Help talking to a spouse

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
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Reuben
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by Reuben » 18 Jun 2017, 06:02

As always, mom3 wins the thread. (Why, yes, everything does have to be a competition with me.) Read, re-read, and re-re-read, especially the last paragraph.

The reason I asked about support from local leadership is that 1) most believing members will listen to authority, and 2) given that your leaders know about your faith transition and you're still EQP, they might not push the false narrative. He's the thing, though: I was still thinking in terms of fixing your wife, which is the wrong way to think about it right now. I'm going to stop thinking about it that way.

Let's talk about specific things you should and shouldn't do.

You've already identified the Santa Claus analogy as coming across as condescending. Yeah, don't use it. In fact, almost all the analogies we use to understand ourselves and what's happened to us come across as threatening or condescending to believers. The Santa Claus analogy correctly captures the impossibility of wilfully changing beliefs, but to do so, requires an object of belief that's fundamentally unbelievable, which paints believers as silly. Some analogies try to capture our sense of betrayal, which comes across as blame. Avoid those analogies especially.

Your analogy about unlearning how to read captures the impossibility of not understanding a new way to interpret evidence once you've understood it the new way, but implies that believers' understandings are analogous to being illiterate. That one also has to go. Further, if you actually believe that implication to any degree, find a way to unbelieve it, pronto.

There are analogies that are safer: the broken shelf, the fallen tower, the death of a loved one, the candlestick/lovers image. But as mom3 says, don't initiate, and probably just politely request (with absolutely nothing that resembles bitterness) to not talk about your faith transition for a while.

Focus on what you do believe. Find every way you can to express these beliefs in Mormon terms.

Don't say "I can't do that" about any faith-related duty. Instead, express what you can do - or if possible just do it. If you need time to work out what you can do, it's fair to ask for time. Ask on this forum for ideas.

You'll probably never fully succeed, but do try to understand your wife's terror. You know what it's like to believe 100%, but one thing you're missing is what it's like to utterly depend on someone else for your welfare in this life and in eternity. Imagine that a person you depend on for everything, now and forever, leads you to believe that he or she might not follow through. You would need a lot of reassurance, in word and in action. You would need to feel safe again before engaging with this person's reasons. It wouldn't matter whether what made you feel unsafe mostly existed in your head, because the stakes are just so high.

This web site has some great ideas, and you might even find some hope in it:

https://www.gottman.com/

According to the Gottmans, the keys are respect and having a high ratio of positive to negative interactions. Chase those positive interactions.

Dr. Kristy Money has some great ideas as well, and IIRC some of them are things the unbelieving spouse can do alone:

http://drkristymoney.com/

It sucks. It really, really sucks when the people closest to us can't help us when we need help the most, and even push us away. It might help to remember that your wife, whether she has good reasons or not, probably feels the same way.
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Love before dogma. Truth before loyalty. Knowledge before sanctity or certainty.

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SilentDawning
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by SilentDawning » 18 Jun 2017, 06:45

The advice I like to give is to become aware of her emotional needs. Go to www.marriagebuilders.com and read about Willard Harley Junior's emotional needs questionnaire. He believes that meeting other people's most important emotional needs is what keeps love alive. Find out what makes her feel love for you. Family commitment is probably one of those needs, and your faith transition probably hurt the church aspect of it.

So, you have to up your investment in meeting her other needs to compensate.

Also, don't talk about your faith differences. I don't talk about them with my wife as it upsets her too.

But the marriage chugs along as I go to church, hold a calling, and support her and my kids in it.

Are you holding a TR and being active in church? Do that stuff and that can help if you feel you can.

Interesting, my daughter may well get married in the next couple years. She wants to be in the temple and asked if I'd be mad if she is married in the temple when I don't have a TR. And she doesn't want me just to get a TR for the ceremony and NOT make a permanent change.

We decided mutually that we will not let the church or the temple come between our family relationships. Such is our commitment to each other. Strange to say that, as the church and temple is about uniting families, although it has the potential to break them unless you manage it.

You might consider having a conversation that affirms that commitment to each other. When my daughter and I finished that conversation, it was beautiful. I reminded her that all the people in the sealing room with me when I did the temple sealing are no longer part of my life. Yet my non-mem family either didn't come or sat outside the temple, not part of the experience. They are the only ones that I'm still in contact, and even that is semi-rarely except for my sister. The temple thing really hurt our relationship.

Getting to the point where your relationship transcends the church is liberating, and in my view, is a very high form of love.

