Tag: Marriage

A not at all controversial rant about a totally bland topic…

Whew, okay. It’s been a while since my last religious hot take, but an article is making the rounds this week in the Mormon world and I have way too many thoughts about it to just add it to the next Weekend Links roundup. And since I’m trying to post more often, let’s have a very cool and calm discussion about a not-at-all-controversial topic: mormonism and polyamory. 

This is the article in question. And honestly? It irritates me. Admittedly I’m not an unbiased observer, but it lacks a self-awareness that I’ve spent entirely too much time thinking about.

Why, you ask? Let’s set some priors. I’m personally monogamous and have no interest in polyamory…but I am formerly Mormon, and Mormonism has a sticky, complicated history with “alternative” marriage structures. We’re kinda famous for it. In the nineteenth century we fled the then-borders of the United States in order to practice polygamy openly, fought a small “war” over it when the federal government tried to exert control over the territory, and only gave it up when it became a bar to statehood – and even then an awful lot of people kept up the practice on the sly, often with fairly senior leadership being party to it. Most of the more fringe LDS splinter movement (such as the FLDS group last headed by the horrific Warren Jeffs) broke away from the main church at this point because to them abandoning “the principle,” as they call it, was heretical beyond belief and they refused to do it.

Polygamy’s long shadow still informs politics in Utah, is still cited in changes to church policy (the infamous change which required the child of gay parents to “reject” their parents lifestyle before being able to be baptized in the church is based on an identical procedure for the children of polygamist parents), and I would argue still colors the patriarchal culture of the church from top to bottom. Sidenote, let me point you to the excellent public history podcast project, The Year of Polygamy which explores this topic from every possible angle.

Also, let’s be clear, while the church may have “banned” the practice in the late nineteenth century (and really only enforced it from the early 20th), it is still uncomfortably present in Mormon theology. And sorry, anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous.

This all comes down to the Mormon view of marriage which includes a legal aspect and a spiritual one. It’s where these do and don’t overlap that things get complicated.

Let’s explain by an example: the current president of the church is currently married to his second wife after his first wife’s death left him widowed. Lovely and so far so normal, right? But according to Mormon theology, he will be married to both of them in the afterlife because he has been “sealed” to them in a Mormon temple ceremony which is considered the most sacred ordinance in the faith.

Oh. Okay, let’s dive into the details.

Men can be “sealed” to multiple women, but women can only be “sealed” to one husband. This has to do with the gendered and patriarchal structure of the church and is also a heritage of patriarchal polygamy where a man could have multiple living wives at the same time. But that was in the 19th century, right?

Well…that depends on a few other factors too.

Now if you happen to be legally divorced, your “sealing” isn’t automatically cancelled. You have to seek the church’s permission, much as you’d have to do with annulling a marriage in the Catholic tradition, and this was historically discouraged because of the value Mormonism places on a sealing. It is considered a binding oath and the glue that keeps a family together in the hereafter. Also, you can’t get into the highest levels of heaven without it. So if your temporal marriage breaks up, the church’s position was to keep the sealing intact to avoid allowing you to be doomed to a less exalted fate.

So to a believer…you’re still married to that person and can look forward to an afterlife with them, regardless of what caused your marriage to end in the here and now. I can personally name a half dozen women I’ve known for whom this meant a huge amount of heartache because to them because they were “sealed” to abusive partners and were afraid of being trapped with them forever.

And what if you want to get remarried? Well, then you’ll have an easier time petitioning the church to void your first sealing so you can immediately jump into a new one. IF YOU’RE A WOMAN. A man doesn’t need to have his first sealing cancelled and can be remarried and sealed to a new spouse without admin headaches. In other words, he technically can be sealed to multiple, living women at the same time, which I would argue is kinda…polygamous.

