What should a spouse say?

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Stayforthedip
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What should a spouse say?

Post by Stayforthedip » 13 Feb 2017, 19:36

First post!

My husband and I both had our temple recommends expire recently. Neither of us have attended in...maybe 3 years, with the exception of a wedding or two. I do not attend by active choice. He doesn't attend out of laziness. Not that he is a lazy person, he just doesn't put the effort in, despite being a believer.

So our recommends expire and the clerk emails to schedule appointments. I write back and say I will not be renewing now and I will let them know when I am ready to.

They track my husband down on Sunday and he goes in for his interview. First question is: Why doesn't your wife want to renew her recommend? My husband reported that he gave a couple of high level reasons and tried not to get into the details. I appreciate what he was trying to do, but I would have preferred something like, "She has her reasons and it is not for me to discuss."

I realize now we should have seen it coming and we should have talked it over before it came up.

Question: what do you think a spouse should share in such a case? Is it fair to expect a faithful spouse who is dealing with a nonbelieving spouse to be expected to keep totally silent with leaders? I realize I am a very private person and my husband is more of an open book. so I am curious to gauge where other stand on these kinds of things in their marriage.

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DarkJedi
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by DarkJedi » 13 Feb 2017, 22:11

First, welcome to the forum. I'm glad you found us.

As the "unbeliever" (for lack of a better word) I was usually offended that some leaders asked questions of my wife instead of me. Frankly I don't know everything they asked because she likely didn't share whenever they asked. When she did share that someone had asked a more personal question my response to her was "If they want to know they can ask me. They know my number, they know where I live." I actually think my wife liked that response, even though she is not especially assertive sometimes. It did take some of the pressure of her though. For the record, few asked me.

I don't think it is fair for leaders to expect a spouse to report on the other (or a child or anyone else for that matter), it's as plain as that. However, others may see it differently and have no issues spilling anything and everything to a leader. My wife understood I didn't like it, others may not care.
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Heber13
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by Heber13 » 13 Feb 2017, 22:21

I think it is a good idea to discuss it as a couple and agree on the approach.

I think it is completely appropriate to be ready to respond to any leader with...."have you asked her? I think she can speak for herself."

Unless you don't want that discussion with them, in which case it would be appropriate to just agree the response would be "she is not ready right now. She has her reasons. I totally support her and love her. She is doing great where she is at right now and doesn't need anything right now."
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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SilentDawning
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by SilentDawning » 14 Feb 2017, 05:11

Stayforthedip wrote:First post!

My husband and I both had our temple recommends expire recently. Neither of us have attended in...maybe 3 years, with the exception of a wedding or two. I do not attend by active choice. He doesn't attend out of laziness. Not that he is a lazy person, he just doesn't put the effort in, despite being a believer.

So our recommends expire and the clerk emails to schedule appointments. I write back and say I will not be renewing now and I will let them know when I am ready to.

They track my husband down on Sunday and he goes in for his interview. First question is: Why doesn't your wife want to renew her recommend? My husband reported that he gave a couple of high level reasons and tried not to get into the details. I appreciate what he was trying to do, but I would have preferred something like, "She has her reasons and it is not for me to discuss."
I am totally on your side with this. They did this to my wife when I left my HPGL calling several years ago. Going after the present spouse to get information about the absent spouse is wrong for several reasons.

1. It's disloyal to you -- by both the leaders, and the spouse. I cut the spouse some slack because they are put on the spot and maybe don't want to be rude, but nonetheless, it's still disloyal to share youe spouses's deep inner thoughts with people who are largely strangers or sometimes friends, but often just administrators. Whether a friend or not, it's an invasion of privacy if not given with the absent spouse's permission.

For leaders, it's very disloyal. If they want to know what I think, they should ask me to come in to talk about it, or at least call me.

2. It can drive a wedge between spouses and hurt marriages. I was ticked with the things my wife told the leaders when they started pumping her for information about me. If you want to hear my story, get it from me! It's like the press getting stories without talking to the original knowledge source -- totally lazy and inappropriate.

3. Taken with #1, it hurts the trust level between the absent spouse and the leaders. Do I feel they are going to listen with compassion when they go behind my back, initiating sidebar conversations about me with others without talking to me first? If they do that to my spouse, will they also be doing that with my friends at church, if any? Disloyalty breeds distrust. No wonder members never want to tell their leaders the naked truth about why they are disaffected with the LDS experience.

