When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Anonymous 4

The person who wrote this post is a very near and dear friend. It breaks my heart the things she has experienced in the last several months. What would you do if the person you fell in love with became someone else after getting married and left you one day? Read on to find out what she did.

#4627 Ally & Dan b&w

Hello! Ally asked me to write a blog post about some of the struggles that I have had during my marriage, and why I am currently grappling with the decision of whether or not to get divorced. I will frankly discuss verbal and emotional abuse/manipulation, as well as mental health, including suicidality and self-harm, which may be upsetting to some. I have decided to remain anonymous—first of all, because my story is ongoing, second of all, to protect my husband and me—some of the things I will discuss are sensitive, and I would prefer to keep them confidential at this time. However, if you or someone you know is going through something similar, and needs someone to talk to, please feel free to ask Ally for my contact information. I would also be willing to share my story in other ways, although I would still prefer to remain anonymous at this time. I sincerely would be happy to help however I can. Something I have learned in the midst of my trial is that support is absolutely crucial to being able to work through your thoughts and feelings and to see things clearly.

To explain how I got into this situation, I think it would be prudent to explain why I got married in the first place. When I first met my husband, the thing that stood out the most was how easy he was for me to talk to. While we were dating, he was attentive, charming, kind, compassionate, empathetic, honest, and charismatic. He was a true gentleman, and he was always going out of his way to make me feel special, and to show me respect. It seemed like so many things in both of our lives had lined up perfectly for us to meet each other. At one point, while we were dating, I unknowingly quoted part of his patriarchal blessing to him. It seemed like the stars were aligning. I usually take time to get to know someone, but I began to open up to him in ways that I hadn’t been able to open up to anyone before, and he listened with great care. I slowly began to fall in love with him.

I feel like it would be misleading to leave out a few parts of this love story. First of all, I have gone back many times and wondered if I made a mistake by dating him at all. I remember having an impression that I shouldn’t date him, very early in our courtship, and it troubled me a lot. I was afraid of diving into a relationship, and so I wondered if I was just letting my own fear and doubt cloud my judgment. On the other hand, I also really did want to date him, and so I worry that my own desires may have gotten in the way of real revelation. Truthfully, even now, I am not completely sure what is true. There is nothing I can do about it now but offer myself grace in knowing that I did the best that I could at the time and that I was truly trying to seek the will of the Lord, and do what is right. I discussed these thoughts with another friend of mine who was divorced, and I really appreciated his thoughts. He said, “I’m not so confident in my revelation receiving abilities as to think that I was for sure given confirmation that I should marry her (his ex-wife.) Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. I did the best I could at the time. I just know God doesn’t stop life from happening, so Christ makes up for it.”

There were some big concerns through our dating life. He had struggled heavily with pornography in the past (before we started dating) and had ongoing issues with masturbation because of it. He hadn’t served a mission or gone to the temple, and these issues made me the most unsure about continuing to court him. I had always strived to live the gospel, and I went on a mission and knew for sure that I would not settle for anything less than a temple marriage. I prayed a lot for discernment, and to know what to do, because this was obviously a major concern. However, he was incredibly honest about his struggles, and he was accountable to me, his bishop, and the Lord. He attended addiction recovery meetings diligently and taught the prospective elders class in his ward. As I watched, he made significant progress, turned his life around, and began to prepare himself to receive his endowment. He told me how happy he was, and I could see changes in his very core. I saw the Atonement at work. He received his endowment, was worthy of the temple and the Spirit, and his actions continued to demonstrate a deep commitment to me and the Lord. All of his actions all pointed to him being and continuing to become the kind of man I had always wanted to marry.

During this time, he had started to ask me about going ring shopping. We had introduced one another to our families, and our relationship was progressing. However, I was a little uncomfortable with how fast it seemed to be moving, and I kept putting off ring shopping, wanting to be sure that he could take me to the temple, and that he was the right man. I also wanted to make sure that the spiritual changes he was making were permanent, and that they were not just for me. He seemed frustrated by my uncertainty, and I began to feel a bit pressured to make a decision about whether or not I wanted him to propose. I continued to ask him to wait, as kindly as possible. However, I realized that our relationship was reaching a point where, if I wasn’t prepared to marry him, I needed to end it in order to be fair to us both.

I’d like to reiterate that he treated me very well—he was attentive and went out of his way to serve me and pursue me. He brought me flowers at work, took me on thoughtful dates, drove an extra 20 minutes to scrape the snow off my windows in the morning, and took care of me when I was sick. He was kind and caring. I feel like, because you, the reader, know that this isn’t going to end well, I feel obligated to share all of the challenges and concerns in our relationship. However, please don’t make any mistake that I was incredibly happy for the vast majority of the time that I was dating him, and early in our marriage—happier than I had ever been before in my life.

My then-boyfriend told me that he had received an answer in the temple that he should marry me. I was diligently seeking my own answer but didn’t get it as soon as he did. I wanted to, and continued to fast, pray, read the scriptures, go to the temple, and seek guidance from my bishop. Scriptures began jumping out to me—and over and over, the message was basically the same, “Don’t be afraid to do good.” I remember hearing something similar as I prayerfully went into General Conference in April of 2017, and I decided that I had my answer. Getting married was a good thing, right? I didn’t want to live in fear of doing something that seemed to promise so much happiness, and I felt like I was making a good choice.

Our dating and engagement lasted for a year and several months before were married in November of 2017. We honeymooned in Hawaii, which was pure bliss. We came home and quickly signed on a home that we had bought, and moved in. Immediately after, we hit the holidays hard—switching between families, and scrambling to make sure we had all of our last minute Christmas gifts ready. It was pretty chaotic and definitely stressful as newlyweds—still trying to figure out how to live together and adjust to all of the changes in our lives.

I also had started taking birth control shortly before our wedding. I was a little nervous about it, because I had never taken it before, and I did not know how it would affect me. I had struggled through periods of anxiety and depression prior to that, and I had even had suicidal thoughts in the past. However, they had never been severe enough to be debilitating, and I had always been able to manage it in silence. I had been honest with my husband about these tendencies prior to us getting married, and had even expressed that I was worried about how the birth control could potentially tap into those tendencies and make them worse.

