Love & marriage edition: Is my Mormon hipster style wrecking my marriage chances? And how will my family deal if I marry outside the faith?

This week, the AMG inbox was abuzz with messages from readers with love and marriage on the brain.  The first is a young man we’ll call Mormon Skater, a cousin, perhaps to the Mormon hipster made famous of late in a rather silly article from The New York Times.

Here’s what’s on his mind:

Utah is supposed to be the proverbial land of plenty for any returned missionary seeking a wife with whom to spend time and all eternity, and trust me when I say that upon returning from my mission (in Kobe, Japan) I fully expected the skies to open, inundating me with potential brides to be. All I’ve found in the three years since my homecoming, however, are wards full of girls that I’m mostly not interested in and who I feel are generally disinterested in me.

Upon returning to the land of the living I quickly grew out my hair, sprouted a beard, and slipped back into my collection of punk rock t-shirts, skater shoes, and slightly sagging pants. That pure sheen that accompanied me from the plane back to America quickly faded, and now most who look at me might doubt I’m even Mormon let alone one with a strong testimony who relatively recently served an honorable mission. This persona has served to attract a fair number of girls from outside the church, but my desire to marry in the temple and raise an LDS family has largely kept me from being overly attracted to or interested in starting a serious relationship with any of them. 

Maybe it’s naive of me to think that there might be a female counterpart to myself among the strict Mormon ladies of northern Utah… might I be better served by getting a hair cut and a shave, and becoming more like the clean cut guys who I constantly see gracing the insides of the conference issues of the Ensign? Or perhaps I should get off of my high horse and give some of the not member girls who actually seem to like me a chance.

Oh, Mormon Skater.  It may be your location, for in the Mormon Singles Wards of Southern California, a simple Dead Kennedys t-shirt would do little to deter women from a temple-worthy (and employed) young single LDS man. Au contraire, mon frère.  But I suspect—and forgive me if I seem ungentle—that the problem may not be with the girls, or your garb, but you.  I notice that you “fully expected the skies to open, inundating [you] with potential brides” upon your return from your mission; at the same time, you admit that you’re “mostly not interested” in the girls in your wards.  Listen, brother:  love and marriage never just fall into our laps.  They take work. They take introspection, humility, and reflection.  They also take sincere curiosity and interest in others.  So ask yourself, is there anyone you have found interesting over the last three years?  Have you really tried to get to know the women you’ve met?  And are you sure you’re not just screening out potential mates because they don’t meet the profile of a hipster bride?  If the answer to these questions is no, let me recommend that you do a bit of soul-searching as to what you’re really looking for and whether you might be purposefully avoiding or delaying getting serious about marriage.  (Sometimes, we have good reasons for doing so.)  But if after sincere reflection you believe that the problem is truly that no one appreciates your skater style, let me know, and I’ll take dating referrals for you.  Right here at Askmormongirl.com.

Now, onto our next young single Mormon seeking love and marriage, a young woman we’ll call SR.

Despite being born and raised in the Church, I struggle to see myself married to a Mormon, in a temple marriage. I have always been most comfortable in a relationship with someone who is not a member of the LDS faith, but who is open to my many questions, struggles, doubts and beliefs and is confident and comfortable allowing me to navigate my own spiritual journey, which is ultimately based on LDS-belief, albeit a very non-orthodox rendering of them. My parents can’t let go of the “must marry in the Mormon Temple” idea, and often times fail to even acknowledge the existence of my relationships. I would like to ultimately believe that if that person I am choosing to be in a relationship with is someone who is worth my time and effort, then once the parents (and extended family) get to know them they’d recognize he’s not all that bad despite having a different stamp on his baptismal certificate. About to potentially embark on a new relationship (again, with a non-LDS individual), I’m excited at the relationship aspect, but apprehensive knowing everything I must hear my parents say once again. Sometimes it would just be nice to have family support. What advice do you have for finding strength to move forward with what works for you personally, but what your family is so against? What things are crucial to making interfaith relationships work?

Mormon doctrine teaches that a temple marriage is essential to entering the highest levels of heaven, and I can’t tell you not to aim for that.  But I can tell you that my own path led another way.  I too am an unorthodox Mormon.  I too sensed that my own spiritual journey would make for a difficult marriage, a burden, even, to an orthodox Mormon man.  And I did marry outside the faith, to a Jewish man who has been a superb partner and father and a true ally in matters spiritual.  And, yes, my marriage broke my parents’ hearts, and it has taken years for everyone to get comfortable with the situation, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable still.

