Episode 244 – How My Spouse’s Faith Journey Affected Our Sex Life – An Interview with Lisa Frehner

faith crisis

Often in marriage, if there is disconnect in one part of the relationship, there is also disconnect in the bedroom. That’s how I came to know my guest today, Lisa. After getting married in the Temple, Lisa’s husband had a faith crisis and left the Church. Lisa was angry at him for changing the future that she had envisioned for them. She and her husband found therapy and that really has helped her marriage, but she still didn’t want to have any sort of intimacy in their relationship. That’s what brought her to coaching. I love what Lisa shares about hope and love and joy in this episode. Even if you are not going through the same thing, you will love her message.

faith crisis

Show Notes:

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Show Summary:

Amanda Louder: Okay, I’m excited for this episode because I have been waiting to bring my friend Lisa on for a long time. This has been months in the making and because I’ve heard from so many of you that this is one of the things that is affecting your sex life, is a spouse’s faith transition or faith journey. So let’s turn the time over to our interview, and I hope you love it. 

Welcome to the podcast, Lisa.

Lisa Frenner: Thanks, Amanda. I’m happy to be here. 

Amanda: I’m so happy to have you here. So why don’t you introduce yourself to my audience?

Lisa: Okay, so my name is Lisa. I am a board certified hair colorist and future trichologist, which is a science of hair loss. And I have been a client of Amanda’s, and now we are good friends.

Amanda: Yeah, she’s my hairdresser, and if you come to any of our retreats, then Lisa actually does the makeup at our retreats because she also is a makeup artist.

Lisa: And that’s been such a cool experience doing the makeup for all these women. It’s so fun. 

Amanda:  Yes. So if you come to retreat and we do the boudoir photography, you’re going to have incredible makeup because of Lisa. Super fun. 

Lisa: Thank you. 

Amanda: Okay, well let’s get into what we’re actually talking about today and how a spouse’s faith transition can affect your marriage and your sexual relationship. So why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your experience and what’s happened in your own marriage. 

Lisa: Okay, the quick story is about eight years ago we started as a couple, I guess to put it, so that we were both going through this at the same time. My father-in-law passed away and that just kind of pushed my husband, that was the beginning of the end of having faith and being involved and active in the church for my husband.  

And so we went through a lot of phases of me feeling so sad, obviously with all these future dreams that I had, my son hadn’t been baptized yet. My daughter isn’t baptized yet, and going to church alone or just me with the kids and things like that. It was just a long road and it turned into a lot of fighting for a long time. 

And one of the reasons I fell in love with my husband is that he is just so patient and he doesn’t yell, and it turned into these fights that turned into yelling matches at each other. And it was so hard because I’d always told myself I didn’t want this kind of marriage. I didn’t want to feel like I had to defend my beliefs all the time or feel attacked or anything. 

And so we decided to try some couples therapy and we bounced around from therapist to therapist. We try a therapist a few times, and for one reason or another, we would have to find a new therapist because one of us didn’t like a therapist, so we’d move on and try someone else. I always tell people that you just have to date your therapist and see how it goes. 

Meanwhile, as our relationship is falling apart, I am growing more and more distant from my husband. I no longer want to have sex with him. I don’t want any kind of intimacy. Any kind of touch from him even really just sent me into this like fight or flight or freeze mode. And it was usually just like a freeze. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to be touched, I don’t want to be looked at anything like that. And I remember driving home from work one day and just feeling so hopeless and the night before, we’d gotten into a really big screaming match, and it was bad enough that my son, who was, gosh, little, I don’t even know how little, like probably four or five, but he started crying and said, mom, dad, you guys never yell at each other like this is making me so sad and it broke my heart, obviously. Like, what kind of a mom, what kind of a parent wants to hear that from their child, right? I was reflecting on this, it was late at night because I had work late and I just did not want to go home and face another new argument. I knew we were going to fight about probably something that the church had just released or some kind of piece of history that he has just found and no longer agrees with, or, or whatever the case. I knew I was going home to a fight and I was exhausted from work and just exhausted all over. And I just, after years of praying for help and like, what do I do? Do I stay in this marriage? Do I move on? I was like, I don’t know. And I finally said, God, like out loud in my car. I said, God, if you don’t send me help, I’m walking out because I don’t want to feel like this anymore. And the next day, again, I was at work and this time it’s morning time and I did go home to a fight that night. So the next day, my husband texted me this name of a therapist and said, I just found this therapist in American Fork and I’d like to try him out. And I said, okay, whatever. I’ll try it. Like whoever, whatever. I’m good. Like let’s try it out. 

