I have this nagging feeling that my marriage is all wrong. Help?

My concern sounds small, but it brings me a great deal of stress. I always pictured myself getting a full education, having a career, and getting married in my late twenties, sure to date a man for a long, long while before any permanent decisions were made.  I’m a very independent person so this idea suited me. But, as I attended BYU and had roommates getting married, the hype of everything got to me. I started dating a real wonderful guy, and got married when I was 20.

Don’t get me wrong–he’s wonderful. And our relationship is good. But sometimes I have this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I did the wrong thing. There’s this deep, dark, secret space that tells me I picked the wrong guy, got married too soon, or that the marriage is destined for failure in the future. I “hear” this voice so often that I sometimes feel regret about my decisions, and great apprehension about any permanent decisions for the future, whether it be buying a house, having babies or even something that’s not a huge deal, like buying a piano or new computer.

If I weren’t a Mormon, I could probably just hire a lawyer, talk with my husband and say “maybe we rushed into this….” and it could be over.  But because we got married in the temple, we made covenants and promises that make me feel SO guilty even considering the option of leaving a marriage that is practically problem free (at least with the big stuff like abuse or non-compatibility goes. We do have normal problems, like everyone else.) My “marriage prep” class filled my head with a million quotes about how any two righteous people can make a marriage work, that there’s no such thing as “Mr. Right” and that there can be no basis for divorce unless there are some real, real serious issues.

I hate that I feel this way but I don’t know how to get rid of this feeling! I certainly can’t talk to my husband about it, because I don’t want to cause him unnecessary stress, and I feel uncomfortable talking with anyone else about it because it’s so personal.

What in the world should I do?

Mrs. Wrong

Dear, dear “Mrs. Wrong,” you poor thing:  your concern doesn’t sound small at all.   You surprised yourself by getting married at the tender age of 20.  It sounds like you may have been married for just a few months or years now, and you do not have any children.  You have what you describe as a healthy relationship with a “wonderful” man. Still, you find yourself plagued by a “nagging voice” that tells you something is wrong.

As I was thinking about your question, I remembered some advice my LDS stake president (that’s a pastoral leader, for you non-Mo readers) gave my husband and me before we got hitched.  My stake president held out his two index fingers before him.  “The most successful marriages,” he said, “are not ones where the partners fixate on each other and the relationship.”  He turned the fingers towards each other and made them collide in mid-air.  “Instead, the best marriages I’ve seen are where the partners both focus on Jesus Christ,” he said, moving his index fingers forward at a 75 degree angle until the two intersected somewhere out in space.

Now, given the fact that I married a nice Jewish boy (who despite a mild Jesus allergy didn’t blanche at this point in the premarital interview) the likelihood that our marriage would best function through a mutual focus on Jesus Christ was and is, well, quite unlikely.  But I think my stake president’s advice still holds basically true, even if for us it’s not exactly Jesus but Jesus-compatible foci like a shared love of learning, faith, justice, and compassion.  Focusing on those big picture shared aspirations as well as our own individual goals has helped distract us from the temptation to sit in a room, look at each other, and fret.

And believe me, there are always times in any marriage when one or both partners might feel like locking themselves in a room and fretting.  Sometimes with good reason.  So don’t think you’re alone in experiencing the occasional bout of anxiety or regret.

But what I’m wondering about you, Mrs. Wrong, is what your individual goals and big picture aspirations are.  You say you “always pictured yourself getting a full education and having a career.”  You say you’re a “very independent person.”  Please, please, please tell me you didn’t abandon your education and career plans just because you got hitched.  Because it sounds to me like you need to grab hold of some goals and aspirations that have nothing to do with your marriage.  And, no, I’m not talking about buying a house, a piano, a computer, or anything else to furnish the standard-issue immaculate domestic fantasy life you see in all those pretty Crate and Barrel catalogs.  I’m talking about some oversized, change-the-world, rock-the-bells goals and aspirations.

And you must do this as if your marriage depends upon it, because it may.

