Part 1: 2008-2010
I feel it necessary to share some thoughts around my previous marriage. Based on that initial first sentence, you can probably gather quite a bit of baggage or sustenance around this relationship. And you’d be right. The thing is, though, while I have my own insight and connection with this history, a substantial majority of it emanates around the impact of this relationship on my immediate family. It’s been eleven years since my ex and I were married, a little over ten years since I’ve been divorced, and while the shockwaves are greatly diminished, their results are still evident.
A lot of people experienced pain and hardship, my ex-wife and myself included. It’s sad to remember an event you’d hope would last your whole life as a beacon and foundation of love, light, and laughter instead as something that came and went in the blink of an eye but created consequences to last a lifetime.
Here’s some context.
My ex-wife and I were married for eight months and dated for a year and a half. I met her while I lived in Russia, serving in a volunteer, religious capacity for my church. I’ll go into more detail in a moment (or in later blogs, depending on how much info I can fit into this one). After she and I met–for your initial introduction–we recognized we were developing strong feelings for each other pretty quickly. I had maybe three months or so left until I was coming home, so the timing was incredible. We never crossed any lines or behaved “inappropriately” while I was over there, but once I came home, we continued our association, and the relationship grew.
Before I present any other information, I want to say this. If you’ve been in love, you know that those feelings often appear with an element of surprise and without provocation. Most intriguingly, though, genuine love feelings are not at our beck and call and don’t adhere to facets of control. (Every time I’ve been in love with a woman, it’s been entirely outside my control, not always for the better.)
Regardless of how I look back on this experience, or how others will reflect and comment on it, my ex-wife and I did have genuine, intense feelings for each other. Amongst many different aspects, those feelings were real and tangible. I know a few family members who would argue this point, but they haven’t yet realized that their observations constitute one third-party side of the story. They never got to contribute and participate in the relationship like I did.
My ex-wife and I are two people who both wanted the same things, but we came from two very different sides of life. That’s important because the training we’d received from our respective life experiences up to that point ended up dictating a lot of how the relationship went. I was a young, naive, eager, and clueless twenty-two-year-old young man, and she was an experienced, driven, stubborn, and scared older woman. Both of us saw the potential for a remarkable life, but we had to overcome ourselves to achieve it.
Suffice to say, we failed.
There are three other sides to this equation that warrant inclusion. First is the presence of faith and God. Second, the inference and intrusion of Lucifer. Third, the attempts and involvement of my family.
My ex and I met due to religion, and it’s an essential piece of the puzzle that created friction, confusion, and eventually built barriers between the two of us. Desire and hope were there to begin the work, but I placed too much reliance on God to help instead of taking a more direct approach, and my ex decided to do a one-eighty-degree turn shortly after we got married and return to where life was comfortable.
I don’t blame either of us in resorting to what we understood, but I wish we would have faced the awkward and uncomfortable beast head-on and done that together.
I am a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but like all organizations with people in them, we’ve developed some sad and debilitating practices. I’d argue that many revolve around relationships, which is rough, considering our religion places a lot of importance on marriage and family. We practice a lot of ignorance and blind interaction on what we don’t understand in an effort they will just go away, or God will handle them for us. Few people in our church, especially my generation or younger, are equipped to tackle the emotional complexities of marriage because they’ve never seen it in action or been taught correctly by someone who knows.
People approach marriage with this holy and eternal perspective without understanding what turns it into those things. This is a huge problem.
Anyway, my ex and I doubled down on our beliefs as we went forward, but those beliefs were not the same. This caused contention and animosity we didn’t know how to deal with. I could see clearly that we were headed for a divorce if things continued, but as long as there was still hope, I fought for us as best I could.
Many people said to me, after the divorce, “I knew it was coming to this. I could see it clear as day. We tried to tell you before you got married, but you wouldn’t listen.” I’d like to take a moment and say something to these individuals.
It means the world to me that you cared enough to worry even a little bit about my welfare and happiness. To this day, I’m grateful for such attention. However, caring for me enough to only see the situation from your perspective was just as detrimental to it as your care was altruistic. Only four people in my family and extended family shared your worries but actually made an effort to see things from where my ex and I were coming from. Only four. Everyone else felt content to tell me what was failing and then judge me that I wasn’t behaving how they thought I would or should. So, as much as I said I’m grateful for your care and interest in my welfare, I hold you responsible for your passive-aggressiveness, judgments, and belittling my personal decision-making to ensure the quality of my life. Because, after all, my life is mine to define. I don’t hold you responsible for any part of my relationship. That’s between me and my ex. I ultimately made decisions that I felt would benefit my ex-wife and me, taking into account as many avenues as possible. If you think I was stupid and exercised poor judgment, that’s fine. I get that. But where does your dictation of my life end and giving me the benefit of the doubt for living it my way begin? It’s kind of like a catch-22.
I needed those around me to be supportive and honest, not judgmental, and distant. This is another LDS cultural phenomenon, in that when we see people behaving contrary to what we deem as “correct,” we’ll privately hold it against them. Many religious people, regardless of inclination, base their happiness and level of sanctity on if the world around them reflects what they believe. Ladies and gentlemen, your sanctity and religious principle should have nothing to do with the world around you and everything to do with your relationship with God. (Side note: I’m ranting and raving a lot, and I appreciate you giving me room to do that. Apparently, this needs to come out. I’m happy to present the other side of the LDS world in future blogs to show that it’s not all horrible, ordinary, passive-aggressive people.)
I thought that God would intervene more than He did. LDS members spend a lot of time praying and supplicating before God when it comes to getting married. Many of us are taught to ask God if our choice is ok, essentially meaning we marry someone because we’re “told” to as opposed to “wanting” to. This brings me to one of the significant revelations I received when my divorce was carried out, and our lives separated.
God cares about every single one of His children, but He has no interest in deciding our lives for us. If I find someone I want to marry, I can and should ask for His blessing like I would from my physical parents. But to expect Him to determine my marriage is ludicrous and incorrect. He will not do that. Same as when we’re in the thick of a relationship, He may offer advice and help from time to time as parents are prone to do, but He will not be the deciding factor on if it’ll succeed or fail. That power is purely in the hands of the two in the relationship.
There’s a non-doctrinal saying in the LDS faith that every marriage is actually built on a triangle instead of a two-point line: with God on one point and the two spouses on the others, so they all contribute equally to the relationship. I disagree with this strongly, though I do understand the principle trying to be established. I believe God does and should play a part in every relationship, just not to the degree where we give him veto rights on how we behave or and if it succeeds. God is an advocate and enabler of free will in every sense of the phrase, and for us to require Him to determine and define our personal nature or lives is incorrect and destructive.
Every relationship is not God’s to create or destroy. That’s not how He works. If a relationship does fail, it’s because the two individuals came to that course of action. If a relationship succeeds, it’s not because God is somehow keeping it afloat. God has power, but He purposefully removed His inclination to control our lives so we could learn how to do that ourselves.
So, to all you religious people out there, take control of your fate. Make your own decisions. Fall in love, build a life and invite God to participate in it. But please don’t make the mistake of hoping he’ll make your decisions for you because He won’t take it. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations and incredible disappointment.
All that represents a piece of the religious aspect I had at the time. It’s one reason I wasn’t equipped to manage a failing relationship. It sucks that such wisdom and education come at the cost of never having the chance to put it into action when needed most. But, I’ve used it many times since, and for that, I’m grateful.
Guys, I’m already writing more than I thought I would, so I will have to break this blog up into parts. I’m not sure how many pieces yet, but there’s at least one more. You’re all awesome! Please leave some comments, let me know what you’re thinking, and tell me how you’re doing!