She Loves Me. She Loves Me More.

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In my original post, I didn’t focus on the love and patience my wife,  Bonnie, had while I was going through this excruciating process.  I became a truly miserable person over that 6 year period.  I started researching and analyzing the Mormon beliefs/doctrine and I grew more and more frustrated when I found things I didn’t agree with, yet still remained a faithful member of the church.  I was telling myself and others that I could be that Mormon who was realistic about the beliefs.  I could be more liberal on social issues yet still believe in the highly conservative church.  That’s a tough thing to do in a religion that has a very literal interpretation and adherence to authority.  Hell, that’s a tough thing to do period.  This internal battle made me resentful and angry towards Mormons who didn’t share my beliefs; which seemed to be all of them, from what I could see.  I kept these feelings and thoughts bottled up inside, so I wouldn’t hurt anyone I loved.  Mormonism is intense and all encompassing because it demands so much from its members and professes to be The One and Only.  This created even more pressure and anxiety, as I walked further down my own path of questioning.  The result being, as I went down this path and kept it inside, I did actually hurt the ones I loved most…. my wife and kids.

I quickly became aloof and anti-social.  Bonnie would want to participate in social activities and I would immediately dismiss them and keep us from going or when she did drag me to an event or party, I would pout and barely socialize, complaining the whole way there and after.  You could say I was much like a teenager, as sad as that is to admit.  It got to the point where Bonnie would get invitations and she would simply decline.  People love Bonnie.  It was me they had to stomach.  I became a scrooge in almost everything, even holidays.  Especially Christmas.  A real goddamn Ebenezer Scrooge!  One year, some Mormon friends came caroling at our door.  They invited us to join.  Bonnie excitedly got the kids ready and they started to leave.  One of the Dads asked if I was going, to which Bonnie said without hesitation, “No, he’s a scrooge and just wants to watch basketball.”  Then off my family went to enjoy the holidays, while I sat alone on my couch wondering why I couldn’t just go sing a damn Christmas song….

Truth be told, I had no desire to hang out with Mormons and she knew it.  She accepted it and stood by me.  Making excuses to others and taking the disapproving or sympathetic “I’m sorry” looks when her husband wouldn’t fulfill his “social or ecclesiastical duties.”

I started to make a frequent joke that went like this, “The only people I am prejudice against is White Mormon Men.”

Someone would usually say, “But that’s you, Barry.”

“I know, I hate myself.”  Then I would laugh.

The problem… I wasn’t kidding.  I really did hate myself.  I’d been told my whole life I was Mormon for a reason and God had big plans for me.  I thought this was just a phase I could come out of whenever I wanted and fulfill that promise of greatness.  The promise of loving parents and leaders with the best intentions, unknowingly keeping me in my personal hell for not being able to make them proud.

The biggest motivation to remain in the LDS church and keep these concerns quiet was my love for Bonnie.  I didn’t want to cause her pain or make her think something was wrong with me.  I wanted to make this work, if only for her.  Oh, and the whole “I made temple covenants” thing.  That’s a post for another time.  She would routinely ask and sometimes push to have more family prayer, more family home evenings, more priesthood leadership in the home, more and more and more.  Her motives were pure and out of love, as she believed that’s what made a family happy.  Hell, I believed it on some level.  I just couldn’t do it.  I wasn’t the spiritual giant some believed I was, simply because I was able to give a great sacrament talk on Sunday or teach a lesson and identify “The Spirit,” as I had been trained to do.  I’m not that spiritual but when my wife would plead with me to get closer to God to improve our marriage and family…. I’d pray to Him, begging Him to touch me and help me lead my family in this way.  I failed to realize, I was praying in an echo chamber.

For a couple years during this process, I went to a really dark place.  I became a little obsessed with serial killers, exorcisms, ghosts, the psychology of mad men and etc.  Anything explaining or dealing with “evil.”  I remember buying a book written by a Catholic priest who used to perform exorcisms back in the day.  The book detailed “true stories” of actual exorcisms.  Crazy stuff.  I didn’t admit this to anyone, at the time, but I was searching for the Devil, determining if he was real because if I can believe in the Devil, then I can believe in God.  I didn’t feel like I was worthy or in a good place, spiritually, to feel God; so a devil hunting I would go.  Thankfully, A Devil I never found.  Bonnie gave me a rule during this time.  For every two “creepy” books I read, I had to read one that was uplifting.  That’s my wife.  Giving me the freedom to be me but reeling me in just enough so I don’t go over the edge.  She’s my literal life line.  Damn, that was cheesy.

Last year, prior to me opening up about my faith crisis, Bonnie told me about a couple whom had been rumored to have left the Mormon church.  When I didn’t respond with a comment or emotion, she asked, “How do you feel about this?”