I’m not telling you not to trust your instincts.  At this point, for example, I think you should trust your gut and hold off on having kids.  But if there are no evident problems in your marriage and the best that nagging voice in the “deep dark space” inside your head can come up with is telling you that you’ve done it all wrong, try tuning into the bright, fearless voices that tell you exactly how to take hold of your future.  Identify some role models.  Do some research.  Pray for guidance.  Imagine the woman you want to be at sixty-five years old.

And when you’ve come up with some goals and aspirations, sit down with your husband, and share your plans with him.  As you do, you will discover exactly what your marriage is made of.

Readers, it’s your turn.  What words of wisdom do you have for Mrs. Wrong?

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.

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14 Comments

Filed under marriage, young women

14 responses to “I have this nagging feeling that my marriage is all wrong. Help?

  1. One of the things that makes me sort of crazy when it comes to Mormons is that while they value and respect the promptings of the spirit (as I frankly think they should–the Holy Ghost is awesome!), they have so little trust or respect for their own intuitions and feelings–UNLESS those intuitions and feelings confirm every last detail about Mormonism.

    If your gut tells you that the church is true, from BOM to TSM, then great! You have a trustworthy gut. But if it tells you that a mission is not for you, or your temple marriage isn’t going to make you happy….. Well, then clearly, your gut is controlled by Satan.

    Personally I believe that our guts are one of the ways the Holy Ghost talks to us. I also believe that the HG is more concerned with our happiness, our psychological health and our spiritual well-being than it is with our orthodoxy–which, I have discovered, are not the same thing.

    Your gut is telling you something important, and you need to figure out what that is. The conventional ways of understanding your gut’s vocabulary aren’t working–so you need some help in translation.

    Another thing that sometimes baffles me about Latter-day Saints is their reluctance to seek professional counseling. Few bishops or stake presidents have any training in marriage (or any other kind of) counseling. Furthermore, they always have an agenda–which is to keep you orthodox, however THEY (not you) define that. One of the best things I I ever did for myself was start seeing an unorthodox Mormon therapist when I was in my early 20s. I needed to talk to a Mormon woman who would understand my issues without needing hours and hours of explanations, and I needed someone who wouldn’t judge me. I strongly urge you to seek out such a person yourself.

    I will add that I was once part of a community for people who had doubts about the church but didn’t want to leave. Many of them felt that they couldn’t discuss their doubts with their spouses because it would upset the faithful spouse. Eventually, however, things became intolerable for both spouses–after all, people aren’t stupid, and they can often tell when someone is withholding something.

    The doubters expressed surprise and amazement over the fact that when they finally voiced their doubts and anxieties to the spouses, though there was a very rocky period initially, things eventually improved–EVERYWHERE. “Even sex got better!” several enthused. It seemed miraculous and inexplicable.

    I had to resist an urge to say, a bit snarkily, “Wow! So when you were withholding emotional and spiritual intimacy, your marriage had all sorts of nameless problems; but when you finally made the commitment to be emotionally intimate with your spouse, even sexual intimacy got better! Fancy that!”

    Right now you are keeping secrets and harboring feelings that prevent you from achieving intimacy in your marriage. That might very likely make things worse.

    Your husband might very likely intuit that something is wrong–but he doesn’t know what, exactly, because you haven’t told him. He might want to fix things, and he might even be able to fix some of them–but he can’t if he doesn’t know what’s broken.

    I’m not saying you should tell your husband that you’re not sure you did the right thing by marrying him. I AM saying that Mormon Girl is right when she tells you that you need to discuss your personal goals and aspirations with your husband. You need to make it clear that personal, intimate feelings about who and what you are are topics you are willing to discuss with the person you have chosen to be most intimate with sexually, financially, physically (meaning this person probably knows things about your bodily habits that aren’t necessarily linked to sex–if you snore or twitch in your sleep, for instance, or how you brush your teeth), etc.

    Intimacy in all those areas, if you are still unwilling to let him know who you are in your heart, is going to feel like a cheap substitute for the real thing–for both of you, because you both know you deserve better.

