Zelophehad’s Daughters

Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part VI, Divorce

Posted by Seraphine

Recently, a reader of ZD (who would like to be known as “Jack”) sent me an e-mail, wondering if I was going to make the topic of divorce part of my series. I told him I hadn’t planned on it, not because I don’t think it’s an important topic, but because I’ve been grounding the series in my own personal experiences, and I don’t have any experience with divorce. I liked his idea, however, and I encouraged him to share some of his thoughts. So, here is Jack’s story. I think it raises some tough questions not only about the place of divorced people in the church, but also about the pressure singles feel from people and the culture around them to get married. A final note: please feel free to share your own experiences with this subject, and as with past posts in the series, this is not an opportunity to judge the decisions of Jack or anyone else.

I grew up in the Church. I never really dated much as a teen, so I never really
knew what love was, and I grew up in an austere environment where love wasn’t on the radar for our family. We weren’t the wealthiest people either, and so I was very self conscious about that. In my final interview for the Mission, the President told me to get married ASAP. My Stake President basically said the same thing and gave me a blessing to do so. I got a calling extended from the Stake President and he told me I would have this calling until I got married.

I believed him, so I dated a bit. I live in an area where girls aren’t so it was hard to date. But I met someone who I had a bit of a crush on. We dated for about two months, and honestly I wasn’t in love. I just wasn’t. I didn’t like her much either but once you’re in the vortex of the situation, it’s hard to get out, and being a people pleaser I couldn’t. I bought into the marriage, work, school, job and calling “doctrine” that I heard so much in my life. The bishop put so much pressure on us and others to do things, and I think he gave advice to further his ego. I caved into the pressure and got married. We were not happy from the beginning. We had a child quickly because I was taught that birth control is selfishness. There was never any abuse, adultery, or anything like that. She announced a year or so into the marriage that she was quitting the Church. We were married for just under three years. We were simply not happy and just not compatible. We married when she was 21 and I was 23.5.

So here I am at 31—divorced, single, and with a child. I have grown a lot since
the experience. I would say the Lord eased me into this phase of life by
blessing me with good friends. One of them is an old childhood acquaintance who has become a dear, dear friend of mine. Talking with her is a real, genuine blessing. I suffered severe panic attacks after the divorce and talking with her has eliminated that. I also have some excellent guy friends who are easy to talk to about being a divorced male and that helps. I really believe God puts people in our lives to help us and to me that’s how the atonement works for us and how God succors us.

What is it like to be a divorced man in the Church? I feel like marriage will
never happen again for me because of what happened in the past—you are the guy people settle for. People think you’re on the prowl for women. I was asked to leave institute because the Bishop thought my only reason for being there was to pick up women, which was not the case, and if it was, it wasn’t any of his business anyways. I sometimes get the sense that people are surprised I am still active. Yet I also hear how sometimes that they aren’t surprised that more people aren’t divorced in the Church. I feel passed over for callings: “oh he can’t do that, he is divorced.” It’s like you have to fit this mold, and if you don’t fit it, you are not on the righteousness radar anymore. I was asked by someone I did not know if I was excommunicated because I had been divorced! I think you, as a male, have to be married and successful in the Church to meet expectations and exceed them.

Not all people get divorced for the same reasons. Not every guy is a
scoundrel, adulterer, wife beater or lay-about. I don’t drink, smoke, use drugs, watch porn, gamble, or play video/computer games. I think people who don’t know you or your ex assume that you were selfish or you weren’t doing enough “Church things.” Another thing is some think you are inferior to them because their marriage is working out. How do people view me? I would say on the surface people to my face are generally okay, but sometimes people treat me like I’m blighted, and because of this, I feel left out a lot of times. The lessons on marriage are the same, and no one mentions the fact that not everyone stays married, not everyone is happy in marriage, or that there are divorced people hearing this.

Navigating the world in the Church as a divorced male is like you were on one
shore of being single and never married, and then you were on the other shore of being married, and now you are in the middle with a child. You know what both shores have to offer, but the only people who come to you in terms of dating or friendship are either divorced themselves and/or are genuine friends from before or you met after. You get largely passed over by the never-married or already-are-married. It’s disheartening to hear about get-togethers, parties, or other functions that you weren’t invited to because “it would be weird for you.” How about I make that decision? The only ones I get invited to are the ones I make or with the other singles. Yet it’s strange that I am the guy other guys take out places when they want to complain about their wives. I want to say: “I would be so incredibly deliriously happy to have a wife! Count your blessings!”

I wish that ten years ago I would have known what I know now and that I would have had my child with someone else. Sometimes I feel so burned and ripped off. Although it’s better being single and happy most of the time than married and miserable, I see how others are and they didn’t hear or just ignored what “advice” they were given when I just accepted it. I struggle with others saying that God told them not to go down streets with their cars but I wasn’t prevented from getting involved with this certain woman, and sometimes I think as a result my life is ruined. I want to date and get married again, I really want to be happy with someone, and I really want to be in love with someone and have someone love me. I just don’t want to lose that hope.

77 Responses to “Being a 30-something Single in the Church: Part VI, Divorce”

  1. 1.

    Jack, thanks for sharing your story, which I found very poignant. One question – do you find the term “single” to be frustrating or insulting? The word “single” has started setting me on edge, since I perceive a heavy weight of cultural disapproval behind it (“It is not good for man to be alone.”)

    I haven’t thought of a word to describe unmarried people that doesn’t carry this weight, so maybe instead of finding a different word, I just have to recontextualize it… Anyway, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. 2.

    “Jack,”

    Thanks for sharing your story. I have been going through something similar. You can’t let your divorce define you. I hear you mostly describing yourself in terms of what you are not. You can do a better job of presenting yourself in a positive light. Highlight your strengths and people will begin to see more clearly that you have a lot going for you.

    Please do not believe that there is something wrong with you. Studies have shown that almost one out of every five Mormons goes through a divorce or separation. And out of all the religious groups in this country, Mormons are the most likely to marry again following divorce. So the odds are in your favor!

