Monday, December 11, 2006

Full disclosure

I recently discussed with my wife that moment when I came out to her. I remember it as awkward, very embarrassing, and still sort of heroically wonderful. It was the first time I ever admitted I was gay to anyone other than a therapist.

But, I have a terrible memory, and for this reason I generally charge my wife with keeping track of life's most important reminders. And my wife's recollection of the event is a little different from my own. She remembers me saying, "I think I might like boys... sometimes." The careful reader will note that this is not identical in declarative solidity or content to "I am gay."

Over the last several months I've read with interest the accounts of other gay married men who either came out to their wives before or after marriage, as well as Oaks' comments on the subject and others' takes who are only spectators to the situation. The general sentiment seems to be, shame on you if you didn't tell your wife exactly what she was getting into before you married her. And, in some few cases, this may apply. But I really feel that the majority of cases (mine included) suffer from a lack of full disclosure not because of some sneaky reluctance to be honest, but because there has been such a lack of self-understanding that one could just as easily say, "Based on my feelings, I'm not sure if my gallbladder is performing at 100%."

I still don't fully understand the nature and depth of my homosexuality. But neither of us quite knew at the time we were dating and engaged that it would be as hard as it has been. I didn't think pornography was going to be the long-term problem that it has been, and she interpreted my "coming out" as a turning point--believing that having finally admitted it I was in a position to just walk away from it.

Back when the SLT article came out about gay married Mormons, many an idle commenter declared us to be naïve in believing our marriage could work. I believe we were naïve in the same way everyone is naïve when starting something as strange and new as marriage--there's no way you can know the odd ins and outs without experiencing them firsthand. And we were ignorant to the depth and breadth of the challenges my homosexuality would create for us. But we were not naive in the largest sense--we knew marriage would send us all sorts of curve balls, and that we would need all our loyalty and commitment to one another and the gospel to make it through regardless of the nature of the challenges.

We still believe (and I don't think it's naïve at all) that our marriage is and will be what we make it. Our marriage has improved and strengthened consistently over the years despite our growing understanding of the sexual challenges. It's not an overstatement to say that our family is thriving. Although my initial admission to my wife was something short of full disclosure, it represented an honest effort to communicate what I knew and understood at the time, and so the real measure of the success of our communication is not in whether I told, but in whether I continue to tell.


Kengo Biddles said...

Miki knew from the get-go that I was 'gay', but she didn't understand that it's going to be an ongoing thing for the whole of our marriage.

Thankfully, things have improved and our interpersonal dynamic has always been on the upswing, and we're very much happier now than we've ever been and have every hope our marriage will improve.

I think that's the important thing to remember. It doesn't matter if we're in a 'mixed-orientation' marriage (hate that term), it matters that we're in a marriage and WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT WORK. That is all that matters. That is what we signed up for. The specific differences aside, what makes our marriages different from those who are straight?

If you haven't told your wife, tell her with love, and ideally, spend weeks and months asking God in the holy sanctums of the temple to prepare her heart to receive the knowledge. God wants our marriages to succeed. "Those that are with us are greater than those that are against us."

Sorry for absconding with your blog -L-. You should impose a character limit on me. :)

Jessie said...

I think that's pretty much what Master Fob said to me--"I like boys". I've had so many people ask what I thought of that, and the truth is that I basically panicked because I didn't know what I was supposed to think. It sort of freaked me out, but mostly didn't because I liked him and he liked me and we were happy. I know I was naive and we were both naive, but like you and others have said, marriage is an evolving phenomenon and we have chosen to roll with the punches. There are a lot of things we didn't think we'd have to deal with, both related to the SSA issue and not. That's life. I'm still glad I knew what some of his major issues were before marriage, but I'm also glad we've been able to talk about things since.

Beck said...

My full disclosure came with a 31 page letter of explanation! I had been married 20 years and so there was a lot to explain. Even so, the words "I'm gay" never came out. But the meaning of "I'm really attracted to guys" did.

It's been nearly two years now. The evolution of those words keeps changing. I think there is a time for "full disclosure" and a time for what is needed and best for the relationship. Does this mean that I give my wife a false sense of hope? Of course it does... for you see, I still maintain a false sense of that hope as well. I don't consider that necessarily bad.

Unusual Dude said...

I think I may have even told my wife that I thought it would be an ongoing issue throughout my life - but that I hoped I could get it to go away.

Unfortunately, that made her think that surely it WOULD go away after a few months, or at worst, maybe a couple of years. It's been difficult for her to realize that it's just not going to vanish into thin air.

However, we have become stronger through it all, our marriage has become even happier, we've had to learn all sorts of communication lessons, and I know I'm becoming a better person. I don't think my wife feels that I withheld anything from her, but neither one of us understood what would happen after marriage. We just trusted that we were doing the right thing because of how we felt after a great deal of fasting and prayer.

It's that "step into the dark" that is sometimes referred to when people talk about faith. We had to just take that huge and uncertain step without knowing exactly what we would find outside the spotlight. And it has been so, so worth it.

Ben said...

I just want to add an "amen."

Chris said...

But I really feel that the majority of cases (mine included) suffer from a lack of full disclosure not because of some sneaky reluctance to be honest, but because there has been such a lack of self-understanding that one could just as easily say, "Based on my feelings, I'm not sure if my gallbladder is performing at 100%."

I completely agree. Imagine that.

Anonymous said...

What wonderful replies! You have great friends L. I hope I can add something.

Regarding the pornography addiction (you may already do this): look your self in the eyes every day and say something in the vein of "You are a great person with a tough problem. I love you and want you to know that you will make it through this. And I will be here to help."

For some of us, part of enduring to the end means putting up with our own weakness for a long time. "Though thy sins be as scarlet" is not just a commentary on the brightness of the color but also on the way the darn dye sticks to the cloth.

This is not a matter of ranking one sin in a list of sins; this is about being healed. Do not let your self or others shame you. You are loved and this addiction can be healed. I love you.
G'pa Bob

-L- said...

Kengo, abscond away. By all means!

Beck, why is it a false sense of hope? I think it's real and that you have a lot to look forward to in your marriage.

G'pa Bob, thanks for the kind words. I feel fine about myself... I just need to work to the next step and be done with it now.

Anonymous said...

HI -- I am new to this, so I'll give a short intro. I am the wife of 20+ years of a man who struggles with SSA. (Yes, I knew before we got married, but I had no idea that it would never change for him.) Oddly enough, now that the children are growing up and I have a little bit of a life back, his SSA and attendant issues (depression, low self-esteem, etc ...) bother me more now than when we were first married. I have to admit, 'being strong and upbeat' wears on me, and it is everything I can do not to adopt codependent behaviors myself to deal with these issues. I try to be loving, but even without the SSA, we would struggle, I believe. ... I agree with posts here that SSA issues, while unique in some respects, are not so unique in others and that we are probably more like other married couples than people can understand. I would love to hear from other wives (though I appreciate your opinions, men). Perhaps I should start my own blog as a place for gathering to take place? Thanks all.