She said, He said: It’s a Mormon affair

By Jennilyn Merten and Jeff Chapman

Dear Jennilyn and Jeff,

I’m 21 years old and have been married for two years. My husband and I are both LDS. We’ve known each other since high school, but kind of grew apart when he went on his mission before we got married.

I recently found some evidence in our bedroom that can only mean he cheated on me. I don’t know whether it was only once, or if it’s been going on for a long time, maybe even months.

I know this is big and I don’t deserve it, but I don’t know how to deal with this. Do I confront him? Do I talk to my friends or family? We don’t exactly have the best marriage, but is this enough to go against my faith and end it? I don’t know where else to turn. Please help.

-M.F.

Dear Bedroom Confidential,

Jenni:

Whether your husband slipped out the backdoor of the temple or not, it is clear that his possible philandering is not the first instance of your unhappiness.

Your letter is dying to tell a larger story-if yours is like so many other young Mormons’, there’s the chance that you married too young and for the wrong reasons.

I call it the Momentum Principle: Marriages often occur with as much honest thought as a rock rolling down a hill.

Too many young Mormons think marriage is the necessary outcome of dating and/or premarital sex. There’s a lot of pressure to marry, from church, family and friends. If you choose to confront your husband about his boudoir artifact(s), I suggest you also confront the foundations of your marriage. No soap opera accusations, but an honest discussion. You probably needed to do this before you found more obvious suggestions of your marital decline. Some receipts are for much older debts than last week’s hotel room.

If the nasty minger is cheating, don’t turn the other cheek.

But it sounds as though your relationship has more problems than his infidelity.

Inevitably, cheating is about dishonesty. How honest have you two been with each other all along? Maybe you’ve both cheated each other out of a decent relationship.

Should you invite friends and family to help? NO. You don’t want them in your bedroom, anyway. At this point, you need to do some housecleaning on your own. Once your loved ones get a whiff of any impropriety on your husband’s part, it will be difficult for you to make your own decisions.

If you need someone to talk to, schedule an appointment with the counseling center, not your bishop. Despite its good intentions, the LDS Church has its own agenda for your celestial and your terrestrial marriage. One shouldn’t get married or stay married for any religion. You’ll pay greater respect to your faith by honestly evaluating your relationship.

If your marriage has a foundation worth building on, consider building, but don’t let religious obligation deter you from acknowledging the possibility that you mistook your relationship for a marriage.

Jeff:

OK, wait. Your relationship wasn’t very good to begin with, and then you find evidence of infidelity, which might just mean that he’s not entirely content. And you’re wondering whether to stick it out?

Don’t be a sucker.

Granted, there are three people in this marriage: you, your husband and your church. Your church, presumably, would want you to work through this, even though your husband isn’t being a model elder.

When it comes to the actual issue at hand, the church is a bit of a red herring. The fact that you’re LDS changes things, but not as much as you think. Having an affair is gauche, whether you’re LDS or not. And everyone, regardless of faith, wants to preserve her or his marriage. The church adds its own pressures, but the end result should be the same: If the relationship is worth toughing it out, tough the son-of-a-b**** out. If not, jump ship.

Sometimes a marriage is worth saving, despite an affair. Although our society makes cheating out to be the worst of the worst sins, I’ll argue that there are many worse. Murder, avarice, wearing pegged jeans, for three.

Let’s face it: We’re going to spend our lives fighting our attraction to a world of great and attractive people. There are a lot of reasons that we don’t cheat. But it shouldn’t surprise us that it happens, nor should it spell automatic doom.

Back to you and your husband. It’s important to find out the truth before making up your mind about your future.

Jumping to conclusions with partial information = bad.

Confrontation = good.

And by confrontation I mean rational conversation. Find out the truth.

Until then, you ain’t got nothing.

Personally, I’m curious about what the particular evidence is: condoms when you’re on birth control, the clicker for another woman’s garage door (I saw that on “Freaks and Geeks”), love letters, sex toys you’ve never used together? While this may just seem like prurient interest on my part (and, to some degree, it is…who am I to lie?), it’s important. Don’t jump to conclusions that he’s a douche bag if he just bought a little something-something to bring adventure into your bedroom.

Once you have information, you can make a decision. If your bad relationship just got worse, don’t hold your breath for a miracle cure. Just make sure you know the whole truth.

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