In my work as a coach for Mormons in mixed faith marriages I am doing a multi part series on teaching kids in a mixed faith marriage. This is a topic that causes a lot of contention, uncertainty and stress.
The issue I want to tackle here is – how to deal with your spouse teaching or talking about things that you do not agree with. This usually comes up in the context of teaching about gospel topics such as the law of chastity, modesty, priesthood, leadership, authority, obedience, one true church, history (really I could go on and on). I have also seen it arise over whether one spouse wants a child to participate at all in church activities or in a youth program.
Full confession, this happens a lot in our house.
My husband has different political, social and religious views than me so this comes up in many fronts.
I realized recently that one thing that tends to get me acting defensive, attacking or even just feeling annoyed is when I think my husband is confusing the kids. Which is the same as saying I don’t like how he is teaching them or talking about issues (church or otherwise). I find I try to jump in right then and there and counter whatever he is saying. This is often perceived as rude (maybe because it is) and often derails the conversation and leaves our kids feeling like they have to take sides.
So when I find myself in that space where I wish he would just shut up or I am tempted to start pontificating – Here is what I do instead. I have to have a little conversation with myself that goes something like this.
You are annoyed because you think he is going to confuse the kids. Or you think they are going to one day disagree with your choice to step away from church. Or you think that they will walk the same path of frustration and conforming you did and unnecessarily. Or maybe you are afraid you might be wrong here and they will be confused or make choices that may be challenging for them and you.
Take a deep breath. He is their father and gets to teach his kids what ever he wants. I get to teach them what ever I want too. But right now its his teaching/interacting time and not mine. I have plenty of opportunities to interact and share my ideas and opinions.
I wouldn’t want him to counter everything I say to them and I can give him that same gift. Even if he does counter what I say, that is not how I want to show up in this marriage and in this family. I do not want to create a him versus me dynamic here. The kids are not choosing his philosophy or mine, they are choosing their own.
I want my kids to have lots of view points presented to them and that is exactly what is going on now. I want them to think and make their own decisions and they can’t do that without understanding and hearing several viewpoints.
This type of conversation helps me calm down and often prevents me from sabotaging an otherwise enjoyable evening with my family.
Let me point out the key aspects of my little chat with myself:
We both get to teach whatever we want to the kids. We are both adults who have that autonomy. I do not want mine hedged and I don’t want to hedge him.
Kids are smart and they get to make their own decisions anyway (just like I did).
I get honest with my self and ask, “How do I want to show up in this marriage?” Its not as someone who is petty or tit for tat, I want to be supportive and generous. I would rather be happy than right in this regard.
I find when I can approach issues like this, then a lot of the details work themselves out. Solutions present themselves where we couldn’t see them before. When I don’t sabotage my husband’s interactions with the kids then there is more respect and kindness in my marriage. I feel better, so I act better.
Do you need help balancing your beliefs with your spouse’s in your mixed faith marriage? You need a coach.
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Brooke Booth, JD
Certified Life Coach