When I went through my faith transition, what scared me the most was that I might lose my husband.
We went into our marriage being on the same page and then, 8 years in, I jumped over to a completely different book. When we were talking about getting engaged, I clearly remember him asking me if I could commit to a life of service to God in our church. At the time I thought, "Well of course! I mean, what else would I be doing?" I was raised in our church and couldn't fathom that my faith would ever change.
But my faith did change.
I went from a fully believing Mormon to a questioning Mormon to an agnostic who considers herself ex-Mormon over the course of 4 years. It wasn't until the last 6 months of my struggle prior to leaving our church that I finally came clean to my husband. I wasn't sure where to even start and I had heard too many stories of couples in similar situations who ended up divorcing. I was terrified.
Fortunately I married a good man who loves me even though I couldn't hold to that promise I made so many years ago. He told me that it would be silly of him to expect me to never grow and change from the person I was at age 20.
One of the most important things we've done to maintain our marriage during my faith transition is talk. I try to explain why I find certain things painful or uncomfortable or I explain the ways in which my understanding has changed and he listens and asks thoughtful questions. He tells me about the good and positive things he sees in the church while I listen and acknowledge that good. We've always been decent at communicating with each other but we've gotten really good at it in the past couple years.
Aaron's nonjudgmental listening and question-asking are the best things he could have done for me as I struggled.
I felt so tender and raw and he earnestly tried to understand where I was coming from rather than convince me of his point of view or change my mind. I knew he was hurting from my changes in belief but he never put that on me or pointed fingers. He has defended and bolstered me all along the way.
Conversely, I try to be supportive of his continued belief. He finds peace and joy in the church and I have no desire to rob him of those feelings by pushing my own agenda. For the most part I still attend church with him and our children because I know it's important to him that we have that experience together (plus it's less confusing for our young children who are not yet able to grasp the nuances of faith). I haven't pushed my beliefs on him and he hasn't pushed his on me. We've let each other be who we are and focused on love.
To other couples in a similar situation, this is my advice:
1. Practice good communication. This means no accusing or blaming. Try to understand your spouse before you try to make them understand you.
2. Remember that life goes on... and it will look pretty much the same. It may feel like a monumental shift has happened in your home but then you'll realize that you're still going about your day-to-day life and watching Parks & Recreation together while eating Oreos and it's all fairly normal. If you're worried about how much things are going to change you may find comfort in the fact that things probably won't change that much.
3. It's OK to seek professional help. Aaron and I managed to wade through and figure things out on our own but I kept the number of a marriage therapist handy just in case. Going by what I've seen in my interactions with other people who have left the church but have believing spouses, therapy is pretty common and extremely helpful.
4. You can make it work. One of the most helpful things for me was seeing that other people had come through the same thing and were happily making it work. It was proof that we could do it. You're going to have to discuss and compromise and reevaluate and then discuss some more but you'll get there. Finally, at some point you'll look at your spouse and realize, "Hey...we're doing this. And we're OK!" It will always require that you work together, but isn't that the very heart of marriage?
Kayla Moncur is a left handed mother of 3 who loves her husband, a well-stocked cheese drawer, and a good audiobook. She blogs at Freckles in April.
This article was originally published at A Thing Called Love Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.