    And one final thing–if you make a genuine effort to understand yourself and your marriage and you come to the conclusion that you did indeed make a mistake and need to dissolve the marriage, well, it’s going to hurt and it’s going to feel like a failure because frankly, it is a failure, and you have the right to mourn everything you lost along the way. But you also have the right to correct the mistake as best you can, and to seek happiness in other ways. I know quite a few young Mormons who divorced after a couple of years of marriage and went on to achieve very happy second temple marriages–some in my own family.

    So I’m circling back around to my first point: do the best you can to understand what your gut and the Holy Ghost are telling you. Because it really does want you to be happy.

  2. Mrs. Wrong, simply put you got married before you were done “becoming who you are.”
    Too-early marriage interrupts the development that should be taking place in young adulthood, and replaces it with obligations and responsibilities that are inappropriate for near-children.
    This inhibits necessary self-exploration. It stunts creative, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional development.
    The bible agrees. Jesus did not undergo baptism and thus accept his serious role in God’s plan until he was in his 30s. He was a perfect man, and he still had to come to maturity before he could take on serious responsibility. And, in the bible, men in their 30s are routinely referred to as “boys.”
    Do you feel generally unfulfilled, lost, uncertain, and discontented? Time to finish the work you set aside when you married…the work of becoming who you are. Ask for (but ultimately take) the space you need to work out what that is. Academically, career-wise, socially, religiously…whatever. Once you (both) have a firm foundation of maturity and a secure identity, you might also find that you have a beautiful marriage.

  3. I totally agree with the above comment, and am so glad to hear someone else say it. I don’t feel ready to be a mommy by a long shot. Seeing all the very young married couples at the BYU’s makes me throw my hands in the air. All I can do is pray I don’t become one of them. I want to become as complete and whole person I can before sharing my life with someone else. My mother never took the time to find happiness, or get to know herself before getting married, and all 8 of her children have suffered from her border-line personality disorder, and crazy moods. Yeah, it’s an extreme example, but It’s also made me want to be extreamly prepared before I make such a commitment. Just saying.

    • Mike

      While you may think that getting married and having children young is not for you (and it definitely wasn’t for me). It doesn’t give you the right to think poorly of those who do that. My objection to those who are more “liberal” in their view of mormonism than most, is that they tend to look down on others who don’t espouse their same views, and in so doing, manifest the same judgemental behavior that they are critical of in the lds church ast large.

  4. Make some of your ideas become reality and see how he treats you along the way. You are still SUPER young and have the whole world ahead of you. Go for the things you wanted before you got married and do it as a team. Your temple covenants will bless you won’t curse you and make you feel guilty.

  5. Susan

    I highly recommend a book, “Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high.” I agree with the others that honestly identifying what is important to you and communicating with your husband is vital.

    Also, take time to strengthen your own relationship with the Lord. The way you said, “If I weren’t Mormon, I could…” made me wonder if you felt trapped, in a way, by your own religion or beliefs about it. When I’ve felt similarly, I have always been renewed and refreshed by getting back to the basics (reading scriptures, sincere prayer, etc.) and letting go of what I perceived were others’ expectations in that regard. The gospel truly is good news. If it’s feeling like a prison sentence, that’s a red flag that something needs to be adjusted.

    Emotions/Holy Ghost/listening to your gut. They aren’t always the same, but can work together. For instance, I have come to value my emotions as an indicator that something needs attention. But not necessarily that the emotion itself, or the thoughts that accompany that emotion, are “true.” Example: feeling trapped, suppressed, miserable, hurt, off-track with life’s mission. Thought: “I never should have married. There were warning signs and I did it anyway. This isn’t where I’m supposed to be. My husband is great and the kids would be better off if he had a more compatible match, and I’m sure he could find one. I should leave them. It’d be in everyone’s best interest.” The feelings can be strong and the thoughts could seem justified. But the TRUTH (in my situation, anyway) was no one would be better off by abandoning the children and that, actually, the source of the emotional pain was more due to being “off track” (which can be adjusted) than anything else. Figuring out what needed to be adjusted took a lot of prayerful thought and time, but has been well worth it!

    Good for you for recognizing there’s a problem and reaching out. I do NOT claim that your “right answer” will be the same as mine, but wanted to share it for what it’s worth.

