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Do Not Live an Authentic Life – Live a Moral One

Divorce. Never mind the details, I just need to minimize the impact.

An anonymous poster on another blog asked the age-old question: how do I minimize the impact of a divorce on my children when I love my husband, he loves me, we are both great parents, and are kids are next to perfect?

Having my closest contact with divorce being a few close friends, one sister-in-law, some ward members, and about a third of the kids in my Primary class, it’s plain that I’m no expert. But the poster wasn’t asking for advice from Divorce Mediators International, she was asking on a public blog. So my answer is probably at least averagely qualified.

Stephen Marsh responded to the question at hand, thusly:

The next thing to do is to work on an explanation for how you have found something more important to you than your love for your spouse and children…explains why you are willing to hurt them, why you need for them to sacrifice and support you in spite of the harm to them.

You may not like the delivery, but Stephen is spot on. Even before the poster gives any details about the situation, you could see that she found something that trumped those very good things. Something that was compelling enough to dissolve the family over.

In spite of all the loving being dished about, the poster had decided to divorce. The questions themselves implied at least some knowledge of the pain and difficulty that would be involved. There’s no denying that divorce carries a smack of devastation. (For example, a popular site on coping with divorce says, “Be honest about the potential for emotional trauma in your individual children.”) And she’d like to lessen the impact to her kids and to her husband whom she hasn’t let in on the little secret being discussed on the Bloggernacle.

So, it’s simply true that the poster has determined that something is important enough even with the good things that exist to go through with the divorce and allow the trauma that will result to take its toll.

Stephen’s position doesn’t imply that the poster is selfish or cruel (as some accused), or even that she is wrong. It simply requires her to acknowledge what the real choice is about. And it’s about choosing to allow/cause one set of painful consequences in order to alleviate another. Not a fun position to be in, to be sure. And one that requires wisdom.

We are later told that the poster’s husband is generally asexual and has, ultimately, no interest in intimacy or a close relationship with anyone, but is committed to his vows and his family, nonetheless.

I’ve never been divorced, nor in the position of the poster. But from the short explanation given, it seems that the trade-off here is something, remotely, generally, vaguely, like this:

Possible Consequences Set 1:
divorce; separation from parents; lack of companionship; lack of everyday involvement; possible shuttling from one home to another; upheaval in schedule/friends/living arrangements/wards; possible remarriage and step/half-siblings; shared resource; increased living expenses; different rules/upbringing; split loyalties; shared resources; insecurity; sleep difficulties; anger; anxiety; fear; grief; shame; depression; manipulation; loss; moodiness; low self-esteem; poor self-care; excessive sadness; irrational fears or clinginess; poor concentration; etc.

Possible Consquences Set 2:
very limited sex; very limited intimacy; not in a relationship with someone who will “fight for you” or who wants to be “with” you; unable to fulfill “craving” to “be one” with someone; loss of dream of the ideal marriage; loss of romance; etc.

From my best analysis, the first set is mostly felt by the children, with some being experienced by both adults; the second, primarily by the wife initiating the divorce.

I realize this isn’t exhaustive in either case, it’s just what I could glean from my limited exposure to divorce and the poster’s comments. I’m happy to revise the lists with input from those more knowledgeable. The important point is to acknowledge what the real trade-offs are and who will be hurt the most by the alternative choices especially when there is an inequity in power.

There is no way I’ll pretend to know the “right” answer, but from an uninvolved position, the latter set of problems looks like the lesser of two evils to me. And, for perspective, I do believe that the parents’ desires and dreams come in a distant second (or worse) when they conflict with the responsibility to contribute to the well-being of their children.

In addition, I don’t buy the idea put forth by the poster that, “we ?re all hurting regardless,” meaning that the status quo is harmful to everyone involved. I have friends who are less than ideal mates, who are less than sexually compatible, who have had an illness or injury that left then unable and/or unwilling to be intimate physically or emotionally. I can’t think of an instance where the kids were “hurting” because the parents didn’t have sex enough, unless the parents responded to that situation in a way that was hurtful. And I’ve seen nearly platonic relationships where the parents responded in a way that allowed the children to thrive in an intact family.

Another approach posed to the situation one that is far too common in our culture is the idea that those in less than ideal marriages should get out, based on some notion of living with integrity. Staying in an imperfect and/or lacking marriage is said to be “living a lie.” We all know that “honesty is the best policy,” so good Mormons must strive to live an “authentic life” by being “true to oneself.” After all, didn’t President Hinckley counsel us to “be true”?

