This week was a harder topic.... we talked about divorce and stepfamilies. It was quite the discussion. Our professor's wife was divorced with two children when he met her, so he had her come in as a guest speaker for the class. She was really brave to just come right into the class and say okay go ahead and ask whatever you want. We talked about several things, getting back into dating after a divorce, how that was different from dating before she was married the first time, how to introduce her then-boyfriend to her children, deciding how discipline and things like that would go with a step parent. There are just so many things that are affected by a divorce. It all seemed so hard and complicated. But she was able to work things out and now they are a happy family. One of the points we covered is to realize that stepfamilies are totally different from nuclear families (families with both biological parents in the home with the children). They are differently structured, especially if the children are older. It may take awhile for the children to feel comfortable having a relationship with the stepparent, and maybe they are afraid of that stepparent replacing their biological parent. Deciding what kind of relationship children and stepparents will have is very complicated. So we talked about how the married couple must be doing their best to communicate with each other as they strive to build their marriage and create appropriate relationships with the children.
Another struggle in our culture specifically is the stigma that comes with being divorced. Our professor's wife, Sister Williams, said that she had a good friend who's mother told her not to hang out with sister Williams any more because she was a divorcee (she was only 20 when she was divorced, so she probably still had some young friends who's mothers still had a strong say in what they did ). She also said that every week in church she would be asked in Relief Society if she was new to the ward. How discouraging. These people all looked down on her because she was divorced. But she told us some things about her situation with her husband and it was not a good one. He was very emotionally abusive to her and it was not a good situation for her to be in. It was appropriate for her to leave the situation so that she could be in a more positive one for herself and her children in the one she is in now with Brother Williams. So I just feel that it is so important, with divorce or anything else in the church, to be accepting of others and not judge them for their decision to leave. Something that I've come to realize as I strive to be better in not being judgmental is that whatever they did and whatever my opinion is about it, I don't need to worry because it's not going to affect my salvation. No matter if they decided they just weren't having fun any more and thought, hey I'll just check out of this marriage, or if they tried everything they possibly could and still couldn't make things work and they fasted and prayed and sought guidance from priesthood leaders and everything they could do; it doesn't matter. I just need to love them and offer them support. It's not my place to judge them or try to teach them a sermon, it's just my place to love them. Sorry, that ended up being more directed at me, I'm sure all of you are much better at not judging then I am!
One more thing I wanted to mention that Sister Williams said is how she dated differently before her first marriage and after her divorce. She said after her divorce she was much more focused on important things and was going by the spirit every step of the way. When she married the first time she said she didn't particularly have deep roots in the gospel, she believed it but was kind of passive about it and it seemed like a good idea to marry this cute guy, so she did. The second time she was much more concerned about the Lord's input and about if the guy was a returned missionary and a strong member of the church and all of those things. So I think for those of us not married (not many that I've told to read this blog :) ) it's important to review the things we are looking for in a spouse.
Thanks for listening!