we made the climb and had gorgeous views.

View from Coit Tower

Can you spot Lombard Street there at the back?

We stopped at Ghirardelli Square, obviously. We had to get a hot fudge sundae AND hot chocolate- for balance.

We biked the Golden Gate one day and spent some time exploring Sausalito, which Aaron was completely sold on. The city was chilly and gloomy but Sausalito was warm and sunny and totally bike friendly. We had lunch at Le Garage. The stuffed squash blossoms were REALLY good but everything else was good-not-great, which was kind of disappointing considering how pricey the restaurant was.

June Gloom as we biked across the Golden Gate

On Wednesday evening I discovered I'd made a huge mistake: I somehow didn't book a rental car. The plan had been to pick up a rental car on Thursday morning to make the drive to Tahoe but either something went wrong or I just never clicked "book" but I went through my email over and over and I could not find a confirmation anywhere. We had to book a last minute car and it was DOUBLE the price it had been when I looked 4 months prior. It was painful. I felt awful.

So Thursday morning we picked up our practically gold-plated rental car and drove to Land's End on our way out of San Francisco. I never made it to that area while growing up in the Bay Area and I've always wanted to. It was so so good. We did a small stretch of the trail and saw whales and it was just perfect.

Sutro Baths

There's a little whale plume in the back of this photo

The second part of Aaron's surprise was that his good friend from college, Andrew, and his wife Shawna were meeting us in Tahoe. They arrived in Tahoe shortly after us on Thursday and we had a late dinner with lots of laughs and catching up.


We kayaked, swam, hiked, ate and laughed for 3 days. It was the best. We're already planning on taking a trip together again next summer. We said over and over that we were so glad they were there with us. It made the trip just that much better.

Exploring the Truckee River

You know how I'm always linking to cheap bikinis on Amazon? I finally got one and it was awesome. The bottoms were a bit too tiny (like, they sort of exposed my c-section scar) so I usually wore a pair of plain black bottoms with them instead. But I love the top and $20 was totally worth it.

SO GORGEOUS but I kind of wish the water was like 15 degrees warmer. Tahoe is COLD y'all.

Mission accomplished!! Aaron was surprised (I mean, 2 weeks ahead of time, but still! surprised!), we got out of the heat and had so. much. fun.


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