Psycho-babble.

First of all, kids don’t give a hoot about parental authenticity. “Mom, dad, please be more authentic. If you are angry at me, don’t talk calmly and apply consequences, throw a vase at my head.”

Second, what is “inauthentic” about staying married to someone with whom we made vows, who we love, who loves us, who is a great parent to our children, and who is committed to providing a family for his children? Even if the sex and intimacy and “oneness” aren’t even on the same planet as our dreams?

I’d love for everyone to have a fairy tale marriage and to live happily ever after. But most people don’t. And, frankly, would we need marriage vows if most of us did?

{ 36 comments… add one }
  • daisy September 9, 2007, 7:02 pm

    the husband is basically asexual? has no interest in intimacy or a close relationship to anyone—i could not, would not, live with that.

    (unless , unless it was do to some illness outside his control ie. altzimers(sp?)

    that doesn’t spell love to me. i can’t imagine a relationship with my present husband if those were his feelings. it would be so painful it would rip my heart out every second of everyday of my life.

    AND i have to think that life for my children observing a very UNNATURAL husband/wife relationship would be very damaging indeed. no handholding? no hugs? no kisses? no tenderness?

    if mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

  • Oregonian September 9, 2007, 7:07 pm

    if mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

    That’s a great approach to parenting.

  • daisy September 9, 2007, 7:11 pm

    sad but true

  • daisy September 9, 2007, 7:15 pm

    and i still say a man who is willfully not living up to his covenants, (and if he wants no relationship with his wife he is not) is not a good parent. part of the parent relationship is being a loving couple. my husband had his parents stay together for a good TEN years after they should have. they finally split after about FIVE years of not speaking to one another(literally). living in the same house, sleeping in the same bed, NOt speaking. THAT’S NOT GOOD PARENTING. And no that little detail did not go unnoticed by the children.

  • ChanJo September 9, 2007, 7:17 pm

    I know lots of married couples who aren’t very physically affectionate. Even though sometimes one of them would like it to be more. What I mean is, I don’t think that’s “unnatural” since I see it all the time. In fact, I know lots of men and women who you would probaly describe as “cold” or “emotionally unavailable.”

    And the poster didn’t say there was no tenderness, she said they LOVE each other. From what I could tell the guy just isn’t into sex or romance. Seems when WOMEN say they don’t want so much (like in the Dr. Laura book discussion) that lots of people defend it, but if the GUY doesn’t want it, we won’t stand for it. Seems like a double standard to me.

    She also said it wasn’t malicious. He wasn’t being hateful (he LOVES her), but he just didn’t have the drive that she did. That’s how I read it anyway, but there weren’t very many details.

    My question is, what did she know when they got married? Did he lie to her? Did he pretend to be Mr. Don Juan and then just turn off? Did something change? Or did she marry a mild guy and then demand that he be something different?

    I guess I think it’s not just about how she feels or what she wants, but about what commitments mean and what you do when things aren’t as you planned or hoped. I agree with Allison that the kids come first, not the womans “craving” for intimacy. How many times have guys used that as an excuse to leave families, kids, or have affairs?

  • daisy September 9, 2007, 7:22 pm

    maybe it does come down to the “commitment that was made” and understood. My husband and I “understood” each other very well when we married. we both have very specific needs and we understand our responsiblility in fullfilling each others needs and desires. and the great part is we enjoy giving the other what we need. that’s what a great relationship is about. i just can’t understand a relationship where one partner has no desire to make the other happy or fullfilled. that feels like a broken promise to me.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 9, 2007, 7:29 pm

    Wow! That was fast!

    daisy, let me tell you where I see the flaw in this argument. I don’t believe happiness is some outwardly defined state of being. Nor do I believe that unhappiness forces our behavior. So, first, if momma ain’t happy, it’s because she’s choosing to be unhappy and, second, if her choice is further acted upon to enforce unhappiness on everyone else, it’s still a choice. I don’t have to be unhappy and I don’t have to make everyone else miserable, either.

    In the example given, the woman said they WERE a loving couple. At least they love each other. I think your in-laws story is a good example of what I’m talking about. You imply that their divorce was a good thing because they didn’t talk to each other. But wouldn’t it have been BETTER if they’d CHOSEN to speak civilly and kindly and gotten along?