4. It's not fair to the present spouse who is then put in an awkward position.

5. It can really damage the relationship with the leader. One leader, after hearing my spouse's version of my own issues, explained that "attending church is a lot better than going to hell". He also told my wife a story. It went like this -- when he, the priesthood leader was inactive, his wife said "Look, I've done everything right, so if you're not going with me to the celestial kingdom then someone else will". So, she threatened divorce if he didn't step up to the plate. Imagine that, not only did he pump my wife for information, being disloyal, he planted the divorce idea in my wife's head. Thanks a lot!!

6. It exposes the highly conditional nature of our acceptance in the church community. When you're holding a TR and being obedient to every whim or command from leaders, they like you. Fall off the wagon, or put boundaries on your service and you are in the out-group. I relate to them now on my own terms, recognizing that there will always be some fall out when I pursue my own version of happiness. So, don't let it turn you entirely away from the church.
I realize now we should have seen it coming and we should have talked it over before it came up.
Even when I told my wife what I wanted her to say, she still spilled the beans. For whatever reason, so it's not fool proof.
But yes, coach your spouse. I am glad he gave general answers and didn't spill many beans.
Question: what do you think a spouse should share in such a case? Is it fair to expect a faithful spouse who is dealing with a nonbelieving spouse to be expected to keep totally silent with leaders? I realize I am a very private person and my husband is more of an open book. so I am curious to gauge where other stand on these kinds of things in their marriage.
You are totally within your rights to ask the spouse to remain silent. I remember someone interviewing Donny Osmond. At the time, Marie Osmond was going through a divorce, and the interviewer asked him a question about her attitudes toward it. He said "get that information from her". I know it was a brother-sister relationship, but the principle holds in spousal situations, in my view.

When these leaders act like this, I think it's a perfect opportunity for the present spouse to enlighten priesthood leaders about the potential damage they can do to eternal relationships when they pry without the absent spouse's permission. So, if they every ask me what my wife thinks, then I would indicate they should be asking her that question out of respect for her privacy. Also, they don't want to drive a wedge between husbands and wives, as uniting families is at the heart of our mission -- let's not let our curiosity get in the way of eternal family. Further, the present spouse can share with how uncomfortable the leader is making them right now, putting them in a position to decide whether to be loyal to them, or their spouse. That kind of authenticity can be very powerful in teaching the priesthood leader.

There are times when I think they just want to consume the knowledge they get out of the present spouse so they can "consume it on their lusts" -- report on it in a meeting , thus spreading the inevitably shallow and abbreviated version they have with others, and I don't like it one bit. I am sure some leaders care, but it gets lost in the mistrust borne of disloyalty in asking the present spouse for info without the absent spouses's permission. You can remain connected in spite of their untoward behavior.

But again, I think you have to take this as the cost of pursuing your own heart. Once you accept this is the way it is, you can still serve in the community. Everyone is subject to it -- everyone, so don't take it personally. I personally have a lot of happiness in non-church service contexts and other pursuits that I love. At church, I'm not very engaged for various reasons. So, focus on those things that bring you happiness, while accepting the failings of the church. Be more charitable toward them than they are being toward you. I still hold a calling of sorts, and contribute in ways that are meaningful to me. I support my spouse, who is a leader in the Ward, my daughter who is fully active, and will support my son in church activity if that is what he wants.
Last edited by SilentDawning on 14 Feb 2017, 05:31, edited 2 times in total.
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nibbler
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by nibbler » 14 Feb 2017, 05:14

You aren't getting much variety in your answers so far because my answer is that I'd like my spouse to say, "You'll have to ask him." No weaseling out of the uncomfortable situation they were trying to avoid. ;) Just kidding. In most cases it's probably a matter of convenience, the believing spouse is there, the non-believing spouse isn't. Asking the person that's there is the path of least resistance.
Stayforthedip wrote:Is it fair to expect a faithful spouse who is dealing with a nonbelieving spouse to be expected to keep totally silent with leaders?
When I was going through the crisis stage I wanted DW to not talk about it with other people. Valid or no, my concern was that if word got out I would become a project or a pariah. I didn't want DW to invite that into my word before I was ready.

On the other hand I don't think it's fair to ask a believing spouse to remain silent for the long haul. Why are we here? To talk about our issues and get some support. The believing spouse needs support as well. Given the dynamic, it's natural for the believing spouse to reach out to their believing friends at church for the support they need and sometimes they may feel the need to go to an ecclesiastical leader to get that support... but that's not quite what you described. It's one thing to go out seeking needed support, a leader fishing for info is something else entirely.