    I bet you have learned some valuable lessons in the half decade since your divorce. Without the experience of your first marriage, you may not have realized that you deserve to find true love and happiness in this life. If people at church treat you like a second-class citizen, I want you to know that you are better than that.

    It is time for you to decide what you want and put yourself out there. You deserve friends who challenge you to reach your potential. Don’t be afraid to be honest with people and don’t let setbacks or challenges prevent you from accomplishing your goals. There is someone out there for you. It would mean a lot to her if you made finding her your priority.

  3. 3.

    Thanks for sharing your story Jack. I am currently going through a divorce and appreciated reading your story a great deal. I don’t really have anything to add and I would probably break down and cry as I tried to type it out anyway. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. 4.

    Thanks for sharing “Jack” don’t give up hope for whatever dreams you may have… be they single and content with it, or finding someone that truly “gets” you. Just because you are divorced does not mean you are blighted or anything of that nature… people that treat others this way need to reread Christs words about casting stones… everyone makes mistakes, some just happen to be more visible than others. As long as you have learned (and it sure looks like you have) then isn’t that what life is all about?

    I have known many a divorced mom and at least one divorced guy within the church that have found a partner that better fits them than their first. Keep your heart as open to possibilities as you can.

  5. 5.

    I’ve been following this series, and am glad to have Jack’s voice and story included here. I’m in a similar boat, for entirely different reasons, but the feelings are all to familiar.

    I too am hoping this isn’t the end of happiness for me, and find myself feeling odd at not being invited places, and seeing old friends less. My divorce is still fairly new, and I have three young children- and I really need those social contacts and friends.

    This is the lynchpin though:

    …it’s better being single and happy most of the time than married and miserable

    Amen.

    Blessings to you on your journey and thanks for sharing.

  6. 6.

    .

    I was trying to read the article for YSAs in last month’s Ensign earlier today and ran into the same question RC asked. “Single” is starting to feel dismissive — almost like an epithet. But I’m not single and I’ve always been better at being offended for other people. So I would rather hear what the singles have to say.

  7. 7.

    Thank you for your kind comments! I don’t find the term, “single” to be that bad now, I did when I wasn’t married the first time. I find the term “divorced” very unpleasant, “oh he’s divorced” as if I was some criminal-which I am not BTW!

    I can’t believe how much I have changed and how I think from where I was ten years ago when i came home from the mission. As I said my friend that came into my life at the right moment in time was truly, truly a godsend, and it was and she is! Opening up for me was never, ever easy and so I find that doing that with people that you know really helps and bonds you to them, in other words get past the superficiality of friendships and its amazing!

  8. 8.

    I can’t speak for everyone here, and I certainly can’t speak for the 30-something singles, but when I was single, not too long ago, I certainly felt that “single” was turning into an epithet. I can’t exactly pinpoint what gave me this sense, but I do know that I was pretty interested in reclaiming the term into something neutral, at very least. I was stridently insistent on people calling me “Miss” rather than “Ms.,” I was all too happy to tell old biddies in the home ward that I was still single, and I remember numerous conversations with friends insisting that “single” isn’t a dirty word.

    Then again, maybe it was just me. Anyone else feel this way?

  9. 9.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Jack. It definitely helps to round out the series.

    From the married person’s side, we have divorced folk in our ward, and I don’t perceive that they are treated differently than anyone else. Perhaps they are and I just aren’t seeing it, or perhaps I just live in a great ward (which is indeed the case, I know). But another possibility might be a perception of judgment and rejection where none is intended. There may need to be care taken not to perceive slights where none are meant.

    I’m not saying that is your case, Jack; I suspect what you describe is indeed the majority experience in the Church for divorced people. Just trying to lay out another possibility for consideration.

  10. 10.

    Thank you Kevin! I was a self conscious person anyway and this has made it worse for sure but I hope I am getting better at not being that way and getting out of the mindset.

  11. 11.

    Although I’ve never been married, I can certainly sympathize. Especially when your made to feel less than everyone else. At least you tried and that’s the best that anyone can do.

    Being single in the church is just as difficult, especially in my area where there isn’t as many single older adults to hang out with. In my case, i did not grow up in the church, in fact I grew up in foster care so many born and bred mormons consider me inferior . So, my advice to you would be don’t let yourself think that you are less than. No one is less than anyone else, inside the church or outside the church And also I’ve never needed 250 close friends to make me feel validated. If I have one or two people that I really know that I can count on I consider that to be a great gift

  12. 12.

    I’ll bite.

    As an older single woman past 30, I was both wary and resentful
    of divorced men and women, especially those who attended the singles ward, ostensibly on the prowl. Most of my never-married friends felt the same way, and here’s why:

    1. Theologically speaking, it seemed to us that they’d had their shot at eternal marriage– they had made a covenant that we as never-chosens were desperate to make but unsuccessful at achieving. Many singles were jealous and fearful that whatever caused the divorcé/es to marry the first time (good looks, charm, wit, money, righteouness, luck) would strike again, and the shallow pool of potential mates in the singles ward would become even shallower as the divorced person snatched up another eligible bachelor/ette.

    2. We perceived divorced people as sexually mature, urbane and experienced in ways that never-marrieds were not allowed to be–at lest not without copious amounts of guilt. Never-marrieds were often infantilized sexually and socially by church doctrine and culture. Some of my 40+ year old single female friendshad never seen a man naked or never admitted to having an orgasm. Divorced “singles” on the other hand, were considered by never-marrieds to have the best of both worlds: a sexual past guilt free (being “legal” church-wise) without the baggage of a current bad spouse.

    To be continued…

  13. 13.

    I don’t have any direct experience with either divorce or the death of a spouse, but I wonder if being a widow/widower has the same feel to it as someone divorced (in the Church).

    I know of an older guy (60s) whose wife died suddenly and I think he still hasn’t gotten over it, and I know it keeps him away from the ward (he’s expressed as much). I know of another sister — 30s, lots of kids — whose husband committed suicide in dramatic fashion not too long ago. The ward rallied around her, and there were the usual whispers (the bishop was very forceful about shutting that down as best he could), but I know she feels a sense of “what’s my place here”.