Over the years, I have seen some Mormon parents idolize their children’s temple marriages, as if getting the kids to the altar was a personal achievement.  I have also seen orthodox Mormon parents continue heavy involvement in the lives and even the marriages of their adult children. And I remember this bit of ancient wisdom:  “Therefore shall a man leave mother and father and cleave unto his wife”  (Genesis 2: 24).  At some point, we must leave home. And this I have come to understand as one of the reasons the Jewish wedding ceremony involves the breaking of a glass:  sometimes getting married breaks your parents’ hearts.  That’s just the way it is.

This is your life, and you must live it with as much dignity, honor, and joy as possible.  You deserve to find someone to share your life with, and you deserve to feel God’s love regardless of whom you marry.  (Don’t forget, after all, that God also has massive love for the one you marry—whatever his religion, if any.)

What makes a successful interfaith marriage?  That much, I’m still learning, every day, as marriage is always work. But if you find yourself attracted to a non-LDS man, I would encourage you to look for the same character traits you would expect of Mormon–honesty, fidelity, reliability, kindness, intelligence, work ethic, and humor. (Humor, especially—a good laugh can save the day.)  What clinched it for me with my husband-to-be was the fact that he signed up for every picket shift when our teaching assistant union went on strike, and also  volunteered to ferry water from picket station to picket station. “This,” I thought to myself, watching him cheerfully unload water from his truck under a blazing sun, “is a man who would help bring a wagon train across the plains.” We all deserve someone to cross the plains with.  Take heart.  And have the courage to keep loving your family no matter how they respond to you.

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

 

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16 Comments

Filed under Love, marriage

16 responses to “Love & marriage edition: Is my Mormon hipster style wrecking my marriage chances? And how will my family deal if I marry outside the faith?

  1. Lisa Moore

    SR: Stay away from the guy in the Dead Kennedys T-shirt. :)

    Seriously, I think marrying outside the faith has only made Mormon Girl more Mormon (if I may be so bold). And it has certainly made her feel loved and supported by a wonderful family. What Mormon Girl doesn’t want that more than anything?

    Warmly,
    Lisa

  2. Kari

    Joanna I think this is a beautiful reply to a tricky question. I’ve had two marriages now. The first was one I recognized later on was mostly for my parents, and he seemed to have all the right requirements, on paper that is. Unfortunately it was fraud, and I lived a double life, showing up with my sweet perfectly groomed little family Sundays at church, and then spending the other six being controlled, abused and feeling generally miserable. I am not saying most LDS men are like this, only that I went into it for the wrong reasons and I failed to see what was right in front of me, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I am now married to an amazing man, who is a self proclaimed agnostic and have never been happier. He supports everything I do in the church, and in fact attends most Sundays with me so I don’t have to go alone. He is everything I have ever wanted, and never knew I needed in a partner. But my pioneer rooted family, going back on both sides forever was NOT on board to say the least in the beginning. If you choose this life you will need to be strong enough to stand up for your own needs and choices, while being compassionate towards your family’s feelings of disappointment and loss for the life they had planned for you. Remember that it is because they love you that they wanted that life for you, because they believed with all their hearts that it was the only way for you to be happy in this life and the next. So you will have to be patient both with yourself and others as you all adjust your needs and expectations of one another. One thing I can say is, when my family saw how happy I was and how well he treated me, that was what brought them around. They may still feel some loss, but they know I am doing what I need to do for myself this time and it was the right marriage for me, despite its unconventional appearance.

  3. Jason

    Sometimes the Best Mormons aren’t Mormon at all. An All-Knowing God knows that, more Mormons ought to.

    • NG

      I couldn’t agree more.

    • Chrissy

      Could not agree with you more Jason! I totally relate to your post…

      It saddens me to read posts like this, asking how to be strong enough to do something that an individual feels deep within them is the right thing to do….for them. I understand the feeling of loss for the ones that are “true blue” Mormons, when supposedly they are losing a family member to the “world”. It is frustrating to “bang up against the wall” that is impenetrable, because they feel they are right and there is no “other way”, but the way they perceive it. It takes a strong one to be able to stand up for what is right for them. It takes a strong one to allow one to do so. Unfortunately, I had to cut ties with several close family members, because of the constant hurt that it caused them to see that I abandoned the religion, and the constant harassment, of how they will not be with me in heaven because I have made this choice. I will not have that. So I just let it go and let it be, with much love to them, but also much love for myself. I KNOW that I am doing what is best for me. I KNOW this, thus the strength comes, and I can stand strong. Once that strength comes, and the confidence is gained, nothing seems as big as it seemed. Nothing.

  4. Browneyedgirl

    Hey Mormon Skater,
    I’m a Mormon girl in northern Utah and I know plenty of girls who would be interested in you – including me! You just would never realize that by looking at me in Sunday School since that isn’t really where I let my unorthodox ideas flow. I agree with mormongirl, you need to really get to know the girls in your ward before deciding you don’t like any of them. Thanks for your question, though. It’s something I’ve been struggling with as well, so it’s nice to know there’s some unorthodox boys around here too! I guess we just have to look harder. Good luck!

