My Husband is NOM and I Am Not

My husband and I have been married for a few years. After our marriage, he gradually began his journey to NOM-hood. I was pretty clueless about this. Every now and again, I would get a hint about his feelings about the church, but I didn’t think anything was really different. Actually, I didn’t understand exactly how he felt until we had a very frank discussion almost a year ago. I must say that I had similar knee-jerk reactions. I thought that something was terribly wrong with both of us. I thought that I could “fix” him if I just prayed hard enough and convinced him that I was right. I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone because I was so confused and hurt myself. I took his disaffection with the church as a personal attack and as evidence that there must be something wrong with me if I had let this happen. etc. etc. etc. To paraphrase, I didn’t take it very well; I thought he had dumped the whole world on my shoulders and expected me to be okay with it. The problem was that he was expecting me to suddenly change my worldview in a matter of days, and I was trying to fix my “broken” husband.

It took several months, and many sad crying sessions for us both to come to terms with this issue. I was really hurt. But, gradually, things are getting better. I have finally accepted that my husband is not “broken” and have come to respect his viewpoint. I can tell you, though, that it was VERY hard for me to do this. I am very stubborn, as is my husband. We were very open and honest with each other. His change has actually helped me to redefine my own faith (he says I’m pretty NOM myself, but that’s a topic for another thread). We now have very open and honest discussions about the church and our differing beliefs. We have a good marriage and love each other and our precious daughter.

At first, I also resented this discussion board because I felt like it was taking my husband away from me and the church. But, now I think that this board has been good for us both. It helps to know that there are many others out there who are in our situations.

Okay, now for some unsolicited advice that you can take or leave:

  • Don’t expect her to change too quickly. My husband expected me to be okay with this as soon as he told me. Remember that it probably took you months or years to come to terms with the church; give her the same time. Because my husband pushed me too much too soon, I resisted and shut off. I wouldn’t listen because I felt that he was trying to force me to believe him. When he stopped pushing me, I was more willing to listen and accept him.
  • Make your views clear, but have some conversations about the church or religion in general that don’t revolve around your approach religion. I felt like I couldn’t talk about the church with him because he would constantly criticize it or try to show me what was wrong. I’m not saying you should hide your views, but make sure she feels comfortable discussing hers. I felt like I would be attacked if I told him about Relief Society or how I felt. For a while, our religious discussions were all about him. Try to keep them balanced so she doesn’t shut off and drop the topic completely (which I did for a while and resented).
  • Don’t say things like “If you knew what I knew, you couldn’t believe anymore,” “the church is a controlling cult,” or “the leaders are all liars.” When he said things like this, I thought he was condescending and disrespectful. This attitude didn’t help me to respect his position.
  • Remind her how much you love her–very often. I hope you do anyway, but she needs a lot of support right now, and she might not feel like she can tell ANYONE (I didn’t). o I like to lurk at theĀ Faces EastĀ forum that Prairie Chuck started for support for part-Mormon families. She may not be willing to look at it at first, but it may eventually help
  • Let her be angry for a bit. After he came out, I was really mad at him for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t talk about the church with him at all without getting angry at first. This stage didn’t last very long, but I needed it to get over this.
  • You say you wish she believed the same way you do about the church. She is probably wishing the same thing. You both have to come to terms with these conflicting wishes in your own way.

I find Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief a very appropriate description of what I went through.

  • Denial and Isolation–I didn’t want this to be true, and if I ignored it, it would go away. For me, this stage mostly occurred before the “coming out” talk. I saw signs, but ignored them and hoped they’d go away.
  • Anger–I thought my husband was a big jerk to lay this problem on my back. How could he do this to me?!
  • Bargaining–I thought I could bargain with God and my husband to fix the problem (ie you come to the temple and I’ll read your NOM board)
  • Depression–I was quite sad, but this step didn’t last long for me. It may last much longer for some
  • Acceptance–This is almost where I am now. It took me a year to get here, but I do accept my husband’s beliefs. We have agreed to disagree. Of course, I revert back to anger and bargaining on occasion, but mostly we’re at acceptance.

I brought up the grieving process because this is a grief issue. I grieved the ideal Mormon life I had lost, I grieved because I thought my perfect marriage was going to fall apart. I grieved because I thought he had taken the priesthood, the temple, and an important part of my life away. Look back to your TBM days and imagine what you’d do if your spouse became NOM.

I am not bitter; I am not angry; I don’t think my husband is heading to hell. I do miss the idea of the perfect Mormon family, but who really has that anyway? Now, I just want my family to be happy.