Amanda: How long had it been at this point? 

Lisa: At this point it had probably been about four years. 

Amanda: Four years of having pretty much constant fights 

Lisa: Yes. 

Amanda: About religion. 

Lisa: Yes.

Amanda:  But I mean, it probably started snowballing into other things too 

Lisa: Absolutely. There was so much fighting around the religion that everything else was just bigger. Really.

Amanda: Yeah. . Okay. So your husband found this therapist? 

Lisa: Yes. And we went and saw him. He had openings and we were able to get in with him within a week. 

Amanda: Wow. And that’s like unheard of, especially these days. 

Lisa:  It was amazing. And I just kept thinking, you know, hindsight and I was like, oh, I just needed to make a decision. And then the therapist was sent to us. But yeah, we got to get in to see him and our first session, which for me, usually I feel like a first session is very much like get to know you. What’s going on? Here’s what I think we can help with. And then you have to go to more sessions. And that first session was so good. He was very validating in my feelings, but also validating for my husband’s feelings and both of our experiences. And he had also left the church. And I could see how having someone understand my husband a little better helped him too. And so then for me, it was good for me because he knew where I was coming from. He knew my beliefs and I didn’t ever feel attacked for having my beliefs seeing this guy. 

And we went weekly together for a while and things got so much better and we were both able to work through like our anger phases and grow into like the acceptant phases. And finally, we got to where, or at least I got to this part, where I finally want to be with my husband again.  I finally see a future with him. And even though it’s not the future that I had envisioned, it’s still a good future even though it’s different. 

And yeah, so we finally got there, but I was still having so many emotions around intimacy and sex. And a lot of that came from just all the feelings that I was holding in, even though I thought I’d let them go. And I had been listening to your podcast for a while and finally asked my husband, I said, what do you think about this? Like I feel more comfortable talking with a woman about my sexuality and about sex than I do with a man, because our therapist could have probably helped there too. I just wasn’t feeling comfortable with that. And he said, well, why don’t you do like a discovery call and let’s see what happens. 

And you and I did that call and I felt really good about it and talked to my husband about it and he was gung ho. And so, yeah. And we did the group coaching. It was three months of group coaching, if I remember right. And oh gosh, there was so much that changed for me within that three months. It was so good to work on me personally and work on my thoughts and then things happened in my sexuality and how I view myself and the intimacy with my husband. Things got so much better. So much better. I was finally enjoying intimacy and sex with him again. And it had been a long time. And so, yeah, it finally felt like all my prayers had been answered after all of that grief and anguish. We finally found that spot that was working.

Amanda: Yeah, tell me, so it’s been, gosh, it’s been two years since we did coaching. Yes. 

And so tell me what’s changed in your relationship. I mean, we had those initial changes, right? But now that it’s been two years, tell me what’s changed over the last couple of years in your relationship in general and in your sexual relationship? Because so many times I think, you know, people do coaching and they’re like, okay, great, I’m all gung-ho. And like, everything’s changed and then they kind of drop off and slip back into old patterns, so, you know, let’s talk about where you are now, you know, based on from where you were even two years ago.

Lisa: Okay. Yeah. So, we found some really good, I don’t know, I guess compromises that worked for me and my husband as far as church goes because I found, for me, that was something that really made me feel disconnected from my husband was not having that religious aspect with him. And so, although he, you know, doesn’t like read scriptures or anything with me, we have compromised to, he attends church with us all as a family for every other week. And even just that small little give towards religion for him was so huge for me and I have been so grateful for that. And it’s been so much, that has been one small step to help me feel like he loves me and makes me feel like I want to give love and return. 

