Used car lots have signs on some of the models, “As Is,” meaning you have no guarantee that the thing is going to work. Marriage is really the same way. Three of my longtime friends were divorced in their 60s—two were devout Mormons with temple marriages. People change over the course of a lifetime and no church ceremony can guarantee that the participants will change in the same or even a compatible direction.
Loss of faith by one spouse possibly affects Mormon marriages more than those of other denominations because Mormon life is so heavily family oriented. If one spouse begins staying home from church, the whole ward asks about it. Women express sympathy to a sister whose husband ceases church activity, but a man whose wife drops from the fold receives subtle criticism. He is the head of the family. His priesthood responsibility includes seeing that gospel principles are taught and lived within his home.
A good marriage invites the sharing of one’s deepest thoughts. If one spouse shares religious doubts, the other may feel her testimony is being threatened. Unlike couples of differing faiths who work these problems out before marriage, if one partner in a marriage changes faith midstream, the couple must deal with an unexpected situation after the romantic bloom has faded and while grappling with financial pressures, career choices, child rearing, and other problems.
Hanging together for the sake of the kids and hating it is no one’s idea of bliss. Everybody knows couples who stay together in an armed truce—each sniping at the other’s self-esteem with every opportunity. But breaking up a family with divorce is also painful. Sometimes divorce leads to a happier second marriage with a more compatible person, but often it doesn’t. Living alone may be better than wishing you were alone.
Expecting a spouse not to change or to change only in ways that suit us is like chasing a mirage. Maybe we need more teachings on accepting change, dealing with it constructively, and being less attached to outcomes we can’t control.