How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

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How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by JimmyBronson » 15 Feb 2019, 08:12

I've been a TBM my entire life (34 years) and so has my wife. We were married in the temple, very stereotypical true believers, paid tithing, served in every calling, etc. I've been an EQP and in several Bishoprics but now I'm trying to reconcile what I've recently come to realize over literally the past month or 6 weeks, that the LDS church is probably not what it claims to be, i.e. God's one and only true church. Before we ever even got married and other times since, my wife has mentioned that divorce is only for if one spouse 'goes off the deep end' meaning adultery, serious felony, or leaving the church. I don't think she would divorce me because I don't believe the church to be true anymore, but I'm very worried about her reaction if I am open with her about what I am learning about the church. I feel cornered, like I have to stay active in the church like I have always been or risk seriously damaging my marriage and my relationship with my children. Part of me hopes that if presented with the material the right way, she might be able to see the church for what it is, but I don't know the best way to go about it. Does anyone have any advice??

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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by nibbler » 15 Feb 2019, 10:39

JimmyBronson wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 08:12
Part of me hopes that if presented with the material the right way, she might be able to see the church for what it is, but I don't know the best way to go about it. Does anyone have any advice??
I don't have much time right now and hope to be able to give a better response in the future but my gut reaction post is to warn against having conversations with a spouse with the expectation that your spouse will come around to your line of thinking.

Those conversations are tough to have and never the same for any couple, but:

1) The orthodox spouse will be looking for reassurance. Language that calms the alarm bells and sates deep-seated fears. I'd tailor any conversation to preemptively address any concerns that I feel my spouse might have.

2) Having the goal of converting thinking will likely cause someone to raise their defenses and it will confirm reflexive fears. Plus it sets us up for disappointment for the likely outcome which is often retrenchment.

When I did it, my approach was to put myself in my wife's shoes. If I were orthodox and she discussed this with me, what would I need to hear? How would I react?

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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by Roy » 15 Feb 2019, 11:13

1) Go slow. The church/gospel/plan of salvation is a mental construct on how to live one's life with meaning and purpose. For all we know it may be True with a capital T. But, for some reason God does not want it to be clearly or obviously true. It is one of a large number of competing philosophies and worldviews. You have built your life upon the foundation of the church. Go slow and do not make sudden and rash decisions.

2) Do not throw the baby out with the bath water. There are many positive things in your life that have come from your time living in the church. It is prudent to take stock of these things and see if you can somehow disentangle those good things from the church. The church helps us to live lives of integrity, service, and marital fidelity - but you can have all of those things without leaning on the church. What makes you the man that you are and why will you continue to be that man with or without the church? You can reassure those around you that you are not going to change and your commitment to your family is not going to change or "go off the deep end" even if some of your religious beliefs change.

3) I would not try to convince my wife that the church is not true. After many years DW and I are at a place where she understands and respects where I am at in my relationship with the church. I give her the same courtesy. If she wanted to vote for a particular candidate or march for a cause that I might not believe in, I can support her or at least not denigrate, dismiss, or critisize her passions.

4) I would not advise hiding it. You might tell her that you are having a faith crisis and that you may need to figure some stuff out between you and God for a while. There may be some things that you may need to modify in your church activity in order to not feel taken advantage of by the organization. I recommend to keep as much of the church things as you can as a token of "good faith". I keep the WoW, wear my garments, and hold a low profile calling. On the other hand, I am not a full tithe payer and I would politely decline a demanding or time intensive calling. (When I started not being a full tithe payer it was very hard on my wife and I think it took several years before she became more confident that this was not the first step down a slippery slope for me and our marriage).

5 years from now you may or may not be members of the church and that is ok. (in saying that I mean that you and your wife could possibly choose to resign together as a mutual decision. I personally would never leave the church without my wife. Hypothetically, if my wife wanted to join another church, I would probably join with her just as a show of unity and solidarity) Regardless, in 5 years you want to be in a strong, stable, and loving marriage based upon communication and mutual respect. 5 years from now you want to have decent relationships with in-laws and extended family that may still find meaning and purpose as members of the LDS church. Keep those goals in mind as you work through this time of upheaval in your life.

You can always come here to blow off a little steam or to help keep things in perspective. Best wishes to you on your journey - fellow traveler.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by DarkJedi » 15 Feb 2019, 12:07

I don't have much time at the moment, but I have been in a very similar place. Fifteen years, give or take, down the road my wife is still fairly orthodox and I'm only somewhat orthodox at best. I agree with what Nibbler and Roy have said. You're in a bad spot, I don't envy you. And quite frankly I don't think there is any right way to handle your situation - you're in a lose/lose. I didn't handle it or approach it very well and it was (and to a certain extent is) a huge strain on our relationship.