  14. 14.

    My life improved so much after my divorce that I didn’t once consider how I didn’t “fit in.” While there were activities I wasn’t necessarily invited to join in, that was also the case when I was married to a non-Mormon. Though divorced, I still had common interests with some women who were my age or a little older, whether they were married or not. For example, Priesthood session of General Conference always happens on a first Saturday, which coincided with a “gallery hop” in my city. A bunch of us with older kids (or with younger kids and a baby-sitter) started doing that together.

    Having children helped a lot in developing good relationships with people in the ward. I never felt left out of things. A single guy I knew once said that because I had children, I was “quasi-married.” Family is such an essential tenet of Mormon practice, and I HAD a family living with me that depended on me. I just didn’t have a partner. Given the partner I was now free from, the lack of a partner made things EASIER, not harder.

    My divorce was such a relief. I never felt labeled by my divorce, or ashamed of my decision to marry in the first place. I was just so glad to be free of my marriage, I didn’t really CARE what other people thought. I think divorce is a lot like bankruptcy (and repentance!) – it’s a chance to make a fresh start with a clean slate.

    The most difficult part about being divorced for me was no more sex, but after a while my body apparently adjusted and it wasn’t much of a problem. It helped that my kids and I were all huggers, so I still had a plenty of affection in my life.

  15. 15.

    I offered a viewpoint hours ago that has still not posted. The gist was that there are reasons many never-married lds give divorced membes a cold shoulder when it comes to marriage, dating and friendship. Since the roots of those issues are based in theology, especially around the sealing concept, I thought it could make a good discussion. Perhaps I was wrong.

  16. 16.

    Wendy, for some reason, your comment got caught in our spam filter–you should now be able to see it.

    Going back to the question RecessionCone asked, for me I don’t find the word “single” itself problematic–for me, the problem is when that’s how people identify me at church (rather than, high school English teacher or ward missionary, which is my current calling). I don’t want my marital status to be the way people primarily know who I am.

    Jack, it’s interesting that you prefer the term single, since, as you say, “divorced” typically has worse connotations/associations than “single.” And Petra, I admire your attempts to “reclaim” the word.

  17. 17.

    Jack,

    Thank you for this.

    I have nothing to add, except to say that the way we LDS people accept council from our church leaders is really complicated. There is no doubt that the advice from mission presidents and bishops is well-intended, but ultimately, they are not the ones who have to live with the decision. I wish we had a better way to sort through the cheap advice.

  18. 18.

    Yes, I prefer to be known as single and not just divorced. I guess I am okay with the assumptions of being known as single rather then the assumptions surrounding divorced men-like we are addicted to stuff, beat our wives, cheated and whatnot-which as I say isn’t or wasn’t the case with me.

    I understand your point Wendy J. I don’t want to think that I am all used up at all of 31 and thats it for me marriagewise. yes, the roots of the divorce certaintly can come up again but I have spent the last 5 years of my life changing that and hopefully incompatibility won’t be an issue again-which I want another chance at the Celestial title!

  19. 19.

    Mark,

    The “advice” I and others have been given from certain people, let me tell you! I wasn’t the only one to have gotten a divorce coming from my YSA ward, I am active whereas 3 couples married in the Temple and all that aren’t and I wonder if people had waited and dated longer then issues later would not have been an issue. Plus, I was told that you can’t be happy unless you are married. You simply can’t, its like some physical impossibility and then when you get married your cured of this unhappiness affliction. I am over beating myself up for believing all that. Now, I believe if you are not happy marriage is the last thing I would recommend! You need to be happy with someone because as I found out if the other person isn’t happy, its too much pressure to make the other person happy all the time, happy with someone and you feed off each other’s happiness.

  20. 20.

    Wendy J: You raise some interesting issues. Was there an Amber Cunningham in your singles ward?

  21. 21.

    Wendy J,

    Thanks for being bold enough to say that. As a divorced woman, I have to say the assumptions involved in arriving at that opinion of divorced people strike me as staggeringly unfair and overbroad, but they do have a certain logic, I guess, if one actually believes the LDS rhetoric about any two righteous Latter-day Saints being able to have a successful marriage if they work at it. It might be worth it for never-married singles to consider the possibility that the church’s description of the causes of divorce is no more accurate or nuanced than its infantilizing rhetoric about never-married singles.

    Anyway, you just gave me reasons 1,073 and 1,074 for never attending a singles’ activity!

  22. 22.

    There is no doubt that the advice from mission presidents and bishops is well-intended, but ultimately, they are not the ones who have to live with the decision.

    Maybe mission presidents need to start realizing that they are not in a place where they should be providing guidance or counsel outside the realm of the mission. The future lives of their missionaries are outside their stewardship.

    Although, my mission president counseled me to take some time before I got married…

  23. 23.

    I’m glad divorced singleness is a topic in this series. Probably because of my brothers’ experiences, it’s easiest for me to understand divorce from the man’s point of view, too.

    There are no finer women than those who gave my brothers a second chance at marriage, and there are no women who have finer husbands.

    I understand why someone might think twice about marrying a divorced person. There are the fears that Wendy so candidly states. When children are involved, you know that marriage includes a family that is not your own. But all of us have baggage. I mean, for all the points I could list making me an excellent wife, I can make a second list of reasons why potential mates do not flock to my door. Adding to flaws that kept me from marrying in my 20s, I’d have to add the — shall we be kind and call them “quirks”? — that have grown from being single into middle age. Older single people need to recognize that we have our own history as serious as divorce.

    And just as only singles really understand singleness in a married church, I’m sure that only divorced persons really recognize the barriers that are put in their way, even unintentionally, in ward life.

  24. 24.

    Thanks for sharing, Jack and others. I find Elder Holland’s non-judgmental example (from 27 yrs ago, before he was “Elder” Holland) to be a good one.

    “In even mentioning this I earnestly wish not to offend. I have seen divorce in my own family so I know something of the complexity, the pain, the accusations, and innocence that inevitably attend it. I do not speak here of specific lives or personal problems about which I know nothing and on which I would not pass judgment if I did.”
    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6877&x=62&y=6

  25. 25.