Unfortunately, I was right. Birth control took my feelings and amplified them. I felt anxious and paranoid, and depression started to rear its nasty head. I began to experience regular suicidal thoughts. To make matters worse, our transition to marriage wasn’t going very smoothly. I come from a family where we are able to confront issues and deal with them directly, and my husband comes from a family that does not confront. It was a challenge for him and me to work through even the smallest of problems. I think that he had expected marriage to be much easier and smoother than it was proving to be, and I remember distinctly receiving a text from him that essentially told me that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to be married and that he felt like he was having a crisis of faith and identity. I was already an anxious mess, and this made all of the alarms in my head go haywire. I desperately wanted to fix things. I mentioned to my husband that I was worried that the birth control was affecting me negatively, but I felt pressured to continue to try it. To be clear, some of that pressure was from my husband, but a great deal of it was from myself—I figured that women take birth control all the time, we were going through a stressful time, things would get better, etc. I was terrified to admit that I might have a real problem, so I made every excuse I could think of to just try to “tough it out.”

January of 2018, I took a trip to go visit my mom and grandma. My husband stayed behind. He was acting strangely, and I remember feeling desperately anxious and worried, especially after his texts about a crisis of faith and identity. He was not communicating with me, which made me feel really insecure and scared—as it turned out, rightfully so. I remember calling him, angrily, and trying to explain how the lack of communication was making me feel. I tried to explain to him that I felt insecure and that not having open communication was amplifying the issues I was experiencing with anxiety and depression. I probably didn’t handle it the best, but I tried. That conversation was one of many that did not go well.

However, I was still completely shocked when I arrived home, and my husband of two months informed me that he had spent the weekend I was away contemplating divorce. Even though our marriage had been a little difficult from the start, I was still in the honeymoon phase, and still thought that he was also madly in love with me. I remember just collapsing into a heap and bawling my eyes out. I am not much of a crier (usually), but this just flayed me. Before we got married, he and I had discussed what things would be grounds for divorce, and we had agreed that it was not an option except for in very exceptional circumstances—and even then, that marriage was sacred and that we should try to make things work between us. Therefore, when he told me what he had been thinking, I was in absolute shock. I had just given this man everything, and he was rejecting it and rejecting me—like I was a donor’s kidney. He told me that he thought I was an abusive wife, and I was completely shocked by that, too. I dug through my mind and probed him for an explanation. I could admit that I had been less pleasant than usual, with all of the stress and the hormonal changes from the birth control—but abuse? This accusation also shook me to the core and made me question myself deeply. I didn’t understand how he could possibly think I was an abusive person, but I also worried that maybe I just didn’t see myself clearly. I was terrified of being that kind of person and resolved to figure out whether or not my behaviors really were abusive, and to try to fix them. I was also alarmed by the fact that he didn’t feel like he could confront me before his feelings had become so extreme.

I finally confessed to my husband that I didn’t think I could continue on the birth control, and described in detail some of the symptoms that it was giving me. He agreed, and we stopped using it, hoping that it would ease some of the burdens on our marriage. I accepted much more blame for our situation than I probably should have, but I genuinely wondered if it was my fault that he was considering leaving me. Was I really as broken as he was telling me? Was I really breaking him? I began to obsessively read every article about healthy marriages that I could get my hands on, desperate for answers.

Unfortunately, the security was taken out of our marriage for me. I kept trying to rebuild trust, but things kept happening that would break it again. After the initial shock of the divorce threat wore off, I became angry and resentful. I needed to talk through what had happened, to try to heal. I needed to express to my husband how much hurt and fear he had caused. I needed to understand his rationale, and why he hadn’t tried to talk frankly with me before making such a threat. I was trying to stand up for myself, because I had always been a relatively strong and independent woman, and I had enough self-confidence to realize that I couldn’t be the only one doing things wrong. However, every time that I began to talk about it, my husband would reply viciously, using cutting remarks to silence me. Looking back, I believe many of the things that he told me were verbally and emotionally abusive. I also felt like I was walking on eggshells, questioning many of my behaviors so that I couldn’t again be accused of abuse. My husband told me that the only reason he hadn’t left me was for my own sake and that he thought that I might be a good mother for his future children. Those words made me feel like he had dropped another bombshell on me because I felt so devalued and unloved. The bombshells just kept coming.

I can’t say that there was any one event that made our relationship cross the line from loving and respectful into what it became–it was so insidious that I hardly realized how bad things had gotten until I was eventually removed from the situation. However, there were some events that were noteworthy, so I will briefly mention those:

· My husband asked me to attend counseling with him after his first divorce threat in January. I was terrified and had never done counseling. I resisted it at first because of all of the stigma that I had associated with it—partially because of the way I was raised, and partially because of the culture in the church. I thought that for a marriage to require counseling, it must be on its last leg. I asked instead if we could try taking a healthy marriages class in the community, which I arranged for us. We took that, and it helped for a short time. However, when things still were rocky in April, we began regularly seeing a marriage counselor. While I do think that this helped, I also do not think that this particular counselor was the right fit for us and our marriage, and sometimes I would walk away from the sessions feeling more depressed and discouraged, and even more like everything was my fault.

· There were several nights that felt noteworthy to me because they were so heart-wrenching. I remember having an argument with my husband one night, and he rolled over and went to sleep, while I literally cried the entire night by myself. Every time he woke up, he would treat me with scorn and anger, and I felt so incredibly abandoned. I was so distraught by our argument, and he seemed so callous. My heart was broken. Please keep in mind that while I would consider myself to be an emotional person, I have never been much of a crier. I have always been somewhat stoic about my feelings, so I have to be hurting really badly to cry like that. I remember mechanically getting up and going into work the next morning, not having slept, eyes were swollen, desperate to not let anyone know that anything was wrong in my life. Little did I realize that this was the first night of many where I would have to do that. I would wait the next day for apologies that almost never came until I eventually would apologize, just to try to make peace, even though I usually wasn’t sure that I had done anything wrong.

· There were nights where I left the house and walked alone, in the dark, because I felt like I had no other choice. I was in so much pain that I felt like I would explode, and my house didn’t feel safe anymore, because the source of the pain was there. There were some nights I considered not going home at all and thought about where I might sleep. My husband later described these incidents to try to prove that I was mentally unstable.

· My husband has never been physically abusive to me, but there was one time that he came close, and that was a very sobering experience. We were talking about something trivial, and suddenly, he got irrationally angry. Alarmed, I asked him what was going on, and he asked if I would just leave him alone. This upset me, and I told him that I hadn’t done anything and didn’t understand why he was angry. I tried to ask him, and he slammed his hands down on the banister of our stairs, telling me that he was doing it to intentionally scare me into silence. It worked, and that was a wakeup call for me. He had crossed a line that he had never crossed before, and in my mind, it sort of clicked—his actions at that moment were to consciously use fear and manipulation to be domineering and control my actions. That was an alarming realization.