And finally, if you’re widowed and remarried there’s not a lot of info about what your afterlife with plural wives (or what your life AS a plural wife) is going to look like. I know I’m writing anecdotally, but again I know a lot of women for whom this causes fear and pain, and both men and women for whom it’s a stressful and confusing topic. What if you’re a believer married to a non-believer and therefore unable to be sealed, does that mean you’ll be separated from your partner in the hereafter? What if you’re a second spouse and think you’re going to spend eternity in a polygamous family after being taught that monogamy is the only acceptable relationship your whole life? What if you’re a widowed man, delighted to find love after loss but don’t want to be sealed to your second wife out of respect for your first, are you condemning this woman to a lonely, subpar eternity?

It’s messy and it isn’t grappled with honestly enough, in my opinion. In my experience if you press most believers to explain how exactly the afterlife is going to work for these families, the response is “We trust god to work it out.” Cool, good luck. But that makes your claims about the necessity of the ceremonies in question a little less valid, at least to me. It’s a thread that the more I pull on, the more the whole patriarchal construct, biological theology, and gendered teachings just unravel. I don’t expect everyone to have the same experience, but that was certainly mine.

And so finally, we get back to this article and why it irritates me so much. Because the authors decry polyamory but don’t tackle their own cultural history of it, and the fact that a version of it is very much still alive and well and causing heartache. This article laments relationship dynamics which mean that one partner is dependent on another and can therefore be coerced into a non-consenual poly relationship… without acknowledging that the official stance of the church is that ideally, women SHOULD be dependent on bread-winning male partners for all their worldly support. So…this imbalance already exists in Mormonism (and is already horrifically exploited in far too many cases).

You can’t square this circle. You cannot insist on divinely appointed heterosexual monogamy, except when it suddenly turn poly and is somehow fine and acceptable. You cannot insist on divine gender roles and patriarchal leadership, and then tsk tsk about unequal family dynamics leading to potential harm.

Writings by Mormons invoking a moral worldview informed by Mormonism that don’t deal with the default polyamory inherent in their system while still trying to stake out a moral position against it make me grumpy. Yes, it’s deeply uncomfortable to deal with, as are a lot of historical legacies, but if you don’t do this work, it’s just Prop 8 and anti-LGBT rhetoric all over again. You are advocating for a version of a family that doesn’t hold up to your own theological and cultural scrutiny.

And if that makes you uncomfortable – GOOD. Sit with it a bit and interrogate why. You might have to confront some interesting thoughts as a result.

Basically, I wish to hell that Mormonism would just stop worrying about other people’s marriages as much as they do, and focus on the very real problems they don’t do enough to address in their own community. Some wise man once remarked on motes and beams, or something.


The Hidden Drawer

“But have a care! It is a bitter blade, and steel serves only those that can wield it. It will cut your hand as willingly as aught else.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

We have lived in our apartment for over a year and have only just made an embarrassing discovery. We have a cutlery drawer.

How could you just have discovered this, you ask?

Part of the reason we decided to move into this apartment was the fact that it had recently been renovated and a brand spanking new kitchen had been put in. It’s so shiny, guys, we nearly cried the first time we saw it. It’s not my Platonic Ideal of a kitchen but coming from the one room flat we lived in for three years that had one small cupboard stuck on a wall and about two feet of counter space, it’s downright Nirvana. The whole thing is designed for maximum storage and it’s nice to actually be able to put things away in an orderly fashion and cook with new appliances.

One of those appliances is a flat topped stove with built in ventilation and other systems that I’m sure I don’t properly understand. It appeared as if some of the design of this stove was also built beneath the surface of the counter because it because there was some bulky hardware when I opened the drawers situated a bit further down. Turns out I should have tugged on the nooks and crannies of this a bit more because I found a random tab on it the other day and put some elbow grease into it…and this popped out.

Jeff was in the other room and I had to call him over to make sure I hadn’t lost my mind. He too did a double take and demanded where this totally new drawer had sprang from.

After shaking our head at ourselves a bit, we resigned ourselves to our stupidity and stocked the drawer.

This is actually our first proper cutlery drawer of our married life. We begin to feel quite grown up.