    One perhaps unintended consequence of being divorced is what do you make of your Patriarchal Blessing and other blessings we have been counseled to write down? Are they hinged upon your faithfulness and does being divorced make you less faithful? I don’t know and honestly I haven’t read it in months, its too painful-it is not anything Wow! but still, what do I believe about it?

  26. 26.

    Good grief, Jack, of course being divorced doesn’t make you less faithful. Lacking faith makes you less faithful. Divorce is a legal procedure that extricates you from an impossible situation. It’s not a reflection on anything but that you tried and it didn’t work out. That happens, you know.

    I really don’t understand where your self-flagellating comes from. Let go of the guilt, bro. Life it too short. You did what you thought was right, you tried your best, and it didn’t work out. Let it go.

  27. 27.

    Ann

    Thanks!

  28. 28.

    #20- hahahahahahahhahahaha! elna baker reference ftw

  29. 29.

    I am mid fifties and divorced/separated for almost three years after almost 30 years of marriage, six children and a supposed model Mormon family.

    I too felt like people looked at me differently once I was divorced. I often wondered if it was internal to me because I know I never thought that way about divorced people. And as I have told my family, even Brigham Young had some divorces and he was the prophet. :)

    I don’t feel like I fit in the church for many reasons only part which is my marital status. I am much happier limiting my church activity to Sacrament meeting and generally keeping a low profile within the church.

    I know I am much happier now as a divorced male than I was putting on the front of the model Mormon family. It was especially hard since I was often in Priesthood leadership position.

    I agree completely with what “Jack” said about callings in the church. I do feel like divorced women are more accepted than divorced males within the church. There is always this stigma that somehow the male is at fault.

    On the other hand my experience tells me it is much much easier for a divorced male to find a compatible partner than it is for a woman, if that is your desire. That is true both in and out of the church.

    For many reasons, I won’t go into here, I have intentionally avoided dating women in the LDS church.

    I haven’t given the thought “single” vs “divorced” a lot of thought but I have a friend who resents it when a form asks the question. She believes single should be adequate for anyone not married.

  30. 30.

    Jack,

    Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to you.

    Ardis mentioned women who give men a “second chance at marriage”. I am such a woman. My husband’s first wife was unfaithful to him, and left him pretty broken. It took him 7 years before he could face marriage again, and I am so glad he did :) When I mention to people that he was married before, I laugh and say, “Her loss!!” We have our ups and downs but he is happy with me and marriage is a different animal for him this time around.

    In the beginning it was a bit odd for me to date a divorced man. I asked a lot of questions. But now, it is just part of his history, no more unusual than any other.

    I also know that he did not regret or resent those years of being single between marriages. He needed them. He grew and developed. They were as formative for him as any other time in his life, no matter what other people thought of his extended singlehood.

    Jack, I wish you all the best regardless of your “status”!

  31. 31.

    I had to laugh bitterly at #12, though it doesn’t surprise me. As a newly divorced 31 year old, “guilt free” is hardly how I would have categorized my sexual history.

    Rather, I am struggling with feelings of being a used tissue. Who wants someone else’s leftovers? I feel like I effectively prostituted myself for 5 years, and now am Undesirable.

    How’s that for “guilt free”?

  32. 32.

    By guilt free, I meant that never-marrieds perceive divorced people to have had sex without needing to repent of it. Most married people get married and have sex of their own freewill and choice.

  33. 33.

    Thank you all for your kind comments!

    Lily

    I know exactley how you feel. Sorry to hear your marriage did not work out.

  34. 34.

    I know you mean well, Wendy, but the statement “Most married people get married and have sex of their own freewill and choice.” is laughable, particularly for a woman.

    So many men think they own their wife’s body after they are married. Many people believe that married men have a right to sex from their wives. Imagine for a moment how that would make you feel within a supposed marriage covenant. Then add onto that the marriage covenant being discarded, and you have a great many more problems than not getting sex. Trust me, because of that I am in the most painful process of repentance I have ever gone through.

    Thanks, Jack. It was my decision to end it. He threatened divorce many times, but when he decided to leave violently, and after months of agonizing deliberation, I decided to enforce it.

    Funny how you can make a decision that is not your choice.

  35. 35.

    I’m sorry I still don’t get what you are saying, Lily, but you are obviously in a lot of pain.

    I am married now, but my comments on this thread are about being single in singles wards as a 30-40 year old (my personal experience) and how never-marrieds perceive divorced people culturally and theologically.

    I do not understand what married people mean when they say they feel guilty for having sex within a marriage. If people choose to marry each other, the expectation that they will have a sexual relationship is there.

    When I say that divorced people had guilt-free sex while they were married, I am talking about the fact that unmarried LDS people are never allowed to have sex at all, under any circumstances. If and when they do, they feel guilty because they have done something wrong (have sex outside of marriage).

  36. 36.

    I do realize that couples can experience other kinds of shame associated with sexual behavior that is either agreed-upon or forced, but that is absolutely notwhat I was talking about.

  37. 37.

    I understand that scene Lily! My wife decided to get married and I wasn’t strong enough to get out of it for a variety of reasons and then when, surprise, surprise, it wasn’t working out at all she decided to end it. It seemed that I was along for the ride, so I am left with the consequences of the divorce and she knows Church culture, and she got what she wanted and that women are very few and far between here. There isn’t anyone here my age, male or female. 90% of my friends are married. My only hope is that God moves some eligible woman here and she decides to stay here because I can’t leave because of my son. Yet, strangely I am so grateful for what I learned because of the horrible experience

  38. 38.

    I was asked to leave institute because the Bishop thought my only reason for being there was to pick up women, which was not the case, and if it was, it wasn’t any of his business anyways.

    That’s completely outrageous. Since when has it been forbidden to date people you meet at institute?

    As an older single woman past 30, I was both wary and resentful of divorced men and women, especially those who attended the singles ward, ostensibly on the prowl.

