012 Honey, We Need to Talk (Part One): A Panel Discussion on Telling Your Spouse
Awkward dinner conversations
Leaving Mormonism often involves many complicated, emotional conversations with believing family and friends. Given the intensely deep, personal nature of a marriage relationship, figuring out how to have these same conversations with your spouse can be even more daunting.
In previous episodes, our panelists have shared their experiences of telling acquaintances, close friends, and extended family members about their choice to leave Mormonism. Today we tackle the topic of telling your spouse or partner. Join regular panelists Donna and Micaela, along with our two guest panelists, Whitney and Clarke, as they share their stories, discuss what worked for them, and give some insights into what they might change if they had it to do over again.
When one spouse experiences a change in faith or belief in Mormonism, it can be extremely difficult to decide how to approach their partner. Given the central nature of marriage in Mormon theology, it is not uncommon to feel fear or anxiety over how this change in faith will impact the foundation of your relationship with your spouse. We are often taught that strong, happy marriages only exist when “equally yoked” in full participation in the church. It is natural to question what will happen next when one spouse chooses a different path.
Because there are as many individual variations in relationships as there are couples, no two experiences in sharing your shifting faith will be identical. For instance, it’s likely to be very different having these conversations with a traditionally-believing spouse versus one who is more nuanced in their perspective. Sharing with a non-believing spouse would be different still. However, the feelings of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and reticence can be common to all.
There are many ways people approach their spouse with story of their change in belief, from a slow leak of information from the beginning all the way to a quick rip of the band-aid all at once. Each relationship is different, so it’s important to consider how you and your partner communicate as you decide how best to bring them along with you.
Healthy communication within a marriage involves a lot of mutual respect, understanding, and love. This is even more true when facing something as emotionally difficult as a faith transition can be.
Show your spouse that the relationship is your number one priority. Show them your love, patience, kindness, and extend grace to both of you.
These conversations will likely be very difficult, so be prepared for uncomfortable emotions on both sides. Remember to have empathy and consider their point-of-view.
Give your partner space to grieve - remember that they haven’t been living this inside your head and might feel blindsided by what you are telling them.
If it is helpful for you, visualize how you would like the conversation to go and practice. Remember that if it doesn’t go well at first, you can always have a “redo” and come back to the conversation. It’s not a one-and-done situation.
Consider couples therapy - a third party can be extremely helpful as you broach difficult subjects, learn how to have the hard conversations, and develop the skills to work through your struggles.
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