Whatever you can do to get to that point....
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

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Ray DeGraw
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by Ray DeGraw » 18 Jun 2017, 11:57

Shut up and love her, if that is what she needs.

Love her - then love her more - then love her more - in an eternal round. She didn't change; you did. You loved her as she was, so love her as she is. Make sure she knows you love her as much as you ever have. Don't just say it; prove it. No expectations of understanding. If it happens, fine; if not, fine. Doesn't matter; love her.

One final analogy:

Adam chose to leave the peaceful presence of God to remain in pain and hardship with Eve. The main character in "What Dreams May Come" stayed with his wife in Hell rather than be in Heaven by himself - because Heaven without her would have been Hell, while Hell with her was Heaven. Don't say it that way to your wife (those exact words), but make sure she knows you will never leave her, no matter what. Become sealed to her - not just symbolically through an ordinance but in practical terms.

In other words, what mom3 said.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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mom3
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by mom3 » 18 Jun 2017, 15:10

One final thought - Santa Clause

You may not believe in Santa Clause but will you still be having Christmas?

In our house I have 2 "believers". They know he's just a story. They know that the volunteer Santa at the mall is just someone's dad or grandpa. Yet all the same Santa still plays a role in our Christmas season.

Some traditions have melted away as they have matured. Other's they choose not to let go of. We still have The Night Before Christmas book with all of it's gorgeous drawings. We still make homemade cookies just for him. We still play all the music. This year we recited the Night Before Christmas story after we had our Bethlehem Dinner (we do that on Dec. 24th). The kids, now 27, 24, and 21, still wrap and sign some gifts "From Santa".

It brings joy. It harms no one. And adds some extra delight to life.

My husband is agnostic. Some times boarder line atheist. Yet he has willed his mind and heart to let a Christ person be of value to me. Neither of us can prove Jesus Christ, as religions and Mormonism, teach him. But if you hang your hat on the beatitudes and his parables, you find inspiration. Even if he was just a Rabbi from Nazareth whose story became mythical. My husbands willingness to make that room has been a gift to us.

This faith journey, in my opinion, may be one of God's greatest gifts. Sadly it is wrapped in scratchy, brown paper, but inside, the contents invite us to be more like Deity and the Divine than anything I have ever experienced. To me it's worth the walk.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

DoubtingTom
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by DoubtingTom » 18 Jun 2017, 20:39

Thank you all so much for your kind and thoughtful replies. I've had tears in my eyes as I've read some of your responses. The theme I'm getting from most of these comments is to just try extra hard to love her and show her that love. I'll have to really up the ante and do my best. Thanks for the help.

ydeve
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by ydeve » 19 Jun 2017, 06:12

I ran across this blog post on reddit. It tries to explain how exmormons feel to TBMs and does a great job at not being anti. You might be able to get some ideas from it.

https://medium.com/@brynnetg/they-can-l ... 98cc12d399

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dande48
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by dande48 » 19 Jun 2017, 06:52

ydeve wrote:
19 Jun 2017, 06:12
I ran across this blog post on reddit. It tries to explain how exmormons feel to TBMs and does a great job at not being anti. You might be able to get some ideas from it.

https://medium.com/@brynnetg/they-can-l ... 98cc12d399
Great article. Thank you for sharing.

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Heber13
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by Heber13 » 19 Jun 2017, 08:04

Reuben wrote:
18 Jun 2017, 06:02
Focus on what you do believe. Find every way you can to express these beliefs in Mormon terms.
I was going to say this. I think this is really important, because you can talk and talk and talk forever about the past and how or why things changed and never really come to a full understanding, perhaps.

But one thing that is important is what you do now, and what you choose to do about it moving forward.

Fight her fears and your fears with love now. Find things that show her you are good deep down. Find the things that show you still seek goodness, God, spirituality, all the things that help you love her and serve others.

Look for daily small tender mercies of kindness. What are things she would appreciate? Do those small things often. Dishes. Bathrooms. Edge the lawn if she notices that. If you feel you can...see if you can have prayer with her showing you don't hate God...you simply are searching for truth...and prayer is a dialogue with ourselves, but she can hear your sincerity in your prayers, even if you don't know that any "being" is out there listening...you can just express love from your heart. Find common ground subjects to talk about...such as this General Conference talk on love and acceptance, or topics on Christ loving the woman caught in adultery, or the good Samaritan. The basic bible stories about goodness...not the questionable bible stories (avoid those).

Give give her something to see your heart...not just all the doubts that she has to fill in blanks.

There is so much goodness int he church and in religion that we can focus on...that when we go through transitions we can sometimes focus on the doubts and hurt and forget to balance it with other stuff.

