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I’ve only been married for a few years and I love my husband dearly. One of the things that attracted us most to each other was our testimonies and love for our missions. We went to the temple, went on walks all the time and were always on time for church. We’d pray together and study scriptures at the same time. I was ecstatic I’d found the righteous man I’d always longed for.
After we got married though, that all changed. He got a job that had radically different hours from mine. It was hard doing everything we did before but we still did it. But as time passed his schedule took its toll. But it wasn’t just that. Whenever I’d pray or invite him to read scriptures or ask him when we should go to the temple next I felt this wall go up on the defensive. He’d either insist we needed to better plan these things or he’d grudgingly say yes.
I am partly to blame because at first when he’d pray by himself I wouldn’t join him because I’d done so earlier before getting into bed. After a while I tried to be sure to pray with him but very soon after he stopped praying before bed altogether. He also waited for me to wake up and get ready for church before he would.
This has gone on for about two years now. We both have different jobs and different schedules. But we still manage to have time together. However, that wall is still there. He said that if we scheduled it then he wouldn’t be so angry about it. So, I told him that since I don’t really care about schedules then he was more than welcome to make one. He never made a schedule or determined to pick a date and time for the temple or prayers. I’d endeavor to help by gentle suggestions and not nagging or bringing it up. However, when I did this IT NEVER HAPPENED. Months went by without ever going to the temple.
I was extremely worried he was putting up this defensive and hesitant front because he was unworthy. He assured me he was and always took the sacrament and went to the temple when we did go. Despite his worthiness however he still gets defensive and annoyed when I bring up going to the temple, praying or even waking up for church. If I didn’t wake up to go to church or didn’t act like I was going to church then he wouldn’t. I feel like in order to do anything gospel-related I have to take the lead.
It’s so weird because I know he has a testimony. I know he’s worthy. But I don’t understand why he is so begrudging and hesitant about these things. I came from a home without a father and SO BADLY wanted a strong Priesthood holder presence in my husband. What could this be from and how can this be stopped? I just feel that he’s not the same since we’ve been married. It’s been months since we went on a walk together and the last time he went with me was because a friend of ours guilted him into it. We did the stuff I’ve told you about all the time while we were dating, why not continue that in marriage? It just feels deceitful.
I can see how confusing this must be for you. This relationship was built on a strong foundation of shared spiritual goals and meaningful connection. Sadly, the relationship feels more like two roommates managing their own individual lives. I can share some observations and ideas to help you break out of this frustrating rut.
You shared something important in the final paragraph of your question. You mentioned that it’s been a childhood dream to have a strong priesthood holder in your home. The way you wrote the comment indicated that this is a strong non-negotiable for you. I can see why you’re so distressed about this, especially as you consider bringing children into your family. While you completely have the right to feel the way you do, I want to invite you to take a closer look at how your deep desire to have a righteous priesthood holder in your home might play out in your interactions with your husband.
My guess is that when you began to notice a shift in his spiritual practices, you began to feel worried and anxious about losing the dream that has been so important to you. Even though you may have tried to not panic or overreact, it’s likely that you began to treat him differently in unspoken ways. Please know this is a normal human reaction. When we’re afraid, this change in energy is inevitable, as M. Catherine Thomas observed:
“Fear wears us out because we’re working all the time to keep something from happening or to make something happen – trying to control, manage, manipulate events or people, afraid that if we don’t, things will fall apart.”[i]
Since you can only control and manage yourself, consider the impact your fear might have on your relationship with your husband. President Thomas S. Monson cautioned us to, “Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”[ii] You talked about how much you love your husband, but is it possible that he might have difficulty detecting how much he means to you when the focus shifts to his spiritual practices?
In short, consider the possibility that your husband may feel that your ideal role for him is more important to you than he is. It’s important not to confuse the practice with the person. These external practices can be good indicators of a person’s inner commitment, but the Savior had strong words toward individuals who hide behind outward spiritual practices but lacked inner commitment.[iii] My caution is for you to not make your view of your husband’s commitment or goodness contingent only on his outward spiritual practices.
Instead, let him know of your deep desire for sharing a spiritual life with him and how you’ve let this fear consume your private thoughts and interactions with him. Ask him how these worries and anxieties have impacted him. Give him a chance to share his journey with you to better understand if this is a relational struggle or if he’s experiencing a personal shift in beliefs. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to care about him first before you care about the practices. Hopefully he can also care about your feelings so you can both feel seen and understood.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity” and creates online relationship courses available on his website www.geoffsteurer.com. He hosts the Illuminate Podcast and has created the Loving Marriage educational vlog on YouTube with his wife. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
You can connect with him at:
[i] Thomas, M. Catherine, “The God Seed”, Kindle Edition, chapter 18
[iii] See Matthew 23
Tired and SilentOctober 23, 2019
With what little we know from the letter the dear sister wrote, I don't know if my situation applies or not. The moment we married my wife had to arrange everything in our lives. Including where I was reading in my personal scripture study. And, when we discussed what we were reading together in the scriptures, every conclusion I made was wrong and she would try to force me to say she was right. (I was a life-long member; she a convert of 2 years, but she believed she knew the scriptures far better than me.) The amazing thing is that the Sunday School teacher can make the same conclusions as me and be right in her eyes - that's when I just gave up trying to study with my wife. Decades later, we can't do the 'Come Follow Me' together because I am still always wrong. Going to the temple has become easier now that I am retired and she is the breadwinner - I am able to attend without seeking permission from her calendar. There is no porn addiction or other such issue in our home. Just someone who has to be right and has to control the calendar for both of us.
RosieOctober 21, 2019
I'm a convert who married a nonmember. He was hostile to the Church, then joined the Church, then got his temple recommend. Then he started backsliding. He comes to church every Sunday, but is reluctant to do scripture study, refuses to pay tithing, etc. Everything seems like pulling teeth. Here's the thing-my spiritual progress is my responsibility. Not his. I still go to the temple, pay tithing, etc. Always have, always will. I will be forever grateful to President Nelson for changing the temple ordinance script in such a way, that the progression of every sister does not depend on her husband. This was a big stumbling block for me in the past. Let's not pretend that that wasn't implied when it clearly was, for so long. I think this made for a lot of nervous sisters and resentful brothers. Never turn down a chance to go to sacrament meeting or to the temple. And never make someone else's choices a reason to neglect your personal relationship with the Savior. That's all we can call our own when all is said & done. Don't make it about trying to change your husband. Make it about your own inherent worth as a daughter of Heavenly Father.