Monday, May 14, 2007

Better "because of," not "in spite of"

Chatting around the queerosphere, I've been polling a bit to find out what people do that helps their marriages or hurts them. Near as I can tell, there is a pretty solid correlation between being fully honest with one's spouse about sexuality issues and ability to positively deal with said issues.

My wife and I talk about the blogs, gay politics, and family issues on a pretty regular basis. Daily, probably. Our openness is one of the most wholesome and healthy things in our marriage. I can say what I think--cautiously and sensitively, still--and she will respect me for my honestly and candor. We've had our share of misunderstandings, hurt feelings, over-reactions, and the like. But we work at it. We work through it. And we're stronger, I believe, not just for weathering the storm, but because we're willing to face the realities of our lives and deal with them.

My struggle with same-gender attraction has been one of the most formative issues in making our marriage strong. We know our marriage is "high risk," so to speak. We know that we need to be super understanding of one another. We know that we are committed to each other despite the challenges.

Some marriages seem to be defined by "mixed orientation," which is one reason I think the term mixed orientation marriage is annoying. In the final analysis, an MOM is just like any other marriage--one in which a commitment is made to be sexual and domestic partners despite the challenges life throws at you. The challenges will be colored by external attractions in both cases, sexual intimacy will face challenges in both cases, etc. To quote Samantha:

I can name six marriages (not MOM) in less than thirty seconds that deal with problems with attraction, sexual interaction, impotence, low-libido, and other intimacy detractions. They have to work to be physically intimate, just as I may have to. They don't always feel fulfilled emotionally by their spouses. Sometimes I think we, in MOM's feel we have a special corner on the market when it comes to intimacy issues. We're whiners.

I don't know what to tell people whose spouses aren't ready to deal with the realities of having unwanted sexual attractions. You can't force someone to bump up a few levels of maturity and empathy. But, if there's a solution to be had, I'd say it's worth trying to find. Counseling, certainly, ought to be an option. And for those for whom it's not a likely option, I hope some solution is there for you, and I really do hope that you will find it and have a better marriage because of dealing with challenges, not in spite of them.


Gimple said...

Hey, thanks for your thoughts, especially the quote from Samantha. I have been dealing with thinking about how hard it would be, but I'm starting to realize that despite the hardness it is worth it! You are such an inspiration to me in many ways (the way you live life and the fact that you're a doctor). :)

Thanks again,

Sean said...

it takes time, true effort, lots of empathy and compassion.

it takes two to man the helm of marriage - I had forgotten that. But our course is true and we will weather the storm and be found worthy of the promise.

thanks. for this post and our conversation. Whats the saying? what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger?! i'm beginning to believe that.

Unusual Dude said...

This is an interesting topic to me because I vacillate back and forth on what I think is a healthy dose of focus, within a marriage, on the whole SGA issue. My wife doesn't like to talk about it very often. She says that it bothers her if I bring it up a lot because that means I'm focusing on it too much. So, I don't.

On one hand, I have wished I could discuss this more with her. It ends up that instead of discussing it with her, I discuss it with other SGA men that I feel safe sharing with because they have similar religious convictions.

On the other hand, I have noticed that the less attention I give to SGA, the less it bothers me.

So, maybe it is a good and healthy thing that we don't discuss it much. The fact that we don't do so certainly contributes to us NOT defining our marriage as a M.O.M. But am I being completely loyal to her when I discuss things with others instead of her? I don't know. I wrestle with that nagging feeling of disloyalty sometimes.

But if I changed how we dealt with this in our relationship, would I be taking a step backward by allowing myself to focus on it too much?

I'm in a firm state of vacillation.

-L- said...

I think you need to talk about it just as much as you need to talk about it. Ignoring things doesn't necessarily make things go away, but maybe in some cases it can. I guess I think I just have to do what works, and for us that has been openly dealing with it. Down the road, it probably won't take so much attention. I'm jealous of the people who have things sufficiently settled that they find blogging and talking to be a distraction rather than helpful. Hopefully I'll find myself in that category soon, and my blog can just be to help others rather than deal with my own issues.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you for your blog which has been a relief to find in the midst of so many stories of MOM's in the process of divorce. I am the spouse of a Mormon gay man and we both struggle considerably, in our own ways. We are just trying to find our way and neither of us will ever spout off black and white rhetoric about homosexuality. It is our impression that we should stay in our marriage but my husband has felt a lack of peace and loneliness with brief moments of joy despite our intense efforts to deal directly with our issue and work hard at our marriage. Neither of us knows the future and at times this is unbearable to me. No one will ever know the angst one lives with on a daily basis unless they live with this. Simplistic answers from straight people who address this struggle are not only invalid but self-righteous. I long for further light and knowledge on this subject and pray that President Hinkley (or any subsequent prophet) will someday talk about this in a way that is sustaining and proffers hope. Until then I just plod along on an impression fighting the terrible storms that rage all about me.