When we first got together, I loved the feelings of safety and security I felt when I was with him. He seemed to have all the answers to life’s big problems. Nothing felt insurmountable with him by my side, guiding and directing me, making it easy to ignore the chaos of the outside world. It felt good to envision my future, our future, together.  Back then, if you had told me that he would someday break my heart, I would not have believed you. Our love, a love that began with pioneer ancestors and grew strong at Girl’s Camp testimony meetings and filled the margins of worn scriptures, our love was the real deal.

Plus, my parents loved him.

                I don’t know when I started to notice the tiny annoyances. Every relationship has its quirks, after all. He doesn't put the toilet seat down; she never calls when she’s running late. Nothing we couldn't overcome. Nothing he couldn't explain away, nothing I couldn't pray away, nothing I couldn't fix with an increase in righteousness.

It’s not like he was mean. Even when he bothered me, I knew he did it because he loved me. Like sometimes, always so lovingly, he would speak for me. Answering questions in my behalf, and worse, answering my questions wrong.

Sometimes I wondered if he even knew me. If he really knew me, he wouldn't say those things about gay people, or working moms, or the ERA. One time he said he felt threatened by feminists. One time he said women who dressed “immodestly” (I still don’t know why he hates shoulders and knees so much,) were like “walking pornography.” I didn't have the heart to tell him I liked the way my shoulders felt in a sleeveless shirt, how I smiled every time a new freckle appeared after spending too much time in the sun. I couldn't tell him I was a feminist, because I couldn't stand the idea of not being together. I loved him so much, how could he see me as a threat?

Plus, all my friends loved him.

Sometimes he wouldn't let me talk to my friends. He promised to pass the message along to God (so long as I paid my tithing,) and in the temple, he sent a message through my husband.  When I asked him why, he told me it was because I was special. I liked feeling special, so I wondered if I really need to be equal. After all, all good relationships require compromise.

But one day I wore pants and someone called me fat (apostate!) and he didn't say a word, and I could tell he kind of agreed.  That wasn't a compromise! How do you stay with someone who says you look fat (apostate!) in those pants?

He’s seeing someone else now. She’s nineteen, and he showers her with gifts. Mission calls earlier than ever before, blessings of the priesthood (without the responsibility of holding it! How chivalrous!) He tells her she’s incredible. I tell her she doesn't know what she’s getting into. I didn't know. I didn't know what it meant to go through the temple at age 20. I didn't know what I was promising when I told him I’d never leave, and he promised me the world, maybe even my own world.

Plus, I loved him.

Sometimes he dates feisty Mormon feminists. I see their pictures all over Facebook, and it hurts to see he’s moved on so quickly. She promises that he’ll change if she just loves him enough. I shake my head. Women always think they can change their man.  But he gives her a prayer, and he broadcasts the Priesthood session (and even though that’s not what she asked for, she thanks him profusely, because she loves him.)

Maybe someday he will change. I imagine running into him at the park. He’ll be on the playground with his wife and their kids, and he won’t preside and she’ll bless the baby, and they’ll be happy. I’ll wonder, “what if?” What if I’d waited just a little longer, what if I’d just been a little more patient, maybe it would be me. I’d be the one blessing the baby.  What if? 

Even when you know you’re not meant to be, you never forget your first love.

I remind myself, as all single girls do, that it is important to enjoy being single. I’m dating myself these days, thanks very much. Maybe someday I’ll even feel that thrill of anticipation as I go on a first date with someone new. Someone who doesn't answer for me, who counts the freckles on my shoulders after a long summer day, and isn't threatened by my gender or my power.

Or I’ll grow old all on my own. Surrounded by friends who still answer my calls without an intermediary (I lost a lot of friends in the break up, but not God, so that’s good.) Who see me as special and equal. I’ll get a cat or take a trip. I’ll be okay.

And someday, maybe, I’ll even see him as my friend. We’ll laugh about our crazy young love, and joke about how disastrous it would have been to stay together.  I’ll wish him and his wife well, and I’ll mean it. After all, I loved him.


J McO (change later) said...

Everyone's commenting and liking on Facebook, so for your posterity, I'll say here that that analogy held together better than I expected and I much enjoyed the reading of it.

Natalie said...

Wow! Thanks you!

Shawnee said...

I feel like I could have written this myself. You so eloquently say what I could never put into words. Thank you.

Mungagungadin said...

thank you

Risa said...

"I wish I knew how to quit you."

mere said...

So wonderful Steph. So exactly how I felt and still feel. I loved him. I still love him, in many ways, and yeah. Perfect perfect.

CaraDee said...

Great post Steph. Great post. I'm so glad I'm over him already. It feels so right.

Sandy said...

This is really wonderfully written. I don't relate to it, but I feel like I could relate to you after reading it. Way to carry the idea all the way through to the end.

Do you find it difficult to be friends with your ex's girlfriends? I hope not.

Kimberly Wilson said...

