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28 June 2009 @ 11:52 pm
Need Some Help and Advice--Sorry It's Long  
 Hey everyone...
I need some help + advice. I've been married for just about 2 years to a very hardworking, loving man that means everything to me. We got married/sealed in the San Diego temple at great personal sacrifice--none of my brothers are active in the Church, and none of them could be there with me, and my extended family aren't members, either. But pretty soon after we got married, I noticed a significant spiritual decline in him. Part of it, I'm sure, is because we've had our share of marital "issues"--I am dealing with clinical depression and fibromyalgia, which means that I'm exhausted and in pain a lot, and I've definitely done my fair share of criticizing over petty stuff. At our year mark, we moved from Orange County, CA to Provo--I transferred from Chapman University to BYU, and we've been in a BYU married ward full of people our own age that have been loving and welcoming (as opposed to our old ward where there were 2 married couples our age and they were terribly anti-social). Here's the thing... we go to church (sometimes... we almost never make all 3 of our meetings), but we don't actually live the gospel at home besides having couple prayer and blessing the food.

I've tried really hard to set spiritual goals and encourage family home evening and tried to study scriptures with him, but he gets really irritated about it, and if I don't plan stuff, it doesn't happen. I've gotten so frustrated with this because I am going through so much with my illness and I'm still in school (full-time during regular semesters) and I'm working. I know that's probably a familiar situation for a lot of us, but still. It's HARD. I feel like I have to beg the Lord every day just to get through things. We've fought about tithing--not whether to pay it or not, but he thinks I "pay too much" because I'm not keeping track properly. We always resolve it  by him saying he wants to be involved in it and then he never pays attention! He refuses to participate in home teaching because he thinks it's stupid because he never did it when he was young (his dad is not a member, and most young men go out with their dads).

Anyway, this is all leading up to today. Yesterday we had a really big fight that ended up hurting us both... we are in a BYU ward so Sunday school is often about improving our marriages. As we got into sacrament meeting, I asked him if he thought anything from the lesson would help us, and he told me he wasn't paying attention. Anyway, long story short, when we got home, we ended up having a long discussion and it came out that he's not even sure what he believes in anymore--not even sure if he believes in God.

I'm not even sure where this is coming from, and he kept telling me he didn't even know. The thing is, I know he's had some things that have bothered him. His patriarchal blessing talks about how members of his family would see and follow his example, and so he was convinced while he was on his mission that this meant his drunkard father would join the Church, and that didn't happen. His parents split up and got back together, and now his mom doesn't go to church. His younger brother is banging his girlfriend and not going on a mission, at least at this point. He tells me that before we moved, he prayed about going to BYU and felt that he should go there, but he's been rejected (several times), whereas I got in in a heartbeat with a scholarship. And to be honest, I'm the reason his grades went down... because when we were engaged, I was in and out of the hospital, and he was the only one to take care of me, so he was constantly ditching his classes to take me to appointments or whatever. At the time, I'm sure it was nothing, but maybe in hindsight, it really bothers him. He always wanted to go to BYU. I didn't. Yet there I am and there he's not. During our discussion, he finally broke down and said that he has been really overwhelmed and said that when he feels overwhelmed, he tends to shut off his emotions. He didn't clarify how that related to his crisis of faith, though.

I asked him to start opening up to me and being vulnerable with me, but he kept stressing how he doesn't WANT to. But I know he CAN because he does it sometimes. He had a day at his work that made him almost quit because of something that happened, and he was hopping mad and told me all about it, and I was there for him. When his aunt died, he cried on me for just one minute, tops--so I know he CAN do it. And I don't understand why he doesn't want to, and I don't understand how this relates to him not knowing or understanding what he believes about God and the church. I don't want to carry the spirituality of this family on my own shoulders and just let him slide like this, but I also know I can't force it, either. He said he would be receptive to a priesthood blessing, but I know him--we're moving to a new ward, and he'll use the excuse that he doesn't know anyone. He said he wouldn't accept one from my father because he doesn't want my parents in his business.

