Still between 2008-2010
I needed to get a lot off my chest with that last post. Again, thanks for indulging me. I’m always astounded at how much I can hold onto, regardless of whether that’s intentional or not.
Before I jump into part two of my ex-relationship, I wish to make a few final points about part one. I spent a lot of effort and words venting about what made life difficult, be that with God or people, so now I’d like to flip the tables a bit and show you some of the fantastic things that happened.
When my ex-wife and I met, the chance of that encounter falls in the “one-in-a-million” category. My companion and I were hanging out at our Church’s meeting house in the area (which we didn’t often do) when two women walked into the building and started asking questions (to say this was a rarity is an understatement). They were both young and appeared genuinely interested in our faith. As surprised as we were, we took them on a tour of the building and answered any questions. My ex-wife was one of these two women.
I realize a couple of terms or ideas that I’ve already shared or will share that need some context. First, “companion.” When LDS missionaries volunteer and eventually arrive in the area they’ll serve in, our organization always pairs them up, so we’re never alone. There are scriptural/religious reasons for this, but also liability ones. As a missionary, I would call the partner they give me my companion. Throughout our service, we have many companions as we move around the area, and new ones arrive while old ones go home.
Some more terms include “Ward,” “Stake,” and “Branch” and “Investigator.” The first three designate the size of congregations in a given location. Branches are the smallest sized groups we have, followed by Wards (essentially a much larger Branch), and then Stakes are groups made up of multiple Wards. Investigators are the name we give to those people who are interested enough in our message to learn more.
Where I served in Russia, there were seldom enough members to constitute a Ward, so we had a lot of Branches. And even fewer were the Branches that had a dedicated building to meet in. In some areas, we met in a theater, others we’d meet at a member’s or the missionary’s home. We did what we could to ensure the spiritual quality could thrive.
In this story, my companion and I were hanging out at our Branch Building when my ex-wife and her friend walked in and started asking questions. Does everything make sense?
While her friend never had a desire to learn more, my ex certainly did. Every time we’d meet—and often she’d call us on the phone—she’d present a paper with a long list of questions and things she’d wondered about. Guys, I really can’t impress upon you enough how rare it was to meet someone like this. I met two or three Investigators like this in my two years of service, which seemed high.
As we talked, our affections grew without much provocation or effort, and we began exchanging significant amounts of trust toward each other. As a missionary, we’re under many requirements and restrictions (the main one in this story’s interest being missionaries don’t date anyone, or entertain romantic feelings, opportunities, or activities), which she always honored and respected. And the questions and feelings she shared with us regarding her spiritual curiosities were incredibly personal and challenging for her to vocalize without fear of repercussion. The fact she did so regularly showed us how much this meant to her.
Fast-forward to the end of my mission. My parents wanted to come over to Russia and spend some time with me, and they had the chance to meet my ex-wife. That initial meeting went well. But there was a moment, just between my ex and me, when we looked at what pursuing a relationship after I left would entail. She surprised me by opening up on a couple of aspects that she’d never told anyone (I’m not going to reveal them here because they’re not mine to tell). We also had to approach the long-distance plus the living in different countries part—The logistics were a nightmare, but we managed to make it work.
The surprising parts of her life, which she shared, combined with the logistics and my youth, presented an enormity of challenges. However, during the talk, we both realized that we could trust each other, and there was a chance this could work. Let me be clear: I’m not talking about flight-of-fancy, lovey-dovey, oohed-gooey feelings that we believed would work (Of course we had those. Let’s not be ridiculous, here). No, I’m referencing moments of honesty, hard conversations, financial planning, and ultimately bringing two lives together that shouldn’t have had a chance.
I finish the two-week tour of Russia with my parents, and we head back home. Here is the first real test of whether my ex and I will survive. Should we stay together while apart, then we’re doing great. Theoretically, one of the hardest things is done and handled. Our digital courtship lasted about a year, and boy, it wasn’t easy.
This was the time of prepaid phone cards, and we’d take turns buying and sharing the numbers. And we’d run those minutes to the ground. We’d have talks that left us feeling euphoric and restless, and some conversations sent us fuming for days. I remember one night in particular (it was winter and a fresh bit of snowfall had come down) where the argument had been pretty nasty, so at like one o’clock in the morning, I’m out shoveling the driveway to calm down. We knew how to get under each other’s skin.