Reiterating Roy because this seems pretty new to you still: take it slow, don't dump all at once, and focus on what you do believe. The church may not be what it says it is, but that does not mean it is no good.

FWIW, your wife may not be the best person to talk to about your crisis at this point - the trick is finding someone you can talk to. There are real live people where you live, and more than you think, but it's sometimes very difficult to figure out who they are. This is a safe place. Your bishop is likely not safe (but there are the rare ones who are).
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Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by On Own Now » 15 Feb 2019, 12:22


Before anything else, let me say that I'm sorry you are going through this. It's tough; there is just no way around that.

Don't talk to your wife until you've had a chance to absorb some differing perspectives from this group. Many of us have navigated this same issue with different approaches and varying degrees of success. Ultimately, you have to make your own way forward, but this is the right place to discuss this.

I'll give you my thoughts, but with the understanding that you have to do what is right for you.

Over the decades, I've heard a lot of people think they are trying to explain THAT they don't believe, but the instead explain WHY they don't believe. You need to be aware that those are very different and will result in very different conversations. We human beings have an incredibly strong desire for validation. So, instead of saying "I no longer believe" we feel in irresistible pull toward the need to explain why... If only they understand 'why' they will see that I'm not a failure. Rather, my suggestion is to explain that you no longer believe in all of it, but that there are core things you still believe in. In my case, I have always told people that I love and respect the Church and the people in it; that I am grateful for my upbringing and that I'm trying to live my life according to the good things I was taught. I almost always express that I am not going to go out and start talking against the Church.

I also suggest thinking about what you will do if your wife does not want to change her involvement with the Church (which is most likely). Are you going to leave her? Are you going to become a thorn in her side? Are you going to try to drive her toward a faith crisis? Are you going to participate in the Church to support her?

Here's what I've said in the past:
On Own Now wrote:
09 Sep 2013, 09:31
The most important thing that I keep in mind is that I'm the one who changed, not her, so it is my burden to bear. I have to accommodate her beliefs, because they were our beliefs at one time.

I suggest getting 100% comfortable with her faith, activity, and involvement in the Church. Learn to celebrate it. Suppose your wife were getting a masters degree. You'd support her. You'd encourage her. If she needed time to work on a project, you'd figure out how to provide that to her. When it came time for graduation, you'd be there in your best suit and tie and a big smile on your face. This would all be true even if she were studying a field for which you have limited understanding or interest. Treat her faith with the same regard. If she has a calling at Church, help her to do it. If she wants to go to some RS activity, encourage her, etc, etc, etc.


Finally, no matter who you choose to talk to about it, I think it is best to talk about what you DO believe, and leave the stuff you DON'T believe out of it. You have to understand that when you are talking to a faithful member of the Church who believes certain things, that if you start telling them that you don't believe those things, then it will come across as contrary at best and an attack at worst. It's better to find common ground than to define what isn't common.
"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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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by dande48 » 15 Feb 2019, 15:59

Here's my two cents:
1. Separate your marriage and your commitment to your marriage, from your belief/commitment to the Church. I think with most spouses, they start to wonder if you can leave something as solid as the Church, you'll leave them too. But they are (or at least should be) in two different ballparks.
2. Separate what is good, from what is beautiful, from what is true. The Church too often equates all three. Your relationship with the Church will be a lot healthier, once you've discovered some claims "aren't true", if you don't.
3. Being married means sometimes doing things you really don't want to do. It means sometimes putting up with things that really bother you (I swear if I find any more hair clumps stuck to the shower wall...). You can make compromises. You can talk things through.
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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by Heber13 » 16 Feb 2019, 02:35

I would be careful in choosing how you say it and the words you say and the things you focus on.

Yes, there may be things that you see that make you feel the church wasn't what you thought it was before. But those things are not all that church is.

Everyone changes through life. That is a sign we are striving to progress. That is the purpose of God's plan. We are to learn and grow.

We are not the only religion to be going through the pains of literal vs metaphorical interpretation of gospel truth. Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism... They are all on this path because past scripture was not written in modern thinking terms.

If you have a choice between being right with historic facts, or being kind to your spouse...choose kindness. Always choose kindness.

My advice is to start slowly peeling back the onion of things that you are shedding in your testimony while clinging to the core truths you, service, commitment, spirit, truth. Whether Nephi was a real person or not can be of little consequence to the teachings of being a good husband and father. Holding a temple recommend so you can go with your wife to the temple, baptize your children, give blessings or confer the priesthood to your sons and see your children married in the temple can be the focus of reasons why you evolve your perceptions and interpretations while staying faithful to your family. Not in a dishonest or faking way...simply in doing what your family does together and accepting it for what it is. God is inside you.

