A Mutual Respect

Marital relationships are not always easy, nor are they always difficult.




People change. They won’t be the same in 10, 15, or 20 years from when you married them. Sometimes this causes friction in marital relationships as ideas, beliefs, habits, and bodies metamorphose into something very different than when the marriage began. How have you navigated these changes, especially if religion has been involved? Is it always possible to navigate a shift in ideas and religious beliefs if there is a foundation of mutual respect? Why or why not?


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    If my wife were to decide to chuck the Church (which hasn’t happened, but wouldn’t totally shock me if it did some day), we’d be fine. I’m totally with the couple in the video. Or if I chucked the Church and my wife stayed, it would be the same deal. It’s all about mutual respect.

  2. This video was great. And I agree with Kevin. It’s tragic how diverging faith pathways can so often lead to divorce, or the perceived need to pursue divorce. It need not be this way.

  3. I love this! We would be so boring if we stayed stagnant throughout our lives. I think the key is staying updated and educated on your spouse’s evolving self. It’s a lot of work, but it helps the big changes seem a lot more gradual.

    I also love that the church produced a story of a religiously heterogenous couple. Sometimes love trumps fitting in.

  4. My ex-wife was/is a sex worshiping* pagan atheist. My returning to the church marked the beginning of the end of that marriage. Of course, she changed, too – eventually not knowing whether or not she was female. Sometimes change is too much change.

    On the other hand, I’m now a few years in with a woman I’ve known and been friends with my entire adult life. While we’ve both changed – in particular, we’ve both changed a lot as far as our attitudes towards things like … obedience for its own sake goes – in many ways were the same people we were in our early 20s.

    *Not necessarily as great as it sounds.

  5. “pagan atheist”

    I don’t mean this as a disparagement. Just a fact that became increasingly difficult for both of us to deal with.

  6. MDearest says:

    This happens to be the very first ‘I’m a Mormon’ video that I’ve ever seen. I’m a marketing-phobe, especially when it’s generated by the church. (Thanks, BCC.) He’s charming, she doesn’t have much of a speaking part but I sure like the way she looks at him; I fell in love with them.

    I don’t know what to say about being married to an agnostic nomo, even after 30 years. I don’t feel qualified to compare and contrast with an “unmixed” marriage, since he’s the only spouse I’ve ever had, but I suspect that we have some rather ordinary turbulence, much the same as couples who sit together at church. I used to have angst over whether we would stay together, or even if I wanted that. After a crisis, I decided to focus more on whether I was a good wife and less on what he lacked on my checklist. That’s been an easier road, but not without its minefields. Ask me again in a decade or two.

    As I grow older, I think that maybe there have been hidden benefits to me personally to have been in this kind of marriage, rather than one more traditional, despite the social isolation one has to endure. If I was on the proverbial Freeway To Perfection, I suspect I would be much worse an insufferable priss than I am.

  7. “As I grow older, I think that maybe there have been hidden benefits to me personally to have been in this kind of marriage, rather than one more traditional, despite the social isolation one has to endure. If I was on the proverbial Freeway To Perfection, I suspect I would be much worse an insufferable priss than I am.”

    Yeah. Me too.

  8. One of the things I’ve struggled most with in my decade + of marriage to an unbeliever is how to talk about it, or not talk about it, with other believers and with other unbelievers. It’s almost like a divorce in that there’s a positively overwhelming community need to assign roles and blame. He left the church, so he’s the villain; I stayed, so I’m the patient longsuffering victim. I have a deep and abiding hatred for that role, and I have yet to find a simple, concise way to explain to people at church that my husband is an unbeliever without somehow tripping into it. On the other hand, I have just as many reservations about alternative narratives I’ve encountered that make the disaffected spouse a tragic figure of his–usually his–inadvertent disillusionment–and gloss entirely over what that disaffection costs the believing spouse, insisting that she–usually she–must stay in the marriage as a demonstration that her love was ever real. I suppose it’s no surprise that in the believing community, it’s very much a drama of the believer’s loss, and in the unbelieving community, the drama of loss is all the unbeliever’s. Where’s the complicated real world of mutual responsibility where we all actually live? I struggle and struggle to carve that place out, rhetorically. I’ve never succeeded.In ten or eleven years of trying, I’ve almost never left a conversation in which I’ve had to communicate the fact that my husband is inactive/unbelieving without a frustrated, sick sense that I’ve misrepresented him or me or both. On a practical level it’s the most crazy-making aspect of my life in the church community. (Except for taking a very active two-and-a-half-year-old boy to church, of course.)