And during this digital courtship, I spent so much time on my knees asking God to tell me that she’s the one, and I’ve made the right choice. He never did, and it took many years before I understood why. But at the time, not only was this concerning, but it allowed fear and trepidation to sneak in and stick around.
I asked Him all the time and questioned Him on His silence. The closest answer I ever got was, “Ok, fine. If you want it, then here you go.” Suffice to say, this didn’t leave me covered in happiness and rainbows.
So, instead of leaning on God, I now had the chance to figure out where I stood on the whole thing and decide for myself. I could only hope that my ex kept her feelings for me, and after everything was said and done, she’d choose to stay. We needed to confirm our position first.
The most significant positive factor for me was that I loved her, and we loved each other. I’d never experienced love before, and I couldn’t deny that it was there, and it was intense. Yes, there was lust, too, which I factor in as a good thing. I’d hope I’m physically and sexually attracted to my future spouse. Ha ha ha.
The second positive factor revolved around the trust and communication we’d already established. It took a lot for certain things to come to the surface, which meant we fostered an environment that allowed such a thing. However, there existed a vital counterpart to this that I saw early on: we fought with an astounding amount of vim and vigor, and when we argued, holy cow, it shook the house. My mom and sisters were living with us when she arrived in Utah, and they reminisce on some of those arguments, astounded that we could function at all.
The third most significant positive factor was hope. Our meeting wasn’t a coincidence, and when combined with love and our desires to create a change in our lives—not only that but to do it together—well, we were on the same page. Everything pointed to a chance of it working.
And fourth. After that year of long-distance dating—all the phone calls, chat messages, Visa paperwork, money transfers, etc.—we chose to finalize it, and she decided to come over to the United States. Once that happened, we were all in.
A lot of my family believes that she used me to get over to the U.S. and become a citizen. Based on what I know about the deal, I don’t believe this to be true. Have I had a few doubts since we divorced…yes, yes I have. However, I can’t, in good conscience, support this claim. There are too many aspects that say otherwise.
But probably the biggest supporter of her character and intention came within the last year or two (I’m talking 2018-2019). While my current wife and I prepared our wedding, some past religious agreements with my ex needed my attention. (I won’t get into this in too much detail, but reversing a religious commitment requires attention and application. It’s not a long or tedious process, but all parties involved in a previous ceremony need to have a say in if it gets canceled.) Long story short, my ex and I managed to get in contact over email—it took about a year and a half, and the wedding had already happened without any problems—and all my ex could say was how she wanted to help. Anything she could do, she would, and she also took the chance to clear up and apologize for a few things.
I was floored. I had not seen this coming. I figured we’d go the rest of our lives without ever talking again, or should we somehow cross paths, it’d be full of tension, awkward memories, and sadness. A few years after the divorce, I learned to let go of the animosity and harsh feelings, but when she reached out with so much support and light and offering up apologies, I felt the resolution on my end slide into place. She didn’t have to do that, but choosing to do so after so much time softened my heart and showed me I still carried the wounds and held certain things against her.
Her example prompted me to apologize for my actions, which created a resolution I never thought we needed. From her perspective, I can’t say if I was able to do this, but I know that she gave me a great gift at this time.
For all our flaws, shortcomings, and weaknesses that contributed to our divorce, I know a little of the amazing woman she was, and now the amazing woman she is and chooses to be. We didn’t work in fine fashion, but to hold such things against us, or each other, does absolutely nothing. She’s bright, intelligent, caring, stubborn, persistent, passionate, driven, and goal-oriented.
It’s hard to say this next part, but I believe we could have made something grand out of our lives if we’d taken the time and made an effort to act differently. But here comes one of my most lasting lessons from all of this: hindsight is always 20/20, and all we can do at the moment is to make the best decision based on what we know. I don’t regret what happened to us because I’ve accepted my place and actions, her actions, and made every effort to learn from it, utilize what it taught me, and continue on.
The “could be’s,” “should be’s,” “might be’s,” and “wanna be’s” are useless. We make our life what it is. And I love my life with everything I have, and I love my family equally. I know that the relationship Lauren and I have right now exists in part to the pain and hardship experienced by the previous ones. But only because we make an effort every day to rise above the crap and love what we have, instead of comparing, blaming, or wallowing in what hurt us so much before we met.
I guess this turned out to be part two. In part three, I’ll share Lucifer’s influence and see how much of the impact on my family I’ll get in.
As always, you guys are awesome! Keep smiling, share your thoughts, and let your friends know about my blog! I’m back in school and busy building my business, but I’m committed to providing more content. Until next time!