You may even feel like doubling service efforts is a good way to find common ground and reassure her of good things. Someone in the ward needs help moving furniture...be the first to raise your hand to help. That has nothing to do with Joseph Smith. That is just being Christ-like.

Someone needs to help drive the youth to activities...raise your hand...show you care about others and the community.

Cleaning the church always needs to be done, setting up chairs, home teaching, picking up cheerios in the chapel, yardwork for the elderly in the ward...opportunities to serve are endless and have nothing to do with the history of polygamy or archeology or any of those tangents.

Separate out church from gospel, and if you are letting go of some church literal truths, that leaves more room for true gospel truths...so fill it.

Those are some ideas on some things you can do, because as others have said...at some point you shut up and stop talking or it makes it worse. Not stop talking forever...you can find the right moments and times to express feelings and connect with each other as a couple to develop trust and commitment between you both. But sometimes you need the loving actions to create a safe place to talk about differences, while giving her lots of examples of how much you deeply care about her, about spirituality, and about others. Then the talks can go a bit smoother.

I don't think a person has to say they don't want an eternal family just because they are unsure about ordinances in the temple. A person can still want and hope for the eternal family, even if we are trying to figure out what that means, and have hope that temple work allows for us to keep working on things well past this life. So...while the fears are real, and the challenge to a couple is real...the church really is giving lots of room for families to work things out over eternity...and we don't need to panic or be worried now...we just need to focus on becoming the person God wants us to become...and be loving and patient as Christ teaches.

I like the Uchtdorf quote. There are many others also. The idea is that we don't need to fear change, but look at it as ways to grow.

Always trade up, and look for common ground to build on...and some fears can be minimized. Be a good person. And love her always.

I think this is a process...it takes time. Be patient with yourself, and with her. You have changed the terms in the marriage. Own that, and move forward reassuring her there is so much goodness to hold on to. Even if some things hurt when change happens. It will be OK. Show her.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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On Own Now
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by On Own Now » 19 Jun 2017, 10:47

Number one thing we must all do, those of us who have believing spouses, is to recognize that it is WE who have changed, not our spouses; own that fact and then carry the burden for our spouses as much as we can. From a recent thread:
On Own Now wrote:
14 Feb 2017, 12:29
we have to realize that when we have a believing spouse, we've caused a lot of anguish. My wife has been more impacted by my FC than I have, only she is 100% collateral damage. She is still true to what we both believed all those years ago when we emerged from the temple with our family/friends. I have changed, not her. But while I have found peace in my new beliefs, her life is at constant tension with her beliefs. She believes and she is active. I believe there is no God and I'm "less" active. What we used to share we now avoid. We don't pray together or read scriptures together. Trying to get me to go to an extra-curricular Church activity is usually not worth the effort for her. I go with her to Church, but not to Sunday School. I often go home before she does. I scrutinize every calling she is ever given. I don't usually attend Tithing Settlement with her. We have Church friends, but I'm not as fully engaged as I might have been before with Church friends.
Too often, we take the position that we are the victim's of our faith crisis, but then we go on toward a new life with lots of possibilities and we explore the aspects of our now-free faith that resonate with us. We are free in that sense and many of us eventually say that we are glad to have become free. Our spouses are true victims. All they have is what they had before, but a lot less of it.

My advice is not to seek to change her or convince her, but simply to bear this burden for her, love her, support her, accept her and her unchanged faith and find a way yourself to change your own outlook on it.
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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Heber13
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Re: Help talking to a spouse

Post by Heber13 » 19 Jun 2017, 11:15

On Own Now wrote:
19 Jun 2017, 10:47
Too often, we take the position that we are the victim's of our faith crisis, but then we go on toward a new life with lots of possibilities and we explore the aspects of our now-free faith that resonate with us. We are free in that sense and many of us eventually say that we are glad to have become free. Our spouses are true victims. All they have is what they had before, but a lot less of it.
I agree, OON, and I think that is a good general statement to keep in mind to help us navigate these things.

I don't sense, and I don't think you mean to imply, that Tom specifically was not taking ownership or not recognizing his part...in fact, Tom sounds pretty meek in his approach at knowing this is hard on them "both"...and not really playing the victim card, even if asking for help on continuing to handle it.

So...your point is a good one for us all to remember as we try to talk with a spouse. Change happens, and for some of us, over a long period of time that we work internally to come to the point where we decide something and say it out loud. The person hearing it has not has the same amount of time to work through those ideas and process them. It is a good reminder.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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