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 Melissa Marshall, Virginia, USA

I asked a friend for a blessing when I was considering getting engaged to my husband. I was told that I had made countless good decisions in my life leading up to that point, and that God trusted my ability to make a good decision here too.

So nine years ago I chose to marry this guy I’d grown attached to, even though we were quite different. A few days before we got married I panicked and told him I didn’t think I could get married, because people change. I’d seen it. Several what-if’s emerged from my imagination, including: what if he decided to leave the Church someday? What if I decided to leave the Church someday? I had seen people who had differing views on religion — in those relationships it had been hard on their children. I never wanted to have to ask whether or not my children would be allowed to be baptized.

He told me that he could never leave the Church considering his background. He and I both believed him.

Several years later, when I was one month pregnant with our fourth and final child, he confided in me that he no longer wanted to go to church. He no longer believed in God or Jesus, and he wished that I, who was recently back from my own faith crisis, had continued to waiver for just a few more months. (I never stopped attending church, but I had had a hardness in my heart.)

Since that time I’ve gone through periods of outright hatred, to numbness, to hope, and back to hatred as we evolve together and work on preserving what we’ve built together. It has been a bittersweet two years, heavier on the bitter than I’d like to say.

After our baby was born, I was swallowed up by the ugly monster of postpartum mood disorder. I could no longer take my children to church by myself, (there was very little I could do alone during that time with or without my children), so I left them at home while I went. Several months later when I was well enough to take them, my husband was adamantly opposed to them attending with me. Out of all of the different aspects of this, that was the hardest pill to swallow.

After several months, and some loud conversations we settled on a 50/50 agreement. They come to church with me every other week. Consistently for months they cried every week while getting ready. But luckily and unluckily our ward is very heavy on treats in primary — luckily because it won my children back over to what they steadfastly claim was a boring three hours (my third child thought cookies were the reason people attend church). Unluckily because it was another source of tension surrounding church (my third child thought cookies were the reason people attend church). Until just recently, I dreaded Sundays.

Since that first conversation, my husband has awakened to God again. It has filled me with hope, but I’ve also tried not to be unrealistic in my expectations for him. It was disappointing to find that, even though I was largely alone in my faith in my family of origin for years before getting married, and despite the fact that I served what was to me a powerful mission, I found myself questioning my resolve to continue forward with my faith nearly weekly. I never realized how much his faith supported my own. That bothers me.

I miss our unity of faith. I miss being able to share with him insights from the scriptures I read, or prophetic dreams I’ve had. Even though I know he’d be respectful, I can’t bring myself to share those things with him. It just isn’t the same sharing them with someone who has disengaged from religious belief.

For the most part, ward members have been very kind. People tell me how strong I am. That I’m so good and faithful. They don’t see how often I doubt, and how mean I’ve been to my husband at times as we’ve been working on making this new dynamic work. That certainly isn’t the way of the God I profess to follow.

If I could go back to visit myself that long two years ago, I would tell us to run, not walk, to the nearest well-referred counselor. A marriage like this is not impossible, but it is difficult, and we both could have used the support from the beginning of the transition.

It isn’t at all the marriage I wanted, or thought I was getting into. But it isn’t without it’s good points, despite how ugly a picture I paint. As we’ve come closer to reaching an equilibrium, there has been a freshness to our relationship that was unexpected. A realness to my spouse I’d never known. That has been a gift while sifting through the unmet expectations.

I’m learning more every day about letting go of my expectations for other’s paths. It is not easy when it is living in my house. But I do have faith in a God of love. So for now I choose to be grateful for small things, like being able to leave my baby at home with my husband while I go to church.

Foremost, though, has been the realization that I didn’t really believe in the Atonement in the way I thought I had until now. Is He or is He not able to save my children who, even if they were to be baptized at eight, may or not have chosen to stay in the Church anyway? I’ve learned that Jesus’ grace is enough to save them from their parents’ imperfections and flawed teachings — mine as much as my husband’s. Jesus’ grace is also enough to save my husband, who, despite his faults, is a man who is trying to do good in the world. And it’s enough to save me too.