Amanda: And, and there’s to this go like as a family every other week.  And then what do you do on the other weeks? 

Lisa: On the off weeks, we do whatever my husband wants to do. Sometimes he wants to go out as a family, but, a lot of times he just wants to stay in and do things as a family, which means I get to take naps and… 

Amanda: Well, I think that’s really, I think that’s a really beautiful compromise because I think a lot of times when you have a spouse leave the church, from what I’ve heard from other clients and stuff, you know, it’s this tug of war almost of what’s going to happen. And, you know, it becomes one spouse either going alone and then the other, you know, spouse doesn’t go. And then the kids are kind of torn, you know, well, do we stay home with this parent? Or do we go to church with this parent? And if, you know, this parent thinks it’s okay to stay home, why do we have to go to church anymore? And so finding that compromise with each other where, you know, even though your husband doesn’t believe anymore and he wouldn’t go on his own, that he’s willing to compromise and go with you, I think says a lot. And then I think it also is important to note that you have been willing to give up some of the things that are important to you to find that compromise as well. You know, you are getting to go to church every other week, but you’re choosing to stay home with your family and have that family time because that’s the most important thing and it helps you have more connection with him, which I think so many times when our spouse leaves we feel like we have to hold on so tightly to what we do believe and, you know, not budge and not compromise because then we’re going to go down this slippery slope just like they have. And so, and that actually creates more disconnect. Have you found that? 

Lisa: Yes, yes I did. Back when everything first started and I felt so strong and he felt so strong, there was absolutely a huge disconnect because we just didn’t agree on anything. We didn’t agree on our beliefs even, which I thought was so fundamental.

Amanda: Did you guys get married in the temple?

Lisa: We did, yes. 

Amanda: And, and I know you had served a mission. Did your husband serve as well? 

Lisa: Yeah. 

Amanda: Okay. So you had both served missions, you got married in the temple. Of course, you know the vision that you have for your life, if it’s going to look very different if one spouse chooses to not believe and not attend anymore.

Lisa: Yes. And it does, it looks very different. And there were lots of times, sitting in church. And my kids were smaller at the time, so they wanted to be with mom. It was me and my kids. And I just wanted to cry because this was not what I thought my life was going to be. I thought that we would both be a team here and raise our kids this way together, you know? Instead, I felt so alone and abandoned. And, so it was important for us to find those compromises. And,  like you said, I really felt strongly that right now my kids would choose to come with me because they’re still little and they’re just obsessed with mom. But one day they’re going to choose to stay home with my husband and I just knew that would build resentment for me. I didn’t know how I could make peace with that. 

Amanda: I think that’s a thing that a lot of moms are really worried about, or, you know, parents I should say, because it can be the wife leaving as well. But that’s something that we, I think, is a very valid reason to, you know, or thing to think about like how one spouse choosing to leave is going to affect the kids. How did you reconcile that part? 

Lisa: Oh, one day at a time. That my husband agreeing to come to church every other week with us has really had a positive effect for me for that, and I have learned to view it as, my kids now get to experience what I believe, but they get to also experience a different set of beliefs. And then I feel, I hope that we’re teaching them that it doesn’t really matter what people choose to believe. If they’re good people, we should love them and we should support them and be their friends and just let them be involved in our lives and invite them with us to places because it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person that you don’t want to come to church or that you don’t believe in God or anything like that. So,  that has really helped me viewing it in, in that point of, of hoping that my children will be a little bit more accepting of differing beliefs has helped me reconcile my husband’s faith crisis and his loss of faith.

Amanda: Yeah. Did your son choose to be baptized? 

Lisa: He did. 

Amanda: And your daughter, is your daughter old enough? 

