Nine Years of Steamy, Forbidden, Interfaith Love

Hard to believe that it was just over ten years ago that I attended the first ward event of the 2002-2003 school year for my Heritage Halls ward at Brigham Young University. I felt a pang of disappointment as I surveyed this year’s buffet of men. No, I didn’t believe I had any future with a Mormon man, but it was always fun to look, and this yearly crop wasn’t giving me much to look at. Finally my eyes rested on a stand-out in the crowd. He was tall and thin with pale blue eyes, a handsome face, and short, curly black hair. And he… Oh my gosh, is he looking at me?! Our eyes met. I quickly looked the other way and tried to pretend I hadn’t been checking him out. Well, at least there’s one guy in this ward who isn’t short and ugly, I thought.

Fourteen months later (hey, this was Utah) and we were saying “I do” at a small Pentecostal church in Provo. Nine years later and we’re still here.

Interfaith marriage is hard. I didn’t do an anniversary post last year, in part because we’d had a large religion-related fight in October that had put a chill on our relationship, and every time I sat down to try and write about our marriage, I got a knot in my throat and had to stop. It happens sometimes. There are times when I mourn the choice that I made and long to be united with someone who can really connect with me spiritually.

Parenting is hard. Parenting a disabled child is harder. My daughter goes to physical therapy tomorrow. On Monday she goes to Chicago to be evaluated for ADD/ADHD/Aspergers/Autism. In the next 6-8 weeks, she’ll have a fourth surgery, the second surgery on her cleft palate. So obsessed with producing perfect babies is our culture, it hurts so much when there is something “wrong” with your child. It hurts to be the only parent who has to accompany her daughter to Girl Scouts or other children’s programs because the leaders cannot handle her on her own, because she’s a “one-on-one.” It hurts when the parents of healthy children try to be empathetic, and you just want them to shut up because they really don’t get it.

Sometimes I look at my daughter and I ask myself, “Would you have avoided having her had you known there was going to be something wrong with her?” I don’t mean amniocentesis & abortion. I mean, if I could have been prescient before I ever conceived her, and chosen to avoid having her because of her health problems, would I have chosen not to have her? The answer is always, Not a chance. It doesn’t matter that there’s something wrong with her. It doesn’t matter that she isn’t perfect. She is wild-hearted and playful and she brings me love and happiness and joy, and what I have with her is worth the pain.

I feel the same way about my marriage. Yes, it’s irreparably flawed. Yes, it was a bad idea. But what we have together is worth the pain. In some ways, it’s fitting that we have the daughter we do. She is the perfect reflection of our most imperfect union. And in some ways, it reminds me of God, who must have known that there was going to be something deeply wrong with humankind, and yet chose to create us just the same.

The separation and near-divorce that I went through over eight years ago taught me a lot about my marriage. Idly do couples talk about how they need one another, how they cannot live without the other. Before Paul left me, I would have said the same. But after he left me, I learned something. I can live without him. I don’t need him. I know how to get out of this if I ever want to, and I know I’ll survive it. I stay with him because I choose to stay with him, because I want him in my life. To me, that is a greater compliment to him than feeling as though I have no choice in the matter, because I am a slave to my passion for him.

Back in August, in his attempts to trace the causes of my anxiety, my doctor asked me how my marriage was going. I didn’t have to think very hard about how to answer that question. “My marriage is like wine,” I said. “It just gets better with age.” And I meant it.

Happy anniversary, Paul. There’s no one else that I would rather be journeying through the rest of my life with.


Nine Years of Steamy, Forbidden, Interfaith Love — 5 Comments

  1. It floors me when people don’t understand why I would volunteer to be the one-on-one aid for an autistic & ADHD- diagnosed four-year-old in our ward. Don’t they realize how much his mother (whose husband does not attend) needs a little backup support and grown-up time? Thanks to my middle child’s early childhood challenges, I have just enough experience to know what to do to help for a few hours on Sunday. And I find him delightful, albeit very different from our usual cultural ideal. I am sure your daughter does the same for people willing and able to get to know her.

  2. I can understand that people seek to marry attractive people, but I’m trying to imagine the response a male blogger would get if they commented on how ugly the women were at their church. My guess is not good.

    Also you’ve commented in the past about how you didn’t date much because of being so tall and having most of the guys be shorter than you. While you are free to make your own criteria for dating and while you have a wonderful family as it is I do think you probably would have had a much easier time dating if you hadn’t stuck to the rule that you boyfriend had to be taller than you. Seems a bit superficial in a relationship.

  3. Jessica ~ I know you aren’t Sunday-sitting my kid, but on behalf of all the parents of kids with special needs, let me just say “thank you.” You get it. Please keep doing what you do.

    Hibernia ~ I can only speak for myself, but I would have absolutely no problem with a male blogger talking about how ugly the women at a particular church were. Especially if he was talking about an attitude that he’d had when he was much younger and more superficial.

    And yes, I was superficial about dating when I was younger—though for me to have had a preference for taller men is pretty unremarkable. It’s a normal tendency among women because it’s linked to social and evolutionary cues. Most shorter women prefer taller men, too, and a lot of them prefer men from the 6’0″+ range, even though they don’t need someone that tall to have a guy taller than them. Those preferences don’t magically go away just because a woman is tall. It’s young women who say that height is irrelevant to them that are the truly remarkable ones, and if you had that kind of maturity about dating when you were ages 16-21, then kudos to you. Most of us weren’t like that though (at least, it never seemed like it from talking with my friends).

    I don’t think it’s true that I didn’t date much. As I told The Daily Universe in 2003, in one particular semester, I’d been on more dates than any other woman in my apartment, almost always with taller men. What I seldom did was go on a second date with the same person, not because I was tall, but because I wasn’t LDS. Guys would basically test the waters to see if I had any interest in conversion, and back out when they saw that there wasn’t a chance.

    My priorities are completely different now, btw; I would totally date someone shorter than me now. I could even see myself falling for someone much shorter than me. I regret having turned down shorter men when I was younger.

  4. I am not sure your comment “Yes, it’s irreparably flawed” is correct. To be flawed, some standard must exist as a comparison, and I have yet to see a marriage that was not flawed. What you have is normal. If you did not disagree over religion it would be something else.

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