Friday, April 06, 2007

Marital bliss

I like it when people I've blogged about come to pay me a visit. I dunno, it just makes me feel important. Maybe Elder Oaks will come comment someday. :-) More likely an impersonator, now that I've said that!

In the mean time, Ron Schow stopped by recently to clarify his position on so-called mixed orientation marriages. The data for success is unfavorable, and given the recent planned divorces mentioned in the gay Mormon blogs I read, this has never been more emphatically on my mind.

Gushing about how great our marriage is and how happy I am has become a favorite past time on this blog of late, and I'm still standing by that. It's alarming to me how happy I am sometimes. Seems sort of indecent. Seems like I ought not allow myself such bliss while still struggling with so many issues in my life. I wonder whether it appears that I'm not struggling at all anymore--that things are sufficiently resolved (or repressed, depending on your inclination to cynicism) to put me riding off into the sunset. This makes me chuckle a bit, but I've been told I seem to handle everything with "relative ease" before, so perhaps people may get that impression.

The fact is, a couple years ago I wanted out of my marriage too. Not in a formal sort of way that involved conversations and rational thought and solutions (things I tend to advocate), but in a desperate, under-the-surface, frantic sort of way. This was before I had kids. I wanted to be freed from my marital situation in a way that wouldn't involve any pain for anyone involved--no blame, no long conversations, no tears, no betrayals. I wanted out scot-free. I wanted, during my most miserable moments, for my wife to die.

Yes, that is shocking and horrible beyond words.

But it was there, and I've since talked to my wife about it, and I'm telling you now because I tend to say stuff that no decent person ever would. So, I can understand when Laura says in her blog that she couldn't get married and be miserable for the rest of her life, because I was miserable for a while and there was no end in sight. I can understand the reluctance to consider marriage at all and the hopelessness that comes from feeling there are no happy alternatives.

But, somehow I'm still here and I'm now happy, and every once in a while when my wife takes longer than I expect at the store I have a horrible flash in my mind in which I wonder if there may have been an accident. And then I check the messages, look out the door, and fidget a bit until she arrives, safe and sound. If she takes particularly long and doesn't have her cell phone on, I may even start to ruminate on the worst possible scenarios, and they literally bring me to tears. Being a father and a husband makes me cry a lot, it turns out. I cry for happiness mostly, but once in a while it's out of fear of losing any of mine. I can't imagine life ever ever having the meaning and peace that it does without them all in it.

I can't explain how I got from point A (wanting my wife magically out of my life) to point B (horrified that anything bad might ever happen to her), but it surely has to do with Christ and positive change.

13 comments:

Chris said...

Did Ron Schow make a comment somewhere that I missed?

Ron Schow said...

-L-

I too find it pleasant to learn that my name has been discussed a few times on your blog. :) I'm sorry I wasn't here sooner to enter into the discussion since you and your blog readers seem to have some interest in my opinion. As you can appreciate, this whole subject is extremely complex--that is, the subject of mixed orientation marriage. I worked for several months at preparing a response to Ben Christensen when he wrote his essay which was published in the 2005 Dialogue (along with my response and one by Marybeth Raynes). It was tough to consider all the pertinent issues and to provide something fair and balanced.

I've been enjoying just looking around on your blog. I follow Ben's blog from time to time and I think I checked yours once some time back, as a link from his, but I can't keep up with reading too many blogs regularly so I haven't been keeping up with yours.

Your recent blog is focused on your current marital happiness, and I'm pleased to learn things are going well for you. That is very good news, but, of course, to a scientist and academic like me it is one of many data points to consider.

When it comes to statistics, one of the most difficult problems is finding an appropriate sample. Those who are involved in these marriages in LDS circles tend to be hidden. Sometimes it takes a while for either party to the marriage to recognize this is what they are dealing with. Sometimes one of them figures it out, while the other one still does not know it. Sometimes they both know it but they are not open with each other about it. Discussing it with others is not common, I think, even if they discuss it between them. How then does a scientist even begin to draw a sample of these extremely hidden couples?? How well do even the marriage partners really understand each other and how well can they predict the future after just a few months or years? These are all challenges.

I realize the data I have come from samples that are problematic, but all samples are in the case of these marriages. I'm open to discussing this further if anyone is interested.

In the meantime, I'm inclined to share with you and others one feature of my Dialogue essay. You can read the essays if you go to the Dialogue website (www.dialoguejournal.com) and use the link on the left hand margin of the home page where it says "past issue selections." You may also find a link on the professional section at our website called www.LDSResources.info On p. 136-37 of my essay, I note that I see three factors which should be taken into account with reference to these marriages. First is sexual orientation. I suggest using the 0-6 HH Scale. Second is what I call the "relative importance that individuals attach to intimacy in the marital relationship." This includes libido and capacity for sublimation of sexual desire. The third factor includes other important issues like personal compatibility with the partner and maturity to withstand greater than average challenges.

