Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mixed-Orientation Marriages: "A Situation That Defies Our Nature"

I have had some private correspondence in the last couple of weeks* with a couple of gay men who are each in a mixed-orientation marriage (MOM). Though not the same age, both men have been married about the same length of time and each has several children ranging in age from about six to young teenager.

(*This post was originally published in December 2010 on my Invictus Pilgrim blog, which is now closed. I explain here why I decided to re-post some of these old posts here on this blog. This post, which was one of a series about mixed-orientation marriages, won the 2010 Brodie Award for Best Religion and Homosexuality Discussion.)

After reading these men’s stories, I felt they needed to be told in a forum such as this.  These are real-life stories of good men who entered into a MOM in good faith, but who have reached the end of their respective ropes. I have asked both of these men if I could post some of their words here, and each has given their permission. I wanted them to be able to speak with their own voices. Each faces monumental challenges, and each has become, to one extent or another, disillusioned with the LDS Church (but not, at least in one case, with the Gospel).

“The core identity we possess does not change.”

The first man I’ll call James. This is part of what he wrote to me following the series of posts on MOMs a couple of weeks ago:

All the discussion about Moho's [Mormon Homosexuals] in MOM's has left me in deep introspection.  I do realize that we all have different situations, and one solution may not fit all circumstances. There is a common undercurrent though, that runs through almost everything I have read. Without any exception that I can think of, Moho's who have gotten married, and who are still married, find a part of them that wishes it had never happened. 

At its core, we are gay men living in a situation that defies our nature. Yes we may have a loving and understanding spouse, but we are the other half of the equation that cannot make the whole no matter how hard we try. We can sacrifice, compromise, work hard, and even have joy and happiness for ourselves and our spouse, but we cannot give all. That part of us that is gay, that core identity we possess, does not change, and is not satisfied in a heterosexual relationship. 

That brings me to another point. When I first went through a crisis last year (when I accepted the fact that I am and always will be gay), I emailed Carol Lynn Pearson for her perspective and asked specifically if it was possible or even desirable for a gay man to remain married to a straight spouse.  In her response she told me to "live with as much honesty and integrity as possible." I thought about that statement as if it were a new found concept. I felt I finally had the key to my happiness. It was then I finally internalized, recognized and acknowledged that I was gay, and that it was normal and good and beautiful. I am so thick-headed to have missed that concept years ago (before I married). 

This knowledge presents me with a dilemma. I do want to live with more integrity, or more authentically as I have heard it put more succinctly. If I am authentic, then as a gay man I should not be married, and reason would have it that I should also seek a relationship that will make me whole. If I am authentic, then as a father I cannot abandon my family to whom I am morally and emotionally committed.  This sucks. 

When this whole episode in my life burst open, I felt comfort, for lack of a better term, that I had experienced (as a young man living as a gay man) a somewhat authentic life and authentic love. At least I knew and had experienced what some could only guess at. Increasingly, that memory stings me. I feel like a coward for running back to the Church (after several years of living as a gay man), and running back into the closet because I couldn't handle the truth. I couldn't face my family … and turn my back on a pioneer heritage that included so much personal sacrifice for the Church. If they could scratch out a living in desolate Utah, then [I figured] it must be a worthy cause and surely I could make my own sacrifice. I felt that if I openly came out as gay, then I would negate all my ancestors’ efforts …

My wife did know about my same sex attraction before we married, but it wasn't until last year that I really understood that it was a part of me that was not going to go away, and that pushing it away was killing me.   

“I would rather die.  And so I am dying.”

The second man, I’ll call Scott. I received the following message from him this week. (By way of background, he has been seeing a counselor, but is considering switching to someone else, as he finds his present counselor unhelpful.)

I am so fed up, it's unbelievable. There is no simple solution. No single right answer. I have to answer to so many. A family who needs me, but I am dying emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Though I can pretend!  If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is how to pretend, to be what everyone else needs, to sublimate my own needs/desires/self so that others can have what they need.

I don’t care about the Church any more. They offer me nothing, but expect me to deny everything about myself. Yet, when I read the scriptures, they say something entirely different. When I attend the temple, I get answers I need, not the lame half-answers the Church hands out.

God says one thing... while the Church says something else.

I am not happy in the life they said would bring me happiness. Yet to leave my children, to cause pain to both them and wife - that is something that is not me, not something I would deliberately do, let alone choose to do. I would rather die. And so I am dying.

I am depressed most of the time. It sucks. I want to be happy. I want to be happy with my kids. I want to be a real person. But it doesn't look like it ever will be in my cards.

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