· My husband began to lie to me. I do not know to what extent, but I do remember catching him once. When I told him that it was unacceptable, he told me that it was my fault—if I were more trustworthy, he could have talked to me. He didn’t feel safe, because I was so critical of him. He made me feel guilty and responsible for his mistake. This blaming became an ongoing pattern.

Obviously, things were in a downward spiral, and getting worse. My husband, who had rarely exhibited anger towards me when we were dating, was now angry almost all of the time. Everything I said could cause him to lash out at me, and say things that cut me to the core. It was so inconsistent—sometimes he was the man I knew and loved, but most of the time he was scary. He knew exactly how to hurt me. I was extremely depressed, and despite the reprieve that getting off of the birth control gave me, I still experienced thoughts of self-harm and suicide, most days, and persistently. I would fanaticize about just not waking up, and being released from the situation I was in. I felt like I was just hurting my husband, who constantly told me how abusive, critical, unsupportive, and broken I was, despite tremendous effort on my part to be the best that I could be for him and our marriage. The harder I tried, the more I seemed to disgust him, and the more he seemed to despise me. He would hold things against me for weeks and months, resenting me, while I tried to figure out what was wrong. I thought it was all my fault because that is what he kept telling me. I thought that the world might be better off without me. I began to feel fairly certain that my husband would be happier if I was gone. I felt desperate all of the time—desperate to make him happy, desperate to overcome my own feelings, desperate to make things work, desperate to be a good member of the church. It was so consuming. It was destroying me. I felt like I had nowhere to turn—I didn’t want to talk to my family or friends, because I was trying to be loyal to my husband, and I didn’t want them to know how deeply we were struggling. Even heaven began to feel dark, as I became so engulfed in misery.

I will now discuss something that I am deeply ashamed of, and that I have not been able to admit to many people. At one point, I did act on an impulse to harm myself, creating a shallow cut in my hand with a pair of scissors. I was horrified by this and felt so much shame. I hadn’t really meant to hurt myself, and honestly didn’t think that I had it in me to do anything like that. I can’t explain what happened, other than that I was just hurting so badly, and I wanted my emotional pain to stop. I felt like I had no outlet for my emotional pain, and it felt good to focus on anything else—even physical pain. When I realized that I had actually cut myself, I immediately stopped, realizing what a bad place I must be in. I had crossed a line. My body is a temple, and in an effort to temporarily ease some of the emotional pain that I was feeling, I had defiled it. I called my husband over and over again until he answered, and, crying, I asked him if he thought I needed to go to the hospital. He answered with contempt and anger, and that amplified my fear of reaching out for help.

Supposedly, it was the self-harm that made my husband decide to abandon our marriage and to leave me. I guess it is time to move on to that part of the story.

In October of 2018, he and I went up to my parent’s house to watch General Conference. Supposedly, during that conference, he received an answer that he should move out of our house and ask me for a divorce. He did not tell me this until much later, but he began to make preparations to leave that very day, calling his parents and asking them to help him move out and to help him hire a divorce lawyer.

During this time, he did many things that deeply violated my trust. He staged a conversation with me, asking me loaded questions with his phone secretly recording the responses that he was trying to get me to say. He lied to me repeatedly—telling me that he was committed to our marriage, that he loved me, and that we were going to work things out. I even asked him directly at one point if he had been considering leaving, and he told me no. He told me he was going to talk to the bishop, and instead went and called my parents, telling them about my mental health issues (something I had not been ready to discuss with them,) and telling them about his plans to leave. There is much more that happened—he told me that everything that happened that week was a lie, staged so that I would not uncover the truth. He even took me to the place where he had proposed to me, the night before he left me. He sat there laughing and reminiscing with me, fully knowing that he was about to break my heart. His lies and manipulation during that time continue to haunt me deeply.

On October 12, he went home early from work. He told me he was meeting his dad to do some yard work at the house. Something didn’t quite add up, but I trusted him enough that I didn’t question his motives.

My parents were supposed to be with my extended family that day, and they had called to cancel plans. They were upset and told my grandparents and some of my extended family about my husband’s phone call to them. Because of that, I started getting strange texts. My grandparents texted me to tell me that they were there for me, and to keep my chin up. My cousin told me that she wanted to reach out to me because she heard that he was moving out. My heart stopped, but if I am completely honest, I didn’t believe her at first. I was that convinced that I would call him, and we would laugh about some misunderstanding later.

I went and called him, and he confirmed that he was leaving, but told me that ‘things weren’t over.’ I was in complete and utter shock. I left work in a panic, drove home, and found him and his dad sitting on our front porch, bags packed up in his car and his parent’s van. He had written me a letter, telling me that he was leaving and that he never planned on coming back. He told me our marriage was over and told me later that the only reason he didn’t have divorce papers in hand was that they couldn’t get them ready fast enough. My world was flipped upside down in a matter of minutes.

I begged him to reconsider, to try to work with me and to save our marriage. I asked him to pray, to go to the temple. I cried a lot. He listened for a while, but he ultimately left. I remember standing in our living room with my mom. The photo from our wedding had been stripped from the wall, and I wrung my hands and paced, scared to leave. What if he came back, and I wasn’t there?

The days and weeks that followed were absolute hell. Even though our marriage had been struggling, I was in complete shock. I missed him terribly. I couldn’t sleep at night, and if I did manage to doze off, I would wake up having a panic attack, reaching out for someone who wasn’t there. I didn’t want to eat, and I lost ten pounds in a matter of days and continued to lose weight over the coming weeks. I kept throwing up for no particular reason—my body was just under so much distress that I would get sick out of nowhere. I went to work because I had nowhere else to go, but I would not do anything productive—I would just go stare at a computer between episodes of running to the bathroom to cry. I tried to avoid our home at all costs because being alone there was almost unbearable—so I tried to only be there to sleep. I remember at one point trying to exercise and laying on the ground gasping for air, heart pounding, wondering if I was having a heart attack. I worried that it was a matter of time until I wound up in the hospital. Everything triggered memories of him, and they were all so incredibly emotionally painful. I kept stumbling across things he had forgotten or opened a drawer only to realize that his things were gone, all over again.

I was so unhealthy during this time that I decided I needed to be medicated. I went to see a psychiatrist, which was a humbling experience for me. He prescribed me anti-anxiety and depression medication, as well as sleep medicine. I had a hard time admitting I needed this help. However, I no longer feel any shame about it and have discussed it openly with many people. If anyone is on the fence or is scared about getting help or treatment for their mental health, please let me encourage you to not let stigma or pride keep you from really taking care of yourself. I do not know how long I will need to be medicated, but what I do know is that it has dramatically increased my quality of life right now.

