The next week was emotionally intense. Derek had a job working from home and every time our paths crossed each day, we’d have something to discuss. Derek would hug me at lunch and ask how I was doing. I’d ask him questions about his new beliefs and how he’d gotten there. I’d ask what morals he planned to live by and what our day-to-day life would look like. I asked about every aspect of the church doctrine and culture and to what extent he’d be participating in them with me and the boys. After the boys were in bed we’d stay up late and talk some more.
As I type this out, it seems like our conversations were neat and well thought out, but the actual experience was quite the opposite. It was messy and scattered because that’s how my thoughts and feelings were. I felt immense love for and from Derek. In the same moment I also felt anger for him and betrayed by him. I felt peace about the future but also gut-wrenching anxiety. I felt intimately connected to Derek and also incredibly distanced from him.
I visited with my bishop on Tuesday of that first week. He was very understanding and concerned. He gave me a priesthood blessing which helped give me direction and calm some of my fears. He came to our home to visit with both Derek and I. He stayed for two hours and conducted a kind of testimony inventory with Derek. It was hard for me to hear exactly where Derek was spiritually but important for us to have a mutual and clear understanding of where we were.
Friday evening, five days after first confiding his feelings to me, we had a family photo session with my parents, siblings and their families. I hadn’t talked to anyone besides the bishop about what we were going through and I didn’t want to create waves in front of the whole family so I didn’t say anything. It was so hard to stand there and smile with all of the turmoil that was inside of me. This picture of us is my favorite but it was one of the hardest to pose for. I felt such dissonance being this close to him yet feeling so distanced. It will always represent to me that pivotal moment in our marriage; that moment when everything could have fallen apart but instead we chose each other and chose to work through the hard together.
The next morning, I got up early to go to the temple. I found the peace and assurance again from the Lord I was seeking. Afterwards I called my mom and told her everything we’d been going through. As I shared my burden with her and other friends, I started to feel the weight of my troubles lift. I really believe in the power of compassion. We promise when we are baptized that we will “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” (Mosiah 18:8). I have felt the truth of that happen as I’ve been willing to share my burdens with those I trust and especially with the Lord.
Saturday night we treated ourselves to massages, dinner and a movie; basically a break from our emotionally charged week. The following day I fasted for strength to face the new “normal” as Derek chose to come to sacrament meeting to support his family and then go home. He asked to be relieved of his church duties in the Elder’s Quorum Presidency and just like that our whole way of worshiping changed. I had to face ward members who asked if Derek was home sick and even my own children who asked where their daddy was when we drove home without him. There were friends who fasted with me that day and I felt that strength. I continue to feel it today.
The rawness of the pain from that first week is gone. Sometimes I’ll encounter something that makes me remember my marriage is different than it once was and it can sting a little. Mostly, I’m grateful for the direction my marriage has gone and the lessons it’s afforded me; the empathy it’s given me and my increased capacity to love.