    Pro-divorce arguments are made all the time with such examples. “It was better for the children for us to divorce than to see us fighting all the time.” As if NOT fighting simply isn’t an option.

    These people LOVE each other and LOVE their children. Is it really better FOR A CHILD to have divorced parents than to have parents who aren’t physically affectionate, but who love each other, love them, are committed to the family, and keep their vows to each other–in spite of the difficulty? Go back a generation or two. Public affection of any kind was much less common. Was this really horrible for children?

    Couldn’t a couple who loves each other make a loving home TOGETHER or their children, in spite of the personal sacrifice involved?

  • Alison Moore Smith September 9, 2007, 7:44 pm

    Two other points before I run.

    I think, on the surface at least, we can say that a divorce would be better for the woman. It would likely leave her the possibility of having a more PERSONALLY fulfilling relationship.

    To counter my own point, I recently read (don’t ask me where, I don’t recall), that a significant majority of divorced people thought their lives would be better after divorce but, in HINDSIGHT, wished they hadn’t gotten divorced. Most found out that the “unbearable” problems in their marriages weren’t as bad as the resulting problems and/or had been overemphasized in their emotional state.

    One of the big problems I see in such situations, is that to soften the blow (and bashing) that we get from saying, “I don’t care how it affects my kids, I HAVE MY NEEDS!” we FORCE the marriage to become intolerable. (In other words, we make it so bad that divorce really is better for everyone and no one can deny it.) Rather than sacrificing, putting up with less than ideal, tolerance, charity, learning new behaviors and responses, etc., we decide that we CANNOT be happy with unmet needs, we CANNOT be expected to live like this, we CANNOT have a loving home with our cravings ignored, we CANNOT ________. And since we CANNOT, our responses are perfectly reasonable and the contention is unavoidable and the irreconcilable differences become bigger and we get angrier and more resentful. And then everyone’s thrilled that we’re finally breaking up and we are relieved.

    And the kids still deal with the same pile of crap.

  • Oregonian September 9, 2007, 7:49 pm

    I guess someone needs to put “for better or worse” into the temple ceremony.

  • jennycherie September 9, 2007, 7:51 pm

    Posted By: daisyand i still say a man who is willfully not living up to his covenants, (and if he wants no relationship with his wife he is not) is not a good parent.

    that is true, but to say that this merits divorce is also expecting him never to change or to grow. Part of the purpose of our covenants is to keep us there during the parts where we can do nothing but endure the painful, awful part of the relationship until it can be worked on/fixed/whatever and become what is intended to be. Our covenants get us through the times that ANYthing seems preferable to what is. NONE of us are perfect spouses all the time. Just because our spouse is doing something wrong, does not mean we have cause to leave them.

  • momof2 September 9, 2007, 7:53 pm

    I have divorces all over in my family. My parents are divorced. My husband was divorced when we met. His parents are divorced. My mother’s parents were both divorced when they met each other. Most of these divorces were entirely justifiable and appropriate. Alcoholism, abuse, repeated infidelity – nightmarish situations where one of the marriage partners eventually came to a point where they felt they had to get out, that it was impossible to repair or continue the marriage.

    It seems very clear, from where I stand, why the Lord forbade divorce for so long. It’s an evil thing, even when there’s no choice. It destroys lives, especially the children’s. Even in a situation where staying married is inarguably worse than the trauma of divorce, the consequences to the children are devastating. It’s nothing that should ever happen if it is at all avoidable, in my opinion. I, personally, would never get a divorce if there was even the smallest possibility of salvaging my marriage.

    That being said, I do not feel in any way qualified to judge another person’s decisions along those lines. No-one but the Lord knows what is going on in another couple’s marriage.

  • momof2 September 9, 2007, 7:59 pm

    Posted By: jennycheriePart of the purpose of our covenants is to keep us there during the parts where we can do nothing but endure the painful, awful part of the relationship until it can be worked on/fixed/whatever and become what is intended to be.

    I am profoundly grateful that my husband did not leave me during the years that I was so deeply depressed. If he had asked for a divorce I could not have found it in my heart to blame him – living with me must have been well-nigh unbearable – but I will never forget that he forgave me and bore with me. I will bless him forever for his patience and love.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 9, 2007, 8:38 pm

    momof2, you’re right, of course, that none of us can make the decision for someone or know the exact circumstances. As usual, this is simply a philosophical discussion of principle, application, etc. Given scenario x, how do we apply a gospel standard.