My husband and I have been separated for about six and a half months at this point. It has been the most exhausting, emotionally draining, traumatic, and difficult experience of my life. Throughout this time, many things have happened. Since this is already pretty lengthy, I will try to summarize. My husband and I have had significant ups and downs—we have come very close to getting divorced. I have asked him to come home and try to work things out with me many times. He has asked for the divorce and then backed out of it. We have both undergone a lot of counseling. We both have gained a lot of perspective. To be honest, I have no idea what will happen. I think part of the reason Ally asked me to write this post is to share my experience through the eyes of someone who is still suffering through a difficult trial.

Everyone’s situation is different, but for me, right now, I have decided to give our marriage one more chance. I have no intention of tolerating abuse or allowing anything to drag me back to the depths of depression that I described earlier. I realize that this will take a lot of help. We will need ongoing help from our counselors, bishop, each other, and most importantly, the Savior, to have any chance of restoring our marriage and having it be healthy. There is a lot of damage that has been done.

I know some of you, at this point, are undoubtedly wondering why I stayed at all after my husband left me, or why I am not already divorced. From an outside perspective, it would be easy to ask, and I would probably be wondering the same thing. However, there are several factors that I think make a big difference. Again, this is just for me, personally—I cannot speak to the situation or choices of anyone else, and my heart sincerely goes out to anyone else who has had to endure something similar. I am also not advocating that anyone stay in a situation that is toxic or abusive—I have no intention of doing so, myself. Elder Holland said in a recent conference talk, “It is, however, important for some of you living in anguish to remember what He (Christ) did not say. He did not say, ‘You are not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you have had at the hand of another. Nor did He say, ‘In order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.’” I fully know and understand that a loving and merciful God does not expect us to be in a situation that destroys us. He loves us enough that he does not want us to be tormented, miserable, or abused.

However, I have had counselors, mental health professionals, and church leaders all tell me that it is possible for my husband and me to still have a happy and healthy marriage. I have tried my best to stay close to the Lord and to try to receive personal revelation throughout our separation and all of the trauma that it has brought with it. I have never felt at peace with a decision to move forward with the divorce. I am not completely sure why, but I believe that the Lord will let me know if and when the time is right to move forward.

One of my favorite quotes from Preach My Gospel says: “Satan is attacking the family on many fronts, and too many families are being destroyed by his efforts. The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that all individuals are part of God’s family and that families can be united now and in eternity…Through the light of the gospel, families can resolve misunderstandings, contentions, and challenges. Families torn by discord can be healed through repentance, forgiveness, and faith in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” What a hopeful message! I truly believe that my family could be healed if my husband and I are both willing to repent, forgive, and accept the Atonement in our lives and in our marriage. However, those blessings are conditional on our actions. I recognize that we BOTH have to choose that, and I cannot control the actions of my husband. I am also sure that it might be one of the most difficult things that either he or I will ever do—but I would like to have the opportunity to test this promise. I know that I have not done things perfectly, and there are many things I have learned throughout this trial. I have realized that, for me, I need to be able to have the closure of knowing I gave it my best. That way, if our marriage does end in divorce, I can hold my head high and know that I put my heart and soul into doing what I believed to be the right thing.

I also believe that my husband is a good man, in his core, and I still love him. I think that a great deal of what has happened was due to a lack of skills on one or both of our parts. The more he has begun to acknowledge and accept his role in what has happened, the more hopeful I am that we can find a way back to a happy and healthy place. I believe that he has struggled with his own mental health issues, and also has some issues from the way he was raised that have played into how things have gone in our marriage. Now that we both have learned lessons and skills, perhaps we can do better. I am not certain that it will work out, but I am certain that I do not want to live with regret.

I’d like to end with some lessons I have learned:

· It is okay to get help. Find support. Don’t try to go through hell alone. It is not worth it, and it is not necessary. You will be surprised by how many people understand what you are going through. I have been overwhelmed by the compassion and understanding of others, and I have also been overwhelmed by how many other people have suffered through tragedy that is similar to mine. Reach out, and you will be surprised who reaches back. God puts people into our lives who can help us, and when tragedy strikes, know that he has prepared a way for you to endure. It may not be what or who you expected, but there will be a way.

· I have several suggestions to anyone who is doing marriage counseling (or counseling of any kind)—first, find a person who makes you feel empowered, and preferably someone who shares your faith/values. Those things have made a tremendous difference for me. Second, be willing to be 100% honest with your counselor. If you don’t feel like you can be that vulnerable, you probably don’t have the right counselor, or you probably aren’t being completely honest with yourself. Finally, be patient with yourself. If you, like me, are hesitant to see a counselor at first, be honest about it. If that is where you are at, it is okay to own up to it. It is surprisingly common, and counselors are equipped to deal with those kinds of doubts and fears.

· Real, unconditional, Christlike love is respectful, forgiving, and kind. Unfortunately, humans are still trying to learn how to develop this kind of love. Be patient with them, and with yourself. Look to the Master Teacher for His example of love, and try to emulate it.

· At the same time, do your research and set healthy boundaries. I have delved a lot into research about narcissism, codependency, addiction, attachment style, love languages, and so forth. Arming myself with knowledge has helped me to understand both myself and my husband better. It has also helped me realize what things are and are not acceptable.

· I found a quote by Hank Smith that I really loved, regarding boundaries. He said, “Being Christlike means being tolerant and forgiving. However, Jesus had boundaries. When Nazareth tried to kill Him, He never returned. He told Peter when he had crossed a line. He called out leaders for hypocrisy. He refused to speak to Herrod. Clear boundaries are Christlike.” Again, our Savior and Heavenly Father expect us to be loving, and tolerant, and patient, but they do not expect us to allow other people to abuse us or to walk all over us. Taking care of yourself and standing up for yourself is not wrong. Being Christlike does not mean that we have to subject ourselves to abuse. There IS such a thing as being too self-sacrificing, too understanding, and too willing to overlook the mistakes of others. Be careful, because we each have the responsibility to protect and care for ourselves, and to stay true to ourselves and the things that we know are right.

· Remember that you deserve to be loved and to feel safe. Elder Holland once said, “In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, one who is constantly critical of you, one who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care, you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.”

· If you find yourself in a situation where this is not the case, like me, then get help. And, if necessary, get out. Life is tough enough.

