When Your Spouse Leaves the Church: How to Strengthen Your Marriage Without Weakening Your Faith

Concerning Raising Children

This is usually a major pain point—even the biggest pain point—for couples experiencing this transition. It can be one thing to support a spouse who leaves a shared faith, but it’s another entirely when your children start to follow.

For this situation, there are no easy answers. However, it’s important to start by focusing on the principles already discussed in this article. Trying to navigate challenges on such a personal and charged subject simply won’t work if you and your spouse haven’t laid the groundwork to have open, candid, respectful, and intimate talks. Otherwise, your attempts will likely end in fighting rather than constructive solutions.

A couple we met with shared how they handled the split: both respectfully shared their two perspectives with their children. It could be as simple as stating, “This is where I find peace, and this is where Daddy finds peace.”

It can, especially to a believer, feel like it is the end of the world when a family member leaves, particularly a child. The feelings of inadequacy, betrayal, and failure are tough to combat, but they can become manageable with faith. Happy, healthy, good-hearted children are still something to celebrate. While the uncertainty of their eternal life may eat at you, you can have faith. Be still. Know that He is God.

Going Forward with Faith

It took me a long time to write this article. It came in fits and starts. I went through many different drafts and versions of ways I could present my story and the advice I’ve been given. I felt angry. I felt alone. I felt hopeful. I felt scared. I felt so many things, and still feel so many things. There are times when it’s all I can do to get through the day, when I frantically repeat to myself, “It’s okay. You’re okay. It’s going to be okay.”

This is not an easy journey. And it is certainly not for everyone. If you elect to live in a split-faith marriage—especially when you started out on the same page—it will be one of the most difficult things you ever do. When living the gospel in your family alone, Armknecht concludes, “It is vital to obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit to know how to handle individual situations and continue in faith.” Every situation is as unique as the people in it.

While pondering my personal circumstances and searching for such promptings, I found comfort in the 11th Article of Faith—because I do claim the privilege of worshipping almighty God according to the dictates of my own conscience. I also allow all other men, including my husband, the same privilege, letting him worship how, where, and what he may.

Doctrine and Covenants 121 caught my eye during that same study session, specifically verses 7 and 8: “Peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high.”

I plan to endure this well. In fact, I almost feel empowered facing the life in front of me. It wasn’t a course I would have chosen, but in this change, I see opportunity. I see how I can grow. I see how this can ultimately make me more accepting, loving, patient, kind, compassionate, empathetic, and so much more like Christ. I can’t know for sure what the future holds, but right now, it doesn’t scare me. It’s going to be okay. I can do this. We can do this.

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