I think this is a good general guide to help frame the issues and for anyone to consider if they contemplate such a marriage or if they are in one. We can easily get distracted by many other pieces of information, such as how is one particular couple doing at this time or what does my therapist or my bishop think about this subject or about whether I am a "golden boy" etc. Those may be interesting pieces of information, but have little relevance to your personal situation.

So, I offer this perspective as a jumping off point for some more discussion, if you or anyone else on your blog is interested. Certainly, I have done my best in explaining my perspective in the article. I'd be interested to discuss any of the three issues above or the sample issues or anything else mentioned in my essay in Dialogue. I will be watching to see if my post will stir up any responses on your blog and look forward to discussing these things.

Best wishes,
Ron Schow

Samantha said...

Sometimes the reason I love to read your blog is because I recognize so many parallels in our lives. There was certainly a time when I wanted "out". I've experienced the "bliss" you now describe--and still do. Most of my friends who have been married for awhile mention a similar cycle for different reasons, of course. I mention this because too many times we forget that same-orientation marriages have problems, as well. The difficulties we experience are unique, certainly, but I have friends who've had difficulty with sexual relations, religious compatibility, general compatibility, and the list goes on.

The data for success is unfavorable...
Yup. In all marriages, regardless of orientation, when you consider a divorce rate which is higher than 50%. And I don't believe it's possible to calculate a divorce rate for MOM's, since, as Mr. Schow admits, Those who are involved in these marriages in LDS circles tend to be hidden. I know of more than one in my stake. Three of us have marriages around 20 years old, but the probabilty is that none of us will ever be involved in a "sample".

In the end it's all about the individual partners. Because I've found so much joy in my own marriage, especially as time goes on, my hope is that all others involved in MOM's will do the same. If we use the general marriage statistic, more than half of us will not. And the truth is, there is much more interest in divorcing couples than in those whose marriages are stable. Perhaps, in the long run, that's best.

Laura said...

Thanks for linking to me, L.

I think I could've married a man, gone to church, had a family, and the whole nine. I could've done it very well, but I just didn't feel like I could lead the double life of living one way and feeling completely different.

It makes me really happy to hear that there are those of you who are happy in your marriages, and that you've found a spouse who is supportive. I think my biggest fear was getting married, having kids, THEN figuring out that I shouldn't have done it. I didn't want to hurt anyone in the process.

I've seen lots of blogs linking to men who are MoHos ... are there women who blog about it too?

Jason said...

Actually, Ron, I have a couple of questions for you. You are someone who is talked about, and so I've heard rumors that I'd like to have the truth confirmed on--if you're willing. Now, I won't mention the rumors because that's pointless, but I do want to ask a few questions that would dispell and/or clarify, for me, the ones I've heard. I really hope you wouldn't mind answering them. Here it goes:

1. What is your PhD in?

2. Which experiences from your own life most motivate your interest in this issue?

3. Are you SSA or bisexual yourself?

I realize that these questions go beyond the scope of what you were hoping to talk about here. However, frank and real answers to them would help me, no matter what the answers are, to feel a sense of security in trusting what you have to say on this issue. Thanks.

Chris said...

Ron Schow can speak for himself if he returns, but he is often identified as a professor of audiology at Idaho State University, so one would assume that he has a Ph.D. in that or a similar field.

It is also fairly well known that his nephew, Brad Schow, was gay and died of AIDS in the 1980s. Ron's brother and Brad's father, Wayne, has collaborated with Ron on some of their writing projects on homosexuality in the Mormon community. Wayne authored a book about his son entitled Remembering Brad: On the Loss of a Son to AIDS.

Jason said...

Thanks, Chris, but I really would like to hear Ron's own answers. I'm trying to avoid buzz, not get more of it (legitimate as it may, or may not, be).

Ron Schow said...

Jason

You raise some interesting questions above about my personal life. I've taken the link to your personal blog and the one written by your wife. One of the things you discuss on your blog is how it is anonymous and how you avoid even discussing the talk you gave in church last week for fear it might identify you.

I think it is important to identify the circumstances for my making a blog entry on the ardentmormon website, which is written by -L- who is also anonymous. In other words, I don't know either one of you or most of the people reading this blog. I come here to speak about my work, my films and my writing. I do not come here anonymously nor to talk about my personal life. So I think our reasons for being here are different. If you were my personal friend and we were having a private conversation in which we were sharing the intimate details of our lives, I might be willing to fully explain myself with reference to questions 2 and 3 above. But I do not come here under those circumstances. -L- in fact, invited me on Jan 31 to comment on this blog to explain my professional opinion of mixed orientation marriages. I learned this only a few days ago and therefore made some comments which led to my entry above.