· Give yourself grace. One of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou is “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I know I made mistakes, and I could spend all day delving into the “what ifs” and the “why me’s.” That is a dark, downward spiral that I have learned is better to avoid. I can offer myself grace knowing that I have done the best I can throughout this trial, and I have learned a lot. Now that I know better, I can continue to do better. However, there is no point on being hard on my past self, or dwelling on things that have been repented of and cannot be changed—it just damages future possibility. Be humble, but remember to be kind to yourself.

· Recognize what you can control, and do not accept responsibility for anything else. After my husband abandoned me, he told me that he believed I was too emotionally unstable for him to be honest with me. He also told me it was my fault that he had asked for a divorce. I believed him. It took me quite a while to reject the idea that it was my fault that he had left me, because it was something that he reinforced almost every time I talked to him, for a long time. I had become convinced that I was damaged, and that I was the entirety of the problem. I also had become co-dependent in our marriage, and I accepted far more blame than I should have. This is where an excellent counselor has been extremely valuable in helping me to see things clearly and to heal. Again, I would encourage anyone to seek this help.

· Don’t judge people. In the midst of this crisis, I have been on the receiving end of judgments that have felt unkind and unfair. I have been shunned by friends who I thought would be there for me. Many people have said and done things that have been very hurtful, whether intentionally or not. Many of them simply do not understand my situation. Please do not judge situations that you do not understand. I, in turn, have had to learn to be less judgmental of the people who have hurt me and to expand my willingness to forgive. It is easier to forgive others if you believe their intentions are good, even if their actions sometimes are not.

· Remember to look outside yourself and to count your blessings. Gordon B Hinkley said, “For many years there was a sign on the wall of a shoe repair shop I patronized. It read ‘I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.’” Sometimes, it can be incredibly difficult to look outside of ourselves in the midst of a bitter and painful trial, or when we are sad and depressed. However, the times that I have been able to do so have been very meaningful to me. I have developed a deeper empathy for those around me, and have realized that my trials are small compared to some—even though this has been an extraordinarily difficult one for me, personally. I also keep a running list of blessings and good things that happen to me each week. This helps me to see the hand of God in my life, and also helps me to try to stay positive.

· The Savior will be there, no matter what. One of my favorite scriptures is D&C 84:88. It says “And whoso receiveth you, there will I be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” I have seen this. There have been so many times throughout this trial where the right person has stepped into my path, or someone has sent me a message that helped, or someone has simply called at the right time. God is merciful. He is mindful of us, and He is there whether or not we feel or recognize His presence and love.

· Healing is always possible. Always. Elder Holland said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.” Find the courage to start over, if necessary. But know that you are never too far gone to come back and for the Savior’s Atonement to make you whole.

Thanks for taking the time to read this very lengthy post. Again, if you would like to reach out to me directly, please ask Ally for my contact information. Sending hope and love and encouragement to everyone who suffers in silence.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Jenny

Jenny and I have been following each other on social media for a while and she asked me if she could share her story. I seriously love when people ask to share their story! My goal has been to create a place for people to speak up about their trials and hardships without feeling guilty, like they failed, or weak. I love Jenny’s story and her beautiful testimony.
Jenny Jamison lives in Utah County and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. She loves music, the mountains, rainy days, autumn, cookie dough, and her dog Bridger. She is passionate about helping women understand their identity as daughters of God to help them avoid the pain found from searching for fulfillment, love, and acceptance from anything or anyone other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. It’s her belief that women feel joy, are confident, and can change their own life and the world when they know their innate divine worth.

Photo by Hashtag Fly.

I remember distinctly thinking, “How am I still breathing?” I didn’t understand how you could hurt so much emotionally and mentally and still be alive. I had just discovered my husband struggled with an addiction.

I had been in a battle with anxiety and depression for as long as I could remember. I already felt less than from the sexual abuse that happened to me when I was a teenager. I had been harboring pain my entire life because I desperately longed for more of an emotional connection with my father (who also struggles with mental illness). Overwhelmingly, I didn’t feel lovable, wanted, or enough at all. I never had. I didn’t know how much more could I take. The pain seemed unbearable.

I felt completely shattered and broken. Irreparable. I got to a point where I could only see darkness and pain in my past. I felt like all of my own regrets from sin, the heartbreak that had entered my life from the decisions of others, and the consequences of living in a fallen world completely overshadowed any moments of light and joy in my life. I remember just hating all the things that made up my life and I didn’t want any of the regret, the devastation, the sorrow.

I thought, “Maybe if I pray hard enough, I’ll wake up decades in the past, and I’ll redo life; I’ll avoid all pain and make no mistakes!” I even thought that maybe I would just forget all the pain over the years, and that forgetting was the only way to find peace and joy in life. In my darkest times, I remember wishing with all my heart that I could literally gather up all my broken pieces from my life and somehow throw them away forever and get rid of them for good. I wanted a miracle that could somehow change my past so that it never existed.

Over time, I started to realize that all of these wishes and hopes were the Adversary’s attempt to get me to avoid true healing found in the Atonement of Jesus Christ… but I didn’t want to turn to Him or to God; I didn’t want to accept that my past was what it was.

I already had been having a hard time turning to God for years because I didn’t trust Him. I was convinced for a long time that He was only there to correct me harshly, punish me, control me, and show me how much He was in charge of my life — that it didn’t matter what I wanted or what I felt, and that He would make all decisions. I remember avoiding the temple, prayer, scriptures, church — anything that would give me time to be still and quiet. I avoided it all in varying degrees for years because I didn’t want to give Him the chance to talk to me. I was certain all He had to say to me would cause me pain and even more sorrow — and I couldn’t take anymore.

Eventually, I separated from my husband right before the holidays. It was excruciating, but I knew it was the right thing for me to do. Being alone is something I have felt my entire life and it has always been difficult for me… but now living alone after being married seemed more than I could handle. I felt more alone than I ever had. I cried continually and uncontrollably every day for weeks. I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t do anything most days. Leaving the house felt impossible. I felt less important and more forgotten than I ever had. I knew that I was at my rock bottom. I had no one there 24/7 to help me, listen to me, and comfort me whenever I needed them — no one, except my Savior.

In all honesty, I think the major turning point was when I finally talked with complete honesty and vulnerability to God for the first time in years. And I was upset! I yelled and screamed so much I could hardly breathe. I told Him all of my pain and told Him how much I hurt and why. I asked, “When will this end?! Haven’t I had enough?! Why am I constantly left alone and hurting? How much can one person take? When will I finally have someone notice and care for me?” I sobbed and sobbed. And then, things started to change.

