This is a complicated topic, so expect a long post. I am really struggling, though, and after all the help I've seen other people receive I'm posting here to get advice and feedback.
Summary: I've grown disinterested in the church and everything to do with it. I am profoundly unhappy. My efforts to regain my spiritual strength have borne no fruit thus far.
Maybe a timeline will help:
1982-1989: carried on an off-and-on, long-distance relationship with a woman I'll call C. We met in 8th grade, saw each other semi-regularly, broke up a few times.. typical teenage stuff.
1989-1991: dated, then married, a woman I'll call A.
1997: joined the church.
1998: sealed to A and our two (at the time) kids.
1998-2010: faithful service as husband, father, priesthood holder. Baptized all three of our sons; ordained the older two. Semi-regular temple attendance with A. Completely faithful, both emotionally and physically. No porn, gambling, neglect, etc.
Christmas 2009: A's old boyfriend, S, contacted her via e-mail. She told me about it, and I wasn't unduly concerned. S turns out to be a militant atheist, the kind that is continually proselyting others to abandon their faith.
Apr 2010: returned from a business trip to have A tell me that she wasn't in love with me, wasn't attracted to me, didn't want to be married to me, and had felt this way for nearly 10 years. We went to a counselor (at my insistence) but A was not interested in trying to fix the relationship, so that effort went nowhere.
May 2010: A files for divorce (which in our home state is no-fault, meaning I had no recourse). The divorce requires a 181-day waiting period, so it would be final in Nov 2010.
Jun 2010: in a burst of frustration, loneliness, and stupidity, contacted C via e-mail. She was in an unhappy and abusive marriage, so she was glad to have someone to talk to.
Jun 2010: On a trip to visit friends, A visits S, with our kids. She is at first evasive about it but then admits it, saying they are "just friends" and that S counseled her to do everything possible to save her marriage.
Jun-Nov 2010: C and I speak a couple of times daily and texted each other frequently. Our discussions covered a huge range of topics-- she eagerly asks questions about the church and its teachings, gets her own copies of the "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church" manuals and quizzes me about them, etc. We talk about our married lives, our goals for the future, our jobs, our kids, current events, what was on NPR that day, favorite travel spots-- you name it. Nothing lusty or inappropriate.
Jul 2010: C, who had already been investigating the church, is baptized. Later in the month, her 9- and 10-year-old kids choose to be baptized as well.
Aug 2010: C and I saw each other for the first time since 1989. We met for dinner and spent the night-- completely chastely-- together. No kissing, touching, or anything like unto it.
Oct 2010: C filed for divorce, something she says (and I believe) she would have done anyway. We begin making plans to see each other again after her divorce is finalized in December.
Nov 2010: A finds out that I've been communicating with C, and that we had plans for her to visit me after her divorce is finalized. She loses her cool, becomes verbally abusive, hits me several times (very uncharacteristic), threatens to try to take sole custody of our kids away if I continue my relationship with C. A said a lot of things during her ranting that stick with me: that I had failed to live up to the standards of a priesthood holder, that I was unworthy to take our sons to the temple (I'd been on two youth temple trips with the older boys over the summer), that there would be no way to ever explain to my kids or C's how we had met, etc. I think the thing that upset A the most was that I had shared details of our divorce process with C, but it's hard to say, as she was terribly upset overall.
I wrote C that night and told her that we could have no further contact. I ignored her texts and phone calls over the next week or so until they stopped. I told myself that cold turkey was better and that, in time, she would forgive me.
That's where things stand. Since then, I have little to no interest in church. During the nearly 18 months I've lived in my current ward I have never felt connected to it, but that feeling has worsened since the divorce, as many of the members seem at a loss in understanding how to relate to ZOMG HE'S DIVORCED QUICK GET AWAY IT MIGHT BE CONTAGIOUS!!!1! However, since cutting off contact with C it's been worse. I don't feel like communing with the Lord. I stopped wearing my garments, have skipped church several times (something I never did, even once, during my previous membership), and, in general, have no interest in continued membership (though I am still a full tithe payer, yay me.)
I feel like my testimony has blown away like a puff of smoke, and I don't know what to do to get it back, or even if I want to.
On the advice of my best friend (a member of his stake's presidency) I renewed my efforts to study the scriptures and pray, but that has availed me nothing. I still feel disconnected from the Lord; I still feel unfairly punished despite all my previous efforts to be a righteous husband and father, and I still mourn for the relationship I was hoping to have with C. I miss her every day.
I recognize the symptoms of depression in my daily behavior: lack of interest in normally-enjoyable activities, lack of motivation, frequent periods of profound sadness. I know these things will pass, because they're already episodic. Some days are fine; others, I feel like I've been wrapped in leaden chains. I can still function on those days, but it's a great effort.
I'm not really sure why I'm posting this. I am confident, however, that all my friends here will be able to make helpful, and actionable, suggestions to help me figure out how to solve this problem.
A few notes for those who made it all the way to the end:
- we just had a change in bishopric. I haven't spoken to my new bishop about any of this situation. His day job is as a marriage counselor, so I feel odd about going to him with all this unless I'm paying his normal hourly rate.
- I've had one appointment with my previous counselor, right after I broke off contact with C. I didn't find the discussion with her terribly helpful.
- my kids have no idea, I think, that any of this is going on. A & I are still outwardly cordial and are able to work together effectively as co-parents.