Tuesday, February 27, 2007

To marry or not?

I wrote this a long while ago, but thought it was relevant to a few things I've read by others recently, so I went ahead and busted it out of draft status:

I remember the ache in a deep place in my heart. I wanted to be married so badly. I felt alone and needed someone to love me unconditionally--not just as a friend.

I've always been one to make friends pretty easily. At least, the kind of friends who are well above "acquaintance" but not quite intimate enough to call on a moment's notice to demand a shoulder to cry on. They would have said yes, of course, but I'm not one to make myself so vulnerable... even if it means being miserable in my wallowing loneliness.

Amidst the misery and self-pity, I had little insight into the fact that I was gay. I mean, I knew it in some sense. But it didn't weigh in consciously as a factor in my everyday decisions. So I still dated as if I were straight. I found no girls to be particularly what I was looking for, but I had a lot of fun just the same. On the rare occasion that I could comprehend the fun simultaneously with the inadequacy of it all, I realized I was in deep trouble. Fun wasn't going to get me a soul mate. And the soul mates I wanted were unavailable to me (as men).

Finally I got some good advice from my brother. He's an ardent Mormon in the true sense--works for the church, loves it, gives everything he has to it. I explained to him that there was a girl I had a lot of fun with (and had for years), but that it just didn't seem to be romantic or sexual. It didn't seem to be enough. Now, I suspect that he might know about my gay feelings even though we've never discussed it. He suggested that I consider all my feelings for her and not demand that it be a perfect fit. We had a connection, he said, that he had seen first hand. If we were both committed to each other, to the gospel, and recognized that life wouldn't be perfect, we might be right for each other.

Ultimately, God knows what is best. I'm one who believes there is not just one person in the world right for me, but that I could be happy with many of them. So, I asked God if she was right for me and he gave an affirmative answer. This woman knew by this point that I was gay. She accepted me anyway. We had a long history that I had never had with any other woman. We had had a lot of fun over the years. I thought that we could make it work. But there was a still a reluctant part of me that wondered if there was someone better. Should I hold out or should I just settle? My pride got in the way and the issue was suddenly not about sexuality at all, it was about finding perfection rather than accepting the love that was right in front of me. She loved me. I knew that she did. And on reflection I knew that I loved her. But the fact that it was only a deliberative love, not an unreflective one, gave me a lot of concern.

It took me several years to finally mature to the point where I realized that love can be something you perfect over time, given the proper quality and a sufficient quantity of raw materials. My gay feelings would be an obstacle more obvious than those imperfect character qualities that everyone has to deal with in marriage. And yes, it's qualitatively different, but not unmanageably so. We've made it work. And we continue to make it work. And despite all the nay-sayers who refuse to give any validity to our testimonial because of our relatively young marriage (not quite 5 years), I'm 100% confident that we'll continue to make it work.

I've never been happier and my loneliness is gone. The work continues, certainly. It's not all automatic.

But it's real. It's not a sham marriage. Despite the charges that I'm deluding myself, that I'm in denial, that I'm just a few months from melt-down... it's absolutely wonderful.

So. To the person who recently asked for advice on how to tell his family to lay off a little with their advice, I'd say just listen and relax. They might actually have something of value to relate, even if they know nothing about your sexual situation. Don't assume you will or won't marry. Live and learn, and stay open to God and his miracles. In my mind, it can always go either way until you close the door with your own self-determination.


Gay BYU Student said...

A very interesting post L. I must say that this is something I have been thinking about extensively for some time now. What do I really want out of life and relationships?

I decided that even more than sex I want companionship. Someone to relate to, to have fun with, to be able to ask for favors whenever, and just someone to enjoy life with. But I still want to feel that intimate sexual attraction to them. I want to have both dimensions of the relationship to be solid and fulfilling. Don't you see... I want it all!

The fact is that I can't have it all. I have to give up something at some point. It seems I will have to give up my sexuality or my religion (at least to some extent). One of them's got to budge before I can attain that relationship I want so bad. And so far the attractions have been the most persistent.

-L- said...

Yeah, that idea to want to have it all is very familiar to me. And yet, in my sane moments I agree with you that it is impossible. But it's not just impossible for a gay Mormon, it's impossible for others as well. I think a lot of unhappiness comes from unrealistic expectations about life's ability to deliver to us some version of our ideal reality.

So given the impossibility, it seemed to me, I have to include in my life first the things I find most compelling and then just try to cram in as much of the rest as possible. I've found (and I've become quite a broken record on the topic for the last couple weeks) that prioritizing things as God has asked me to (in a very personalized way, of course) has somehow accommodated more than I ever thought was possible. And much more than I was ever led to believe was possible by anyone else.

SG said...

As someone who walked this road over 20 years ago, I know where you have been and where you are now. Of course I've spent years thinking about my situation, wondering if I've been fair to my wife and to myself. Have I been in denial, as some would suggest?

I really believe there is a continuum of sexuality - the Kinsey scale. I haven't paid enough attention to know where I am on it in terms of a specific number, but I know I'm probably less homosexually attracted than some, and much more homosexually attracted than most.

That being said, I've found marriage to be the single most powerful and beneficial relationship and blessing I could ever imagine in my life. Heavenly Father knew what I needed, and I have been so blessed to have the wife I have.

