This story is part of our Mixed-Faith Marriage series, exploring the journeys and insights of active Latter-day Saint women married to men who are not members of the Church or who have left the Church. Each story is a generous and vulnerable offering. We ask that comments be sensitive and nonjudgmental toward any woman’s choices or beliefs.

By M. Leavitt, Alberta, Canada

We were waiting for our early morning flight for our family’s long-awaited trip to Disneyland.  My husband came walking down the concourse with a Starbucks drink in hand. Our 10-year-old daughter asked what he was drinking, and he replied, “a caramel macchiato.”  I inwardly fumed, as I was exhausted by preparing our family of seven for a big trip and this was the venue my husband used to tell our children he drank coffee. This was no news to me, but his decision to tell them was not something we had talked about beforehand.

The first year or so of big changes after my husband of 17 years decided to leave the Church left me feeling like I was bobbing, tethered to a ship headed in an unknown direction. I couldn’t anticipate or predict the changes that were coming so quickly, and I felt anxiety all the time. I could intellectually understand that it made sense that someone who didn’t believe the word of wisdom would not feel the need to follow it. Accepting these changes in my mind was one thing, but my heart was trickier. I remember thinking that if the changes would stop, I would probably be able to get used to where we were at. Wearing temple garments, having home teachers in our home, baptizing our children, drinking alcohol and paying tithing were just a few of the many hot topics that we regularly debated.

I would consider myself to be a strong believer with an open mind. I have two openly gay brothers whom I love, accept and support. My parents have devoted their lives to living the gospel, serving in the Church and raising their family. I watched how my parents who served as temple president and matron could love and support my brothers without sacrificing their beliefs. The key to their success was love. It was loving someone without trying to change them.

As the changes kept coming in my marriage, I wondered if this same love and tolerance could be the key to healing the wounds in my heart. I hoped it could, but I had a hard time believing I could really be happy again. I felt like I had to start at the bottom and decide who it was that I wanted to be. At times, it would be way easier to just leave the Church with my husband. This answer was the easy way and not the way my heart knew was for me. The experiences that had developed my testimony still burned in my heart. I love the gospel and I love Jesus Christ. I had to find a way to be me in my changing marriage. I learned to think for myself and find my voice.  I learned that there is no guidebook for my marriage.

We are still working on our marriage. I have tried to make small sacrifices that show I love my husband. For Father’s Day this year, we skipped church and headed to the mountains to go for a big family bike ride. I don’t stress when my husband has a countertop full of groceries from Costco when we arrive home from church. When we travel in the summer, I may be the one to suggest we choose to do something he would enjoy on our Sunday instead of finding a local church to attend. I know these gifts of time show that I am trying to find a way to show my acceptance. He in turn shows his support by doing things like making a nice dinner for us when we get home from 4:00 pm church. A few Sundays ago, we climbed in the car after our meetings and he had a large McDonald’s coke zero waiting for me in car. He knows I feel the burden of taking our five children to church alone each week and fulfilling my primary calling. Sundays are tough at the best of times and him leaving me a cold drink was a small way to show that he loves me.

We must figure out our new normal and accept that our lives may not look the same as the other families at church; I am now okay with this. Without a doubt changes will continue to come, but I hope my husband and I can respectfully discuss our beliefs and navigate the issues of parenting that lie ahead.

M. Leavitt and family