Question: “Is there a place in an LDS world for a divorced woman?”
Response by Marsha Steed Keller
I was once young and full of hope and excitement, promise and innocent dreams. I married my first date and high school sweetheart, waited for him on his mission and then became engaged a month after he returned home. Soon we had four beautiful children, a temple marriage and I was the bishop’s wife. Then, life turned upside down.
I found myself at 42, a single mom, no college degree and feeling shattered, hopeless, broken and filled with fear. I also found that being single in the church is very different than being married.
I could sugar-coat it and say that it is all how you look at it (people said that to me); that it is only for a little while until you heal (estimated a year) or that that it will all work out in the end (which it will, but NOT what I wanted or needed to hear at the time). I won’t. Instead I’ll be honest. Being single in a church that has a firm and solid foundation of family and marriage, can be difficult when one is or becomes single. Sometimes it feels like fitting in is impossibly difficult. That is the truth. However. . . . It is not a bad place. It is not a scary place (with some tools to help) and it is not an impossible place to be.
The leaders are very VERY cognizant of the single adults in the church. Truly they are. They pray daily for Church members, and they meet and plan constantly for what will best serve the different life circumstances of the members of Christ’s body.
What I will do, is share five things that I found helped me immeasurably to navigate my time as a single woman.
First and foremost, remember who you are. Remember that you are still and always a daughter of the Most High God. A queen-to-be, a child of infinite worth. This is essential, though sometimes difficult to remember. Remember it.
Second, remember that being divorced is a different experience. It is not who you are, it is simply an experience you are currently having. It may change (probably will) in this life, and it may not, but it is not who you are. It is simply a place you are plunked in at the moment for either your own learning, the education of others, or both.
Third, remember to have fun. Really. Take time for yourself, even if it is only 20 minutes. Refill however you refill the best. Chocolate, silence, running, friends, whatever. Just do NOT dry up until you are worthless to everyone including yourself.
Fourth, remember that if you WANT the Celestial Kingdom, you already have an eternal mate . . . Somewhere. He exists. Now. Somewhere he is thinking about you, loving you, hoping for you, and making himself worthy of you, just as you are praying for him, thinking and longing for him and knowing that your union (though interrupted at the moment ) is eternal. It isn’t a future event, it exists now, you just don’t know him yet (ask Michael Buble’!)
Lastly, and honestly the most importantly, keep at it. Keep getting up. Keep reading your scriptures even when you don’t want to. Keep attending church even when you aren’t sure it even matters anymore and it only causes you to cry all the time. Keep singing the hymns, even when the memories are so strong you can’t get the words out, and keep praying, even when you aren’t sure that there is anyone listening. There is! I know, I’ve felt all of those things, and learned that HE never leaves. When we are ready, we return, and His arms are always always ALWAYS open.
Is there a place? Yes. That doesn’t mean that it is the same place as before. A broken cup, even if repaired perfectly, still knows how it feels to be dropped and broken. You will always have this as part of your experience. But you can be even stronger and more beautiful through it all, through the Atonement. And you can have compassion for others walking this path.
You are divine. Different isn’t a bad thing. You are worthy of fun and laughter and you are loved deeply and eternally right now. You can keep going. Endurance isn’t a chore, it is like a diamond, enduring, brilliant, stronger than most anything and always reflecting the light it receives outward in a dazzling array of color.
There is a place for a divorced woman, right there in the second row, next to the wounded stranger who also has no wedding ring on, but a heart that is a home to every tender soul.
p.s. Now I’m once more a ‘married Mormon woman’, I found my unlikely heartmate with a cowboy hat on!
Thank you for your very powerful post on being Divorced and single in the church. I think it was very uplifting and I know it will help many sisters who struggle with being alone and single.
I’ve been single for 15 years, after having the rug pulled out from under TWICE! The hardest thing in the world for me has been going to Church. I would just sit there and cry. Watching others with their arms around each other, listening to talks on marriage and children. I have left in the middle of Church so many times I can’t count. The pain is not so sharp anymore, but every once in a while I feel that awful longing for a mate, one that can be trusted and depended on. One that will help me up when I’m so down. The Lord helps me so much, and for that I am eternally grateful, but to feel arms around me once again would be the most wonderful thing. I wish so much that I felt like I belonged to something in the Church, but I don’t. That is so sad for me. It has been so hard.
Susan – Thank you. . . and LeAnn, As you can see, I so understand. I think what helped me the very most, was re-focusing. When I looked at what I was missing, that is only what I could see. When I changed to look for (sometimes it was a deep search!) what I had, I found I still cried, but in gratitude and joy.
Your pain is not singular. You are amongst sisters (and brothers) who deeply and intimately share and bolster you.
Wonderful article full of hope and touching.
Great blog, Marsha! I’m sure it will be helpful to those in that same position!