    I love your example about your depression. Living with someone suffering from depression could truly be considered unbearable and a living hell. And, frankly, the fact that the depressed person isn’t completely involved in choosing the depression, doesn’t remove the pain involved. AND it doesn’t take away the impact on the kids and family. In fact, can’t we all think of a billion similarly nightmarish situations that might come up in our lives?

    But are they cause for divorce? I think that’s the root question here, really. What things are SO bad that no one should have to endure them?

  • agardner September 9, 2007, 8:39 pm

    My mom’s side of the family is just full of divorce. Of seven siblings, three are still married to their first spouse (these are the three who are active in the church, which includes my mom). Of the other 4 siblings, there are 7 divorces between them.

    While I can’t judge another person’s decision, I think divorce should always be the absolute last resort. A lot of the problems of marriage can be worked out. Even this woman’s husband who seems to have no sex drive – that can be worked on! Perhaps he has a physical problem. Perhaps there are emotional issues between them that need to be worked out – it could be something as simple as she joked about something having to do with his performance and it killed his desire to try. We (she) are assuming this a permanent, non-solvable problem. I just don’t believe that. If they love each other, they can work it out. If they can’t work it out between them, they should get some professional help.

    When I got married, my grandma shared quite a lot about her marriage with me. My grandfather died when I was fairly young, so I didn’t know him too well, but she told me that they at times had a very rocky marriage. At times he suffered depression, always smoked too much, sometimes drank too much, and even had an affair about 20 years into their marriage. She said it wasn’t always easy to stay and work it out but that she is forever glad that she did. They worked through their problems, and the few memories I do have of them together, I picture them as a very happy couple. They laughed and had fun together, and found common interests such as golf that bonded them together. It wasn’t always perfect, but deep inside he was a good man and he did love her, and it was worth it.

    From my family members who have divorced, I do see a lot of regret. You always think the grass is going to be greener on the other side and that’s not always the case. It seems like when you go down that path, there are always consequences that you may not anticipate – these may be financial, or dealing with your children’s bitter feelings, or having trouble trusting again, or whatever. It doesn’t mean divorce should never happen, because I have seen some cases where it definitely seemed to be the only solution to a horrible mess.

    My friend shared something with me that I thought was really wise counsel she received from her stake president. She married her husband (who is not a member) when she was not active in the church. After their marriage, she returned to the church and he fully supported her in that, although he did not join the church himself. She had two children, and still the husband would not come to church with her or consider baptism. By this time, she was very active and served in leadership callings. He always supported that aspect of her life, but she deeply wanted him to participate with her and to take her to the temple. It came to a point where she decided that she should divorce him while her children were still young, and hopefully find another man who would be able to take her to the temple and raise her family in the church. She consulted her stake president about it and he asked her some questions: Was he good to her? Did he live up to his marriage vows? Was there any abuse? Did he support her beliefs? Was he a good father? Of course the answers to all these questions made her realize that she had made a commitment to him and that she should stay with him. Her SP told her that she was a blessing in his life, and he in hers, even though they contributed in different ways and had very different beliefs. He encouraged her to look for the good and stay with her husband, and live up to her vows.

    Of course, at the end of this RS lesson there would be a happy ending and the husband would join the church – but so far that hasn’t happened. He has agreed to take the discussions several different times, but has never committed to baptism. He does come with her to church activities, but not to church meetings generally (although I did see them there together on Easter). Their children are being raised in the church and he supports that, and she is in the YW presidency and he supports that. He struggles with the word of wisdom and may never decide to join the church. But she’s at a point now where she accepts it for what it is. I’m sure it’s not always easy for her (I know it’s not, actually), but there is something to be said for making that commitment. Maybe someday he will come around, but if not he is at least a good husband, father, and provider for her, if not an eternal companion.

  • Stephen M (Ethesis) September 9, 2007, 9:24 pm

    I can ?t think of an instance where the kids were hurting ? because the parents didn ?t have sex enough, unless the parents responded to that situation in a way that was hurtful.

    I wonder, though, when she talks about the lack of a desire for any emotional closeness, if she isn’t being completely un-deluded about what her current status is. I have known that to be devastating to children when they can tell that a parent is completely separated from them and does not want them.