I don't know what to do. I don't want a repeat of the home I grew up in--my parents made us go to church, but they didn't do anything in the home to put the gospel into practice. We didn't have FHE; we didn't read scriptures... I don't want that to be my children's home. I know I married a righteous man... and he's still in there somewhere. I just need help finding him again. Someone please help! I love the gospel and I love my husband. I don't want those two to conflict.

Current Mood: sadsad
redhippydippymama on June 29th, 2009 06:41 am (UTC)
First of all, I want to tell you that this is completely normal and I can't tell how many couples I know and know of who have had this exact same problem. EVERYBODY deals with stuff like this. It doesn't mean that your marriage is doomed or that you won't make it to the celestial kingdom together or anything like that. EVERYONE has to work on stuff in their marriage like this. My husband and I have sort of the same issue, only I'm the one who is leaning towards the not-believing side.

My advice would be to just do your own thing. I know it's really, really hard to go to church by yourself, especially when you're married, but you need to take care of YOU and YOUR faith. You need to do what you need to to feel close to God, with or without your husband. You're absolutely right- you can't force it, and neither should you try. You are not responsible for his faith or lack thereof. You are not responsible for his soul. He is. He made the same covenants you did. You take care of your own soul, and as painful as I know it is, leave him to make his own peace with God- even if that peace is separate from yours.

He definitely sounds like he could benefit from couples therapy and learn some coping skills for when he feels overwhelmed and like he just wants to shut down and not deal with what he's feeling/thinking.

Is he close to anyone at church? Does reading the Scriptures make him feel better or worse? Does it make him feel better to pray? Does just going out and going for a hike or something where he can just think and meditate help?

You can still raise children in the church and in the faith without your husband. I know that you would rather it not come to that, but it CAN be done. If you don't WANT to, however, and if he's not interested in that, then I would think long and hard about if you want to have children with this man.