  5. Loved this Joanna. A perfect reply to both! I’ve sent it on to a friend. The second question and reply hit home.

  6. mellifera

    Mormon Skater,

    I hear you. As a nerdy science girl who temple-married a guy at BYU who has had a beard since the nanosecond he graduated, and being that I now am the main breadwinner thanks to said nerdity, and we’re now helping hold together a poverty-stricken ward while we’re both in graduate school, I appreciate other people who want to be heavily involved in the church without becoming a Stepford Drone (Wasatch Edition!(TM)). It’s hard to walk the line and it’s hard to find someone else who wants to. But we definitely need more people who can do it, and do it well.

    With that introduction, perhaps I can share a couple experiences in “alternative” dating on the Wasatch front.

    I’m trying to read between the lines; in looking for someone who wants to have a traditional temple marriage etc, but is “alternative,” are you really just looking for somebody who’s pragmatic, thinks critically, and doesn’t feel wedded to convention for convention’s sake?

    If I got that right, then I want you to know that Alternative doesn’t have a monopoly on that kind of person. For example, there are approximately half a bajillion girls at BYU alone majoring in the sciences because they LIKE science, dadgummit, and don’t care that studying science is one of the most effective ways to scare RMs off. Girls who study biology and geology also know plenty about taking religious declarations with a grain of salt. But they probably don’t dress in a way that screams ‘I’m alternative!’ because, in my experience, it takes a lot of time and $ spent shopping to get just the right bohemian look. A lot of girls with the ‘outside the box’ mindset that you’re looking for may know better than to waste their time on what is, in essence, cosplay.

    Second thought… what kind of apartment complex do you tend to live in? This may have been unique to the the wards I was in, but there was a inverse correlation between the price of the rent and the awesomeness of the inhabitants. The wards that I’ve been in where kids were living in $350-a-month, have-your-own-bedroom-and-bathroom, nice townhome apartments were a cold social wasteland. The wards that I’ve been in where people were saving money by packing themselves cheek-by-jowl into rooms that were just two beds and an aisle between them were smart, warm, sassy places that embraced honesty.

    I hung out with several ‘alternative’ girls at BYU (I probably would have been ‘alternative’ too if I’d ever gotten out of the lab). Then one day one of those girls said to me “You know what? I really like the music, but dressing like this is like putting up a bat signal for ALL THE WRONG GUYS.” So she put on a boring exterior out of self-defense.

    Not saying you’re one of the guys she’s talking about, but taking a look at the other guys who dress like you do might help you understand why ‘alternative’ girls don’t wear it on their sleeve. Yeah, that makes them guilty of false advertising I guess. Of course, if you’re running around promoting yourself as ‘alternative’ but you really just want the same thing as all the other Finance Jocks, then what does that make you?

  7. Karen

    I know many young ladies in N. Utah looking for their stater boy to take to the temple ( myself included although I’m way too old for you). Trust me they are out there!

  8. John Paladin

    The older I get the more I appreciate difference.
    I am the guy who always asked the tough questions at church, who always pushed past the obvious answers, who wanted to think deeper.
    It probably drove some of my teachers crazy, but many of them appreciated the opportunity to discuss things, to reason together, and to learn together.
    I am still the guy in Gospel Doctrine who throws in the tricky and curly issues, who wants to stir things up a bit, who vomits when people regurgitate the obvious boring answers.
    I think there are more of us out there than people realise. It is still possible to be good LDS but not to be a clone. The Church is spending big advertising $$$ trying to convince the rest of the world – maybe they need to spend some time trying to convince the members!
    For the two love-lorn posters – the Church is wide enough to encompass you and perfect mates for each of you – just relax and keep your eyes open, you never know when they might pop up.

  9. lisa

    To SR when I married a non-member we had a talk about what I wanted to do in my life about the church and I suggest you do the same. He didn’t have any kind of faith so we talked about baby blessings, baptism, family prayer, tithing just basic church things. Even when you marry a member you should talk about these things. You don’t want to get your first paycheck after marriage and then fight about whether you can pay tithing or not.

