Utah is like no other state in the country. Not only does it have one-of-a-kind national parks like Zion, Bryce, Arches, and Canyonlands, some of the best skiing in the world, and a 30,000 acre patch of land made of salt, it is also the only state with over half of it’s population belonging to the Latter Day Saints faith. Even though some might call the LDS church a branch of Christianity, it is much different when looked at from a doctrinal and cultural viewpoint. For instance, Mormons believe in modern day prophecy and rely on one man (The Prophet) to receive revelation from God on how the Church should be conducted. It’s fair to say that this has caused some controversy over the years because some of the Prophets reports have come into conflict with equality for women, blacks, and the LGBT community.
Culturally, the LDS faith is also different because most Mormons here view active status as accepting added callings and duties on top of attending Sunday worship. Basically, whereas you could get away with being a cafeteria Catholic or an Easter Sunday Christian, you would stand out way more as a semi-active Mormon in Utah. Hell, they have people designated to show up to your house if you start to fall off!
I hope you enjoyed the quick lesson on Utah culture. Now, I’m going to tell you how this ties into relationship coaching. As you may have guessed, some people love the Church set up and some don’t. In fact, a Pew Research study found that 36% of Mormons left the faith in 2015! And, many folks are not going quietly. New support groups have popped up all over Utah to support ex-Mormons, curious Mormons, and interfaith couples.
This is where things get really interesting. More than half of the individuals and couples that my wife and I see fall into one of those three groups and many relationships struggle mightily under the pressure of a faith transition. After being told that your worldly life is just a quick precursor to what’s next and then having that whole idea disappear, many people fall into pits of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. Throw in a spouse who doesn’t share your views, several kids (Mormons have 60% more children than the rest of the U.S.), and a community that doesn’t support your departure and this creates a mountain of confusion, shame, and anger to sort through.
Where do we even start?!
Fortunately, I always start with the basics because relationship mastery builds on a foundation of presence, self-awareness, and openness. We all need to be able to handle ourselves before we can handle someone else and this is not taught in schools or church. I help couples get really honest about their biggest fears, stories, and patterns. The content of the conflict is usually not as important as it seems. What we are all really running away from is discomfort. Once a couple learns to handle each other and do conflict, the disagreements run smoother and more efficiently. If people do separate, it can be done consciously and with love.
In many cases with interfaith couples, there is no simple answer. Many couples split or stay in situations that are extremely difficult. It’s also common for both couples to leave the church but, highly unlikely that they both rejoin. No matter what each person decides, there is hope for the relationship. I view “Relationship” as a crucible for self-discovery so faith transition becomes the perfect catalyst for growth and development. Of course, that’s if you’re up for it…