  6. I think Mrs. Wrong has had some great advice already. You definitely have to talk to your husband. If you can’t talk to your husband about something than who can you talk to? I mean really? This is THE partner that you get in this life. Of course it’s scary but if I was him I would want to know. I would NEED to know, I mean it’s not like it doesn’t concern him. You deserve someone that will hear all of your concerns, and he deserves someone who will share herself openly and honestly. How can he work with you on a problem he doesn’t know exists? Also focusing on higher common values and goals is great advice. Focus on growing together and achieving things together but also work on achieving things for yourself that will increase your value to yourself, your husband, your future children. (like education) But what I really want to say is that while it’s important not to ignore your feelings it’s also important to think open mindedly about where these feelings come from. For example, do you think that the millions of women who had their marriages arranged by their parents ever wondered if they were with the “right guy”. I understand that it is a completely different situation than yours but the point is that for them, the whole idea of a “right guy” is meaningless, it just doesn’t exist. To them marriage is a fact of life the way that baptism at 8 years old was for me. And yes, statistically arranged marriages have much lower divorce rates but it’s impossible to compare really because the cultures that have arranged marriages are possibly not very tolerant of divorce. But definitely some of these arranged marriages turn out to be very happy and healthy and mutually beneficial relationships. The lesson here is that there is no magical thing waiting to happen for you if you decide to go look for someone else. Mr. Right is a cultural and societal myth. This can be hard to swallow sometimes (I mean really, like really really believe it) but God does not have a person picked out for you. It’s not even that there are like 15 possible people you could marry. Literally anyone can be the right one for you. God gave you the choice and the holy ghost. And most of the time, the plan is that the one you choose is the right one, and the holy ghost’s job is to say “OK, if that’s what you want.” (except for those times when it says… “I respect you and your choices but this is really not a good idea”) So now we come to the real question, the question that was always there at the root of all of this. What do you want? If you want your husband to be the “right one”, than he is. Of course, everyone regrets and everyone doubts. The only people I have met that said they had no regrets were young dumb girls who actually did have regrets but really didn’t understand what that word meant and had only heard some dumb saying like “live with no regrets” and they thought that not having regrets was cool. But not having regrets is not cool, it’s inhuman and unnatural. Doubt and regret are a part of life. They are normal human emotions that we all experience. So if you regret getting married so young, if you doubt whether you made the right choice… That’s normal. Don’t ignore these emotions, but don’t think that doubt or fear means your marriage is doomed. Marriage is kind of like being single. You are lonely sometimes, you are insecure, you have emotional issues, you second guess yourself all the time (wondering why your still single, or if you married the right person) but the difference is that you have a partner. You and your husband can lonely and insecure together… No seriously though. life is just hard. Whether you had an arranged marriage. A love marriage. No marriage. Life is hard. And God’s plan is that we choose someone to go through it with.

    • LK

      When your parents arrange a marriage for you without your consent, then you are not bound to that marriage in eternity, nor here if you can get out of it. Unless you want it to continue. God honors common consent and he does not believe in force, especially in marriage. It is an evil thing for parents to arrange marriages and force children to accept a partner that they choose, even if it was the common thing to do in many societies throughout history. There have been many common things done throughout history that are evil, like polygamy, divorce & remarriage, men ruling over women, etc.

      But the answer to the woman’s question that started these comments, is that she consented to enter this marriage and thus Christ said it would be adultery for her to leave her husband and date & marry another, for she would be still married to her 1st husband. Just because society would give her a divorce, doesn’t mean God would. God has clearly explained that there is no such thing as divorce & remarriage (unless the man or woman didn’t agree to the marriage in the 1st place OR they find out their spouse committed fornication (relations with someone else before they were married that they kept secret)

      Thus the only righteous alternative for this woman is to choose to love her husband and put his happiness, needs & feelings before her own. It is a choice to be madly in love with our spouse, and she will only hurt herself the most if she left him and committed adultery by dating or remarriage with someone she thought was better for her.