ETA, the album of the week is Say Less, by Roy Woods


Five Years

“When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.”
― William Shakespeare

Five years ago, when I was barely 23, we got married.

Engagement 132 edited

Easily the best idea we’ve ever had though it was not at all what either of us had planned. Jeff didn’t want to get married until he was around 30, I was sure I didn’t want to marry at all. But as the months went by being together was simply right. It was a series of pieces clicking into place with each other. Marrying him was as easy as breathing and, whether in the midst of adventure or even argument, it still feels like that.

While still dating, I confessed to Jeff that I once joked my very idea of hell was marriage to an accountant, 2.5 children and a white picket fence. Jeff loves to tease me with this dire pronouncement still, although assures me he has no plans of inflicting a fence upon anyone. “I ruined every one of your plans,” he likes to gloat. He did. And I’m so glad. This is so much better than anything I ever came up with.

Bad. Romance.

“Love is of all passions the strongest, for it attacks simultaneously the head, the heart, and the senses.” 
– Lao Tzu

Historical accuracy is the way to my heart.
Historical accuracy is the way to my heart.

I’ve never been big on Valentine’s day, some of it is a bit over processed for me (although the history I can clearly get behind) and a lot is just a bit too cheesy.  When J. and I were dating and we both knew we were moving towards getting married, I actually threatened him with rejection if he proposed to me on V Day – to which he burst out laughing and declared, “Understood.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the love but the pink and red of it all just strike me as a little bit too much.

Longwinded way of saying if you came here looking for hearts and sparkles, kittens, trot off elsewhere.  It’s just isn’t our style.

I spent the first half of the day at the office finishing up some pretty somber assignments for a couple of really sad cases (the kind that are hard to work on) and half battling a sort of pre-cold that refuses to either go away or develop into the full blown thing.  I threw in the towel at lunchtime, got home, worked frantically on the MP for a couple hours, trie to get some sort of rest in because we have a newborn in the flat below us and a baby being sleep trained in the one above which means haven’t had a full night of sleep in weeks (subtext: I am never having children!), only to be thwarted in the rest attempt by…the screaming infants.

I actually forgot it was Valentine’s Day until I lurched through the door and J. (working at home in his basketball shorts and an old t-shirt) reminded me from the couch.
“Good,” muttered I.  “By the way, our tax return came through, let’s pay off the credit card.”
We didn’t do presents and the only way we are celebrating is by going out to a nice dinner in a restaurant we’ve both wanted to go to for a while.  We’ll dress up a bit, him in the suit he likes best, me in my favorite little black dress and we’ll enjoy ourselves.  But the truth is, we’ll probably go to the gym first.

Here’s the thing about stylized romance that I find so annoying – I think it’s often used to sell a bad product.  No amount of roses or over the top dates turns The Bachelor into a show about love.  Oceans of wine and acres of flowers don’t make a steady relationship.  Making out in the rain is cold, wet, and uncomfortable and only to be attempted when making a perfume add under the watchful eye of trained couturiers.  Romance is not (in my opinion) dying for love, or sonnets, or grand gestures – those are surprisingly easy, even the first one if half the poets are to be believed.  Sometimes it’s about not buying flowers so that money can go to our upcoming move to London – where we both want to go and have been working towards for years.  Together.

*Oh fine, minions here are some valentines for you:

These are for the history nerds (and I’ve decided when in London I am going to seek this woman out because anyone with that level of love for the Plantagenet dynasty is someone I was clearly destined to be friends with).

And these are for the Lizzie Bennett Diaries/Jane Austen fans out there.  Let’s not dissemble, we’re all friends here. 


“There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.”
~Alexis de Tocqueville

You know, sometimes I take a lot of things about J. for granted (he’s a really impressive specimen), but now and then his stellar points are highlighted.  A friend recently took me aside to ask if J. and I are politically in sync, because she suspected we weren’t and wondered how we dealt with it.  Election season has come to her house and she and her husband are not exactly aligned.  I was torn between thinking, “Oh, look, we are the very model of a modern [major] marriage,” and, “Ha!  Fooled another one!”  But on reflection, I was reminded again just how much I appreciate J. for the fact that he profoundly respects my right to disagree.