Marsha reading your article brought back many memories. Some were very hard and difficult memories. Others were ones of hope and joy. As hard as life seemed after my divorce, I have never felt closer to my Heavenly Father and the Savior. I was literally brought to my knees in pain and a need to be comforted. Many times I would be driving and would have tears streaming down my cheeks because the pain was so great. I was so very blessed to have children and a ward family who took me under their wings and loved me. It did not totally take the pain away but it kept it at bay. The best advice I received was to find others who were in pain and empathize with them. There were so many people around me who had greater trials than I did. I was able to ease some of my pain away by serving others. I was very blessed to have church callings that helped to keep me involved with my ward members. I also began to look at myself to see what I needed to do to like me. I began to take more time for myself for the first time in 25 years. I really had no desire to date so instead I returned to college to earn a degree to help me be more marketable for employment. Here again was a new challege as I was a woman pushing 50 rubbing shoulders with 20 year-olds in many of my classes. What a great experience. I was resolved to get my degree and find myself before I even considered dating again. I once told the Lord that he would have to send someone to me wrapped and placed on my doorstep if he wanted me to marry again. After six years of being alone, my daughter and her friend decided to set their parents up on a date. Nine months later I am so grateful they did as I have been married to my best friend for the last four months. I love being married to this wonderful man but I am thankful I was given the opportunity to get to know myself, my Heavenly Father, and my Savior in a very intimate way.
Such a wonderful testimony of life moving forward Becky. It is the same for me these days.
Sisters, How do you deal with the loneliness in the evenings? I cannot get past it after 9 years.
Thank you for sharing that most personal part of your life. i am 2.5 yr out of a 23 year marriage and still find myself shedding at least one tear a day. Although I am surrounded by my daughters, fully medicated, go to therapy and work in a church environment I still can’t shake the feeling of failure, loss and disappointment in my life. Even though I know that many other families have worse situations, when a person is in the depths of it, sometimes it’s hard to remember and get the right perspective. Reading success stories reminds me that I can eventually pull out of the pit i’m in.
Thank you for your encouraging words 🙂
Was so important to me to here that today !
I’m glad other people found this uplifting. I did not. Given that I’ve never had one man after my divorce ever show interest in me that wasn’t about 30 years older than me, I don’t believe I will ever find a spouse. The whole concept that there is “someone” for everyone is a fairy tale. Why do we tell women this? I know DOZENS of beautiful and worthy single women out there who have never found a spouse and DOZENS more who are divorced and have been single for years and years. Personally, I’ve been single longer than I was married. Stop telling single woman there is someone for everyone! Or even worse, stop telling us that we will have a companion in the after life. Great! Does that mean I’m better off dead??? I’m sorry, but the longer I am single in the church, the more and more I recognize how devalued my situation in life is. I don’t get invited to the couples nights out. I can’t go to singles activities because I have no way to take care of my kids and really no time for it since the activities are always at least 45 minutes to an hour away or even further. I don’t get invited to the stay at home mom book clubs and cooking clubs and work out clubs. I don’t even get invited when a couple of the stay at home moms go out to the movies! I’m pretty much always alone unless I do the inviting. The few times I have been interested in a man, it was a recently divorced man who snatched up a woman 10 years younger than him and had babies with her. I don’t want more children. I’m too old. The truth is that most of us will remain single for the rest of our lives. Most of us will be all alone for the rest of our lives. Most of us will be over looked aside from the 2-3 mentions in General Conference or the once a month required visit that the priesthood has for home teaching. I’ve been praying for 10 years that this wouldn’t be my life. I prayed so hard that I wouldn’t go through a divorce. I did everything right. I only dated LDS men, I was married in the temple, I was a stay at home mom. I went to all my meetings, did what my husband asked, and ended up getting left behind and blamed for every problem in the world. I keep praying and going to meetings and reading scriptures and all that. But I never once tell either of my kids that they WILL get married. I tell them I HOPE they find someone special. We need to STOP telling our youth – especially the girls – that they will find someone because I am proof that that is not true!
I’m so sorry for the pain you have experienced. I hope you can read the intent of the article — it was definitely not meant to say there is “someone for everyone.” It was to reach out and say “stay close to God and yourself.” Your marital status is not who you ARE.
It’s so very hard when things don’t turn out as we hope they will. I also know that words will not salve your wounds, but the Savior’s power of healing is real. It’s real. I hope you can find the healing you need. Have you heard of betrayal trauma? It seems like perhaps you are suffering from something along those lines — a very, very common and painful result of being left, betrayed, or blamed by a spouse. Email me at [email protected] or [email protected] if you are interested in more information.
Thank you so much for your inspiring article. Made me cry. I’ve been divorced for a long time and we didn’t have kids. Although I’m not a Mormon, I have experienced similar issues at evangelical or non denominational churches. I felt like an outcast at times. Obviously I’m very much interested in the Mormon faith, as I’m on this site. But I have been worried about being lonely or an outsider in the Mormon church too, as I’m divorced, single and have no kids, yet have always admired the sense of family and community the Mormon faith shows. It’s kind of a double edged sword for me and has prevented me from further expliring the Mormon faith so far. Just feeling so tired of people feeling sorry for me for not being the traditional woman with husband and kids and not being “one of them.” First thing people ask me always in more conservative churches is how many kids I have.
I hope you won’t give up on us! We each have a story and even though Mormon doctrine includes a lot about marriage and family (because it reaches beyond this life), the core of our faith is about each person coming to Christ…whatever our stories may be! HE is what brings unity to the faith, or at least that is what we are aiming for. We as humans still fall short a lot and sometimes can be insensitive to each other, but this Church really is what it professes to be — the Church of Jesus Christ.
In our church, too, I suppose it’s not uncommon for people to start conversations with questions about family, but just let them know who you ARE and that you are more than your marital status. (We all are!) And life throws curve balls at us all. I hardly know a soul who hasn’t experienced some sort of serious trial in their lives. And EVERY person has something to offer to the body of Christ. He loves us and wants us to come together, and we need each other to become who we need to be, and to prepare the earth together, for His Second Coming.
Sending love your way.