Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Letter to my 'Single' MoHo friends

Preamble: I've been reading some of the single brother Moho blogs expressing concern or doubt that they could ever marry. The desire welled up in me to share the story of my mixed-orientation-marriage (MOM), in hopes that you might consider and benefit from my personal experience. I am no gold standard. I'll be pretty open in my account about the problems we faced, so please don't interpret my story as a negative warning--there have been great rewards along the way. If you someday choose to marry, I hope it will be because you feel directed by the Lord to do so. And may you avoid some of the errors I've made, which will allow you to focus on your own unique set of challenges! So, here goes...

Growing up through young adulthood I never felt a shred of masculinity or sexual attraction to women. Girls were my sisters. Deep down I feared I was more attracted to boys, because images of naked men were erotic to me, whereas images of naked women were kind of disgusting. But I was in denial about my attractions, and since I joined the LDS Church and was aware of the church's prohibitions, I generally repressed all feelings of sexuality as much as I could. I was determined to live the LDS 'happily-ever-after' lifestyle.

After about three years of post-mission dating, I wasn't any further along the marriage path; I just wasn't getting romantically close to any of these 'sisters' of mine. Then I started dating this young woman who showed a streak of independent promise; after several dates she had the audacity to say to me, "Are you just going to be my friend, because if so, I'm not interested. I've got enough friends. Where are you coming from?" I was challenged to start owning some feelings and to make a commitment one way or the other. I liked that forthrightness, and I really liked her.

So how or why did I get married? Sure, I had wanted an eternal companion and a family, and it seemed like the only option at the time. But the real reason I took the leap was that I prayed in faith about this young woman I was dating and wham, I got a direct answer. It kind of surprised me. Now what to do? Ignore it? The Spirit had given me a powerful witness to proceed, so I stumbled down the "will you marry me" path totally out of blind hope and obedience, and she said "yes." The engagement period was kind of rocky, a few red flags, but I had had this witness and I was determined to go through with it. We even talked in detail about our sexual histories in the spirit of full disclosure, but in retrospect we were generally unaware of the downstream effects, or what we were getting into. We married in the Manti Temple and headed down the next path to 'happily ever after.'

At first, married life was mostly no different than I expected. We were in school and found plenty of time to play together; we dreamed of the future, we did practically everything together, I was in love and I was happy, most of the time. There were occasional conflicts, but we were pretty good at talking our way through the difficulties, and she usually let me win. The role of power began to shift in my direction, so subtly at first I didn't recognize it, but in time I became the decision-maker, and she the subordinate. I lost my independent, self-assured eternal companion.

Erosion of marital equality also affected the whole topic of my same gender attraction (SGA), which turned out to really make my wife even more insecure. So, I pretty much went into hiding, to spare her the pain. That was a big mistake--I created distance for myself, and my isolation spared her nothing. We both suffered. I had no one to really talk to, to resolve my turmoil, and it eventually became a wedge of distrust between us. Life in the work world became demanding, and I could blame a lot of dissatisfaction on that. At home there was always another diaper to change, bills to pay and the honey-do list. I longed for intimacy and understanding, but for my most vital emotions, I had little of either.

I confess I honestly thought my SGA would go away with an active sex life. I was wrong. In some ways, my SGA got even stronger because I was no longer repressing my sexuality. I hungered. I'm lucky I didn't break my marriage covenants, given the peripheral exploring I did. I had a few offers for anonymous gay sex, but always backed away because I knew it just was so terribly wrong to my wife. I think that if I had not received so sure a witness, an actual physical manifestation I felt and didn't make up for myself, I would have eventually abandoned the marriage and the church because of the internal conflict and unhappiness I was struggling with. But how could I walk away from my family and from doing what the Lord told me to do, even if I wasn't sure at the time if I would do it all over again? The answer was I couldn't leave, I wouldn't retreat, so I just hung in there.

Despite our individual issues, my dear wife has been my loyal friend and supporter through the years. She has been willing to take me mostly as is; it's been more difficult for me to return the favor. I now realize it's not easy being married to a creative perfectionist who is rarely pleased with anything. So it was hard for me to be praise-giving or just grateful for her simple gifts of motherhood and devotion. Mostly I saw the mess and chaos, picked up the pieces and inwardly resented it. It wasn't until I learned how I'd injured her that I began to change my heart. I love her again, for having faith and patience in me, despite my self-centeredness.

Well, to make a long story short, it's been a long row to hoe, but definitely worth it. I've grown up. We've both matured in so many ways. We've been through our share of counseling, endured moments of great pain and tears inflicted upon each other, and yet there is love and loyalty. Despite our problems, we lived the gospel in our home and we managed to have a wonderful family. I'm thankful for three beautiful daughters, for their individual lives and the role I've developed as a loving father; it all brings such meaning to my life.

It's taken me a long time to come to terms with my orientation and how to be satisfied in my marriage. By no means am I "healed" of my SGA. However, repenting means change, especially in how we view ourselves. Our journey isn't over, and we may still have serious hurdles in front of us, but I've come full circle and am now grateful for my marriage and its winding path. The ups and downs have revealed so much about me, stuff I would have never believed possible about myself if it had just been told me; I had to live it.

So, my dear younger single MoHo brothers, each of you have a MOM dilemma in front of you that will be unique to you. Each of you have your eyes much more wide open than I ever did at this crossroads in your life. My only advice is to simply and humbly seek the Spirit to direct you. Maybe you'll get an answer like I did, maybe you won't. Whatever the cost, get an answer and follow it; it is something to hang on to, a beacon for the soul.


Chedner said...

Thank you; this post really helped me as I've been considering where I'm heading in life!

J G-W said...

You look at your life and see the flaws, I see beauty. This is how the house of love is built. Thanks, Ron!

gentlefriend said...

Your experience parallels mine in many ways. I underline your advice to follow the Spirit. I certainly do not stand in judgement of those who choose a path different than mine.

It is difficult knowing that I will never fulfill my hunger for an intimate physical relationship with a male. But when I place things on a scales, what I have been blessed with through my marriage far outweighs the sacrifice of male intimacy.

Most of the credit goes to my best friend, my wife. She is the mother of our many sons and daughters and an understanding companion. As I now play with my grandchildren I look back over more years than most of you who read this. It has been challenging and I have had many opportunities to violate her trust, but I have never done so. I don't think I could find another relationship that is more personally fulfilling and spiritually satisfying than the one I have been blessed with, even with all the enticing things I have to continually discipline out of my life.

Stephalumpagus said...

Wow thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

"my SGA got even stronger because I was no longer repressing my sexuality"

a tremendous insight