I think John’s prior post on “the spouse problem” deserves another go-round, since it raised more interesting issues than one thread could address. The unusually personal responses in the comments suggest that mixing faith and marriage, which looks easy on paper, is often something of a challenge in Mormon marriage. I’ll note as well that mixing faith and singleness in The Family Church has its own challenges, but that topic deserves a separate post. Here are some concepts I came up with reflecting on the prior post and comments:
Compromises. Most agree one of the secrets of a successful marriage is a mutual willingness to compromise. That works for some issues, such as what to rent for the Friday night movie. But when it comes to “gospel issues,” compromise often feels like failure to at least one party (see John’s original comments on moral absolutes). Tithing or church attendance, for example, are issues on which most active Mormons would view any compromise as an unacceptable moral compromise rather than a “win-win” marriage compromise. Compromise, after all, has two opposing meanings: in negotiations, compromise is generally desirable and productive; in morality, compromise is generally equated with a moral lapse or sin.
I Am Third. For those of you under 30, the quote comes from a football player whose motto was God is first, my friends are second, and I am third. But marriage is different–no spouse wants to be third on the list; even second feels like a snub. “The Church is first, my children are second, my spouse is third” won’t work. Neither will “My job is first, golf is second, my spouse is third.” Third just won’t do.
Mismatched Devotion. One spouse “losing faith,” as discussed in John’s prior post, is the most visible example of mismatched devotion to the Church between spouses, but it is not the only case. What if a super-devoted spouse insists on going to the temple every Friday night, whereas partner is a once-per-monther or less? What if one partner dreams of a senior-couple mission but the other just isn’t there emotionally or spiritually? I think the challenge of divergent levels of devotion crops up in a variety of LDS contexts.
I don’t want to sound pessimistic–this isn’t a marital doom and gloom post. Most couples find a way to muddle through their differences, even deep and personal ones. Hopefully reflecting on the subject makes the “muddling through process” easier and more likely to succeed.