But perhaps you begin opening up liberal dialogue on safe topics with your wife. Tolerance for same sex marriage can be a loving discussion, while not criticizing leaders. Saying "I don't know" about things is ok to do. We don't need certainty on every subject.

As I went through my changes...I tried to double the efforts to serve and speak in church or teach lessons or volunteer for the good things while shedding what I felt were unnecessary things (home teaching, abstinence from tea, etc) and always focused on family before church always...even if that was skipping church to take the family for a FHE and lesson in the wilderness.

Build social capital by doing more good at church and at home. Your wife and kids will respect you when you are kind and loving and not negative or critical of church.

There are easy topics to start having with a spouse that are more accepting and start with those safe topics. Especially ones on the list of essay topics. The church is recognizing change is needed. You should be safe to talk to a faithful spouse about what the church is putting out as teachings in a changing world.

Build trust. Don't vomit your new learned info and scare her. Always respect her faith and never try to get her to think like you do. Accept her for who she is. Accept the church for what it is. Accept your feelings and beliefs as your own. But build trust and commitment in the marriage.
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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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by SilentDawning » 16 Feb 2019, 08:48

JimmyBronson wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 08:12
I Does anyone have any advice??
It sounds like divorce is a big risk if you go stone cold and try to convince her to do the same. So far, I have raised a TBM daughter who is married in the temple. I have an active wife who holds a temple recommend intermittently. I also have a less active son who, surprisingly, embraces aspects of the gospel and talks about serving a mission, I hear. I am also at equilibrium at home with the church, as far as I know. Generally happier than I've been at any other time in my life! My wife and I don't fight about the church.

With this experience behind me, here is my advice for you to consider and adapt to your unique situation if you want.

1. Don't rain on anyone's faith parade in the church. Support them and strengthen their commitment if you can without selling your soul.

2. Have great faith in your own ability to be dead wrong. I know it seems like the church isn't what it claims to be, but I suspect you did have spiritual experiences, I suspect. Remember there is always a chance it COULD be true. Go agnostic, not unbelieving. I have great faith in what a dunce I am, and it's a comfortable place to be on faith issues. And not damaging to others.

3. Make being happy amidst your life paradoxes and doubts your goal. You are here to be happy and have joy. Make that your object, while being supportive of others in the church, including your kids. I can honestly say I'm happier now than ever before in my life -- seriously.

4. I don't talk about my lack of interest in the church to my wife. I go, have a little calling, and invest my time in service and becoming a good man in projects outside the church. Do as much as you have to, to keep your wife happy and not divorcing you.

5. Post here about specific issues you face as you navigate the space between traditional Mormonism and staying happy. One by one, you'll come to rest on something that allows you peace and happiness -- I have, so far. I hope your experience can be similar.

6. Really be a good husband in all other areas of your life. Read and figure out your wife's top emotional needs. Meet those needs really, really well so love is alive in spite of whatever church decisions you make that may surprise your wife.

Issues will pop up, and life, leaders, and situations can disturb the equilibrium of peace at different times, I've found.

But discussing these issues as they come up will help you find a way. It's a kind of evolution, and as your decisions, your family, and your ward interact with you, you may well reach a peaceful equilibrium.

Example, my ward expects very little of me now. They never come after me for callings, but they don't deny me the ability to participate in ordinations so far. The only thing, I had to sit outside the temple when my daughter got married, but I was OK with it after years of preparation for that event and collaboration with my daughter. My wife seems OK with our marriage although at times she wishes I was more active.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

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A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by Rumin8 » 18 Feb 2019, 19:30

This is one of the hardest things you will have to do. I am over 10 years into the process of “talking with my wife.” I will say most of that time was halfhearted because I didn’t know what I wanted, and I didn’t know how to say it. I’ve been much braver the last 6 months, and as of a week or so ago, my wife understands, at least theoretically if not practically, where I stand today.

I won’t echo the most excellent advice that has already been presented, except the two things that I have found have helped me the most.

1) Go slow. This will be very hard. You are burning to share and to make changes. You don’t have to. There is no rush. Identify someone you can talk to, and share with them. This will help for a time.

2) Don’t invalidate everything. This does not need to be binary. You don’t have to be all in or all out. Reach for equilibrium. Understand that this is a process and is ever evolving.

Take advantage of true resources in this place. It will help you find your path, whatever that may be.

May God bless you with courage, patience, fortitude, and empathy as you move forward.
"Moderation in all things, especially moderation." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Be excellent to each other." - Abraham Lincoln to Bill & Ted

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Re: How do I talk to my wife about my faith crisis?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 18 Feb 2019, 20:58

I only will add the following that is said here regularly:

You are the one that changed the dynamic of your marriage, so it is your responsibility, primarily, to "do no harm" (or as little as possible) in your marriage as a result of your change.
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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