With reference to your question 1, my Ph.D. is in Audiology. In our "Go Forward" film (one of three) which you can find on www.youtube.com I explain that "...I earned a bachelor's degree in biology at Utah State University and a minor in psychology and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in a related field at Northwestern University. In 1991 I teamed up with a licensed clinical social worker from here in Salt Lake City and my brother, also an ISU professor, who has a gay son, and we edited a book on Mormonism and homosexuality, called Peculiar People." On the dust jacket of that book it says this, "Ron Schow is a Professor of Audiology in the College of Health Professions at Idaho State University in Pocatello. He draws on his training and interests in zoology, genetics, psychology and counseling in attempting to reconcile various professional and religious perspectives on homosexuality."

For several months during the sale of our "Guide for Latter-day Saint Families Dealing with Homosexual Attraction" at Deseret Book, my bio appeared on the Deseret Book website. The same bio now appears on our www.LDSResources website. There it explains "Brother Schow has served in numerous church callings, including high council, bishopric, and as stake mission president. He has also served in priesthood leadership in Elder's, Seventy, and High Priests' quorums. Currently, he serves as executive secretary over home teaching in a small branch for elderly members. He is the father of 5 children and 11 grandchildren."

I think one intent of your question may be to ask, do I have credentials as a professional, which would give anyone confidence that I am qualified to speak or write on this topic? In our 2005 Dialogue article in response to Ben Christensen's essay (see www.dialoguejournal.com , past issue selections) it explains that Peculiar People was honored by an award from the Association of Mormon Arts and Letters. This is an important prestigious award indicating the quality of our work. There are other details about my professional work on this topic since 1991 in the bio for that article.

In all of this work I have closely collaborated with highly qualified professionals who have credentials in counseling, biology, etc and with those who have wide church experience. I am just completing my 35th year in a university setting where I have worked primarily with master's level and some doctoral students and directed many data based research studies. If you put www.PubMed.gov into a browser and enter my name, Schow R into the search engine it will list 18 (not all but my most important) refereed research publications. Also, Allyn and Bacon has just published the 5th edition of our textbook on Audiologic Rehabilitation which is one of three major texts in my field which are used widely in academic programs across the country. You may go to Amazon.com to learn more about those books. These represent only part of the books I have co-edited.

I think my reasons for being involved and my credentials are well documented in the work I've done in collaboration with other qualified professionals.

All the best to you,
Ron Schow

-L- said...

It's been a busy Easter for me, so I haven't had time to keep up with the blog too much.

Thanks for your comments, Ron. This post wasn't really so much intended to discuss your view as emphasize the gratitude that I have for my happy marriage and how unlikely it is thought to be.

The essay you wrote for Dialogue is interesting and has some great points in it. There are also several points that I would dispute, but I'll save the specifics for another post another time.

I do hope you didn't feel insulted by Jason's questions. I find both the questions and your answer to be completely reasonable. On the one hand, these blogs have fostered a culture of full disclosure because of their anonymity, and that openness allows for a pretty good characterization of what direction a person's bias may lie. However, your reluctance to discuss your personal life with nameless, faceless people is absolutely reasonable. While your situation no doubt informs your research, I'm sure you strive (as all good researchers do) to keep personal feelings out of the process.

Jason said...

Ron--

I appreciate your willingness to entertain at least part of my questioning. Certainly, you didn't have to.

In relation to my first inquiry, without question you have--in citing various legitimate sources--documented a lot of the projects you've been involved with, an award one of them has won, a great deal of research you have done in the field of your choice (which I didn't know until now is audiology), and even callings you have held. The thing that I still find conspicuously missing, though, is the link between your education/credentials and the research that you have done in the area of mental health. And, as much as I truly am impressed by your admirable body of work in the field of audiology, I'm still wondering if I'm missing the connection between those things and the authority you have assigned yourself on the topic of gays and gay marriage in videos and writings.

This is why I was so forward as to ask you questions two and three. Because your connection to this issue is obviously not entirely for professional reasons, one wonders what the reasons for it are. I can understand your position in not being willing to share the most intimate details of your life in a setting where many can associate those details to you as a person. While I was hoping you wouldn't find that to be an inhibitor, as you pointed out I too have my own reasons for keeping my personal life personal, and I completely respect your decision to do the same.

Lamentably, the vagueness of your connections to the field of mental health combined with your unwillingness to clarify your position with regards to your own sexual attraction and/or personal experience with this issue (which unwillingness, as I said before, I can perfectly understand) leads one (perhaps just me?) to be leery of the intentions of your work, especially in a sensitive area such as this where, as you described, there is great difficulty in finding an accurately representative sample.