    BTW, it is “Marsh” (like a swamp, only cooler and drier) and not “March” the month.

    But, and this is a big but, I have seen so very many people who thought divorce would make them happy when it did not. On the other hand, I had a good friend who was in a childless asexual marriage who eventually gave up and whose second marriage has given them a great deal of joy. Children are so complicated. Over the internet it is hard to know enough, ever, I think.

    Yes, the bottom line is that she has to face that she are causing others pain for reasons that she considers sufficient, and in seeking a divorce one needs to face and consider it in those terms. I only wish I knew how to solve all the pain people feel, but they have to find their own resolutions.

    But are they cause for divorce? I think that’s the root question here, really. What things are SO bad that no one should have to endure them?

    I don’t think that depression suffices as a cause for divorce. Or things like it. After all, should my mother leave my dad now, that he has Parkinson’s Disease and some dementia? Does it matter if the onset of Alzheimer’s is early rather than late?

    I do believe people need to see the entire cost of what they are doing and to ask themselves what they really want, what they really care about, who they are really helping. However, especially in cases of physical violence (like the client I took on pro bono whose husband took a shotgun to her), there is some times nothing else that anyone should do, but follow David O. McKay’s advice.

    I only wish I knew the answers.

  • Stephen M (Ethesis) September 9, 2007, 9:26 pm

    I should add that I very much liked the title of this thread “Do Not Live an Authentic Life – Live a Moral One.

    Too often people look for excuses to do something other than live a moral life, for something that is more valuable than integrity.

  • momof2 September 9, 2007, 11:26 pm

    Oh, I know this is a philosophical discussion, but I always feel uneasy making a blanket statement, so I felt the need for a qualifier. 🙂

    My mother stayed with my father for three decades. I disagree completely with her decision to do so – in fact, I used to hope fervently, when I was a kid, that they would get divorced – but she did what she felt the Lord wanted her to do. No-one could ever say my mother didn’t put everything she had into trying to make her marriage work and save my father from himself. I respect her for doing what she thought was the right thing. (I just wish she’d been a little wiser before she married him.) (And I do wish she’d remarry, now. She’s not interested, but I long to see her adored and spoiled like she deserves to be.)

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithWhat things are SO bad that no one should have to endure them?

    Abuse. Egregious criminal behavior. Repeated, flagrant infidelity.

    I asked my husband what he would add to this list and he said, “Apostacy.” Which I can kind of agree with, depending on the situation. I know of a case where a woman stayed with her apostate husband throughout their lives. She stayed faithful to the gospel. He never returned. Half their children followed her, half followed him. He wasn’t evil though, and I can understand why she would have stayed with him. I can’t imagine staying with someone, however, who became filled with an evil spirit.

    Posted By: Stephen M (Ethesis)I don’t think that depression suffices as a cause for divorce. Or things like it. After all, should my mother leave my dad now, that he has Parkinson’s Disease and some dementia? Does it matter if the onset of Alzheimer’s is early rather than late?

    Something I have wondered about for years: I knew someone, many years ago, who was in a serious car accident on her honeymoon. She came through in relative good shape, but her new husband was severely brain-damaged. At the time I knew her it was 10 years later. She was his primary caretaker. She took care of him at home, although I believe she had help come in. She would have needed it, as he was very much like a newborn – unable to make more than random movements, pretty much unaware of more than his physical needs, completely devoid of speech or anything approaching intellect. In fact, a newborn probably would have interacted more with her than he did.

    His parents and hers were urging her to give up and move on with her life. She refused, insisting that someday he would be miraculously healed. And I wonder – was she right to stay with him? Should she have left him? How far does “for better or worse” extend, anyhow?

  • Alison Moore Smith September 9, 2007, 11:58 pm

    Stephen, welcome to you! I apologize for the misspelling, it has been corrected! Thank you for the good insights and the kind words…not to mention the post that got me out of my writer’s block. 🙂

    Posted By: momof2Abuse. Egregious criminal behavior. Repeated, flagrant infidelity.

    Good list. I have to admit, though, that I’m not really likely to require the “egregious” or the “repeated, flagrant” parts. And whie I agree complete with abuse being on the list, I also think we’re starting to call EVERYTHING abuse. Physical, sexual, emotional. I think that’s a dangerous place to be because it minimizes real abuse. Or course, then we have to figure out what that is.