  10. Leah

    So just found the blog this morning and have spent hours reading. So interesting, So many broad topics. I have truly enjoyed reading the blog posts as well as the many comments. I felt I had to leave a response on the marriage post and while my situation is slightly different it feel I need to share my veiw. I have been married 19 years to a man who left the church over 10 years ago. (seriously, name removed from the records and all) I have been living the “married to someone of a different faith” for a very long time. It is heart breaking and a road I would never want to see someone I care about on. Knowing I do not have my companion sealed to me in the afterlife makes my soul weep, I love him so much. I respect his decison to leave. It is his personal choice. I believe in agency right?!? It can be so exhausting trying to hold up my faith and be there for my children when I can not get support from my husband to pay tithing (forbidden) to keep the sabbath day holy, to not watch R rated movies. It is a constant battle. Scripture study has to be worked around when he is gone and we have to do hometeacher visits at the ward building. I am happy for people that say they can do it and that it has worked for them. But the other side needs to be represented here too. People change over the years. What might be fine with a non Mormon spouse at some point might annoy them in a few years. Experiences can change opinions. (we have had some seriously innappropriate situations come about because people are stupid and so my husband has pushed for more distance between him and the church). I feel it a small miracle that all 5 of my children were baptized in the church. I lived with the fear of him one day waking up and deciding he was no longer okay with it even though when he first left the church he said I could baptize them. We were sealed in the temple. Life doesn’t always work out the way you planned. But I vote starting on the same page. People who say the whole different religion thing isn’t really a big deal either don’t really believe the church is true themselves or are kidding themselves. It is huge and it is hard. Sorry to be so negative on my first post. The up side is I have come to have a very strong testimony of my own, but it brings little comfort when I think about the man I love most not being by my side for eternity. Just consider all things and be prayerful.

  11. Bear

    Hey yo Skater!

    I know your pain brother. I’m an active and temple worthy kid who mostly identifies with the “indie hipster” scene. Full beard, plaid shirts, skinny(ish) jeans. I’m pretty much illegal at BYU. I also didn’t have the benefit of serving a full-time mission (because I was dumb when I was younger). I’ve always worried that would inhibit me, but no one has seemed to mind so far.

    I’m not quite to my mid-twenties and to this day are as single as a slice of American cheese. I have dated many girls. Ones I’m sweet on but also girls I’m not sure if I’m interested in, or who don’t fit my “mold,” since dates 1 – 3 are less romance and more get-to-know-you type encounters.

    I’ve discovered a lot of things about myself and the woman I’d like to marry. I typically am attracted to non-member girls but I have decided to not compromise when it comes to be sealed in the temple. Although I hope my future sweetheart is a zombie-loving, die-hard Steelers fan, with a hipster style and a good taste in music (if not a musician) and a card carrying (read: temple worthy) Latter-Day Saint; I’ll be happy if she fits another mold as long as she:

    is on my level spiritually,
    has similar life goals (in regards to lifestyle and family),
    is kind and patient, and most importantly;
    is as crazy about me as I will inevitably be to her.

    (Oh, and the card carrying joke again)

    These things come in the Lord’s time. I’m frustrated from time to time that I haven’t found a companion but I’m that much more resolute in finding her! Marriage is a lot of work I realize but finding someone I love that will shoulder the work with me is a wonderful endeavor to be engaged in.

    Take heart! Be open to all types. But in the mean time? Work on YOU! Make sure you’re worthy of her. Identify your weaknesses and start making them strengths. Prepare to be a loving husband and a kind, wise father. Preparing for those blessed callings will do more for finding you a wife than attending 100 ward dances.

    Good luck!

    • Jason

      if you are still in school try trolling (that’s totally in jest) the waters of your local anthropology department. There you will find choice sweet spirits that have/ have not reconciled empirical inquisitiveness and abstract thinking with their fair. Really ying yang here, because scientific thought and faith originate from and follow very different pathways– just like hipsters, finding harmony in contrasts rather than conformity. Also anthropology departments are typically flush with artists (often musicians), poets, writers, political activists, but most importantly unique characters whose joyful and somewhat troubling exploration and innermost contemplation of “what it means” will make for very interesting and epic thoughtful conversation.

      These departments are then the repository of students either shunned from, or dissatisfied with, other of the classic LDS disciplines (like Business Management, or pre-dent/med). Hipsters like yourself just find themselves in the back row of classes infested with very clean cut, conforming cookie cutter die-cu,t priesthood-blazing RMs and the ambitious YWs-graduated with honors medallion dangling, future bishop-seeking, sweet spirited (sweeter than candy stuck under an infant car seat), often blonde and delightsome, Sister Stepford Bride to be. That’s not you, so go Anthro.

      However if you have already graduated, register as a Democrat and skate to all the local events and meetings, enroll in yoga, attend a local Iron and Wine show, shop at a co-op, but most importantly be yourself and do what you love. Don’t worry about you age in LDS years, I didn’t get married until 30– you are still way too young to know what you want and she is too.

      • Jason

        Sorry, had auto-correct on I should have started this way:

        IF you are still in school, try trolling (that’s totally in jest) the waters of your local anthropology department. There you will find pierced and tattooed (or not) choice sweet spirits that have/ have not reconciled empirical inquisitiveness, skepticism, angst, and abstract thinking with their FAITH.

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