*hugs* I'm sorry. Marriage is hard freaking work.
HailerStarhailerro on June 29th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
Thoughts part One
Wow. You said a lot in one entry. Here's my thoughts, hope some of them are helpful.
You did marry a righteous man and I agree with you that he's in there somewhere, but if you don't live what you preach than your spirituality will wear down. To use a metaphor from a friend, it's like having a sword. If you do not keep the blade oiled and keep it sharpened it doesn't do you any good when you try to use it in self defense. If you don't keep your testimony fed with scriptures and meditation and other activities, it won't be there when you need it most. Sorta sounds like he's not been feeding his testimony. And now that he needs it, there's an empty space where it should be.
I've noticed that people stop believing in God when they stop looking for His hand in their lives. And when they've been greatly hurt. If, as you said, he hung his hopes on his mission being the thing to cement his family together in the gospel ... then he was no doubt severely disappointed when the opposite seemed to take effect. And yet, what he's not admitting to himself is that him deciding it was his mission specifically that would have that change, or those two years of righteous service, is really only his interpretation of what was said to him. The term 'his family' could mean his parents, it could mean his sibs, but it could mean the babies you two have together, future grandkids and great grandkids, or the righteous influence of him being an uncle to his sibs kids. It really sounds like he limited his interpretation of that to a very narrow view. Although I doubt explaining this to him will make the hurt any less. It's a good thing to desire that your family be unified but somehow agency always gets in the way of that. (The not so great choices of others, I mean ... )
As far as getting a blessing goes ... does he not realize that he can get one from your father or from his new bishop or friends who have the priesthood and NOT have to tell them what all is going on in his life? I've done that on various occasions. All you have to say is that you would like a blessing. You're having a tough time. They shouldn't ask any detailed questions and if they do just tell them it's personal and leave it at that. God comes through with the answers. He always does because God knows what you're going through so your Home Teachers or Bishop or whomever is administering the blessing doesn't have to know the specifics. Heavenly Father has always given me comfort and the specific answers I've needed without me having to dish out the whole scenario for whomever is acting as His instrument in being this mouthpiece at that time.
It does sound like if you want things to change in your home then you're going to have to be the one to set the ball in motion. (Have you ever asked your husband to give you a blessing? Maybe he needs a reason to kickstart his reacqaintance with his priesthood responsibilities). Is he adverse to having FHE? If he's not argumentative against it then maybe you should just plan it and have it with him. Maybe after awhile of doing this he'll get into gear and want to be more of a participant. (I know, personally, that growing up in a home where you don't have it makes it harder for you to put it up as a priority when you start your own home). Maybe he just needs help in forming the habit.
It sounds like he may be angry at God, for letting his family fall apart while he was doing his best to serve the Lord. He might be angry at you - indirectly - for getting his dream of going to BYU. He might be jealous that you have talents in areas he doesn't or that you're living his dream, schoolwise. It's so very hard to see another person achieve that which you want so very badly. Even if the person is someone you love. Or perhaps especially if the person is someone you love. A total stranger you could possibly say didn't deserve to get what you wanted but when it's someone you care for deeply then you resent yourself for resenting their good fortune.
HailerStarhailerro on June 29th, 2009 07:06 am (UTC)
Thoughts part Two
Men often have more trouble opening up than women do. And you're facing a double challenge in that you said his father is an alcoholic. Children of alcoholics tend to bottle up their emotions. They lock them away and attempt to forget about them. It's a defense mechanism reaction (more than likely because they displayed emotions and equate that to weakness as the alcoholic parent or parents reacted negatively to those emotions that they showed ... hence better not to show ANY or very little emotion. Keeps things safe. Keeps trouble away. I've seen this because both of my parents are adult children of an alcoholic ... and I've read a few of the books on the subject). So it's going to be harder for him to open up. Since he's still learning to trust this new environment he's created with you. It takes a lot of time to unlearn that which was formed in childhood. It is completely possible to unlearn and move forward but it will take time and patience.
The fact that he goes to church with you is still a good sign. The fact that he's openly expressed to you his opinions on God, even though those opinions are devastating to you, is also a good sign. That he does trust you enough to tell you what's really going on inside his head. That he is making an effort to communicate with you, even though it's not as deeply as you'd like it to be.
I know I ramble a lot in what I'm saying, and I'm sorry for that. I think the bottom line is to love him. To provide a safe place for him to open up and express what he's feeling without critique. Somehow loving people often changes them because once they know you love them unconditionally, they tend to want to make changes for themselves. They just need to know they have a soft place to fall and that you'll catch them.
Is there any way you think he'd consider going to counseling? Not because he is 'broken' or anything but because it would help you two to have better communicative tools to use in your marriage.
If it were me, I'd love him for who he is (I've seen this change my father, not to the major extent that I'd like, but to the extent that he's become not only a better person but happier with himself and that makes him reach out to others more). I'd also continue keeping up the spiritual side of things. I know you don't want to do this alone and I don't think you'll have to do it alone forever, but you may have to keep the ball rolling while he finds himself and sorts out his emotions. (Sometimes I wonder if people know it's OKAY to be angry at God. That God doesn't hate us if we're angry or upset with him. And He's not going to rain down fire and brimstone because we're uncertain of His existance ... According to one of my Sister In Laws ... her version of praying is yelling at God ... I don't know that I'd do this, per se, but if it's open, honest, communication, I think God wants to hear us, however we're feeling at the moment).
Do what you can to make your home uplifting and peaceful. Keep up the prayers. Perhaps pop some hymns in the CD player. If he absolutely hates the idea of FHE then turn it into date night. And sneak in some spiritual elements there.
I am sorry that he feels Hometeaching is stupid though. Living in a home without a priesthood holder, my dad's not a member, you end up depending on your Home teachers to be your link to the priesthood. And it's a link that you need, that is vital to everyone. (Does he know, and did you know, that YOU could go with him to do his Home Teaching? Our Home Teacher often brought his wife when his companion was busy and my husband has recruited me to go with him, since he can't pin down his HT companion to a time convenient to his work schedule. Maybe having you with him would take some of the pressure off?)
HailerStarhailerro on June 29th, 2009 07:33 am (UTC)
Curious, how can you 'pay too much' in tithing? I mean, we often round up dollars and such cuz it's just easier.
dustydistaff on June 29th, 2009 04:50 pm (UTC)
You've already gotten some great advice that I totally agree with, but I guess I'm gonna add my two cents anyway. ;)