    And before anyone rags on me, I know that there is no definitive list that can work outside the individual circumstances and inspiration. 🙂

    momof2, my personal opinion is that she was right. What does it mean to commit to someone for eternity (or until death do you part) if it REALLY means that you commit until something really awful happens? I know that it’s a horrible outcome and a complete change of dreams and plans and I know that I can’t appreciate that pain. But if the promises don’t mean what we say, then shouldn’t we at least STOP making them?

  • east-of-eden September 10, 2007, 7:48 am

    To counter my own point, I recently read (don’t ask me where, I don’t recall), that a significant majority of divorced people thought their lives would be better after divorce but, in HINDSIGHT, wished they hadn’t gotten divorced. Most found out that the “unbearable” problems in their marriages weren’t as bad as the resulting problems and/or had been overemphasized in their emotional state.

    Wasn’t this in a recent conference or Ensign address? Seems to me it was Elder Oakes, or Pres. Hinkley.

    It sounds as if this lady has a problem, or what she percieves as a problem, and is not willing, or wanting to work on it. If she still loves him she should work on this problem with him–it’s called counseling. There is nothing wrong with admiting “I have a problem and I can’t fix it myself, I need help!” If she really wants to spare her children, she should be doing every last little thing before considering divorce.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 10, 2007, 9:10 am

    Eden, I would tend to agree, given what we know. She said they love each other and even that he wants to make her happy. That’s a heck of a lot more than lots of people start with. I dare say I know a big handful of people who’d be just about thrilled to have that much of a relationship.

    The other thing that concern me is that she has young children and, as far as I can tell, her main motivation for the divorce is to find a new, romantic relationship for herself. I have a really hard time, generally speaking, in supporting tearing a family apart and creating new families. It’s great for the parents’ love lives, but it’s just one more instability and craziness for the kids. Most of the time, IMO, these remarriages do not serve the best interest of the kids.

    It takes a really special and utterly selfless parent to put their children’s needs and desires ahead of their own, particularly when the adult is lonely and overwhelmed with single parenting. I have someone close to me who was an absolute model of this kind of care. And lots of people I know who found themselves a mate and then imposed it on the existing families–and then just tried to make it work.

  • east-of-eden September 10, 2007, 9:46 am

    Alison, I totally agree with you. Once you have children, it needs to be about them. I’m not saying ignore your spouse or anything like that, but it sounds like this girl just wants to find the next best thing, or what she percieves as the next best thing. Having taught school for 5 years, and seen the effects of divorce on kids–it’s just too sad to say how sad, confused, angry, heartbroken the kids of divorce are, I would say work on things before you give up. These kids ache because of their parents, and that’s wrong.

    In regard to a sexual component of marriage, it’s important, but not the only thing–but it’s something that can be worked on. She needs to give her husband a chance to change, to work on his issues–heck, he might not even know there is a problem. I also have issue with the fact that she is talking about it on the internet before talking about it with her husband. It seems that she’s looking for people to validate her desire and then will be fine to blindside the poor man. How much stronger would her marriage be, if she sat down with her husband and addressed the issue and worked on resolivng the problem. Divorce cannot always be the answer for every little thing that goes wrong in a marriage, I think society teaches that it’s easy, so it’s ok, and in the Church we are adopting this mindset as well. It’s not ok–life and marriage was not meant to be easy. It’s a process, a hard job and something that you have to commit to working on every day. But, it makes you stonger, and makes you a better person for considering the needs of others before your own.

  • mlinford September 10, 2007, 1:10 pm

    I think it’s important to consider that sometimes we think we don’t have choice when we do.

    I will never forget this from Pres. Faust:

    “Parents in any marital situation have a duty to set aside personal differences and encourage each other ?s righteous influence in the lives of their children.”

    (James E. Faust, Fathers, Mothers, Marriage, ? Ensign, Aug 2004, 2 ?7)

    But I do think that this situation is more complex than it appears at the outset. I have seen people inspire to divorce, and the author says she feels peace. So while I agree that divorce always has negative consequences, sometimes, as Elder Oaks said, there are situations worse than divorce. Only the author could know if God has said that hers is such a situation, though.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 10, 2007, 10:36 pm

    eden, I do think you have a distinct perspective as someone who sees this all the time. Thanks for the input.