I told her, “I think people should do what makes them happy.”  She was a little surprised, as the “normal” response to such news is a certain level of heartbreak, sadness or shock.

I wanted to say, “Good for them!  I wish I could be that honest and brave.”

These feelings were compounded by the fact that I work in an office that is over 50% Mormon.  Yes, that’s my office demographic in Houston, TX.  Mormons hire Mormons, ya know.  I’m constantly surrounded by the people I was prejudice against and it had a claustrophobic effect on me. This past summer was unbearable, as I could barely focus on work and would routinely leave the office so I could breathe.  It was Mormons all day.  Mormons at my house many nights.  Mormons on Saturday for socializing.  Mormons on Sunday.  Mormons!  Mormons!  MORMONS!!!!  I just couldn’t take it.  I stopped seeing friends and only saw “Mormons.”

The reality is I stopped believing in the church years ago. My pride was prohibiting me from admitting it to myself or anyone else. When I felt Bonnie was really concerned about my state of belief, I would stand up during testimony meeting and bear my testimony in front of the entire congregation to put her at ease, while desperately trying to convince myself to believe my own words.

Those efforts were in vain.

As stated in the previous post, I finally told Bonnie that I didn’t believe in Mormonism on October 7, 2012.  She handled that conversation with the same grace and patience that she has demonstrated throughout this whole process. She amazes me. She said she only wanted me to be happy and it hurt her watching me suffer so much.  In fact, I wish I could say I had been as unselfish and open-minded as she was.

The next day after making this decision, the emotions finally caught up with me.  I was working out in my office gym. My mind focused on my leaving the LDS church and the ramifications it’ll have on me personally but more importantly the impact it’ll have on my wife and children. I started to cry.  Hey, I have a reputation to protect and no self-respecting meat-head would be caught crying while lifting weights, so I got the hell out of there.

On my way home, I lost complete control and was overcome with tears. I didn’t want to go home to Bonnie and my daughter while such a mess, so I drove to the back of my neighborhood and let it all go. I broke down for 15 minutes on an empty street. I wanted to regain my composure before I went home because I don’t like showing emotions, especially to this extreme; I was a typical guy in that respect. However, I realized that Bonnie needed to see me feel the weight of my decisions. I drove home, opened the door, tossed my keys on the floor and limped over to her on the couch. She looked at me, saw the tears running down my face and embraced me for what seemed like eternity while a waterfall flowed off her shoulder.

All I could say was, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I can’t believe and do this for you!  I haven’t believed in years!”  Although I’m pretty sure it sounded like gibberish to her as I could barely talk.  My 4 year old daughter was asking Mommy, “Why is Daddy Crying?”

Once I was able to get control and stop the waterworks, I told her I’m crying for two reasons. First, Mormonism has been a core aspect of my identity and not having that belief after all these years hurts. I’m losing a part of me.  Second, and most importantly, I know what I have been and will be putting her through. I’ve been a selfish ass through this struggle and she’s carried the weight. I haven’t been fair to her in many ways and it breaks my heart.

I said, “I am fully aware of the consequences of my decision and how it affects you, the kids and our family as a unit. I will no longer push information onto you or ask you to go on this journey with me. That is for each person to decide when or if they want to pursue. I will support you in any decision you make from here forward. My selfish desire is for you to join me; do the research and join a non-denominational church for the support and fellowship you desire. However, I realize that’s not my call to make. I can’t dictate where you put your faith and testimony. I’ll be there for you and the kids if you want to remain Mormon. We’ll be able to work through it. I’m so sorry for my selfishness. It stops today. Here and now.”

She was grateful I came home, as she needed to see me go through those emotions and heartbreak. That wasn’t something I could reserve for the recesses of my dark corners. I have the most incredible and truly fantastic wife. Oh and she’s a smoking hot redhead!

My next step was to let go of the anger and resentments I had for Mormons. There are plenty of amazing people in the LDS church, just like society at large.  My prejudice towards them was about me, not them.  Well, it was a little them but mostly me.  HA!  I felt like now that I made a decision, I could view them the same way I view everyone else in the world; allowing them the right and respect to practice and believe as they wish. I’ve got many years of bitterness built up so I recognized this won’t be super easy but I would do it. I mean, I had to look at the benefits of not being Mormon… like being able to have a drink or as I told Bonnie, I can wear sexy underwear every day!  Damn right, I look good in a thong!

While the anger still rears its ugly head every now and then, for the most part, I’m past that stage.  I’m able to have civil conversations with people and hope this blog creates more opportunities to do just that.  I wouldn’t have been able to get to this point, had it not been for my constant companion, Bonnie.  I love you Baby!  Thanks for accepting me for me and loving me no matter what.  It’s rare to find your perfect match and there’s no doubt you are mine.