I’ve at times posited to myself what I’d do if I had one moment to go back in time. Most times the overwhelming answer has been one that I’m not necessarily proud of. If I could turn back the clock, or visit myself as a 20-year-old bride to be… what are the words of wisdom that I’d speak? I can tell you that I would unequivocally tell myself to stop. I would plead and advocate for and hope that the younger, more naïve, more faithful and “innocent” version of me would open my eyes. I would hope that I could persuade myself not to be married in the temple, and not to be married to “the man of my dreams.”
I met my husband 14 years ago in the usual way, through a good friend of mine. We in no way “hit it off” but in the two weeks that we dated we both had unusual experiences that led us to believe we should be married. So many moments come flooding into my mind as I look back on my rash decision to marry this man I’d known barely 3 months. Somehow I felt Heavenly Father had made it clear to me that this was the man for me, so I moved forward with preparations boldly.
I imagine kneeling across the altar I remember that my fiancé couldn’t even look me in the eyes. Something kept him from seeing me, and to this day he doesn’t look me in the eyes with love and devotion. Love, interest, care, curiosity, desire…these were all looks I’d seen in the men that I had dated previously so I waited in earnest for them to show up on the face of my betrothed. He held my hand and I remember hearing the words “unto your husband” and being cut to the core. In that moment, my inequality was cemented physically, emotionally and spiritually. Mine was to be a fate of blind devotion to a man that neither heard nor saw me as an equal or a partner. My destiny would be one of servitude, pain, silence, sadness and second rate treatment. I don’t say these things to feel sorry for myself the way I once may have, I speak them from a place of a slow education; a tedious wisdom. They are a warning and hope for my progeny, all future generations, the young women I know and adore; and above all else my daughters.
Discovering that after all these years my “service,” my life has been given away is the cruelest and painful awakening I have ever experienced. My marriage to a man who is both a narcissist and a bully has given me the chance to grow and change in ways I would never have, that much is true. But having been put in a place of unquestionable servitude by the church that I love has been a crushing blow. The temple tells us we are priestesses unto our husbands, the church tells us that men are superior to women by virtue of their priesthood power, and in our very homes the man presides and is to be hearkened to above all else. Slowly I watched as my needs, desires, wants, talents, opinions and freedom were taken away in the slyest of ways. I never even saw it coming; in fact I was groomed for it and subsequently welcomed it with open arms. I gave up my education to support my husbands, I had children and worked through postpartum depression to “multiply and replenish the earth” and I gave up my voice of warning time and again to heed the words of my husband.
Fast forward 14 years and I’m a different person than I once was. Having worked through a series of consistent back to back addictions my husband has had, having lost more money through his “investments” than I care to admit, having been emotionally abused and blackmailed, having had any sense of boundaries violated on a near daily basis, struggling through major depression and anxiety that left me wondering if my heart would stop, being neglected and relegated to second rate housekeeper, being abandoned with my children to focus on “striking it rich”, being manipulated into staying because “ he was suicidal”, even having our puppy given away in a moment of rage; the list goes on and on. It’s taken me this long to realize that this isn’t what a marriage should look like, especially an “eternal one”. I’m done my friends. I’m done being told to take a back seat in my own life and let this man drive me into oblivion. I’m done with my bishop giving him a slap on the hand after years of pornography addiction and having him take the sacrament the next week. I’m done with having my recommend taken from me because my husband refused to pay tithing and he blamed me. I’m done with men excusing men and striking down women in the same breath for small and reasonable requests. I’m done crying at night as I ponder my own eternity married to a man that I’m meant to bear children for forever and ever. I’m done feeling like my femininity degrades the essence of my soul and relegates my worth to second rate. I’m done with my husband keeping his stake calling while working through a bankruptcy, sex addiction, separation, and emotional abuse that he lied to everyone about. I’m done asking for the truth and being placated with white-washed half truths and an empty smile. I’m done with my bishop counseling me to be forgiving of everything my husband has done to hurt me and his children and “move forward” without having a real change of heart. I’m sad and tired and don’t have anything left to give to this sham of a marriage, and I expect more from my religion. I’m making a stand for myself and for my children; I’m going to give them health in every capacity I can. I’m going to give them the opportunity and the freedom and strength to choose. I’m taking back my life while I still can. I’m going to use my mind, my heart and my passion for good. I’m going to be an example. I’m standing up for truth, transparency and authenticity. I won’t make the same mistakes my 20-year-old self did, and I sure as hell won’t let my children.