My understanding of having a broken heart and contrite spirit expanded. I used to think it was just a nice way to say “be humble”, but now I was beginning to understand on a deeper level because I definitely had a broken heart. Very slowly, timidly, and apprehensively, I started to give some of my broken pieces to the Savior. I needed to know He was safe. I needed to know He could be trusted. I felt so hurt by so many people in my life, and even by myself, that it was difficult to trust anyone. So I went at my pace.

I started to feel small amounts of joy. I started to feel the Spirit more and more. I started praying more often and sometimes would share personal things — going beyond the safe limits of just praying over my food and for safety. I started looking outside myself and serving others in small ways. I was testing the waters, and they were proving to be calm and still and safe. Eventually, I started going to the temple again. I was so afraid of going there — the one place on earth that is the epitome of peace. What would the Lord tell me there? How would I feel? I went in with total faith… and came out with complete relief, peace, and gratitude. And I kept going. And I haven’t stopped! I feel complete safety there. I know Heavenly Father is safe. I know He loves me. Each time I go to the temple, I feel extremely proud of myself and completely aware of the miracle that it is that I am even there by choice. After all I had been through I never thought I could find peace and joy there ever again.

For years I felt certain that Heavenly Father and the Savior had abandoned me. In some very dark times, I would yell and shout at Them about how I felt. I blamed Them. I didn’t want Them. But now I can see that They never left me — that was how much They loved me. I hadn’t turned to Them for years and I had even blamed Them… but They never left my side. They waited. Lovingly. And when I finally pleaded for help, They immediately came and showed me love and joy.

While I still am a work in progress and struggle with many things, I have learned a few things through all of this. I know that your brokenness can be made beautiful through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He truly can take our broken heart, if we offer it to Him, and make us strong in our weak places. He can enter us in our brokenness and show us what true love is. He can help us see ourselves as He does, and we can feel greater self-compassion. He can take away the sting of the past.

There are so many things that can leave us feeling broken in this life — even beyond repair. We will all experience sorrow and regret and heartbreak in this life. But God has more in store for us than that — He created us to feel joy! No matter what you have been through, or are going through now, know that it is not yours forever. Know that whatever has happened to you, is not who you are. You are more than the pain that comes to you in this life. You are a literal child of a living God. He is there for you — always. And He will wait for you and be ready to help you heal when you are ready, at whatever pace you can handle.

I am learning more and more that the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ is real and all-encompassing. It is the only way to healing, and it is the only way to peace. We don’t have to forget our pains, or try to avoid them our entire lives, to find peace — there is a better way, and it is found through the Prince of Peace. Turn to Him. I know that as you do, you will find peace and you will find healing. He is safe. He is loving. And He is there for you. Always.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Anonymous 2

Another anonymous post about addiction.
This writer is a twenty-something mom of 2. She loves being outside, going on adventures, cooking, and trying new things. She is all about being real. She works hard to be real and authentic, and she hopes, that by her doing so it will help others see that they can be too. Her story is not anywhere close to what she imagined it would be. She hopes that, someday, she can put her face on it, but for now, she has chosen to remain anonymous for the sake of her family. There are a lot of misconceptions about her family’s struggles. The only way that she can change that is by shedding light on it. So here she is shedding just a bit of light.
I am the wife of a recovering pornography addict. I hid, alone, carrying this pain in my heart for 3 years. Before we were married my husband and I had talked about pornography. He told me that it was a past issue and it was why he left on his mission later than most. He also told me that he had taken care of it. I believed him.I told him that as long as he was honest with me I was willing to work on anything with him. Throughout our first 3 years of marriage, I would occasionally find something he missed when trying to cover his tracks or he would even mention a random slip up. We would talk about it briefly and then move on. I thought I was being kind and supportive by withholding the pain I felt from him. I knew he hated this part of himself and I didn’t want to hurt him more than he already was. We thought we could handle these relapses on our own. It started happening more frequently and we ended up meeting with our Bishop in October of 2016. There we learned about the church’s addiction recovery program and a new, to our area, family support group. We both decided to attend our respective groups.

Part of my husband’s recovery work was to make a full inventory of all experiences with lust, pornography, and any sexual acting out. He shared this inventory with me, leaving out the explicit details, per my request. This revealed that he had been lying the whole time. Things were worse than he had led on and everything that I had previously known about was either lies, distortions, or half-truths. This day was one of the worst days of my life. His poor choices and deceit blew up our marriage’s foundation and left a gigantic pit. I curled up on the ground and cried for a week. It was unbearably painful to think that my temple marriage was fraudulent, my covenants were obsolete, that my 1st daughters baby blessing was invalid and any other blessings my husband had given were void. He had never been in recovery like he claimed. Our whole relationship had been poisoned with lust, objectification, deceit, and shame. After that, I became consumed by my own shame. “How could I not see this? How could I be so foolish?” I’m not enough for my husband, I became increasingly self-conscious about my post-baby body, I had past experience with an eating disorder and this triggered those feelings and urges again. It was shame city and nothing good comes out of shame. (Shame… I could go on and on about shame/shame culture… Real life-changing truths there… Brene Brown is an expert on shame. Look her up!)

The aftermath of this event left me with something called Betrayal Trauma. (Finally having a name for what I was experiencing was SO validating!) It mirrors many symptoms of PTSD. I experienced triggers regularly. I.E. Walking through the mall, my husband’s new female coworkers, when he is running late without communicating, when we are separated for a trip, the beach, watching TV, something he says, or even just sitting on the couch. In the beginning, I was triggered multiple times a day; each time sending me right back to that soul-crushing day he finally disclosed everything. I quickly found myself in a crazy panic. I wanted to track everything, go through every history log, get rid of every piece of technology we owned, and somehow lock him away from the world. This would remove all access to pornography and our problems would be solved. Then I would snap out of it and feel crazy for feeling crazy. It’s not rational but it is normal to experience those feelings of betrayal trauma. (This is all about to controlling things so you can feel safe again.)

I had tried for years to figure out how I could fix my relationship with my husband. I believed that it was my fault that we had issues; he let me feel that way, and would sometimes shift the blame to me just to protect his addiction. The truth is I couldn’t fix it, I didn’t know the real problem then. Pornography changes the way that you connect with other people. My husband didn’t have the ability to connect with me in the way that is needed for a healthy marriage. He needed to rewire his brain to see souls with bodies instead of just seeing bodies. Repairing our relationship requires both of us to first heal ourselves and then work together to fill in the pit. So the last year and a half has been spent focusing on myself. I am also a mom so that added to the challenge but putting my own healing at the top of my priority list was the best thing I could have done for my family and myself. It also meant letting go of my husband’s recovery. I know what he is like, and how he treats me, when he is in real recovery and when he is not. That is the only thing I (should) pay attention to recovery wise. I cannot tell him how to recover or control if he even chooses recovery. I can only choose what I do. So I choose me, I choose to find peace and healing regardless of what my hubby chooses. Because I am enough, I am worth it, and it is what Heavenly Father wants for me.

