It’s been 8 years since my Mormon ex-husband’s sex scandal shook up my world and this blog. I’ve come a long way since I first wrote I love him. I hate him. (My husband’s in jail), and none of it has been easy. From the residual trauma of stalking to living with PTSD, it’s been a journey that required everything I had inside. But ultimately, this journey has brought me back to my center — to the me I was before I joined the Mormon church. As much as it surprises me to say it, I’ve realized that my Mormon ex-husband’s sex scandal saved me.
Why I Married My Mormon Ex-Husband Anyway
My marriage didn’t seem toxic until it exploded, but even before it began, I knew I was making a choice at odds with what I wanted. I’ve always been an intellectual with an old soul, but our conversations and relationship lacked substance.
I still remember the awkward day when one of the leader’s wives we both respected pulled me aside after we announced our engagement. She asked far more candidly than made me comfortable whether I was certain I wanted to marry him.
“You deserve to be equally yoked,” she told me.
Even then, mired in the depths of the Mormon church’s control, part of me recognized that she was right.
But I was aging out of Zion and overwhelmed by the most important commandments, the fulfillment of which I believed to be my only purpose — to marry and procreate. The men my age were increasingly already married, and time at a church school had painfully highlighted just how difficult it would be to find an active Mormon husband. The Church that had provided so much comfort and security became a source of anxiety as this pressure mounted.
And so, trusting the Mormon doctrine that it didn’t really matter who I married so long as they were an active Mormon, I settled.
Without the church, we never would have ended up together. What I found in him was just enough love and security to be comfortable. And even though I knew at my core I was unhappy and unfulfilled, that comfort made me deny my discontent, propelling me further and further into our relationship until it was forever.
We never had the deep meaningful conversations or connection I longed for. I just assumed him incapable of having them and chalked it up to one of the challenges I must have signed up for in the preexistence. Now, I don’t even know if he was actually incapable or just hiding his true depths — which is a much scarier alternative.
Comfort Made Me Conform
We weren’t disconnected, but we weren’t really in love either. We were fulfilling our obligations to God, the church, and each other. Or at least, we were trying and pretending to various degrees.
And then, seven months into our marriage, my beloved grandmother died. She was the inspiration of all of my actual faith, and yet Mormon doctrine said SHE needed ME to do work in the temple for her salvation.
Maybe the other way around, but if anyone is going straight to heaven, it’s Grandma.
Suddenly, I was forced to confront my beliefs for real. I could no longer hide behind the fluff of a false testimony, and my own lack of depth haunted me. On some level, I knew that I had been deceived and that the church wasn’t true as I finished my degree at BYU-I, but fear of losing my degree progress, my marriage, and my community kept those feelings deep in my subconscious.
It’s amazing how good I became at lying to myself. I told myself I was happy. I told myself I loved him. I told myself I believed. I told myself I could change the church from the inside even though the very idea that it needs changing shatters its premise of being the one true church in the first place.
In slow degrees, my own growing faith diverged with the Church’s teachings, and yet I denied these core beliefs in order to conform. I pretended I still believed in the temple and the gospel according to Joseph Smith, but I was working as hard to convince myself as I was to keep up appearances that I had no doubts.
Why Didn’t I Just Leave The Church Before My Mormon Ex-Husband’s Sex Scandal?
Because the church was my whole life. My identity was Mormon wife. My purpose and goal? Mormon mother.
It was more comfortable to let my brain be washed, my personality divided, and my true self banished from my soul than to admit the growing pit in my stomach begging me to wake up.
I would like to think that eventually, I would have woken up, but oh! the added pain and anguish it would have been to do so after having his children!
Sometimes I have to remind myself just how close I was to bearing his children into this toxic culture. We were in the midst of early-stage fertility treatments, and the only problem was that we needed to get my body to actually release an egg.
I remember bearing testimony that I knew God had a reason for why I hadn’t been able to have a baby. Now, I understand that that was the truest testimony I ever bore. I know my own weaknesses well enough to know that if I had indoctrinated my own children, the guilt and social/familial repercussions of leaving the church would have been too much for me to bear.
As much as I hate to admit it, I was just broken and comfortable enough that I probably would have accepted a life of mediocrity and control in the church forever rather than risk everything in leaving.
My Mormon Ex-Husband’s Sex Scandal Made Me Uncomfortable Enough To Grow
I was three days from what ended up being successful medically-induced ovulation when I got the late-night call from the police that changed everything.
He was supposed to come home after work for us to go bug bomb the fixer-upper we had just closed on.
Instead, he shattered our lives and our home.
His betrayal destroyed every bit of comfort and security I had — and then all that was left to do was grow.
It probably won’t surprise you that I didn’t realize my Mormon ex-husband’s sex scandal was a blessing at the time. I was catatonic in my grief and mortified when it hit the news. If you’d asked me then, I was pretty certain it was the worst thing that would ever happen to me.
The pain of his betrayal hurt like he had died. In some ways, in my mind, he had. I actually remember wishing he had died in an accident — like I had originally thought when the officer called so late. I also remember hating myself for the intrusive thoughts, but I couldn’t help going back to the idea that at least then, our love and life — shallow as they were — wouldn’t have been tainted.
I remember feeling like everything around me had crumbled away. I wondered what could possibly be left in this new world where he wasn’t what he’d seemed.
It wasn’t just losing him that led to my existential crisis. A much larger question loomed over my soul:
without him, what was left to tie me to the church I now doubted?
Nothing. In less than a year, I had made my way out of the church. It would have happened sooner, but I had an initial renewal of Mormon zealotry in the face of hardship. It was really just another attempt to find comfort in the chaos of life. But ultimately, there was little comfort left for me in the church.
The experiences I had through my Mormon ex-husband’s sex scandal only reinforced my growing understanding that the church was created by men to control people, and that its toxic doctrines and systematic closed culture lead to harm. Once he unburdened me from him, the Church had no hold on me. With the comfort gone and my discontent magnified, I was finally able to continue my personal progression.
My Mormon Ex-Husband’s Sex Scandal Saved Me
Sometimes I wonder if I ever would have left the church without his betrayal. I look at the alternate timeline of my life and shudder because I know just how close it came to being my reality.
Trauma’s impacts on the body, mind, and spirit are pervasive, and I’d never say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What doesn’t kill you hardens you; it breaks you; it makes you sick from the inside out. I definitely carry trauma from this experience, and working through that trauma’s aftermath has been a great challenge
I would still say that his scandal and arrest and my resulting divorce and exodus from the church were some of the most challenging things I’ve experienced in my life. I hate that he victimized women. His stalking since getting out of prison has made me a victim as well. But all of the trauma caused by his actions can never erase the fact that my Mormon ex-husband’s sex scandal saved me — from an empty marriage, from having his baby, and from the grips of the Mormon church.
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