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Question

The Spirit confirmed that my first husband was the one I should marry but after almost two decades of marriage and multiple children, I left him and soon married someone else who was an inactive returned missionary. After we married, I had my membership and eventually my covenants restored and we have now been married for over 20 years. I love him and care about him, but I cannot say I am in love with him. I find myself missing the blessings we are being denied by his denial of the Christ and constantly ask myself, “Should I stay?” But then I remember the day I pleaded with my Father to help me get out of this situation and I was told unmistakably, “Why don’t you just love him unconditionally, like I do?” I’m still working on that. I often find myself wishing I were back with my children’s father, who has never remarried, nor left the Church, and to whom I am still sealed. My current husband and I have no children together and he has never been what I would call an ideal stepfather. Most of my children don’t really care for him but he’s a good man. Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer

You didn’t share any details about your first marriage, so I don’t know your reasons for leaving your first husband. Even though the Spirit told you to marry him, you felt strongly that leaving him was the best thing to do at the time. You now have regrets about that decision and you’re wondering what to do next. However, you’re getting answers again from the Spirit about what you should do in this marriage.

You have serious regrets about leaving your first husband. Only through the lens of mistakes and experiences can we really gain the wisdom needed to make the deeper changes necessary for true discipleship. You can’t go back to your first husband and expect everything to pick up where it left off. So, let’s turn to this marriage and see how you can turn this decision into an opportunity for growth.

Perhaps this second marriage is a second chance to learn from your mistakes in the first marriage. Again, I don’t know anything about your first husband, but was it difficult for you to love him unconditionally, as you’ve been invited to do with your second husband? I have to wonder what would happen if you allowed yourself to love him in this way.

Loving someone unconditionally doesn’t mean you don’t have needs or expectations. It doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they want and you have to be okay with it. It’s a change of heart that is based on faith in God’s ability to turn our sorrow into joy. It’s a willingness to put aside our small views and skewed biases in favor of a larger and more generous view of others. This is not something we can generate on our own. We need heaven’s help.

The Book of Mormon prophet, Moroni, taught us that this ability to see others this way is the pure love of Christ. He teaches that true charity—real love—“is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity.”[i] And, a modern-day apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, taught us how we can apply this gift of charity to our struggling marriages. He said:

“The prophets tell us that true love ‘beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things’ (1 Corinthians 13:7). Once again that is ultimately a description of Christ’s love—He is the great example of one who bore and believed and hoped and endured. We are invited to do the same in our courtship and in our marriage to the best of our ability. Bear up and be strong. Be hopeful and believing. Some things in life we have little or no control over. These have to be endured. Some disappointments have to be lived with in love and in marriage. These are not things anyone wants in life, but sometimes they come. And when they come, we have to bear them; we have to believe; we have to hope for an end to such sorrows and difficulty; we have to endure until things come right in the end.”[ii]

Your current husband may not be seeking Christ in his life, but there is nothing stopping you from pleading for Christ to fill you with his love for your husband. I have no idea if seeing your first husband this way would have made a difference in saving your marriage decades ago, but you’ve been told by the Spirit that it will make a difference now in this marriage.

Please don’t focus on what your husband should be working on in his personal relationship with the Savior. Instead, stay centered on the soul-stretching task at hand, which is to love an imperfect man you regret marrying. Even though I have a hunch this will improve your relationship with your husband, I’m absolutely certain it will improve your relationship with your Heavenly Father and Savior, which is the foundation of true peace and happiness.

You’ll be able to make better decisions about what you need from your husband, how to ask for it, and what you can offer him. As I’ve written in previous columns, we all actually marry the wrong person because no one is perfectly compatible in every way. I don’t want to minimize any serious struggles you might be having with your husband, but unless there are irredeemable patterns of abuse, addiction, affairs, or abandonment, I encourage you follow the promptings you have and stop looking back at your first marriage as an escape from your current pain and regrets. Turn to your husband and allow God to work through your heart to see what new view and perspective he can give you toward your husband.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

[i] Moroni 7:45

[ii] https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/jeffrey-r-holland_how-do-i-love-thee/