    Michelle, I agree and think that often we don’t WANT to see choices, because the choices don’t get us where we want to go.

    I’m sure the situation is more complex than presented. Really, how could it NOT be? No one can give sound advice after reading a few paragraphs of a one-sided description. But since it was presented in a public forum by an anonymous poster, I think the ideas behind it provide for a good discussion about general principles of marriage, divorce, and familial obligation.

    I guess I see it something like Nephi and Laban. If some guy posts to a list and says he wants to kill a yucky guy who won’t give up something the poster wants–and tells us he is at peace with the decision–it’s probably reasonable to discuss the merits of killing a yucky person to get something we want. We all realize that it’s POSSIBLE that he could be inspired to kill the guy. But we might also realize that there are a lot more Dan Laughertys than there are Nephis. So the general principles are still appropriate to discuss as they apply to most of us most of the time. By far most of the time. In fact, I’d say that the principles apply so often that it’s funny how much time we spend discussing the exceptions.

  • mlinford September 11, 2007, 12:16 am

    As far as the general concepts that are good to discuss, absolutely. I just responded in that way because people are getting after you over there for being specifically unkind, and so I wanted to be sure that whoever read from over there knew that I was recognizing this particular situation is one that I don’t want to make blanket statements about.

    But as for general principles, I agree and think you bring up really, really good points.

  • aunt sassy September 11, 2007, 11:46 am

    A few years ago, dh nearly divorced. We had been trying to have children for a few years, so the decision was heartwrenching. It was preceeded by a few years of emotional reactions, misunderstanding, and impatience… as these things often are. There was much pain in our household. His behavior had changed and he was lying. It became clear he not only didn’t have a testimony, but had no intention of regaining one. He spent significant amounts of time on anti-mormon web sites and tucked away articles. My problem at the time: do I knowingly bring children into this world when their father is apostasizing? At the end, it became clear during a cold, heartless discussion in the Bishop’s office. After months and months I gave in to his offer… we were getting divorced. My Bishop was stunned by what dh was saying, and supported me in my decision. I felt an incredible peace and knew I was making the right decision.

    It was very soon thereafter that dh changed significantly and finally agreed to go to counseling. I was angry that the answers to my prayers changed. I didn’t want to go back to him, but that is what the Lord was telling me. After everything that had happened, I wanted to move on with my life. But I followed the Spirit, and through serious, intense marriage counseling, we worked it out. I do not know for sure what will happen with dh’s testimony in the future. But I do know that the hardness in him is gone. He comes to church with me and prays with me each night. He no longer entertains anti-mormon thinking and he holds a calling. He is the kind, thoughtful man I married. Three years later we are still married… a marriage that is deeper, more honest, more loving and more fulfilling than before. I am truly happy in my partnership.

    There are various reasons that friends and family have divorced. This is my experience. I do not contend that what worked for us will work for others. But I am grateful that the Lord guided me. Blinded by what I felt were wrongs being done against me, anger and fear, I thought I knew best. I saw divorce as my only option. But it wasn’t. Through our counseling I have seen my faults and the negative things I brought to my marriage, and have therefore had the opportunity to grow and learn. I will be forever grateful that we both stuck through the horribly painful times.

    Such decisions are heartwrenching (and I can only imagine even more so when children are involved). The Lord can give us individual answers, based on factors only He knows… our hearts, intentions, needs and abilities… and those of our spouses.

  • kiar September 11, 2007, 12:18 pm

    divorce wasn’t your only option, but it was the end of the rope that kicked your husband in the head, to get him to realize what was going to be the consequence of his actions. you are incredibly brave and strong. The Lord didn’t put us here to be unhappy, and when you had explored every other option, it was clear that it would have been the end. Perhaps something was gained to help you specifically in all the extensive counseling that you and your husband had to go through!
    I hope all is well for your family!

  • Alison Moore Smith September 11, 2007, 6:05 pm

    aunt sassy, what a great example. Thank you for sharing your personal experience.

    FWIW, the decision to divorce when there are NO children is a markedly different thing. Yes, there are still vows, but the collateral damage is so much less. I really appreciate that you considered whether or not you should bring kids into a hard situation. Too many just go ahead and have the kids–because they want them–and then figure the kids will just deal with whatever happens.

  • Stephen M (Ethesis) September 11, 2007, 6:58 pm

    I was angry that the answers to my prayers changed.