It has not been easy for her to be married to a man who is sexually attracted more to other men than to her. But I work very hard to diminish those attractions to other men. When they come, I try to direct my thoughts to her or to something entirely off the topic of sex. It doesn't always work.

But I treasure the companionship, the friendship, the love that we have. I can't begin to describe the joy of having children. They alone are worth the relationship.

It is not easy. It requires so much work. I have made so many mistakes. I'm fortunate in that I do have some feelings of attraction towards my wife. I acknowledge that some men do not have any feelings at all towards women. That is an exponentially more difficult situation.

I just speak for myself in saying that it is worth everything you can give to make it work. When I got married in my 20s I wondered if I could really do it; but 20 years later, it's the best decisions I ever made.

Mormon Enigma said...

A couple of points:

* Marriage for a gay Mormon isn't going to eliminate loneliness. It may reduce it, but it won't eliminate it entirely. I've been happily married for 27 years, and I still feel lonely at times. For example, even though my wife is always there for me and will give me a hug anytime I want/need it - sometimes what I really want is a hug from a man.

* 'gay byu student' is right, we can't have it all. We have to decide for ourselves what is important and what we are willing to sacrifice. As much as I yearn for a relationship with a man, my feelings for my family are stronger, and I don't want to do anything that might put my marriage or my standing in the church in jeopardy. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself of that over and over.

* As 'sg' pointed out, we are not all the same degree of gay-ness. Personally, I put myself about a 4 on the Kinsey scale (predominately homosexual with strong heterosexual feelings). Our level of gay-ness is going to impact how we prioritize the things that are important to us and what we are willing to sacrifice. We cannot stand in judgment of others who may make different decisions than we would have in a similar situation. The other thing to consider is that our degree of gay-ness can change over time (which might explain why so many gay married men come out latter in life)

-L- said...

My loneliness still bothers me with some regularity, but it is orders of magnitude less than before marriage.

Not that it really matters, but I consider myself to be as gay as is conceivable. Kinsey 6. At least. ;-) I guess I wanted to bring this up because commenters in past posts have said I am automatically bisexual because I'm making my marriage work (which implies that someone who has purely gay attractions never could... and that's baloney).

But my intent is certainly not to recommend marriage to everyone or to "stand in judgment" of those who don't marry. But I do believe it is sometimes ruled out unnecessarily. I've written something similar before.

Anonymous said...

my brother loves board games; his wife thinks they are an utter waste of time. She loves camping; he can't imagine why anyone would want to sleep on the ground. they have a great marriage.

unfortunately, the analogy ends there. he can always find someone else to play games with; she can set up a tent in the back yard.

but if we just once find someone else to play with, we risk losing everything.

time is on our side; testosterone levels invariably fall, but the marriage relationhip has no upper bounds. it will get easier

My Best Is All I Have said...


I liked this post a lot. I do have a rather personal question, though. Maybe you have addressed this in a previous blog and I just haven't stumbled across it yet.

You rate yourself as a 6 on the Kinsey scale. When you were thinking about marrying this woman, what were your thoughts about the wedding night? From your post, it seems fair to say that rather than look for that "one" girl that would give you desires for women, you decided to go for that one girl who you had a tremendous friendship with. Personally, I can list a couple of different people right now that are very dear friends to me, and we probably have the same level of friendship as you did with your wife before you got married. One of the big barriers in my mind is that the thought of sexual intimacy with either of them is absolutely repulsive to me (it must be the same gag-reflex reaction that straight people get thinking about gay people). Did you feel that way? How did you overcome that?

Le Mec said...

What a wonderful post, and I thank you so much for it. This feels like the crux lately of my current concerns. The whole marriage and dating issue. I really enjoyed reading your account, because sometimes I wonder if I will just have to settle. The idea of love as something you can perfect makes sense. More and more on this issue I realize I really have to turn my life to the Lord's hands, because only he knows what is best for me and when. Thank you for your insights.

PS: I'm also pleased to be on the "recent post list"--how exciting!

-L- said...

The repulsion thing is something I understand perfectly well... and I've avoided talking about it because I don't want to be misunderstood or be inappropriate by discussing the most intimate parts of my marriage.

In reality, though, the wedding night was a little traumatic for me. For multiple reasons that I won't go in to. Even kissing had been a work in progress... I never kissed her to speak of until we were engaged. And when you think of it as something you have to work at, that takes conditioning of a sort, and wide allowances and concessions... people start to scoff at what we have and that's where I no longer feel like sharing. Because it's not like that. There's something sacred and special in the awkwardness of it. There's something remarkable in the humanity of imperfection and sensitive vulnerabilities... and being accepted unreservedly despite it all.

Marriage is full of unpleasant intimacies as well as the pleasant ones. You may be repulsed by the idea of changing diapers too, but you'll do it and learn to love providing service to your kids. If you take what repulses you and make it sort of (for lack of a better word) clinical, you can approach sex with the mutual love and understanding that fills every other part of your relationship... and I've found the clinical or logistical aspects of love making to be long in the past (but they did last a while after the wedding night!). I suppose the details of that progression will be for a later post.

-L- said...

Le Mec, you've been on the "recent posts" list as long as I've known about your blog! I love your blog, buddy. You rock.

If you ever notice I've screwed up the links or left anyone off, please let me know!