Thanks again for responding to my query, and sorry if I was too forward in my questions.

Ron Schow said...

Jason and others who (hopefully) would prefer to discuss the issues and not me....

I am rather baffled by several statements and the tone in your recent post. They include the following...

1. "I'm still wondering if I'm missing the connection between those things and the authority you have assigned yourself on the topic of gays and gay marriage in videos and writings."

2. "Because your connection to this issue is obviously not entirely for professional reasons, one wonders what the reasons for it are."

3. "Lamentably, the vagueness of your connections to the field of mental health combined with your unwillingness to clarify your position with regards to your own sexual attraction and/or personal experience with this issue (which unwillingness, as I said before, I can perfectly understand) leads one (perhaps just me?) to be leery of the intentions of your work,"

I guess I'm wondering about the credentials you have which make you qualified to decide who should and who should not do professional work in this area.

You apparently dismiss the fact that I earned a bachelors degree in biology and that I took courses in genetics, embryology, anatomy, and physiology and that I have taught courses in those subjects for the past 35 years. You seem to dismiss the fact that I took about 25 credits of courses in psychology and counseling and that I edit textbooks that have chapters on counseling and psychosocial issues written by experts in those areas.

With reference to your comment in #1, I guess I didn't realize that to do research and write on the subject of homosexuality that someone in authority has to give you permission or that you shouldn't decide on your own to study the issue or that you have to have some personal connection to a subject before you can choose that as something you want to study. I hope that others would recognize that for about two decades now I have read many dozens of research articles, dissertations from BYU, the UofU and Utah State, many books, attended many seminars, and interviewed 100s of individuals including many professionals who shared important facts and their perspectives with me. One interesting detail you don't know is that I've been approved by the human subjects committee at my university on two occasions to supervise research studies in this area. In one case, the study had already been rejected twice at BYU because the HRC committee there said they had no one on campus qualified to direct the study. HRC committees are made up on college campuses from the very best faculty who oversee research and are charged with making sure those who do research are qualified to do so. Why they consider me qualified to do this work and you do not, might give you some pause. I was also approved to focus on this subject in my last sabbatical by the college of health professions at my university. This college committee that approved my sabbatical has representatives of the counseling department and the nursing department, and the Dean who approved it is a psychology professor (Ph.D.) who has read my book, uses my films and website in her courses, has asked me to organize a session on this topic at her statewide health conferences, and supports my work fully.

Your comment #2 is without foundation. You are obviously in no position to know what my "professional reasons" are nor does anyone undertaking a career or a research focus in their career need to have any other reason than that they find it of interest.

#3 What I find lamentable here is the simplistic conclusion that I am not qualified to do the work I have done because I don't have a degree in mental health or somehow that "by extension" a physician is not capable of treating a heart condition unless he also has that heart condition.

It is fine with me if you are, as you say "leery" of my intentions. Anyone who does research or writing has to study the important sources, integrate the information, process it with good critical thinking skills, carry out research using the universal principles of the scientific method, and do all of this as impartially as it is possible to do. The recipients of such research should always view someone's findings with a finely tuned critical eye.

There are many professions that have expertise they might bring to the table to study this important topic. No one professional will generally have degrees in all the relevant areas such as biology, psychology (where I have a degree including my major and minor), counseling, genetics, family science, mental health, etc, etc. However, I have collaborated with persons in all these professions over the many years I've been doing this work. Many professionals have been timid to study this issue especially in LDS culture because it is so controversial and because there are bound to be people around who want to make unwarranted invasions into your private life and motivations simply because you choose to make professional contributions on this subject.

I hope this will be my last post on my credentials and my reasons for studying this issue. If anyone wants to discuss my findings or writings or films please come forward. I am interested in mixed orientation marriages and would be willing to share what I have learned through my study and enter into some dialogue. No one needs to accept anything I say if they don't think I have "the authority" to say it. I'm happy to let my data and my reasoning be judged simply on the merits.

Best wishes,
Ron Schow

Jason said...

Ron--

It's time for me to bite the bullet and publicly apologize.

I seem to do something like this about this time every year, and I'm sorry you were the victim of my shooting from the hip.

I didn't intend to, even implicitly, criticize your credentials and I’m sorry that happened. I think you are a well-qualified scientist, and you have provided many impressive examples of this fact.

More abhorrent, however, was my overall tone in this conversation, which was completely inappropriate. I'm sorry for being so unwarrantedly hostile. I don't know you, and I had no reason whatsoever to be contentious.

I'm enjoying the dialogue that your coming to -L-'s blog has initiated, and am glad that you didn't take my extremely poor example as a symbol of how you'd be received around these parts.

Ron Schow said...

Jason

Thanks for your kind words and your apology.

I'm enjoying the blogging also.

All the best to you,
Ron