Monday, April 8, 2013

But if You're Married You Don't...

But if you're married you don't...leave the church...

I've been thinking about something that came up in the first conversation I had with my parents about leaving the church. One of the questions they asked me was something to the effect of... "if you had married do you think you'd be stepping back from the church?" (I'm in my EARLY :) thirties and have never married). My reply: "I don't know, there's no way to really know, but I don't think so."

I've thought a lot about their question since then and a lot about my answer. When they asked it I purposely went back in my mind and tracked out what life would have been like, in my imagination, if I had married younger. I envisioned that I wouldn't have gone to grad school, I wouldn't have become a therapist, and I wouldn't have seen what I saw in my work...or faced my own stuff, I wouldn't have asked questions I'd been too afraid to ask before (or not even thought about asking before), and I wouldn't have ended up walking the path of study and learning that I did. So, no, I probably wouldn't have ever even thought to leave the church (unless life would have brought the same questions in a different way).

I remember something being said a little later in the conversation from one of my parents that if I was married this would be different, it wouldn't be okay to do this (step away from church activity), if I had a spouse that was active and I'd "committed" to. I remember not replying. I didn't resonate with this opinion, but didn't have the courage at the time to state otherwise. I think because I wasn't sure what I would have done. It scared me that if I were married this would have had added layers of pressure and confusion. What would I have done? What if my past had been different? What if I had married young, only somehow I ended up coming across the same questions that led me into the same line of study and questioning (or something similar)? Would I have just pretended? Or would I have never even allowed myself to really ask the questions? and really do the research? I've had this fear, since that conversation, that I wouldn't have allowed for myself as a married woman what I've allowed for myself as a single woman...the right to ask the questions that were most scary, the right to form my own opinion about things I'd believed I was supposed to "just obey", and the right for that opinion to be different from those I love most. (hmmm...maybe I really have been a little afraid of more than one person has suggested, and no wonder: I haven't yet fully been able to hold the trust that I can be me, and still be in a loving, committed relationship)

I've been thinking a lot about those that are married and going through this. While changing my relationship to the church hasn't always been easy, esp. as far as its effects on some of my relationships (even if it's just my own fear of being misunderstood or scaring people), I think if I had been married there would have been an added layer of pressure for me, pressure to hide what I was not be as honest with myself, or with my spouse. I remember meeting a couple last summer. He had left the church first, she was devasted, but eventually had her own experiences of things and left. When they related their story to me it felt really nice to know that there are some people out there who would dare to be honest with themselves & their spouse even at the risk of what that COULD mean for a marriage. I expressed my self-doubt to them, "That's amazing you were able to be true to what you needed to, for you, even though she was in a different place. I don't know that I could have done it if I were married." They couldn't have replied in a more helpful way..."don't give yourself so little credit. If you'd really gotten to where you are now, even with a spouse, you could have done it." I hoped they were right. I hope that if somehow I'd experienced with a spouse what I've experienced alone, I would have dared to be some point, even if that meant risking my marriage.

I've received so many messages about what "commitment" means, and in some ways I've just begun to realize that I understand very little about what "commitment" means to me, and what it's always meant to me (I'm currently working on some writings around it). I've never really dared to explore it. My parents were so loving to me in so many ways, and so committed to each other (in their way of commitment). However, one thing I think I feel is that in order to experience the depth of honesty I want to experience in a relationship, I need to be okay knowing that I have a right to my own experiences, however similar or different they may be, and to trust that if I'm honest (I can be compassionate with myself about when I'm ready to share things and in what ways), than I can really love from the space that is "me." And from there I can allow my partner/spouse their own experiences and we can make our decisions along the way about how we work with our own personal changes, and how we work with changes of the relationship.

Maybe I begin to trust that commitment doesn't mean losing me. rather I can stay with me, and from there can stay with another.

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