My first session of psychotherapy was in Logan, Utah in February, 1997 (during my master’s program at Utah State University). From then until now, I have done thousands of couples therapy sessions with both members (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), as well as non-member couples. This has included those who are dating, engaged, and living together, but mostly those who are married. Sometimes fellow members of the church will ask me what the differences are between member couples and non-member couples. We know that we have been called a “peculiar people” (I Peter 2:9)—another way of saying “weird”? And are we really that different—at least relationally? In this article, I will review some of the most common differences I’ve noticed of member versus non-member couples. I will also give some implications to help you in your future dating and marriage journeys.
*Language: The most common difference I’ve noticed between member and non-member couples is the language. Non-members cuss and swear much more, especially with how emotional couples therapy can be. This obvious difference simply illustrates the different way feelings are handled vocally, based on the socialization of what are or are not “acceptable” ways of handling negative emotions and conflict.
*Sex Lives: Non-members are notably less likely to complain about having dissatisfying sex lives together. Member couples are far more likely to complain about pornography use, lack of sexual variety, lack of sexual frequency, and overall lower sexual satisfaction. My theory of why this difference exists: because of the massive emphasis on the law of chastity in the church in nearly all discussion of sex in church/church teachings, this “sex is bad or sinful” attitude commonly follows member couples into their marriage and hurt their sex lives together.
*Infidelity: Both member and non-member couples complain about infidelity in their marriages, but this is a more common complaint from non-member couples. My understanding of this difference is that with adultery being preached against as such a serious sin with large consequences of church discipline/eternal ramifications, most members acting out sexually apart from their marriages usually resort to pornography or masturbation versus acting out with another actual person. Comparatively, the church consequences are simply lower and the ramifications are more manageable.
*Kids: Members—especially wives—are far more likely to complain that their husbands do not help enough with the kids. Most likely because member marriages are much more likely to be having a mom staying at home with the kids or just working outside the home part time. And with that arrangement, it is far more common for member husbands to allow wives to watch the kids 24/7 versus taking the kids off of her hands when he gets home.
*Church: Non-members rarely bring up religion whatsoever, whether they regularly attend a church or not. Member couples bring up religion regularly in their discussions, including callings, fellow ward members, time commitments, bishop discussions, etc. I think this difference is because being active members of the church is usually a big commitment that requires much more involvement than many other religions, so this focus is often reflected in the couples therapy sessions.
*Money: Though most couples in my sessions complain about money and money problems—member or not—member couples are more likely to have a certain kind of money complaint: members wives complaining husbands fail to earn enough, with member husbands complaining that wives spend too much. Again, my speculation of this difference is that member marriages are more likely to have the husband as the sole or primary earner, often fueling these common complaints.
In general, the complaints and challenges of member couples and non-member couples are very similar, with the main exceptions and differences being those noted in this article. So, a few suggestions for your relationships and future marriage: work to have more open dialog about sex to increase understanding, differences, and expectations. Approach married sex as a positive thing, not a duty, chore, or obligation. Also, discuss and negotiate time with the kids and child care together, including possible blended family issues. Find compromises and arrangements both sides can be agreeable to. Same with money decisions and budgets. Learn to communicate, understand each other, and most importantly, compromise. This can be done in couples therapy, with the help of a bishop, and ideally, at home in a civil, respectable manner. You can have a happy, healthy marriage. Because “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11
P.S. If you can questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
|Healthy relationships, Marriage preparation
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to email@example.com).