One year ago today, I sent out an email to a few hundred contacts, announcing that I had posted 18 lengthy interviews with interesting Mormon women on a new website, http://www.mormonwomen.com. On the first anniversary of the launch of the Mormon Women Project, Bethany’s interview represents the best of what the MWP offers: authentic, comprehensive insights into the lives of women whose life paths deviate from our stereotyped ideal (either by choice or by circumstance) but who treasure their relationships with their Savior. Bethany was confronted with her husband’s pornography addiction four years ago, and has since gone through different stages of hurt and healing which she shares openly in this interview.
As Melissa Hardy, Bethany’s interview producer, points out in her comments below, Bethany’s interview is about her reaction to having something thrust upon her that she didn’t expect or deserve. Not every woman would respond the way Bethany did to the announcement of her husband’s addiction, which Bethany readily acknowledges. Some would have left their marriages, some would be dogmatically dedicated to standing by their men. What I admire most about Bethany’s response is that it is neither black nor white, neither selfish nor selfless, neither wholly optimistic nor pessimistic. Bethany, like so many who are emotionally honest with themselves, occupies a murky emotional gray space where anger, commitment, love and distrust play themselves out on the mundane stage of children, housekeeping and daily tasks. Bethany is a poster child for the Church’s official recovery programs — she’s participated in them and credits them for much of her healing — but she’s also reached out to therapists and engaged in periodic separations from her husband as part of their mutual rehabilitation. Ultimately, Bethany reaches for the Atonement not as a perpetrator of sin, but as the victim of another’s choices. It is not the only tool in her kit, but it is the one most consistently applied.
Our hope in publishing this interview and others like it at the MWP is that this sort of emotional honesty from our interview subjects will open the doors to emotional honesty in our other church forums. When we as a people acknowledge the ability for love and anger, dedication and betrayal to coexist, we are then better prepared to implement our toolkit of doctrinal panaceas in an increasingly complex world.
From Melissa Hardy, Bethany’s interview producer:
“I initially sent Bethany an email to confirm her interest in sharing her story, since she had nominated herself to be interviewed for the MWP. To be honest, I pushed “send” thinking I’d never get a response. After all, this is a highly personal situation: a husband addicted to pornography. I assumed her willingness to share had wayned. I was wrong. Not only was she willing, but she was also courageous in exposing the wounds of an addiction.
Bethany opened my eyes to the widespread problem of pornography in Latter-day Saint homes. For me, however, the awe in her experience is her faithful approach to healing. In my conversations with her there was no sense of bitterness, anger or hatred. Instead, it was clear she had chosen to look up and within; asking God to be her guide.
Bethany’s faith reminds me of a common mantra in life that it’s not what happens to us but how we react that is important. Further, she proves that peace can be found in following God’s will, realizing His perspective and love is perfect.”