It has been a year since that pit of despair ripped open and while we have a lot of work left to do, I can see a purpose in my pain now. In fact, I have reached a place where I can be grateful, not for the trial itself, but for the lessons I have learned through this trial. I am more empathic than before. I have a clearer view of the plan of salvation. I have more compassion for others and myself. I expect and demand the respect that Heavenly Father wants me to have. My priorities are more in order. I can extend charity to my husband in a more Christ-like and genuine way. I understand now that Christ-like doesn’t mean “without conflict.” I know there is a difference between forgiveness and trust. I am able to put my self out there and be seen for who I really am. The things I have learned have touched every aspect of my life. The whole horrible truth had to come out so that I could really heal and so that our relationship can, someday, be repaired. My triggers days are farther apart now. When I am triggered I know what to do and I can stop them before the urge to control everything takes over. Don’t get me wrong, it is still very much a rollercoaster of emotions the pain is still there but it eases with time and recovery work. The trust will take years to rebuild the sadness of that can be overwhelming but now I know where to go with those feelings, I have a support system, I communicate with them and my husband. Instead of vigilantly patrolling my husband, I vigilantly work on my own healing and helping others heal. The darkest days I thought would consume me have passed. I can see the beautiful light starting to shine through, and I know with time, commitment, and most of all the atonement, the light can fully illuminate the darkness.

To those who are hiding or living this struggle: There is hope. You are not alone. The pain and fear you feel are real and valid. It is NEVER your fault. Please know that this is not just the addict’s story, but also your own. You have the right to share your story and to change it’s ending. I encourage you to reach up and reach out. Up to God, and out to your bishop, a local/online support group, or a trusted friend. Know that not everyone knows how to respond to these situations. My prayers are with you. You deserve help. You deserve healing.

To everyone else: Don’t judge and think before you offer advice. Spouses and addicts are still children of God and are worthy of love. My husband a good person with very, very, poor coping mechanisms, as it is with many other addicts. That can be changed. Let them change.

These are some resources that continue to significantly help my husband and me on our recovery:





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When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Anonymous

This is my first anonymous post, and you will see why as you read. I highly respect this person for being brave enough to share her struggle and for protecting her ex-husband’s identity. I am grateful for her example and faith in overcoming her ex-husband’s addictions and affairs.
I chose to write this post anonymously to respect the privacy of others involved. I’m not here to throw anyone under the bus, I’m just sharing my experience and things I have learned. So, no bio or picture for this post, but hopefully a post that will help someone feel like they aren’t alone if they’re experiencing something similar. Although, I would be thrilled if everyone who read this couldn’t relate at all! Unfortunately, I’ve learned my experience isn’t all that uncommon and happens way more than we realize when we are experiencing it and feel so alone. I’ll also make a disclaimer that I know this is something men and women both struggle with, this post is just written from a wife’s perspective.

I think it’s easy for many people to say they would never stay married to someone with a pornography addiction. It’s easy to say they would never stay with someone if they had an affair. I was one of those people who “would never stay in a marriage if my husband had a pornography addiction or had an affair.” That is, until I was faced with that reality. And while in some cases a spouse may run for the hills immediately, that certainly isn’t the case for everyone. It’s one of those things you don’t really know how you’ll handle it unless you experience it for yourself.

I hadn’t been married long when I was home alone one night while my husband was at work and I had a feeling to check his internet history. I pushed that feeling aside, but when the prompting returned, I acted. I felt guilty for snooping because there hadn’t been any major signs of concern up to that point and I felt bad for obviously not trusting my husband completely, the way I thought I should. But it was then that my eyes began to be opened to a can of worms I hadn’t known anything about.

I found fake e-mail accounts, dating website accounts, searches for sexual encounters, and plenty of inappropriate images that are unfairly engraved into my memory. I remember immediately thinking there must be an explanation; someone must have gotten a hold of his computer! Deep down I knew better, but the denial ran deep and I didn’t want to believe the heartbreaking truth.

I’ll spare every tiny detail, but I confronted my husband and he admitted to just enough to make me feel like I knew everything. However, for the next few days we became more distant and in my gut I knew there was more. I was right; soon he admitted he had had a couple affairs and a couple other sexual encounters.

We separated immediately. I was one of those that said I would never put up with that. But when it fell into my lap, I knew I needed to feel like I gave my marriage 100% before calling it quits. This was someone I loved and it wasn’t as easy to give up on our marriage as I would have thought it would be after being so hurt. We were also sealed in the temple and I had made covenants and wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing… but knowing what the right thing was was going to take a lot of time, effort, and patience.

We went to counseling that focused on sexual addiction and met with our bishop often. After quite some time of trying to make things work, I learned that he was still on dating websites contacting women, creating different types of fake accounts that involved pornography, and that an additional affair had happened before we got married. At this point I finally felt like I had done everything I needed to do to feel like I could walk away from my marriage and be happy. He hadn’t been worthy to marry me in the temple and everything that ever appeared good in our marriage suddenly seemed like a big lie. I knew I would be happier alone than to stay in the unhealthy marriage I was in, and we were divorced shortly after. I knew it was the right thing when I felt total peace with the decision, when I had felt so much confusion before.

This experience taught me a lot about myself. It strengthened my testimony as I relied heavily on prayer, reading my scriptures, and visiting the temple. I learned how to trust my own judgment. Before I knew about his addiction, there were things that were red flags that I didn’t see as red flags. The way he would get offended so easily, or the way he would turn every concern I had back on me like it was my problem – like that one time I thought it was weird he had been messaging an old girl friend from high school about going to lunch sometime. Not a double date, but one on one lunch. He made me feel crazy for thinking this was not okay, and I ended up apologizing for “overreacting.” I wouldn’t have known these were red flags for an addiction until I learned about it more through counseling and there were other wives that explained similar situations. I have since learned to stand up for myself. I learned that Heavenly Father gives us trials and experiences to help us learn and grow in wonderful ways. I am a better wife, a better mom, a more understanding friend, and a less judgmental individual because of my experience. I’m not perfect, but I’m grateful I was able to change for the better in a variety of ways because of this trial.

