I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my entire life as I was adopted at birth into a Mormon family.
I grew up in Provo Utah and enjoyed being with friends doing activities like basketball, hiking, camping, rock climbing, going on dates, and getting in a little bit of trouble. And I did all of the normal Mormon young men things too… participated in scouts (no eagle though…oops), received the priesthood at the standard designated times, and I served a 2-year mission for the Mormon Church (as did all of my closest friends). I attended college at Brigham Young University in Provo, received a business degree, and got married at age 22. I completed a master’s degree at the University of Notre Dame, I have a CPA license, and I’ve worked in the corporate world for 20 years.
My first marriage felt very rocky from the beginning. I chalked it up to “the first year is hard” to “the first 3 years are the hardest” to “the first 15 years are the toughest and then it should get smoother.” At that time, I felt like I was trying to do all of the things in order to be considered a good Mormon man.
I accepted and honored church callings including multiple Young Men’s and Elders Quorum presidencies, Ward Mission Leader, Scout Master, Youth Sunday School Teacher, and Seminary Teacher. I felt like I had done a decent job of supporting my family’s physical/financial and spiritual needs. I prayed, read scriptures, listened to a lot of conference talks, attended the temple with decent regularity, and helped with numerous Elder’s Quorum moves. I participated in the normal Mormon family life things like dinners, clean up, baths, bedtime, house projects, trying to do date night, and taking family vacations.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made plenty of mistakes too like yelling at my kids and getting defensive toward my spouse. But overall, I thought I was doing a lot of the “right things,” but something always felt off in my marriage and in my life.
So what was my consistent answer to this…
I must be not doing enough of the right things, so I guess I just need to do more until it feels better. And then I can get the peace and happiness that the gospel is intended to bring. Right? Dead wrong.
In 2014, my marriage was heading toward the end. My then-spouse and I had done some couple’s counseling previously, but not consistently. I remember being resistant to it as I just felt like we should be better than that and shouldn’t need counseling if we could just keep the commandments more rigorously. I also didn’t want to feel the shame of thinking that I couldn’t figure this marriage stuff out. I also wasn’t too excited about paying, what seemed to me at the time, a high cost to do counseling. Reluctantly, I committed to participating in couples counseling consistently. As I went to counseling regularly I started to feel a shift within me and I felt a desire to really see myself and figure myself out. And after years of couples counseling, I found out that what was missing from my marriage and life was me.
I learned that I tend to close off and shut down when I’m upset, but I would put on a happy face and move forward as if everything is ok. I wouldn’t be open about how I felt about things because I didn’t want to create “unnecessary” problems for us. I didn’t want to be vulnerable or be seen for who I was for fear of being rejected. So I would hide, carefully cloaked behind a veil of righteousness and good works. This was the survival routine I practiced growing up, but one that did not serve me in my marriage or in my life.
I had some massive shifts in this process because I was focused on how I could change and how I wanted to show up differently. But my then-spouse seemed to stay stuck where she was because I believe she was focused on how I should change in order to meet her needs as opposed to how she needed to change. And this is when my first great awakening moment occurred…I didn’t want to stay in a relationship like this and I didn’t see it changing any time soon.
And then I had a 2nd great awakening moment. During couples counseling, we had agreed on a separation plan in order to try to “save” our marriage. The plan was intended to help us have some space from one another and then reconnect so that we saw more “positive moments,” which was not a bad plan. We had talked about the possibility of divorce in May and we began this separation agreement in June 2016. Given that I was the primary breadwinner and she managed the kids, the plan was that I would be gone from the house from 7 am until 9 pm each day except when I had the kids on the weekend. All of a sudden for the first time in 16 years, I had tons of time on my hands and only work responsibilities. And what I discovered was that my life sucked.
I didn’t have many (as in 0) close friends to hang out with. I wasn’t in very good physical shape. I didn’t really have any personal interests outside of being with my kids and doing my callings. I had dreams of having my own business, but hadn’t made much progress there. I quickly discovered that I had allowed myself to be caught in the routines of life and trying to fulfill other people’s needs without filling myself. I felt like a shell of a man offering a fraction of what I’m capable of to my family and to the world. I discovered that I can’t give away what I don’t have.
So what did I do?
For the first time in my life, I started asking myself “what do I want?”
I wanted to start hanging out with friends…so I did. I wanted to get in better shape…so I started lifting weights and learning about proper nutrition. I wanted whiter teeth, so I did that. I wanted some new clothes that I enjoyed wearing…so I asked a well-dressed friend where he shopped and then I got some. I wanted to play team sports…so I signed up for several of my company’s sports teams. I wanted to grow my business…so I did. I started to become more intentional about my life. And it was at this point that I decided that the marriage I was in would hold me back from truly leaning into the man that I wanted to become.
I was looking at the next 40-50 years of my life and I wanted to give me (and her) the chance to experience a better life. I really viewed this as a second chance, which, from my perspective, is in harmony with the teachings of Jesus (2nd chances and 3rd chances and 490th chance). So even though this choice meant losing so much (time with my kids, the certainty of what was, the identity of “having it all together”, the ability to serve in certain church callings, and financially) and was a very difficult choice to make, I knew it was the right choice for me and the best way for me to progress. I don’t think it should take a divorce to have a great awakening experience in a person’s life nor do I think divorce should be the first answer nor is it the right answer for everyone. But I felt like I was making that choice from a clean emotional space and was moving toward the life I wanted, not just running away from the one I didn’t want.
The divorce process was pretty rough and I feel like I made a lot of mistakes. Working with my ex-spouse on matters related to the kids seemed non-existent and I felt shut out of the kids’ lives. I was paying max child support and alimony on top of that, so my monthly budget was very tight (maybe $30/month to spare) even though I had a good income. I had very little in my bank account and I even asked close friends for some financial help, which they gave (God bless them).I also felt the scariness of getting back into the dating pool as a middle-aged person. I experienced the awkwardness of continuing to attend church even though I no longer fit into the “standard Mormon mold” of husband, wife, and kids. At times, I worried about the judgment of others with the potential stigma of being totally blamed for the divorce because I was the husband. And I even had my own crisis of faith where some of the long-standing beliefs I had were challenged.
But I was super committed to improving myself, staying connected to God, creating the life I wanted to live and finding the partner I wanted to be with. I worked on developing my mind and spirit by reading/listening to books, Conference talks, podcasts, YouTube (Tony Robbins, Wayne Dyer, Zig Ziglar, etc.), and receiving personal coaching.
Within 2 years of being divorced, I had lost 27 pounds and was in better shape than I was in my early 30s. I had purchased a beautiful little townhome in a good neighborhood. I had good friends.
I had great bonding experiences with my kids. I learned how to cook delicious healthy meals and found out that I had a talent for making food taste good. I sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of products through my business and learned so much. I increased my net worth by 600% (and had far more than I did prior to the divorce), I paid off my car in full, and I paid back my friends. I also got very specific about the person I wanted to be in a relationship with.
Through all of my experiences, those have only deepened my commitment to growth and learning to become the man I want to be.
I'm now living exactly where I want to be. I work diligently to connect with all of my kids and other family members. I have a great set of friends that I enjoy connecting with. I have multiple successful businesses that I enjoy and that have taught me so much and I'm excited about the future success of those. I continue to invest in myself by having my own coaches, reading books, meditating, attending courses, and listening to podcasts. And I am now living my dream of being a life coach and serving the LDS men's community, which is deeply meaningful to me.
I love my life (even those parts that I don’t like at times). And I love turning my dreams into reality and I want the same for you.