This week I’ve been thinking a lot about General Conference, which is coming up this weekend. In the Facebook groups I belong to I’ve seen a lot of discussion about it. Many women put extra stress on themselves this weekend. We want this to be a weekend of spiritual uplift, family bonding, and feeling the spirit. We have this ideal in our minds. When we have a spouse who isn’t interested in sharing that ideal with us, it adds an extra layer of stress.
I’ve contemplated what I would say to a friend if she came to me and asked, “This is so hard. My husband doesn’t want anything to do with the church and Conference weekend is coming up. I used to love Conference weekend, but now I’m just feeling anxious and stressed. What should I do?”
My advice for Conference weekend is to choose one thing that you have control over that will make Conference weekend a success for you. You don’t have control over your spouse – whether he watches it with you or not, or if he’s happy this weekend or not. You don’t control how your kids behave or if they want to watch with you or not. You must choose something that you control. Here are some ideas to get your mind thinking:
I will watch one session of Conference no matter what.
I will make a treat for my family this weekend whether they watch Conference or not.
I will find a friend to discuss Conference with.
I will plan an activity for the family this weekend.
I will be kind to my family members no matter how they feel about Conference.
As far as the logistics of watching Conference this weekend, let me share some ways I’ve approached Conference over the years. Some methods have worked better than others.
Twenty-four years ago, when I started on the journey of having a spouse who was not interested in the church, I probably turned on Conference with the attitude, “Conference will be on, and we should all watch it whether you like it or not.” Surprisingly enough, that didn’t go over very well. I wasn’t taking anyone else’s thoughts or feelings into consideration. For you, this approach (with a bit of an attitude adjustment from mine) might work. Your spouse may be okay with being in the same room or being in the vicinity doing a project – if it works for you, great!
Another thing I tried was going to a friend’s house. While I liked the Sprit there and being with like-minded people, it was a little more distracting for my kids because they had friends to play with. It turned out not to be a good long-term solution for my family because my spouse just felt that we had abandoned him for the weekend. Maybe your spouse would love having the house to himself.
Often I would go to my room with my computer and watch Conference – with or without children. Sometimes I would take a long walk while listening to Conference on my iPhone.
Going to the church for one session worked well for me with young children. It seemed fair to me, since on Sunday mornings I always went to church with the kids, that I could go to the Sunday morning session of Conference. It does take some effort to get out the door, but you already do that every Sunday. I liked that it kept the routine of going to church, provided structure for the kids with no toys to distract, and allowed us the opportunity to pay attention a little bit better.
A friend suggested something last weekend that I’d never thought of – going to a hotel for the weekend. If you can pull that off – if Conference can be your girl's weekend or your “pack the kids up and go” weekend – maybe that would work for you. Your spouse might be all in and think, “Yes, weekend all to myself.”
An idea from another friend of mine is the road trip method of listening to Conference. This idea would work best for younger kids and without your spouse who doesn’t want to be involved. She had the family in the car and played Conference while they were driving. Children were secure in car seats, and everyone got to listen. Older kids would probably put their iPod headphones in if they weren’t interested, but it could work for younger kids.
Finally, you can ignore Conference this weekend. We are blessed now that we get instant access to Conference after it ends. You can choose to watch Conference another time. Sometimes you have to prioritize people over Conference.
Hopefully, you can work out with your spouse what works for the two of you. You can compromise about how much time you will spend on Conference over the weekend and what you’ll do during the rest of the time. It probably won’t look like your ideal Conference weekend, and that’s okay.
That’s a bit about the logistics of Conference. Let me tell you about three things that have worked well for me over time.
Getting rid of that “nudge” attitude. You know when you are in the congregation and you see someone nudge his or her spouse, “Honey, you should really listen to this.” I never had anyone next to me to nudge because he didn’t want to watch, but it’s that same attitude. “Oh, if only he could hear this….This talk would be so good for him…If he only knew this….things would be so much better.” Don’t go there. It’s just a slow form of torture for yourself over things that you can’t control. Let go of the “honey you should really hear this talk” syndrome, and you’ll feel so much better.
Talk to a friend afterward. A few years back, I started calling my friend after General Conference because I didn’t have someone at home who wanted to talk to me about it. I would call her and discuss the weekend. What themes did you see? What themes did I see? What stood out to you? What did you learn? What did I learn? How are we going to move forward? I love debriefing from Conference with a trusted friend.
Do Conference just for you. Don’t do it because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t do it because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t. Don’t do it because you have to expose your children to it. Even if those reasons are good. When it comes down to it, if I do Conference just for me because I want to listen to the prophet, because I want to be spiritually fed, because I want to feel the spirit, because I want to improve my life – If I do it for me and my reasons and let go of the expectations for other people, it makes all the difference.
I’ve shared my thoughts with you. I would love to hear your thoughts. I know each family situation is different. I’d love to hear what has worked for you and what hasn’t worked for you.
If you have more thoughts on General Conference or other concerns that you would like to discuss, let’s talk. I chose the group that I coach – Latter-day Saint women whose spouses are having a faith crisis – because it was me. Twenty-four years ago, when I started on this path, no one was talking about having a spouse leave the church. I felt completely alone. I’ve learned much through the years by trial and error. As I got more involved in personal development, coaching, and trained as a life coach, I gained a structure and framework for sharing what I’ve learned. I have tools and techniques that I can teach you to help you progress faster and better than I did. I’d love a chance to talk to you.
Have a wonderful weekend. Choose one thing you have control over that will make Conference a success for you.