I also learned that good people struggle. I know several people who have this addiction that I think very highly of. They have happy marriages because they want their marriages to last and they want to avoid pornography. A pornography addiction doesn’t make someone a bad or “creepy” person. It’s a true struggle and my heart aches for those who struggle with it, especially those who wish they didn’t. I learned that the pornography addiction had nothing to do with me. I think it’s easy for a wife to feel like she must be doing something wrong. I felt like if I looked better, or kept the house clean, or cooked dinner more often, that the addiction would disappear. But often, pornography addictions stem back from a long time ago, long before a wife enters the picture. I learned that it’s much more common than I knew. I was so embarrassed and wanted to keep his addiction a secret, but as soon as our families and some friends knew, we were surprised at how loving and kind people were. As soon as I felt like I had people to talk to and it wasn’t a huge secret in our marriage, a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders and it felt good to have support from people I love.

Above all, I learned that the Atonement is real. It helped me to forgive and it healed my broken heart. It isn’t just for those who struggle with addictions, like pornography. It’s for spouses that are hurt by this addiction as well. I believe I would be bitter and resentful of a lot of things if I hadn’t had the Atonement to help me forgive, find peace, and see the blessings in disguise.

While my marriage ended because of this addiction, I’m confident that many marriages don’t need to. If both spouses are open and honest about their triggers and feelings and they really want their marriage to last, their marriage will last. Secrets grow and addictions can become harder to control. Satan knows this is a powerful tool to ruin marriages, so he wants us to believe that no one will love or support us if they know we or our spouse struggle with this. He wants wives to feel like they aren’t enough. However, I promise you that you do deserve better – whether that is leaving an unhealthy marriage, or staying in one where you set boundaries, don’t enable the addictive behaviors, and work on things together.

To anyone feeling like they are alone in a similar experience – you are not alone. Heavenly Father is aware of you and is allowing you to experience this to help you grow in wonderful ways. You are so loved. I know it’s not easy, but you are never alone and Heavenly Father can help you navigate this trial if you turn to Him and do your part.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned: Karlee

Karlee and I played soccer together growing up. She was always very kind and I am grateful she was willing to write about her divorce. I haven’t experienced divorce for myself, but I FEEL that these people are too often judged too quickly, or assumptions are made when they shouldn’t be. I hope this can help us be slow to judgment and quick to show forth love.

Karlee and her husband have been married for about 3.5 years. They have a two-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter that bring them more joy than anything. They are a Utah Utes loving family and love going to the football games together. She enjoys diet coke, sushi, naps, and warm weather.

Photo by Alicia Bass

I remember, as a teenager, making a list of qualities I wanted in my future husband. I wanted him to be respectful, kind, have a sense of humor, have a strong testimony, take me to the temple, among many other qualities on a long list. I had high expectations for my future husband! But the truth is, I doubted I would ever find someone who met my expectations who could ever truly love me completely. I was insecure and didn’t see my worth. I hoped I would find a good man to marry someday, but didn’t really see that happening for me. This caused me to base a lot of my thoughts about myself on the way guys treated me. If I wasn’t getting asked on dates, I filled my mind with lies about myself; I must not be pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, and so on.

After graduating high school, I moved to St. George to attend what was then Dixie State College. I had recently updated my “future husband list” and had it hanging in my room as a reminder of the type of guy I wanted to date and the type of guy I hoped would want to date me. I didn’t date much my first semester there, but at the end of that first semester I reconnected with and began dating an acquaintance from high school.

This acquaintance and I had one class together when I was a sophomore and he was a senior in high school. The extent of our friendship at the time was being friends in class, me attending his mission farewell, and writing back and forth a little bit while he was on his mission. He was always the funny, outgoing guy. He was well known, a student body officer, he was smart, and he was intriguing to me. When he got home from his mission he showed interest in me, and I thrived on the positive attention he gave me. On paper, everything seemed perfect. He checked off many, if not all, of the qualities I had listed and hanging in my room. We were married just shy of a year later.

At first, I thought we had a good marriage. In hindsight, I can see how immature our marriage was (on both ends) and how many red flags I pretended not to see. It wasn’t until one night when we had been married for just over a year that the spirit led me to find things that were happening that I hadn’t been aware of that was very damaging to my self-esteem and to our marriage. For the next year, we met with our bishop and attended counseling weekly, trying to save our marriage. For a long time, I struggled to know if I should stay married. We had made covenants in the temple and I didn’t think Heavenly Father would let me feel like divorce was the right thing for us. Eventually, though, more things came to light that made reconciliation nearly impossible. It was then that I finally got my answer, and we both agreed that we needed to get divorced.

There were times I struggled with understanding why Heavenly Father let me feel like getting married was the right decision in the first place, or why it took as long as it did to get the answer to get divorced if that’s what was meant to happen anyway. There were times I felt so alone. I was so young, many of my friends hadn’t even gotten married yet, and here I was, married AND divorced. I found comfort in praying, surrounding myself with loving, nonjudgmental friends, and attending the temple. It didn’t come immediately, but soon I realized that I was never alone. Heavenly Father had been with me throughout this whole experience. He knew I had a lot to learn, especially about myself.

This experience, although so challenging at the time, has become a huge blessing in my life in so many ways. I learned that if I was single forever, I would be ok. I could choose to be happy regardless of my situation. I learned that good people struggle with addictions or other hardships and it’s what they do with their experiences that really matter. I became less judgmental of those who struggle with addictions. I got a glimpse of myself as a wife. I was able to make changes I wanted to make in myself, but also realize I was a good wife that gave my marriage 100%. I gained a stronger testimony of, specifically, the Holy Ghost, prayer, and the Atonement. I realized the Atonement isn’t just for those who sin, it’s there for everyone who experiences sadness, pain, or any affliction. It ironically made me realize what I deserved. I became less critical of myself, which is a huge blessing in itself. I learned to trust in Heavenly Father’s timing. He had a plan for me, and this was all part of His plan.

When I moved home from where we had been living, I needed to find a new job. It was at that job that I met a girl who is now my sister-in-law. She eventually lined me up with her brother, Sam, who is now my husband. This was another blessing in disguise. Sam was different in many ways in the most refreshing way. He is quiet and reserved. He’s an avid sports fan and he especially loves his Utah Utes. He never, not even once, judged me for my situation. He is a wonderful dad to our two beautiful children. His testimony strengthens mine. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but it’s a happy, healthy marriage. When I look at my little family, I thank Heavenly Father for blessing me with that trial. It led me to something so, so good. He lovingly allowed me to experience something so hard, something I never would have chosen to experience, to help me grow in personal and spiritual ways that I am forever grateful for.