My point is that there's a balance that needs to be struck. I think for it to work we have to be on the same page as our spouse and that happens through communication.
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SilentDawning
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by SilentDawning » 14 Feb 2017, 06:39

Nibbler presents and interesting conflict -- the support needs of the spouse, versus the privacy needs of the disaffected partner.

My solution, in an effort to meet both needs, is for the spouse to speak to a non-priesthood holder. A friend who understands the gospel, but is not in their Ward. The spouse needs to swear the person to confidentiality, and then share their burden. Family members, if not connected to the local Ward, can also sometimes be trusted but not always. An open-minded non-member could also play that role as a last resort, or an online discussion forum with private messages, or public messages, if anonymized and agreed to by the less active spouse.

So, there are a lot of options -- but talking to the priesthood leader behind the back of the unbelieving spouse only does more harm than good in my view.
"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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Holy Cow
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by Holy Cow » 14 Feb 2017, 09:17

nibbler wrote:In most cases it's probably a matter of convenience, the believing spouse is there, the non-believing spouse isn't. Asking the person that's there is the path of least resistance.
I would echo everything that Nibbler said. I don't think priesthood leaders are always trying to go behind your back to get information to use against you. If you turned down the request for the appointment, and your husband accepted it, they may think that he's the only person they can talk to. They could be asking about you out of sincere concern, and to find out if anything happened that pushed you away. I try to give local leaders the benefit of the doubt. They're just un-trained volunteers, trying to do their job.

And, try not to be too hard on your husband. I agree with what Nibbler said that the believing spouse sometimes needs some support too, and shouldn't have to cover things up for you. I was in that position. When my wife started getting questions about me, I could see how much it was weighing on her to try to deal with the confusion on my faith crisis, and not having anybody to talk to. It was selfish of me to want her to carry that burden and confusion in silence. If you talk with the bishop yourself about exactly what you do and don't believe, and what your doubts and questions are, then you are in control of how much information is revealed. And, it would take some of the burden off of your spouse. I know most people on this site will jump all over that comment, and say that it's better to never talk to priesthood leaders about your doubts. But, I think that's a very personal decision. For some, it's better to continue to act like everything's normal. For others, it's better to be completely up front about everything and just put it all out there. This is an issue that you need to discuss with your husband. What does he need from you, and what do you need from him? And, how can you support each other in those needs?
When I try to put myself in your husband's shoes, if I was put on the spot and asked what my spouse believed about something, I might do the same thing your husband did. Give a brief high-level answer, to try to appease the questioner; thinking that I might be helping my spouse by answering the question for them instead of them having to be confronted with it. Your husband didn't go to the bishop to rat you out. He was called in, and put on the spot, by somebody who probably didn't mean to do any harm. It was a poor approach by the bishop, but the guy is not a professional therapist. I would give both the bishop and your husband a pass on this one, since you hadn't talked about how you'd like him to approach a situation like this beforehand. Now he knows. :smile:
SilentDawning wrote:My solution, in an effort to meet both needs, is for the spouse to speak to a non-priesthood holder. A friend who understands the gospel, but is not in their Ward.
This can be a difficult approach as well, and one of the reasons that I think it's good just to be open with everybody about what your beliefs/disbeliefs are. If you want to keep quiet about your FC, and you only want your spouse to talk to a handful of people about it, just make sure you agree on who they're going to talk to, what you're okay with them sharing; and then be prepared for your spouse to share more than what you agreed on as they become more comfortable sharing with this person, and also be prepared for that person to spread the word, despite the fact that they promised that they would keep it quiet. I didn't share my wife to secrecy, and didn't care about other people finding out. But, when I had the entire primary presidency show up on my doorstep to tell me that they had all heard rumors going around about me, they felt like it was something I should know about. It was an awkward conversation telling the primary presidency about my FC, since it was none of their business; but, I did appreciate them being up front with me and letting me know that rumors were flying. I traced it back to my wife's confidante (who is related to a now-deceased Q15). She was telling everybody she knew, and swearing them all to secrecy. She was also giving my wife the advise the SD's bishop gave to his wife, that she should find another husband who would be worthy to take her to the celestial kingdom. And, because of who her grandfather was, my wife trusted her over multiple bishops and her father, who were telling her that the marriage could be saved. It wasn't until that 'friend' moved that our marriage improved. So, I guess what I'm saying is: If you want to keep things quiet, and don't want to talk with leaders/ward members/ friends/ family members to put the truth out there yourself, then make sure your spouse is willing to go along with that as well. If your spouse can talk to one or two people, then those people can easily put a twisted version of the story out there. That's why I'd rather be the person putting it all out there. At least if people know that I'm willing to talk about it, they'll be more likely to come to me for the truth, rather than trying to get it from my wife. It puts me in control of telling it like it is, and takes the burden off of my wife. But, I know that's not a popular opinion. To each his own. :smile:
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On Own Now
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by On Own Now » 14 Feb 2017, 12:29