      Marriage is forever, and children are the main reason to get married. If she started having children she and focusing on them & her husband, then she would find more purpose and meaning to her marriage and things like a career would become less important, as it should be. Besides, when you have children there is little time & energy left for a job anyway, unless the husband is willing to play Mr. Mom everyday and let the mother go to work instead.

      Once we consent to marry someone they are the ‘right’ one, no matter how we feel. Even if they become wicked & mean to us or have affairs or refuse to work, they are still the right one we should love and serve forever. Though that doesn’t mean we have to live with them if they become dangerous. We can protect ourselves if need be by separating from them until they repent, in this life or the next, but we can’t divorce & date & remarry cause marriage is forever, it’s not possible to marry another, it would only be shacking up in God’s eyes, no matter how many on earth would say it’s ok.

  7. Jerry

    Mrs. Wrong, looks like you had some great advice. Consider this comment as a vote to following your career goals. Follow them ASAP. Be ambitious. It might take your husband by surprise, but he’ll come along – hopefully he does. Become very good at a couple things. If the road ends with being a stay at home mom, then so be it. If not, then so be it.

    If you are like me, your education and career will change your life in ways that you haven’t yet considered.

    Chase your dreams, and don’t look back. But try to chase them with your husband.

  8. “Imagine the woman you want to be at sixty-five years old”

    That’s the best advice I may ever have heard.

  9. Em

    Hi. Your post caught my eye on my first visit to this site because I had the same goals and subsequent feelings you describe when I married a wonderful guy at age 19. I struggled with this in the back of my head for our first few years of marriage. At one point when I was feeling really desperate about this, a distinct impression that I now recognize as personal revelation for my situation, communicated the idea to me that I had been single for many many years in my premortal life. I had years of learning, growing, and all kinds of wonderful experiences as a single woman before I got to earth. One of the blessings I was most anxious to reach on earth was marriage….it’s part of who I am to be interested in goals and progression and my marriage is exactly that. Although we have our normal challenges, I am so happily married in our 13th year in a way that I hadn’t really foreseen or thought possible in those early years. I stuck to my goals while being married and obtained a graduate degree and pursued my dreams. And both of us will continue to pursue our dreams along with our two young children. Hang in there!

  10. WantedMan

    ROT!!
    Mrs. Wrong, no one’s told you what you need to hear.
    So here it is:
    You are being silly and weak. Most importantly, it sounds like you suspect that you may not have found the “perfect” guy for you (join the club). Don’t do that. If you say he’s “wonderful” and you have a “good relationship” then the perfect guy really is right there in front of you.
    Now, as to your more worldly ambitions – further education, career, and of course being “independent.” My bet is if you talk to your husband about it you can work things out. But don’t try to deny your true nature as a woman by putting such things ahead of being a wife to your husband, or mother to your children. You do have kids now right? Follow my advice and you’ll be very, very happy. I’m sure you will.

  11. Mary

    Mrs. Wrong, I have very similar feelings in my own marriage. They started from the beginning and now almost 10 years and a few kids later I am still battling those feelings. I strongly agree that part of the suffering comes from being married young – you miss the opportunity to find your identity as a single person. It is still possible as a married person, but you are part of a partnership so that process is a little more difficult. For me, going after my goals and interests (going back to school) has helped immensely. I also was too afraid to tell my husband about my nagging thoughts because I didn’t think he could handle it, but with the help of a therapist I realized I need to respect him enough to share the truth and then let him deal with it – he’s a grown man. I can’t say that my thoughts of making the wrong choice are gone – I think searching out my own identity and ideas has made me a completely different person than my 20 year old self, and I don’t feel I would make the same choice in a marriage partner at this point in my life. My husband is wonderful, he’s a great guy, he’s a good friend – but I still feel like I’m missing a true connection in a partner. So, sorry I don’t have any great advice, but I know the feeling only too well.

  12. millsalum

    I belive that just because we are married and have kids does not mean we give up on our dreams.. The phophets have counseled us to be educated women and make good choices.. it will be a great example to your children.

    I agree you should talkk with your husband, If he really is wonderul and understanding he will listen to your struggle and help you work twards you personal and spiritual goals.

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