Lisa: She’s not yet. She’ll be coming up this year. And, that actually, I had been preparing for this really, really hard day. Because on one hand my son is choosing to be baptized and he got to be baptized with his cousin so it was extra special. But on the other hand, my husband wasn’t going to be involved but he was willing to come and there were a lot of little teeny tiny little miracles, before the baptism that just gave me hope and peace that, you know, it’s going to be okay. Even though dad is not the one baptizing my son, it’s going to be okay. And there are still good things that we learned. 

The night before the baptism, my husband did help my son practice how to dip when he was in the water getting baptized and even before we had set like a date for baptism, he sat my son down wanting to have a chat with him about what baptism means, and I was feeling so nervous, like, oh, he’s going to talk him out of it. He’s going to tell him why he shouldn’t be baptized. I just assumed all of these things but I also told myself I need to let my husband say his peace. I can’t interrupt. I need to let him say what he’s feeling and thinking. And so I’m just going to stay in the room. I’m going to listen and I’m going to let him say what he needs to say. 

And he said to Alec, who’s my son, he said, why do you want to get baptized? And Alec says, well, I want to follow Jesus and I want to choose the right and I want to be forgiven of my sins. 

And I’m just waiting, waiting, you know, emotions are high right now. And my husband says to him, he says, those are really good answers. I really appreciate that. But I want you to know that if you’re going to choose to believe in a God, and be baptized, I want you to choose to believe in a God that loves you no matter what. And no matter, I’m still so emotional. No matter how many mistakes you make, that he loves you. And that was so pretty much everything.

Are you sure you don’t believe what’s going on here? When he had first left the church, I don’t think that would have come out of his mouth, but where he has been able to make peace and we’ve been able to make peace together and I’ve been able to make peace, everything has just come together and I am seeing those, you know, like tender mercies, that just keep me holding on and give me hope. And it helped me realize that like, gosh, like I really did marry a good guy even though we’re choosing different belief paths, he is just such a good guy. He has such a good heart. 

And so my son got baptized a couple months later and his grandpas got to baptize him and confirm him, and it was so beautiful. I had just a minute where I was sad that my husband wasn’t involved and that was quickly dismissed by the happiness that we got to see and how happy the grandpas were to be involved. And knowing that even my husband was there with us at the baptism, even though he wasn’t involved, he was still there showing up to support him and that, that meant so much to me.

Amanda: Yeah. Talk to me a little bit about the emotions that, like what they were in the beginning and how they’ve changed over time, because I think that’s a really important piece. I think, I mean, you’ve talked a little bit about, you know, the anger in the beginning and then, you know, kind of coming to a place of peace. But talk to me a little bit more about that. 

Lisa: Yeah, so when we first started going to therapy, our therapist printed out this chart that I can’t even remember what it was called, but it had a list of emotions starting at like anger and loathing and up to like acceptance and peace and love and all the emotions that could come in between and he asked us, he said, on this scale of him leaving the church, and where you guys are at, where are both of you? And, and I was not very far past that anger phase. 

It had gone more from like an anger into like a sadness kind of phase. And heartbreak and things like that. And I just remember seeing those steps that he had in front of us. And I was like, oh yeah, I did feel the loathing. I did feel the hate. I felt that anger. I have felt all of these emotions preceding to where I’m feeling now, which was mostly just sadness and which would also translate into anger a lot of the time. 

And so through these sessions, we were able to check in with each other and check in with the therapist to see where each of us were at. And, and we slowly together at our own pace moved up into this acceptance phase where I feel like that acceptance phase we got there and that was when I finally felt like there’s hope here, there’s something. And then I remember looking at the chart and saying, there’s also after acceptance, there’s happiness and love and joy also. And I was like, okay, I’ve moved through all these phases of grief and sadness and anger and I’m here. I’m almost there to where I can find joy and happiness and be in love and have so much love for my husband again. And I, for some reason, I guess maybe as a hairstylist, that visual really helped me see where I was at when we started and when it was, you know, a little while in as we had gone and to see where we had gotten to, both of us had moved up the scale and we’re still in different places, but it was so much better than being in the anger and the hate phase.

Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. Don’t you think there’s a grieving process that you kind of have to go through? Like, I mean, grieving the life that you and the marriage that you thought you were going to have and, you know, it sounds like the stages of grief that you’re describing, right?  But then moving into that place where you can get into acceptance and then love and joy and find happiness again, and it takes a while and it, and I’m sure there’s still days that maybe you go back. 

Lisa: Yes. There are so many days where I feel sad or angry again and you just have to work through it. 

Amanda: Right, right. But, I think there’s hope there. That there is the possibility of finding that joy and that happiness together again if you’re both willing to put in the work and be willing to make compromises and really look at how the choices are affecting the other person and be willing to look at your own choices. Really doing work together. 

Lisa: Yeah, it was a lot of work. I wish I could say it was so easy. I just, I remember leaving our session so drained and so exhausting and thinking, how am I going to do these things that our therapist has asked us this week? Because this feels hard. And it was hard. Every week, every week going, you know, all of it was so hard. .Eventually I started seeing that little bits of hope here and there, and that is kind of what just kept me going. 

Amanda: Yeah. Well, and I think this gives hope for people who are maybe just beginning that journey. I know, like I’ve had, I’ve had a few other clients whose spouses have been going through faith transitions, and I know one of them has even talked to you like you gave permission to share contact information and they’ve reached out to you. And got a lot of comfort in that, that, you know, while it is so hard, especially in the beginning when it’s all the uncovering and figuring things out, there is hope for the future and, and it’s also normal to experience those things and experience even a lack of intimacy and sex because of that lack of connection in your marriage. So if that is you,  listener, right? There is hope there. 

Lisa: There is hope. And it feels hopeless. I felt hopeless for so long, for so long, and now to know where I’m at now, I don’t know if I would’ve believed you eight years ago when all of this started. I would’ve been like, there’s no way. There is no way that this, like this, no way. This is hopeless. There’s no moving on from this. And now we are, we’re happy together again. And we can talk about the hard topics of the church without fighting. We can disagree and we can share our opinions with each other, but it doesn’t turn into a fight. 

Amanda: That’s amazing. 

Lisa: It just turns into, yes, we’re listening to each other, we’re trying to understand the other’s perspective, and we make peace with it, and we’re just fine after it. Even if one of us gets a little bit worked up, we don’t fight. We are just able to work it through and either just agree to disagree or be okay that our spouse feels the way that they do and we don’t have to feel that way. 

Amanda: Yeah. So a mutual friend of ours, my best friend Crystal, who Lisa also knows, is going to be coming on the podcast in a few weeks to talk about conflict in marriage and how it’s actually a good thing because it moves us towards growth in marriage. So many times we don’t have those conflicts and we just stay silent or we sweep things under the rug and then things just fester and then it’s like a blow up and isn’t good. And so I think this is a really good example of that where you guys did have a lot of conflict and it was probably unhelpful conflict for a little while until you learned in therapy. And I would say, and you can learn that in coaching as well, how to have conflict in a way that’s actually going to move you forward instead of keep you stuck. 

Lisa: Yes, yes. And I will say we definitely learned that in therapy, but for me in coaching, I learned how to not take it so personal. 

Amanda: Oh, that’s good to know.

Lisa: yes, it, it always felt like a personal attack. If he’s attacking the church, he’s attacking me. And once I could separate that out and realize that’s not what’s happening here. He’s angry. He’s letting it out. I’m not being attacked. That’s – I’m an emotional person. A lot of things make me cry, make me cry easy. And so it helped me just to separate, like, this is how he’s feeling, but it’s not a personal attack towards me. 

Amanda: Mm-hmm. So good. And do you think, you know, whether it was in therapy or coaching, being able to look at the possibilities and, you know, I mean, we think like, okay, well, you know, if our kids then leave the church, if our, you know, all of these things, how did, how did that shape for you?