    I don’t understand that at all. Once you’re in your late 20s and older, a good portion of the potential dating pool is divorced. I was just happy that there were divorced women available to date. I married one. And I didn’t see the divorced men as “competition” any more than all the other single men. For every divorce, there’s one man and one woman potentially put back in the dating pool. Sure, that’s one more person of your sex to snatch away a potential mate, but it’s also one more potential mate for you to consider. With an equal number of divorced men and women back dating, shouldn’t it be a wash?

  39. 39.

    It was rare for divorced men or women to attend singles wards where I lived; they usually attended wards with their children, where their children could be with their children, attend primary etc.

    When divorced people attended singles wards on a regular basis, it seemed they wanted the best of both worlds– a second/third/fourth chance at an eternal marriage with someone who had never had that ecperience, and more children. Most people attending singles wards had never had the chance at marriage or family and wanted the chance to share those new experiences with someone who could understand what it was like to be older, with no kids, and with no spousal/family experiences.

    It is very unusual for a healthy 35-year old to never have had sex, never lived with someone else, never married, never had children. Some older LDS singles are protective of that status because they know how increasingly difficult it is to find a compatible mate outside of the church.

  40. 40.

    I meant to say in the first paragraph that divorced parents often attend wards where their kids can attend church with other children.

  41. 41.

    Left Field,

    Yes, that Bishop was a real piece of work. He told girls to move away from here cuz there aren’t any guys, I don’t know what he told the guys!

    Wendy J.

    I knew a girl who got married young, got divorced literally a year later and she went back to the YSA ward and they said she could not because she was divorced and so she went inactive. I really am trying to not to think that the Church is for married people, its hard.

  42. 42.

    RC, I think the word is “free” :)

  43. 43.

    Jack,

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, but I did read your story and I really appreciate the honesty and clarity you give to the topic.

    I remember when I was 27 and my mother was yet AGAIN putting pressure on me to get married. I said something to the effect of, “Do you just want me to marry anyone, have a few kids, and end up divorced?”

    She responded, “WELL, at LEAST you would HAVE children.” as if that was my end all and be all.

    I am sure she doesn’t remember that conversation, but I certainly do. It was hard to hear. I’m so sorry for the hurt you have gone through, but honestly, I believe your story was meant to be shared and hopefully you can pave the way for people of the church to stop viewing divorced people under a certain canopy.

  44. 44.

    Jack-

    I can sympathize with you as I too went through a very similar period in my life–mid-thirties, divorced, feeling pretty low (no children though).

    I was angry and wanted to blame everything that happened on other people. My ex-wife did, after all, step out on me with another man, and I definitely felt the pressure to marry immediately after my mission. I soon discovered, though, that as long as I chose not to own my part of what happened, that I couldn’t be happy. I had made the decision to marry my ex-wife. No one forced me to the altar. Yes, I felt pressured, but I was the one who decided to give into the pressure and marry the wrong person.

    I wanted to blame everyone who had encouraged me to go through with the marriage–my parents, her parents, my mission president, etc. But in the end, I had to chalk up the terrible experience to my long-term education in the things of the world and move on.

    Things got better, as they no doubt will for you. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Stay close to the people who matter to you, and remember that if the opportunity presents itself for a new marriage (which I’m sure it will), take time to feel right about it yourself. Don’t rely on other people’s opinions too much or cave into cultural pressure. It’s your happiness and the happiness of your future partner that’s at stake. Trust your own opinions and feelings. Good luck to you, Jack. I hope you find the happiness you deserve.

    That said, can’t people in the church take a break from the “you need to get married now” party line. Gone are the days when you could just marry anyone and somehow make it work. What’s more, let’s all stop talking about “the singles.” I still hear people refer to Sister So-and-So as “a single” as if her marriage status defines her. Would we refer to a married brother or sister as “a married”? This kind of language makes marriage normative and singleness aberrant.

    Okay. I’ll get off my soapbox.

  45. 45.

    Thanks for the kind comments, its helpful! best to you are yours Stella and BLJ!

    That is the thing, people assume that you have to get married now, it seems we are stuck on that and not enough, or any, about how to have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.

  46. 46.

    Wendy, I truly hope you never see the other side of the comments you are making. Once you have, there is no going back, and I’d not wish that on anyone.

    First, most divorced people, at best, only get to see their children every other weekend. That leaves half your Sundays free to attend a singles ward without neglecting your children’s spiritual welfare any more than you are forced to anyways.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with “want[ing] the best of both worlds” and everything to do with desperately needing adult contact. Not necessarily dates, but just social contact. Most divorced people have to redefine themselves as themselves, not as a parent/spouse.

    Using the phrase “chance at eternal marriage” is . . . well . . . less than courteous. It makes marriage sound like roulette or a theme park ride. It also makes it sound like you feel that a person who has a failed marriage doesn’t deserve “a chance” to build an eternal family. Whether you understand this or not—and believe me, I hope you never do—many divorces happen through no fault of at least one party. I, for example, divorced because my husband was abusive. It was not my fault (at least I keep trying to believe that), and the attitude that I shouldn’t seek an eternal companion because I was abused (or cheated on, or my spouse did not take the covenants seriously in other ways) reveals a great deal of ignorance on your part.

    Besides, every single has equal “chance” at marriage. It is ridiculous to intimate that one more single person reduces another one’s chances. Unless the divorcee is a carbon copy of you, your “chances” are not the least whit reduced.

    I get your point, really I do, but I think you’re putting WAY too much into sex. Sex is only one slender splinter of marriage—and life. And even if a person expects to have a sexual relationship, that does not mean that their experiences were meaningful, pleasant or desirable. Quite frankly, a 35-year-old virgin has a great deal healthier sexual makeup than a 35-year-old divorcee who has effectively prostituted for the duration of her marriage and then been discarded like yesterday’s tissue.

    At any rate, I am extremely uncomfortable with your obvious opinion that marriage is like a game of balloon darts.

  47. 47.

