There isn’t any “perfect” way to negotiate how your family will approach LDS General Conference. If you are still getting used to being in a mixed-faith marriage, meet yourself and your spouse with a ton of compassion.
With time and practice, you can figure out a system of making decisions that will work for your family.
Useful tips to keep in mind
- Kids benefit from seeing parents disagree as long as those parents don’t make disagreement a problem in their relationship.
- We have the capacity to feel every emotion. It’s fearing and resisting emotions that create anxiety (and sometimes depression).
- When you name an emotion, you empower yourself to think about it. Emotions are signals, but we don’t need to believe everything they say. Feeling fear doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in danger.
- We have no control over what other people think, but we can notice and direct our own thoughts. Our thoughts create our feelings; our feelings drive our actions. One of the most useful things we can do for our relationships is to take responsibility for our feelings and recognize that other people are responsible for theirs.
- Some circumstances make it easier for us to have positive thoughts and some circumstances make it more difficult; however, there is always more than one way to think about every circumstance.
Options for General Conference weekend
As a mixed-faith couple, you have options regarding what to do on Conference weekend. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Each member of the family (over a certain age) decides how to use their time on Conference weekend.
- We watch some (or all) sessions together.
- We don’t watch Conference, but choose something else to do as a family.
- After Conference, one or both parents choose some talks to discuss as a family.
- We create a game to play as we listen to a few talks. The game could focus on values, critical thinking, emotions, or noticing similarities/differences.
- Mom decides for the family in April and Dad decides in October.
- One spouse watches Conference and the other spouse watches kids. Later, everyone gets to share about their day.
- We create new family traditions for the first weekend in Oct and April.
- We sit in the same room (drawing, doing puzzles, using legos). Some family members use headphones to listen to conference and others listen to music.
- Everyone sits in a circle and scratches someone else’s back while listening to one talk. Then, everyone goes to ice cream and shares their thoughts.
Try adding your own ideas to this list. What other options can you imagine?
Useful questions to ask yourself
Whether you’re the believing or the non-believing spouse, your mixed-faith marriage presents an opportunity to learn more about yourself.
Before negotiating with your spouse, try to take time to think about your fears, desires, and expectations. Here are some useful questions you can ask yourself:
- What do I value and how do I want to use my energy? Here’s a list of values to use as a reference.
- What (if anything) am I worried about as I think about Conference weekend? If what I’m afraid of happens, how will I handle it? What can I remind myself that gives me strength?
- What options am I willing to consider?
- Do I want to make a request of my spouse?
- If my spouse says no to my request, what will I choose to make that mean?
- Do I have expectations of myself or my spouse that aren’t serving our relationship?
- How can our differences bring us closer together?
How to make a request
We make a request when we ask for something we want and allow the other person to say yes or no.
It would mean a lot to me if we could maintain some part of our conference tradition. Would you be willing to watch one hour with me and the kids?
How to say no to this request
This is hard for me to say, but I want a complete break from Conference this time. I’m happy to take kids with me if you want to watch without distractions.
Useful to think if a spouse says no
- I trust my spouse loves me and is making the decision that’s best for them.
- I’m glad my spouse trusts our relationship enough to be able to say no to me.
- I’m disappointed, but that’s ok. I can feel disappointed for a while.
10 power thoughts for mixed-faith couples
- I don’t always need to understand my spouse in order to love my spouse.
- My spouse doesn’t always need to understand me in order to love me.
- I choose not to let religion get in the way of loving my spouse.
- I give myself and my spouse permission to be human.
- I realize my brain is responsible for my feelings and my spouse’s brain creates my spouse’s feelings. We both have the capacity to feel positive and negative emotions.
- When my spouse is hurting, I don’t blame myself for their feelings. When I’m hurting, I let myself feel without blaming my spouse.
- My mixed-faith marriage provides an amazing opportunity for me to increase my capacity to love.
- It’s my job to decide how I will show up for the people I love. I have the power to be the spouse and the parent that I want to be.
- In our home, we all get to share our opinions — including our opinions about the church. We create a place where everyone knows they will be loved no matter what they think or how they feel.
- The decisions we make about General Conference are the best decisions for our family at this time. We don’t need to defend our choices to anyone else.
Of course, you can modify any of the statements above in any way that feels good to you. Try to choose thoughts that increase feelings of love and decrease feelings of fear. Love is always the emotion that serves our relationships the best.