021 Menace to Society (Part One): Leaving as a Single
Choosing to chart your own course
Marriage and family take center stage in Mormon doctrine and culture, and this can create significant tension for those who remain single. Questions surrounding belonging and identity within Mormonism are often harder to answer for a single person than their married counterparts. There are unique aspects to leaving the church when single, and we hope these next two episodes provide some insights to all our listeners.
On today’s episode, Chloe is joined by two guest panelists, Beth and Josh, to talk about their experiences leaving the Mormon church as single, never-married people and how they have navigated the change in community support and family dynamics. Also, be on the lookout next week for part two of our series on leaving Mormonism as a single person, where our panel will dive deeper into dating and sex as a post-Mormon single.
Losing access to an instant social network is a difficult aspect of leaving the Mormon church. Mormonism provides a framework for shared belief, shared ideas, and a shared vocabulary, and these allow for an immediately sense of connection between two people. It also provides a structure for social interaction; attending ward events or even just catching up in the hall on a Sunday between meetings provides a feeling of belonging. When this social network is gone, people often find they need to develop practical skills for navigating a social world outside Mormonism.
This loss of community can be particularly difficult for a single person, especially if they are not near family. Help with unexpected events or crises, like an illness or surgery, can be more difficult to come by. Sometimes the cost of losing this built-in support system is high enough that a person is compelled to remain in the church longer than they might otherwise have chosen.
When telling family about your change in belief, expect there to be some renegotiation and reconfiguration of your relationship with parents and siblings, especially if participation in the church lies at the heart of your family dynamic. Also, it’s not uncommon for a single person in Mormonism to feel like they still need to ask permission or seek validation for their choices. Outside of the church, rites of passage to adulthood are similar for everyone, despite their marital status. Within Mormon culture, marriage is the rite of passage marking adulthood, regardless of a person’s actual age. Single Mormon adults are often still treated as younger or less experienced that their married counterparts, and this can lead to difficult dynamics, particularly between a single person and their parents.
Leaving Mormonism as a single person does have some advantages as well. You’ll be able to navigate your shift in belief independently without having to worry about the ramifications it may have on a spouse, and for those who have no children, you won’t need to negotiate co-parenting with a believing Mormon partner.
Filling the community gap may feel overwhelming at first, but it does become easier over time. Finding other post-Mormons with shared experiences can be hugely helpful; try searching for groups on MeetUp.com or check out the weekly meet-up thread on the ExMormon Reddit. Connecting with old friends outside of Mormonism, joining a group related to a favorite hobby, or finding friendships among coworkers are also great ways to find new social groups outside of Mormonism.
Reach out to friends on Facebook or other social media who left a few years before you; they’ve been through these experiences and know how difficult the transition can be.
Try to hang on to relationships with believing friends that you truly value. Find ways to keep your change in faith from becoming an obstacle in the friendship, and give them a chance to be loving and responsive in return. You may be surprised by how many people won’t let your differences in beliefs become a stumbling block.
Be vulnerable in your relationships with people you trust. It’s through vulnerability that we build true, strong connection between people.
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