    Lily,

    Please know that I am speaking from observations of what older singles (including myself when I was one) have said about divorced people. It was not uncommon in my wards to hear comments such as:

    “There’s a new guy in the ward! Cute, great job, spiritual..but he’s divorced; what’s wrong with him?”

    or

    “I could never/date/marry a divorced person. He’d always compare me to the former wife, or maybe he’d treat me badly.”

    Uncharitable? Yes. Ignorant? Perhaps. But thus is the reality of a church culture that pushes marriage, prizes chastity, and considers people who have never married to be overgrown teenagers.

    I will not find myself single in the church because I have voluntarily left the church. Many of my issues with doctrine and culture stem from the single dilemma.

  48. 48.

    People who never marry in the church are often maligned as being lazy, weird, frigid, faithless, useless, unworthy (or unqualified) for certain callings in the church.

    It shouldn’t be any surprise that marginalized and lonely people turn their jealousy and hurt onto those they feel squandered an opportunity they would love to have.

    This is obviously not true in your case. It is not true in many cases. Not all those who never marry are overly picky or strange.

    But people think and say these things.

  49. 49.

    I turned all my angst and emotion inward with horrible consequences and then I talked it all out and feel better in that sense!

  50. 50.

    I think I see what you’re saying. You’re describing OTHERS’ point of view, not yours.

    Putting the blame on the Church (which encourages developing talents and NOT being marginalized) seems like a bit of a stretch. In my experience, people often feel marginalized when they are not, and lonely when they have not reached out themselves. It has nothing to do with religion or specific culture and everything to do with human behavior.

    On the other hand, if what you’re saying is true, I can see that those people who think and say such things are so involved in themselves and their own hurt, they are likely unable to see past that and reach out to others in charity. And, if you can’t be concerned with others, why would others want to be around you?

  51. 51.

    Thanks, Lily. I really appreciate your willingness to understand. This is exactly what I’m saying, and I agree with this post totally, with a small exception.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider the church the source for a lot of the angst and fear singles face when the very doctrines are the things that divide. I grew up in the church under prophets and apostles who asserted in General Conference that “most normal people get married” and ” all divorce is caused by selfishness.” These cruel opinions formed the basis of my own self-concept the older I became, still single in my late ’30s. These opinions helped shape the way I saw people who didn’t fit the eternal family mold. I am ashamed to have compartmentalized and pointed fingers and commiserated and to have been so cruel in my thinking myself– but most people in my singles ward did it: the “beautiful people” who mocked divorced people or men with mustaches or women who weren’t size 6s and didn’t get their hair highlighted.

  52. 52.

    If it sounds like high school behavior, I would agree. Many of us were emotionally stunted and had unrealistic opinions of what marriage and family life were really like. This is why I emphasize singles’ being alne/companionless/affectionless. It’s not a normal or desired state, and some people develop serious psychological and emotional issues (and stunted growth) because of it.

  53. 53.

    Wendy, so very many of us who grew up with the standard LDS teachings (which I think you haven’t characterized entirely fairly) do NOT develop a warped view of marriage and family life. We’ve all known individuals with the attitudes you condemn, but “most” people? Not in my experience, and I’ve been a single member of the church much longer than you have, and probably in more states.

    Apologies to Seraphine for continuing the threadjack.

  54. 54.

    “First, most divorced people, at best, only get to see their children every other weekend. ”

    that can’t be true. for every co-parent getting the kids two weekends per month, there must be another co-parent getting the kids 26 days per month.

  55. 55.

    I see my son every other weekend and for an hour on mondays when he does karate. I guess it depends on the situation. I honestly don’t expect he will ge baptized till 12 cuz of my ex and that is a hopeful!

  56. 56.

    cchrissyy—*sigh* Of available weekends, even custodial parents only get their kids for half of them. I’m talking WEEKENDS here, because as one adult trying to do all the maintenance, the weekdays are one long chaotic string of getting ready for bed/school/daycare/work/homework, sleeping, and trying to keep the house and kids minimally clean. Custodial parenthood means responsibility far more than it means time spent with the kids.

    And while I don’t think it was a threadjack talking about divorcees before, discussing custody certainly is.

    Although, I must say that I’m not sure which is worse for the dating life. Truth is most singles don’t want to deal with someone else’s kids. Why even bother trying to date when you are divorced with kids?

  57. 57.

    Lily

    Thank you! That is where my lack of confidence comes in. Sometimes I feel that unless I make money like Charlie Chaplin then who would want a guy with a kid, like it is not something that girls would strive for! I just need to get over myself I suppose on that score! My now deeply inactive remarried ex met a guy who did not care and he seems great with my son but on my end of the stick? I don’t know, would they date me? I have not been on a date since my divorce partly due to lack of women living here but also lack of confidence

  58. 58.

    It seems like we are all doing a lot of stereotyping… I suppose that’s part of human nature.

    There are people that will and won’t date a divorcee or a widow(er). There are people that will and won’t date someone that already has a child. There are people that will and won’t feel jealous of you for already getting to have sex with a spouse.

    Jack, being single in the church gives me a lot of self-consiousness, too. But I try, as best I can, to believe in myself, and believe that God wants me to be happy and is helping me. Thanks for sharing your story!

  59. 59.

    Excellent point re: stereotyping, Enna. It’s a kind of shorthand, I suppose, that can simplify decision making. We are also stuck with relying on our own experiences and what we can learn from others, because there isn’t any published data (at least that I’m aware of) that say “52% of never-married women don’t want to date a man with children; 63% of never-married men would never date a woman with children,” etc.

    I’ve been re-married for almost 13 years now, and it’s really difficult to remember what it was like being divorced with two kids and alone. What I think now about how I thought then is going to be colored by what I am today. But I do remember being pretty sure that I was going to spend the rest of my life alone, because fat undereducated Mormon women with two children were not prime dating material in ANY dating pool. I also remember feeling anxious and sad about that sometimes, and being really lonely.

    But it turned out that there was at least one guy who was willing to date me, and who wasn’t mentally ill or who hurt my eyes to look at him (he’s actually kind of hot.). He wasn’t put off by my children, and we fell in love, and got married. I’m not saying that it WILL happen for anybody else. I’m just saying that it could.