  9. That’s a great comment ZD Eve. Quite often I was asked about my wife, and when she was going to take interest in the church. Because I had some vague hope that this would happen, I humored it for a long time. But as it became increasingly obvious to me that she never was going to, quite the opposite, those kinds of comments started carrying little psychic stings. Eventually I came to the point where I would just say “I don’t think that will even happen.” When someone wondered whether anything could be done to draw her into the community I would say, “yeah, she won’t want that.” What I sometimes felt like saying was “she’s a crazy crazy lesbian, and your daughters won’t be safe from her. Best keep your distance!” I really did mean to shield her from what she found basically completely exasperating. I got into this pretty awful space where I felt increasingly alone in both worlds. Always alone at church, and at home … alone there, too. I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible.

  10. Love this one!

    I really do think the Church is targeting members with the use of these videos every bit as much as non-members.

  11. I really HOPE these videos are taken to heart by members. The “mormon narrative” of perfect husband, perfect wife, white picket fence, sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows is a huge impediment to real missionary work (i.e. Really teaching people about who Christ is).

  12. I love this guy. Great pick mm.

  13. …and I’m not a Mormon. But I’m married to one. And I have a family full of ’em.

    What a great ending to the clip.

  14. “And so likewise I do the same for her.”

  15. hawkgrrrl says:

    When I see things like this (which is great, BTW) I also see that Catholics have found ways to deal with this stuff so much better than we have due to their sheer size and amount of time they’ve had to deal with these types of things. Their approach is a little different (spouses often convert just temporarily or superficially to be able to marry in the church), but they have a way to deal (culturally) with a belief difference within marriage. It’s not outside the norm for them any more.

  16. hawkgrrrl,

    Could you expound on that? How is it different? What is their approach?

    ZD Eve,
    Thanks for your very insightful comments.

  17. #16 – Most Catholics are tied to the belief that eternal marriage is essential and that it only happens with people of the same faith tradition. Marriage in the Church is required, but there really isn’t any further marker of faithfulness that requires active participation in the Church – so they tend to be fine with someone being Catholic in marriage only.

    It’s a lot like many Japanese. It is common to say that Japanese are born Shinto and die Buddhist – the two major religions of the country, and this is due almost entirely to the elaborate rituals associated with birth and death in those religions. Many modern Japanese now get married in a Christian ceremony, since those rituals tend to be more elaborate.

    Both Shintoism and Buddhism have been around long enough that they’ve found a way to accommodate such a mixture and no longer rely on any sort of comprehensive exclusivity.

  18. Sorry, typo: Most Catholics are NOT tied to the belief . . .

  19. hawkgrrrl says:

    What Ray said. In my experience, when someone who is Catholic decides to marry someone who is not, it’s not some huge deal. The non-Catholic just “converts” for the ceremony. The family sort of openly acknowledges that it’s just a Catholicism of convenience. There are so many Catholics that they can’t control how devout people are, even if they would like to do so. We speak of someone not being Mormon enough, but most Catholics (the ones I know) generally figure everyone’s a cultural Catholic, but you’ve got to live your life. The church is there for the big life rituals: marriage, birth, death.

  20. I also think it’s completely different if the spouse was a believer and now is not. Perhaps it shouldn’t be.

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