Working at a police department gives me ample evidence that not all marriages are like this.  Our congregation, nice as it can be, often provides examples that not all marriages are like this.  Even among some friends I’ve seen relationships made of people who do not respect the right to have differing opinions.  And this has always bothered me because it seems like such a basic human thing – if I demand the right to think and believe what I will, without reference to any other person, surely that means I have an obligation to render than same right to others.  My marriage is like that, all my close friendships are like that, but is it a commonality or a rare thing?

It is shocking to me how many people in marriages, partnerships, and friendships do not give one another the right to disagree.  How do you get through the day, much less an election season!  Every opinion is a potential battle, every thought a potentially traitorous action – it must be exhausting.  I know it is, I’ve seen so many people exhausted by it.

J. and I are not politically aligned (he’s center, I’m left of center), we’re not identical religiously, and widely divided on sports – but it doesn’t matter.  Our ethics line up, the values we look for in others we find in one another, we are a team.  When we disagree, we assume that the other person has come to their opinion through thought, personal experience, and logic, and we do not call one another idiots, bombard one another with new clippings (of varying degrees of authenticity), or rail against the other.  We do not make it a project to overhaul one another consciences.

I used to think this sort of relationship was normal.  I’m starting to wonder if I’m lucky.

Sound off, ducklings, I know many of you have wonderful friendships and relationships unaffected by dogmas of any kind.  Have you ever been in a situation where dogma made a work relationship, friendship, or family situation uncomfortable (goodness knows I have!), and how did you make it work?  Restore my faith in people during political open season!

Long Distance

“A box of gorgeous flowers just landed on my desk and made me cry at work.  I hope you’re happy.”
– C.

Confession: I knew it was going to be hard to have J. move to London.  Even if it was just for a few months, I knew I would hate it; I’d feel lonely, bored, occasionally bitter, and all of this would war against my very real excitement for and pride in him.  But looking at a roller coaster and riding one are two very different things, my doves, and I’ve felt a little miffed by the experience so far.  Granted, I’ve got this marvelous cocktail of female hormones flooding my system right now, so that can’t be helping.

I’m not an overly emotional person, but I’ve never felt so weepy in my life as this past month.  Talking to him on Skype for the first time – stuttering in my throat.  When suddenly his face popped up on my screen (I don’t have a camera for my computer yet although he does, but we hadn’t been using it) – eyes watering.  Today when a box of beautiful flowers showed up on my desk – full on tears.

I married him and he turned me into a girl.  The horror.

But, ladies, everything I know about love I learned from this guy, so take my advice on this.  If a man stays up until midnight just to Skype with you because he, “likes listening to you talk,” run away with him.  Immediately.  Sooner if he’s got flowers.  Even if they make you cry.

And even if he goes to Hampton Court Palace without you.

Low Point

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow. ”
~ Charlotte Brontë

I woke up the other morning on J.’s side of the bed for the first time since I got back.  Only half awake I was trying to snuggle up against him because fall is slowly moving in and it’s getting chilly in the morning.  Bam.  Marriage nostalgia punched me in the face, kicked me in the stomach, and laughed at my misery.

I self medicated: rented an entire season of a show, got dinner takeaway, and wolfed down a whole piece of cheesecake.  Like I said: low point.

I miss this. I suspect even J. does too.

Two Years and Counting

“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.  The order varies for any given year.”
~Paul Sweeney

Don't disturb.

The Fourth of July prep is done.  After staying late at work and taking short lunches (if any), either crawling into bed idiotically late or horrifyingly later, and consuming my body weight in Jamba Juices (due to utter failure at getting up early enough to pack any food at all), I’m done.  Finished.  Dusting my hands in a self-congratulatory manner.  Calling it.