  60. 60.

    Ann,

    “What I think now about how I thought then is going to be colored by what I am today”

    What do you mean by this?

    Thanks Enna!

  61. 61.

    Jack, I just mean that I’m not the same person I was them. I’m older, I’m married, I’ve moved, I’ve had another child. Just being older has made a difference in my thinking all by itself. Now, at 50, I think, “Oh, man, a guy with a kid? No way!” But I’m 50 now, and the thought of another child (I only have one at home now, a ten year-old) makes me very, very tired. Back then, in my mid 30′s, it might have been fine. I might even have seen it as evidence that he was a “family man.” I had so few dating opportunities that it never came up.

  62. 62.

    Thanks, Ann. It is nice to hear you say that about how you felt. It’s hard to believe in something I can’t see . . . the whole faith syndrome, I suppose. But, while I’ve had plenty of good experiences to reinforce my faith in God, my experiences with men have mostly not been that way.

    I think if I redirect my fears back into faith in God, I’ll be okay.

  63. 63.

    So I was wondering, for those divorced with kids or no kids, how do you say that to the next person you become interested in without them running away?

  64. 64.

    Jack, get it out there right up front. No sense wasting time with someone who would be run off by your child.

  65. 65.

    >9

    I had a recent conversation with a married friend who was insistent that the majority of Mormons don’t discriminate against single Mormons, so it’s not really a problem. Finally, I thought to point out to her that an opinion doesn’t have to be held by anywhere near the majority for it to be a problem. If only one in ten people in a good-sized ward has made an offhand remark that is hurtful to single people, that still amounts to dozens of people who’ve said hurtful things, and that’s too many.

    Also, people on the winning side of some form of social stratification don’t tend to perceive discrimination against the other side, both because they’re less likely to encounter it in the first place (since it’s not directed at them) and because they’re less likely to register it when they do encounter it.

    I can personally speak to discrimination in Mormon culture against women, singles, Utah Mormons (yes, against Utah Mormons), and the chronically ill (both physically and mentally), but I’d also do well to be mindful of discrimination against men, racial minorities, converts, divorcees, childless couples, and those raised in foster care, even though I haven’t been in those circumstances.

    So, Kevin, I dearly hope that divorced people are treated well in your ward, but I wouldn’t take your word for it.

  66. 66.

    Jack:

    Thank you for your experience. I’m glad that you were blessed with a wonderful friend to help you. I wish you the best as you continue on with your journey in life. May Heavenly Father bless you with all that you stand in need of in the time that you are ready and prepared to receive it.

    queuno:

    I was widowed three years ago and it is kind of a similar situation. Unlike divorce, most widows (except for those who were in unhappy marriages) don’t have to deal with the rejection of their spouse so they tend to stay attached to the deceased spouse and have a hard time dating again.

    Similar to Jack’s experience where he wonders why God didn’t warn him against marrying his wife, I myself have struggled with the idea of why God didn’t keep my husband alive.

  67. 67.

    I was just turned onto this site from a coworker today. -pretty interesting so far.

    Jack, I feel for you brother. I really do. :(

    I’m a 30+ single (never married) who has spent considerable time inactive and away from the church. Sure there is social stigma for singles and divorced, we’re the outliers… That’s kind of how it works. I have a weary attitude towards divorcees just like people have concerns over someone who’s 34 and never been married. ..because we’re out of the norm. It’s the same way outside of social environments, anything that looks like it may not belong is looked at differently -even scrutinized. That’s just life how I see it.

    I, through my own experiences, understand very well why return missionaries are counseled to focus on finding a companion after the mission. However, I don’t believe that the council entails marrying the first love we encounter (I don’t necessarily think that was Jack’s intent to portray, but there is a hint of that). However, I do think that some people tend to assume that’s what that particular council means, it simply isn’t. It’s meant to help keep perspective of why we are here and keep us from becoming sidetracked with some of life’s traps that are so readily available to the shortsighted. -That’s just my opinion, of course.

    I go to Institute, but only because I was counseled to do so. I wouldn’t go on my own just because of the age differences, I think it could make some feel uncomfortable. Luckily, there are midsingles religion classes around my area so I don’t have to go to a traditional institute class with them young’ns. :)

    I go to a family ward and feel pretty comfortable interacting with the marrieds both older and younger. Of course, maybe it’s just my personality or the fact that I am only recently active or maybe I just don’t notice. I’m not much of a social creature, I don’t go to church for the social, it’s just a benefit for me. I dunno.

    My take on Jack’s concerns and those in many of the comments is that maybe some of us just like to wear life’s badges a little more out in the open more than others and in doing so, we tend to differentiate ourselves. That, in turn, creates some rifts in social environments like those already described. It’d be awesome if everyone accepted everyone like everyone. .. but we all have our weaknesses and some of us tend to judge or behave differently than we’d like them to.

    Arhg! Now I’m starting to blather, sorry. In the end, I just try to live my life the way I believe is right and hope that I’ll be seen and judged in the same light. And if I’m not, that’s ok too. I can’t expect everyone to think the same way I do anyway. -Plus that’d make life boring.

    OK now I’ll go catch up on the other parts of this topic!

  68. 68.

    God bless you, Jack. This makes me so sad for you.

  69. 69.

    Thanks annegb! I don’t want to think my life is ruined or anything, some days are better then others though.

  70. 70.

    As a 30-something single who dates, I can tell you that at this point I think I’d prefer to be with someone who has been divorced than someone who has never been in a serious relationship.

    There are a lot of rookie relationship mistakes out there that good people make (thinking that because you kissed you’re committed, even when unhappy; thinking that you can change the other person when you encounter something that you don’t like, rather than accepting them as they are and fashioning a real relationships instead of an owner/pet relationship), and I’d really rather date someone a little less illusioned.

    The reasons for divorce do matter. Someone with your story – married young, never happy, sad it happened but not blaming the church – is much more attractive than someone who is divorced because they cheated, or there was abuse, or who blames everything on their ex and is therefore likely to repeat their own patterns. So in terms of dating, the individual story matters.