    That is an interesting observation. I’ve encountered that experience several times, in that where we are headed is not where we are going, but we can’t get there without heading somewhere else.

    I’ve often wondered about extrapolating that personal experience from the individual to the group, and it has made me wonder.

  • aunt sassy September 12, 2007, 9:39 am

    Good point. At the time I was confused and angry. Now looking back… having a different perspective… I can see the wisdom in how things unfolded. I can see that we probably wouldn’t have had the happy marriage we have today if I hadn’t been guided to make decisions that seemed completely contradictory to maintaining an eternal marriage. I suppose, that is why in the end, we can really only rely on the Lord for guidance.

    In terms of the individual to the group thought… are you referring to the church in general? Now that you mention it, I can think of several times when this concept would apply in Church History.

  • aunt sassy September 12, 2007, 9:51 am

    I know the discussion is winding down, but after thinking about this a little more, there are a few things I would like to mention in case it could be helpful to someone who stumbles upon this discussion. There were lessons– important humbling lessons– I learned from my experience. First of all… we are never as faultless in a marriage relationship (or any other for that matter) as we think we are. There were things I was doing which was making our relationship worse and contributing to the distrust and disconnection. I wasn’t doing them on purpose, but often we react to situations not based on the present, but based on our past. It took an objective, assertive counselor to show me these things and teach me other options. These were patterns that, had I divorced and moved on, I would have just taken with me into the next relationship. Second… our perspective is SOOO short sighted when compared to the Lord’s. Back then I would have laughed if you said three years later we would be happily married. My Bishop continues to be surprised at how things turned out. That is the beauty of the Lord’s mercy, patience, and omnipotence. I have learned that I can rely on the Lord to give me guidance that will ultimately lead to my happiness.

  • SilverRain September 13, 2007, 4:53 pm

    We’ve been pinged.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 14, 2007, 1:23 am

    I quite liked what he wrote. Shoot, if I could only figure out how to comment on his blog, I wanted to give him credit for the post that initiated this article. I’m not usually an idiot about blog posting. Anyone?

  • east-of-eden September 14, 2007, 9:25 am

    If you go the the front page of his blog, not just this post, and scroll down to this post, the comments feature is up. I don’t know why you can’t get to the comments from the post, but going to the front page seemed to bring them back. Good luck.

  • adr3937 September 20, 2007, 3:41 pm

    I am the child of a home that went through several divorces. I can’t begin to say how negatively it impacted me. Low-self esteem, anger, depression. I know and I will take all blame for my actions, but at the time the hurt and the anger was more overpowering for me than anything else. Looking back on it now, my self destruction was more a rebellion against my God. I was doing things that I knew was wrong. I just didn’t care. I blamed my actions on the anger that I felt. When I got married, both of us had come from broken homes and didn’t have a good example to follow. We had stupid fights about nothing that would explode. We had a discussion about how we were going to make this last. We were aware of our faults. I did the only thing that I knew could help. I went back to church.

    This at first made life between us even harder. She was raised Catholic. When we got married she told me she didn’t want to go to church alone. So for years I went to Mass with her. When I started going to LDS church it caused a lot of tension. I continued to go to both denominations, but she didn’t like the change. I will skip a lot of details here, to make this shorter. My wife has been baptized for just over a year now. It took years of pain, anger, sorrow to get to this point . My 17 month old boy was laying on my stomach yesterday and the thought popped into my head, I was his age when that all started. I will never let that happen to him. If my wife lets me know she is not happy about something. I just let her know I will work on it. Some of these things take time for me to adjust. She needs and does have patience with me. Little things can become huge, if one partner is not willing to bend. It has taken time to be able to be humble enough to listen to someone tell me about my faults, and instead of getting defensive…try to work on them. My kids are worth it.

    I just found this web site… It is very good. I will show it to my wife. I am sure she will enjoy it too.

  • facethemusic September 20, 2007, 4:25 pm

    Your post was a great addition to the discussion adr3937!!!
    That both you and your wife came from such challanging backgrounds and were able to pull things together and save your own marriage is inspiring. Its amazing what our best efforts and the spirit of the Lord can do!!

  • Alison Moore Smith September 24, 2007, 9:15 am

    adr3937, welcome, welcome!

    Thank you so much for your wise words and input. What a great and needed addition to the article. Both you and your wife are welcome here. Thanks again.

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