It does sound like you two have been through a lot, and being emotionally drained or shut off can make it really hard to feel the spirit. And it can be especially hard to feel like the spirit led you into a difficult and confusing situation, or that the Lord wanted you to accomplish something (like going to BYU or bringing your family together) and it hasn't happened. I've had times where I felt like I was avoiding God because I couldn't handle anymore bad news or tests of my faith, you know? It can take a while to refocus and be open to the Lord again, but if he keeps working at it, it will happen.

Sounds like you're very stressed about not doing everything you feel like you should do, like not getting all the FHE, scripture study, prayer, etc. that you'd like in your family. And good for you that you're so set on having God in your daily life. With desire like that, you'll probably get there. But try not to feel bad that it's not all falling into place right now. Focus on what you already do--you said you still have couples prayer and bless the food, and you make it to church fairly often. So work with that. Try to feel the spirit and enjoy those things. If you want to have FHE, you might try starting with something simple and easy to get done, like reading a conference talk or scripture story over dinner. Or try making it a relaxing activity like taking a walk or playing a game (and maybe get some friends involved) that will help you both unwind and reconnect.
I also agree with the comments about continuing to work on your own spirituality and happiness. Making time for prayer or scripture study on your own can help you connect with the Lord and receive spiritual promptings that can help both you and your husband. Sounds like he's not ready to give up on God or the church yet, but he may need time to deal with everything and ease back into full activity.
I think you mentioned moving to a new ward, and I would definitely introduce yourself to your new bishop and maybe even make an appointment to talk about your concerns (either on your own or as a couple) and ask for support and suggestions. I can almost guarantee that any bishop of a student ward has seen problems like this before and can probably be a big help.
Good luck, we'll pray for you.
Treelingtreeling on June 29th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
I know how frusterating and sad this can all be. I remember when my husband and I were newly married and he had his breakdown we had a lot of issues with this. It hasn't been easy. However, even though we aren't living the gospel as I would want, he has become more responsive to my suggestions.

I would get his name (and yours!) on the temple role. and live your life the best you can so that he knows that you love him, and you'll stick by him through thick and thin. That has really been a big comfort to my husband and helped us to work through a lot of his doubts.

You can talk to me if you want. I'm up in Draper and not working right now.
the end has no endwe_like_you on June 29th, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say YOU'RE NOT ALONE. I currently attend church without my hubby and it was realllly tough to get him to agree for us to pay tithing. It's tough when your spouse is not in the same place you are spiritually, but I KNOW we were on the same page when we were sealed and I KNOW he still believes in the gospel deep down. Right now we're having problems because we had some serious issues with a local church leader and he has a hard time of letting go of things like that, even though this church leader is not directly involved in our weekly meetings he sometimes shows up randomly... like he came to church with me recently when my family was in town to help keep up appearances mostly I think, and anyway HE WAS THERE... it was like dangit, the one time he tries really hard to come to church the man shows up and he hasn't been there in AGES. :P So unfair.

Anyway -- I'm hoping that when we move into a new area it will be better, which will hopefully be soon... but right now we aren't even regularly praying together, although I know he sometimes reads scriptures on his own. Long story short -- I honestly believe that me being involved in church and trying to upkeep my spirituality and my relationship with Heavenly Father and attending the temple when I can will ultimately allow me to be the best example for him and support to him when he's ready to come back. I think that is all you can really do is show your support and encouragement for him regardless of what happens. *HUGS*