  71. 71.

    That is very true Katie P. Thank you. I think with a child in tow I would want a mature person to handle that as well.

  72. 72.

    Katie P.

    your coment really brings a smile to my face. especially the second paragraph. “owner/pet relationship” I’ve been in one of those, and boy, what a fun way to describe it…

    Also, I really feel that your opinion about dating divorced people in paragraph one; helps.

    That being said,

    Jack, I think if you are lucky, you will be able to ask Katie P. on a date…hahah… seems like a girl with that thinking would confound any lies you might have in your head…haha.

    It’s hard not to lie to ourselves about these lousy situations we struggle through. But,,, one thing life has taught me… is that; if we hold on… if we keep trying to be more like Christ… as best we can….
    eventually our pain will become beautiful to us. It is out of the ashes of life God’s are born. Love, sacred love, is born through pain, just like life is started.
    No journey is vain… no crushed expectation—is not one of Heaven’s stairs.

    Jack, your a good man, your sensative; and your smart for learning on this page how others go about these situations; and how they could help you in yours.

    best wishes to your future…

  73. 73.

    Wow, thank you very, very much both Katie P. and Adam, your kind words were very touching!

  74. 74.

    Adam,
    Thank you so much for that last comment. It brought tears to my eyes as I remebered the beauty for ashes that our pain can be. I am a 31 year graduate student therapist in training. Yesterday I told my husband and marriage counselor that its time to let go. I meet with the divorce attorney Monday. I read through all of he posts and honestly had to laugh. It made me alittle sad to think there are some who envy me because I was married therefore I got to have sex within the bounds of marriage. There are so many things wrong with that and I can’t help but wonder if I ignorantly felt that way. I’m walking away from my marriage of about 5 years without children because I’m sterile. Sometimes life just sucks. I, like others, struggle to read my patriarchal blessing where it talks about being able to reproduce through faith in my husband’s priesthood especially considering he hates God and church(more God in general) and knowing that no amount of faith or science will allow me to deliver a baby. I know that a future partner for me doeas’t hve to accept me with a child but instead mustbe ok with adopting. I am just beginning this journey and honestly don’t know if I will ever have the strength or desire to fall in love again. I have also reached out to my ward for support but the bishop and others avoid me. its like they feel bad for me and don’t know what to say so they say nothing. Its also hard being at church because every talk or lesson triggers a painful thought. Please tell me this won’t last forever!

  75. 75.

    I hope things turn out for the best Samara! How have things transpired since?

  76. 76.

    Samara–

    I am sorry your ward is not being helpful. I agree that likely they just don’t know what to do or say, and so feel they they can’t say anything. I suspect that after some time, when they feel they do not need to address the divorce, they will start treating you more normally.

    I think the talks and whatnot will become less painful over all, with just occasional stabs, rather than weekly grinding.

    Good luck.

  77. 77.

    I stumbled across this thread today and it could not have come at a better time. Jack, I realize that it has been a few years and I hope that you have found some clarity and some happiness. In the gospel we learn the standard and as human beings we find it easier to hold others accountable to the standard than ourselves. I think that is what we encounter as singles/divorcees. But hey, we are all guilty of this. It is a lesson that may take a life time to learn. None of us know the others’ stories and have no right to judge. I myself struggle with this in practice every single day. In my experience I have found that realizing that everyone is flawed and insecure helps me to form relationships because I take responsibility for putting for the effort and not waiting for someone who I perceive to be stronger than me to make the first move.
    Last year I found myself in a very difficult and unexpected situation. I was grieving the passing of my father, giving birth to my second child, and losing my husband to…let’s call it a falling away from the truth to be kind. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. Why was I being required to lose so much all at once? I began reading the Book of Mormon from the beginning again even though our family reading schedule was somewhere in the middle of Alma. The story of how Nephi (I’m referring to Nephi only because it was a personal journey for him.) was lead away from his enemies struck a chord with me. The decisions that he made to rely on the Lord and stick to the teachings from his youth gave me the answers that I needed to know how to continue in a life that seemed to be falling apart. I left my home in Hawaii to return to my family in North Carolina. I left my marriage of 13 years. I felt that I literally was losing everything. As I have attended the ward here I have noticed that there is no one that I have been able to relate to. My friend who is single is excited for my divorce to be finalized so that I can hang out with her at the singles activities. I cried because I am not excited to end my marriage. Yes, there are times that I feel like a failure and wonder why I wasn’t enough. The rejection that comes along with divorce is shattering to say the least. There are women in the ward who have been divorced and are now remarried, those who are still single after a divorce, and those who are scared that divorce is a communicable disease. What I have found is that my journey is so personal and unique that know one can fully know what it is. Even my own mother can not understand what I am going through, though she just lost her husband as well. My father did not choose to leave. His heart just gave out and he was gone. Losing a loving spouse to death is not the same as losing love itself. My mother still loves her husband very much and knows that she will be with him again when this life is over. I must tell my heart not to love my husband anymore so that I can continue on my journey. I have to try to explain to my 9 year old son why his father doesn’t want an eternal family anymore. These are not things that those who are happily married or those who have never been married want to face or could possibly understand. The dream is still alive for them and I would not ever want to take that from someone. It is as if I am a constant reminder to them of the very real possibility that love is not always forever. But, for those of us who are in the transition as I now call it, there is a very true statement that I hold on to. It all works out in the end. My divorce isn’t even finalized yet, but I know that some day the Lord will help me to find a companion who will love me not because of the statistics, not because I would be a better wife this time around, but because my journey is not over yet. Heavenly Father always wants what is best for me and for each of us. Have you ever heard the idea get out of your own way. Well to me this is where I need to get out of the way, let go of my sadness and anger and look forward to promised blessings. Thank you so much to those of you who have been through this and have shared your experiences. I have found hope in your words. I have also come to realize that it doesn’t matter if I meet someone who has gone through a divorce or someone who has never been married. Whoever is prepared for me will be the right man.

Leave a Reply