Welcome, Stayforthedip, I'm glad you have found this place and hope you find it helpful.

I understand the privacy thing. I'm a very private person as well. But, over the years, I've gotten to a place where I just don't care what other people think or say about my FC/FT. Sometimes, when my wife goes in for a TR interview, I'll ask if they talked about me. I do this because I know it is awkward for her to go in by herself to this kind of meeting. She has said that sometimes they do talk about my non-belief together. I want to make sure that my situation is not an unfair burden on her, at least to the extent I can. The universal feedback I get from these conversations is positive.

I think it is useful to assume good intentions in all areas where Church people touch our lives. Are there some lemons among Church leaders? Heck yes, just as there are lemons among our coworkers, neighbors and other people at the restaurant. But I think when most leaders ask a believer about their non-believing spouse, it isn't exaclty a shakedown for private information. I think they are simply concerned and trying a non-confrontational avenue into understanding/helping. They also have the spiritual and mental welfare of the believing spouse in mind, I'm sure. I guess what I'm getting at is don't be too quick to find annoyance in someone who is trying to help in a way that makes sense to them and might make at least some sense to your spouse.

Finally, to echo what Nibler said, 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. I haven't shed a tear regarding my FC in a very long time, but she has recently. If she has a conversation with a Bishop or RSP and the topic of my situation comes up, regardless of who brings it up, I hope she feels free to say whatever she wants and that she doesn't feel that she has to do any of my hiding for me. I know for certain that her conversations with people she respects at Church have been cathartic for her.

I do think it's a crucial idea to have a conversation about this kind of thing with our spouses. I'm going to talk to my wife tonight to assure her that she can feel free to talk to whoever she wants and doesn't have to make excuses for me if asked. I think she already knows that, but I want to make sure.
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Stayforthedip
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by Stayforthedip » 14 Feb 2017, 13:26

More context:

I am not upset with my husband. He did the best with the situation and he is a good man. He is loving and patient and has never devalued me or our marriage due to my faith issues.

Though I am naturally a private person, in this case I feel even more of a need to keep my cards close to the chest. First, our bishop (who met with my husband) is not very good at keeping his lips sealed. He specifically mentioned another woman in our ward with similar faith issues during their talk. I don't want to be the topic of conversation in other people's meetings. In addition, his wife is the ward gossip and I am not sure she wouldn't hear everything my husband or I told our bishop. Silentdawning, you are right that there is an issue of trust and loyalty here.

Second, I am the child of a very high ranking church leader. I am sensitive to how others perceive me because of this. I don't want to feel responsible for other people suffering from doubt because of my own personal beliefs. I have been taught from a very young age that I am an example to others because of my parent's position and it is hard to deprogram from that. (Ironically, my experience with 'seeing behind the curtain' through my parent's position has been the source of much of my faith crisis.)

And finally, I have seen what has happened to other non-traditional believers in my ward. You lose a lot of friendships and become a major project. I want to keep the status quo for now if I can.

I appreciate all the feedback. I have been reading on this site for...maybe 2 years. It has been useful as I have come into my new set of (un)beliefs.

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Holy Cow
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Re: What should a spouse say?

Post by Holy Cow » 14 Feb 2017, 14:04

Stayforthedip wrote:I am the child of a very high ranking church leader. I am sensitive to how others perceive me because of this. I don't want to feel responsible for other people suffering from doubt because of my own personal beliefs. I have been taught from a very young age that I am an example to others because of my parent's position and it is hard to deprogram from that.
Wow! That's a heavy burden to bear. Struggling with doubts and questions is hard enough as it is. Adding the expectation to be an example to everybody around you cannot be easy!
But, I'm glad you and your husband have been able to talk openly with each other about things. Having an understanding spouse is huge! :smile:
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