I am taking today off.  It’s my two year anniversary and J. is taking me to my first breakfast in longer than I care to think about.  We’re going to hang out outside in natural sunlight, I’m going to call my Mum and Venice (who are owed marathon phone calls), and flirt with my husband shamelessly in public.  And I am not going to have anything to do with fireworks until Monday when I’m flat on my back in a park staring up at ’em.

C., checking out, kittens!

A Tale of Two Kitties

“Why the windows are full west!”
– Jane Austen

Small Cat Syndrome?

J.’s nickname for me, despite my legendary Small Dog Syndrome personality condition, is Kitty.  Not from any simliarity to my real name, but because apparently I have a cat-like tendancy to hide things.  Not consciously, but it would seem that after I use certain things they have the obnoxious habit of vanishing into the ether.  I also do admit to tucking somethings away in their “designated place,” the geographic location I immediately forget.  This means that our marriage is a constant smorgasbord of rediscovered treasure.

Hairpins turn up in the oddest places, especially considering I almost never use them, but we find bushels of them every time we vacuum or dust.  Pens!  Everywhere!  They breed in my pockets, purses, and cup holders.  Despite practically never carrying cash, coins (of mutiple currencies!)  rain from me like I’m some fairytale maiden who got on a witch’s good side.  I lose my glasses at least once a day.  They have been found, variously, in my jewelry case, under the couch, in the shower, beneath my pillow, and in my purse which both of us had searched thouroughly four times previous only to finding them smugly nestled besides my wallet.  The possibilities truly are endless.  And without fail, whever something turns up from somewhere it doesn’t belong, J. rounds on me with a pointed finger and an accusatory voice.  “Kitty!”

Just so we’re clear, and so my mother doesn’t wring her hands and ask where she went wrong, our house is not dirty.  That’s the amazing part.  We’re minimalistic in our decor, specifically because neither of us like clutter.  We deep clean once a week.  There is absolutely nothing to attract the wildlife.  People comment on its cleanlines when they come over.  And yet, when I go to plump the pillows – voila!  That book I misplaced a week ago.

And apparently the way to really unearth all the things I’ve “mislaid”  is to install new windows.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful.  Our old windows were nearly a half century old, leaked heat out, let cold seep in, and were generally a source of larger than necessary utility bills.  The largest one in our flat faces west and made summers in the desert a misery!  It got so hot during summer that our blinds would melt – or at least warp to a fantastic and almost unuseable degree.  So, new windows equalled better utility costs, temperatures human beings can survive at, and less destruction of our abode.  Plus someone else was installing them.  Terrific!

Saturday morning at 8:30am (who does that?  On a weekend!) my phone shattered the tranquility.  The landlords told us the contractors wou!d be by in an hour to rip massive holes in our walls.
“J.!  Get up!  Clean everything!  Move move move!”
Despicably undomestic as I am, I’ve got enough feminine pride/residual 1950s guilt to not want total strangers see my house a “shambles.”  Poor J. was dragged from his bed and forced to dismantle window blinds while I made the bed, dusted (before a bunch of workman came to chip away my windows…yeah…) and fell to scrubbing even the bathroom with religious fervor.

It was when we invaded the office/storage space/Room of Requirement that things started turning up.  Piles of papers neither of us could identify.  Chords to appliances we have never owned.  Boxes for things we never ordered.  A couple of cups we never missed.  Ribbons, Christmas gifts bought months ago, a couple of paintings…  J. was laughing uproariously by the time we finished.  We’d thrown out masses of stuff and I’d taken to sulking from his teasing.  “Kitty!”

Then we headed back to the front room to move the couches.  And found sweet, sweet justice.

Beneath the sofa I found an external hard drive, a leather business folder, two textbooks, and a pile of notes.  All J.’s.  The dumbfounded look on his face was priceless.  I danced in a circle around him crowing, “You’re a kitty!  You’re a kitty!”

Naturally ten minutes later, he found my glasses.  Again.  The status quo resumed.

Small Cat sulks.

*Second picture from Hyperbole and a Half.