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  • Writer's pictureDominic Schmuck, Ph.D.

How to Tell Your Family You're Leaving the Mormon Church. Spouse Edition

Updated: Apr 26

There is usually no easy way to tell your family you're leaving Mormonism, a religion where members often root most of their identity in that belief system.

In the scientific community, Mormonism is considered a "high-demand religion", meaning that it expects a lot from it's members. As such, family members have high expectations for each other regarding how they should behave and what they should and shouldn't do. Sometimes, there is even an expectation to monitor each other's behaviors and ensure everyone is on the 'straight and narrow path.' When getting married within the LDS religion, there is frequently an unspoken assumption between spouses that both will continue participating actively in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints forever.

So, how do you tell your family that you no longer believe? More specifically, how do you address this with your spouse? While there is no easy answer, below are general recommendations that have helped many people have better conversations with their partners. As you communicate with your partner, consider your relationship as a cohesive unit with the goal of improving that unit, rather than proving a point or being focused on being right.

Couple walking discussing Mormonism

Leaving the Mormon Church: Tips for Telling Your Spouse

  1. Tell your spouse early. Please note that this advice is specific to your spouse and not universally applicable to all other familial relationships. In many Mormon families, discovering that your partner is leaving the LDS church can feel like betrayal. Because of this, it is generally best to inform your spouse sooner rather than later. No spouse likes finding out through a third party, a social media post, or only after you have made the decision to no longer attend church. Generally speaking, your spouse wants to be a part of your life and feel included. If you are starting to question the LDS faith, then it is likely a good time to inform your spouse about your doubts regarding the church. Regardless of when you tell them, it won't be easy. But for the sake of the relationship, more often than not, telling your partner earlier yields better long-term outcomes than waiting until you have already decided that you are done with the Mormon religion

  2. Tell them in person, unless you have a different relational dynamic than most. When communicating with other family members or friends, I usually do not recommend talking in person. But with your spouse, I almost always believe that this is the best approach. Your spouse is hopefully someone you are emotionally very close with. Telling them in person demonstrates trust and relational closeness. It also ensures that your partner doesn't feel you are minimizing a topic likely of significant importance to them.

  3. Keep it brief. Don't overwhelm your partner with information. Resist the urge to lay out numerous reasons for questioning or leaving the Mormon religion, as this often doesn't have the desired effect. Inform your partner about you questioning Mormonism, but make sure not to initiate a debate. If they ask genuine follow-up questions, provide concise answers about your experience without being offensive (e.g. don't say "Joseph Smith was a pedophile" - a statement non-believing spouses frequently make to their believing spouse). Focus on open and honest communication of your emotions, ensuring both parties feel heard and valued. If your partner insists on debating or dismissing your concerns, use phrases like, "I don't have all the answers right now, but I value our relationship and want to be honest with you about my concerns" or suggest taking a few days to process emotions before discussing the topic further.

  4. Follow your partner's lead. If they genuinely want to know more, feel free to slowly share some things in a non-offensive manner. If they ask you not to share your concerns, or if they simply don't inquire about them, you might keep those to yourself for the time being. Religion is a heavy and emotionally laden topic. Ensure your partner knows that you have concerns, but you don't have to lay them all out, and certainly don't have to push them onto your spouse.

  5. Take it slow and support your partner. Support your partner in their belief after opening up to them, even if it's challenging due to the betrayal you feel. If you express your doubts and then immediately change your church attendance, participation, and lifestyle drastically, your partner will likely feel deeply betrayed. It's beneficial for your relationship to express your desire to leave the Mormon church openly while remaining accepting of your spouse's beliefs. This approach increases the likelihood that your partner will trust you and genuinely listen to your concerns, compared to if you abruptly criticize their beloved religion at every opportunity. You don't have to attend church all the time, take on church callings, or continue living all of Mormonism's standards; simply be kind, nice, and patient with your partner. Ensure they feel loved and supported, and make changes slowly, one step at a time, for the sake of your relationship.

I Need More Help, What Do I Do?

Every relationship is unique. You are likely experiencing a lot of overwhelming emotions yourself. Needing to carefully navigate your relationship while you feel betrayed by your church can be immensely difficult. While the tips above are general, they may not universally apply to your specific relationship. Many additional nuances likely play out in your marriage, which are not addressed in this brief blog post.

If you feel overwhelmed and need additional support, feel free to reach out. I am a Licensed Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Psychology. I specialize in helping individuals navigate Mormon faith crises, religious trauma, and in navigating relationship issues and trauma. I have helped numerous individuals navigate opening up to their families about leaving Mormonism and in navigating mixed faith marriages.

You can contact me by calling/texting (385) 200-0204 or emailing to get started. You can also schedule a free 15-minute consult here. If no timeslot appears through the link, then I likely have a waitlist. Call/text/email instead.

I can work with clients in over 40 PSYPACT participating states.


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