My heart hurts for you. Your pain regarding the church is palpable. I'm so sorry for all the hurt you've felt over the years, for so many things. I wish I could take it away. Even though you know you are ok as you are, I wish I could have been there to tell you that you were ok all along, not apostate for not being a cookie cutter mormon.

I read a post recently and I thought of you.

Even though, as one of the comments denotes, you may not have a desire to be "rescued," and may be in a nice "tide pool" and not even desire to dash up against rocks on the shore (for which I completely understand), I still want you. I still respect you, and value you, I really do.

I will be the first to admit that I'm one of "those" people who is content with my standing as a female in the church. It doesn't make my opinions, voice, or feelings any more or less valid than yours or anyone else's who feel abused by the church, or who feel embraced by the church.

My heart is with you, whatever you do. :-)

Jenny said...

I'm a longtime follower of your blog, and while I've never before commented, I've admired your writing for quite some time. There was something about this post in particular that resonated with me, and now here I am.

I'm a Methodist who's married to a Mormon. Neither my husband nor I wanted to "give up" our religion when it came to raising our children, so we alternate Sundays at each other's churches, and our baby comes along for the ride. Probably not ideal, but it works for us. Twice a month we walk to the church located directly behind our house and worship in a setting that's familiar to him, and the other two times we make the 20 minute drive to my church and worship there.

A little less than a year ago, we moved to a new house and neighborhood, which included what I can only describe as an "amazing" ward (as cliche as that sounds). I've been able to get involved and make friends who respect my beliefs and are even curious to converse with me and learn more about them. My husband told the bishop in their first meeting that in the past, when ward members have learned that I'm not a member, they've either written us off all together as a couple (lame), or they've tried to convert me without even getting to know about me or my beliefs first (also lame). We've both been pleasantly surprised to have felt so warmly welcomed in this ward, and having friends at my husband's church has been a great first for me.

I sometimes think to myself that it'd just be so much easier if we were both members of the same church. Our daughter would probably have an easier time of it (though I'd be lying if I said I don't kind of like the idea of her growing up with two different religious perspectives for her to consider for herself), we wouldn't have to worry about bouncing around all the time, and it sure would be nice to avoid the awkwardness that sometimes goes along with our families being different religions. Even though my beliefs differ, I enjoy going to church with my husband and neighbors (not to mention it's nice to be able to get to church in two minutes instead of twenty).

But then I read a post like this, and it reminds me of the feelings inside my heart that make the inconvenience of driving to a church in another town worth it to me. At my church a few weekends ago, the pastor was acknowledging everyone in the congregation who contributes musically to the church (the choir, the pianist, etc.), and he asked us as church members to lay our hands on them and collectively give them a blessing. As I looked around the chapel at the men and women alike blessing their friends and fellow parishioners, it served as a prime example of what I feel like I miss out on in my husband's religion and what I find in my own that keeps me coming back.

I want my daughter to grow up knowing what I believe in and why it's important to me. And I want her to know that I support her dad's beliefs in the same way he supports mine. It sounds like your daughter has a wonderful support system in both you and your husband, and I have no doubt that she'll be able to grow up and admire you for your convictions.

Thanks for sharing your story.

(and my apologies for making my first comment a novel)

Stephanie said...


No. I think the women dating my ex are really wonderful, especially but not limited to the feisty feminists. I mean that, but I also worry about them.

Stephanie said...


Thank you for that comment. It was very validating for me to read. It also made me feel very hopeful for Clara and her future.

Tasha said...

Steph, that was absolute catharsis. Thank you. Perfection.

Michelle Glauser said...

I've been thinking of a similar metaphor for several years now. Maybe some day I'll write about it and share it with you.

MJ said...

I heart you, Steph. You're an amazing woman, amazing writer, and this is a beautiful analogy. Thank you.

Jenna said...

For those "in a relationship" I think it can be really hard to understand why I might not be looking for something new. How I can sleep at night without the old security blanket that used to keep me warm at night.

But some people are okay being single. Relationships are fluid, and I'm allowing myself to be in the right now, without worrying about where I'll be in the future.

I don't know if you're drinking coffee, but if you do, and if we both are in the same place, I'd love to take you out for a latte. The Blue Bottle coffee here in San Francisco really is every bit as good as they say (and it is magically wonderfully exhilarating to be able to make choices for myself after letting my ex-boyfriend make them for me for so long).

I saw your most recent post and so I'll also say that I hope you don't quit, at least not indefinitely. That's me selfishly thinking about what I want instead of what you need. So whatever you decide, I hope you find the peace you are looking for.

ariana said...

I mean, I am sitting here sobbing as I read this, and I left seven years ago.

This is simply beautiful, and has been quite cathartic for me to read.

Thank you.

Amy said...

Just came across this tonight, Stephanie, and it's beautiful. As someone who's still dating the first love but realizing how sour the relationship has gone, and constantly wonders if it's mendable, this really resonated with me. Thank you <3