Lisa: Yeah, so that has been a topic in my own mind of, I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, but I do hope I handle it with grace and love and understanding because I do anticipate, and maybe I should try and not think this way, but… For me as a kid, I probably would’ve chosen not to go to church if we’re going to church. That would’ve been an easy choice for me. And, you know, and, I don’t know where that would’ve taken me or anything, but I, I do anticipate the fights and arguments that will come as my kids grow up and form their own opinions and maybe one of them or both of them follow in their dad’s footsteps. 

I just have, I mean, almost every day I just try and tell myself like, I just need to raise good and loving human beings and yes, and then leave the rest to God because, I’m doing what I can do. And as long as they’re good people, I think there is a place in heaven for people that are good no matter what their beliefs are. And I just believe in a very merciful God and a long eternity where we can all be better and progress even more. And that’s just the hope that I hang onto that, we will be shown a lot of mercy and forgiveness and love and you know, justice has to be mixed in the mix somewhere, but that’s where Christ falls in the mix for us. And then Mercy is extended and I just really have learned to believe in a Heavenly Father that wants to make us as successful as he can and he will do anything to make that happen. So, that has also, that thought process has also given me a lot of hope for my husband because he’s not a bad person.

Amanda: No, he’s not. I can attest to that.

Lisa: Yeah. He’s a very good guy and I married him for a lot of reasons. And the, you know, like we’re, yeah, we’ve been married 11 years and all those reasons are still true. And so, yeah. I just have learned to believe in God that will make everything work out. It will all just work and I don’t know how that’s going to happen, but it just will  

Amanda: Well and like, I haven’t had a spouse leave the church, but I’ve, my oldest son has, and you know, I can tell you that coaching is what got me through that process honestly. I think one of the things that we talk about in coaching is living with intention and showing up as our best self in all circumstances. I mean, of course we’re not going to be perfect at that ever, but we try, right?  We try to do the best we can and how can I show up in each situation in love, and that is what got me through the process. And also being willing to feel my emotions. To feel the heartbreak and the devastation and the sadness and being willing to feel that, then I’m able to move through it faster and get to that love faster. 

That still doesn’t mean that there’s not moments where I feel that heartbreak again comes quite often actually, but, I can move through that process and get back to love so much faster because of what I’ve learned and I teach my clients about their emotions and moving through those. So, and I think, you know, it’s important for us to play out different scenarios of what’s going to happen with our spouse or what with our kids. Like if we think about, you know, when we were teenagers or kids, you know, they, they were like, okay, if some, if you go to a party and someone offers you alcohol, what’s your answer going to be? Or someone offers you drugs or a cigarette or whatever. Right? 

And when we can make those decisions ahead of time, it’s a lot easier to make the decision in the moment. If we’ve never thought about it, then it makes it a lot harder to make those decisions in the moment. 

Yeah, so like one of my things that I do, that I often do, and not that I sit and worry or anything, but like, you know, if I had a child leave the church, how would I want to show up? What would I want to say? What would I want to do? If I have a child who has sex before marriage? How do I want to show up? If I have a child who shows up and says they’re pregnant, or they got somebody pregnant, or they’re doing drugs or like whatever, like I play out these scenarios in my mind so that if they ever do come up, I show up as my best self because I’ve already made those decisions ahead of time. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel emotions. I absolutely do, but I’m able to show up as a more authentic and loving person through all of it, and I think that’s so, so key, especially when you have a spouse that is changing the way he believes so chances are many of our audience has either already experienced this or will be experiencing this, and I just want to encourage you to think about how you can show up in love through those experiences, because I think that’s going to serve you, your spouse and your marriage so much better.

Amanda: Thank you, Lisa. Thank you for being here on the podcast and being open and vulnerable and sharing your story. I’m sure it’ll be so much help.

Lisa: I hope so, Amanda, thank you for all you do. We’re lucky to have you.

Amanda: All right, everyone. I hope you enjoyed that episode and that interview. I hope you found it helpful. Show up in love. That’s always the best option, and if you need some help with that, come into coaching. 

Have a Merry Christmas and we’ll see you next week. Bye-bye.

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