By Guest Columnist
I want to make an observation about the effect I have seen of divorce on many midsingles' relationship to the Church and their spirituality. Like any generalization, there are plenty of exceptions and it does not perfectly describe any situation.
I have seen many divorced members of the Church falling into one of two camps:
First is the group that believes they bought a pig in a poke. They believed they were told if they stayed active in Church, paid their tithing, served a mission, got married in the temple, and kept their covenants, they would have happy marriages and successful families. When they have tried very hard to do these things and find themselves divorced with severe financial issues and broken homes, they are disillusioned and leave the Church to pursue a different dream.
Second is the group that may blame their spouse for not living the gospel very well and see that insufficiency as the cause of their misery. They double down hard on their commitment to Church activity in the traditional way and try to find people to date who are hyper-committed to traditional Church activity above all else. They make rigid rules for themselves and their partners to ensure that these commitments cannot be broken.
I am an active member and I reject Number 1. I do not believe we were promised an easy or successful life based on a simple formula. While I served a mission and loved it, married in the temple, tried to keep my covenants, and served in the Church, I do not believe I was guaranteed that my marriage would endure or that I could count on success in life based on complying with this formula. I think you could search LDS.org endlessly and not find the guarantee that many embittered LDS midsingles feel they were given. Like it or not, life is not that simple. To be successfully married requires things like good mental health, good self-esteem, control of our tempers, the ability to communicate about hard things, and being a good listener. Adhering to simple formulas does not magically make us (or our partners) good at those things.
Although my wife left the Church at the time we got divorced, I similarly cannot accept Number 2. Our differences were not primarily over my wanting to live the LDS lifestyle. I do not necessarily believe the answer is to find someone more rigidly committed to the outward observances (stricter observance of the Sabbath, a perfect record of family home evening and scripture reading, and family prayer, etc.) I am personally acquainted with a situation where someone found a very committed Church member to re-marry, and after marrying discovered that she was angry all the time and even abused her children for not living Church standards enough. Mutual Commitment to the gospel alone is not enough to build a marriage on. Sometimes your interpretation of the gospel will divide you more than it unites you, particularly if you sought out someone with a personality that is rigidly committed to a particular way of seeing the world. That kind person can sometimes be stubborn and controlling.
MAY I SUGGEST A THIRD WAY? I want to suggest that we go deeper in exploring what the gospel has to teach us about relationships, about our own self-concept, about our relationship with God and other people, about honoring agency, and about how to live with others without having angst about their choices and behavior. The scriptures and other good books have a lot to teach us about love, loss, communication, forgiveness, letting go of pain, and finding inner peace. I think we might be blind to this if we become hyper focused on our potential partner's home teaching statistics.
It is natural when we have been deeply hurt in a relationship to be mistrusting and want to be controlling in future relationships to prevent that kind of pain from striking again. But giving in to that impulse will inevitably drive us a little nuts and make our partners feel smothered. The gospel and other good books contain wisdom for dealing with that issue, and many other issues we face as midsingles. But we have to get beyond the easy answers and be willing to grow as human beings. The answer to having successful relationships in the future is not to leave the Church and try something radically new or to just to pick a more adequate partner who will keep his/her covenants and then make rigid rules and expectations for that person to conform to. The answer is a journey toward greater self-awareness and a capacity to love ourselves and others more deeply and with fewer expectations.
About the author
I am a founder of this site and as of May 2015 I am happily married to a wonderful LDS woman. I spent my years in the singles system as a singles rep working to optimize events and maximize the effectiveness of people interacting and finding someone to love. I studied psychology for years and my years as a software and business consultant have made me very adept at understanding people and their motivations. I hope to help others find that same happiness that I have.