Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Weight of the World

Why does it feel like I'm being crushed by the omnipresence of a few decisions that will not result in the difference between life and death for anyone involved?

Everyone around me thinks he knows what is best and right for me yet my future is so unclear to me.

Here I sit, car idling in the parking lot of the chapel where I used to attend church as a young, single adult, just a few blocks from the University. I have a class that won't start for an hour and I am so tempted to ditch it altogether because my graduate studies seem like such a colossal waste of time. But if my mother-in-law were to find out she just would not be able to understand why someone would pay so much money and want to miss class . . .  oh go to hell . . . you are not nearly as perfect as you think are.

There's a guy with his shirt off just a few houses down. He's just far enough away that my eyes can't see the details of his figure. Nearly any other guy I used to attend church with here, presented with the parallel situation (exactly the same except for the gender of the person afar) would casually drive by to get a better look without giving it a second thought. Yet here I stay, wondering why something that seems so perfectly natural and inherent in me is so hated, vilified, demonized by those who inhabit this building every Sunday.

Then two more shirtless guys cruise past me on their bicycles, easily within my view.

I am hoping in vain that my former Bishop just happens to be at the chapel right now as he randomly was a couple of weeks ago when I decided to stop here to quietly do school work in my car away from everyone. There are lots of student cars in the parking lot but I don't see his.

I want to talk to him. I want him to listen. I want to warn him to be more cautious when counseling with other men who "struggle with same sex-attraction" (what a load of bull $#!+). If he could only see the pain of the past 4 years he would be much more careful about giving his stamp of approval to such a marriage.

He's a great guy. How could he have known any better? He had never dealt with this, had never been a Bishop before, didn't even have to go to the trouble of looking up the church-sanctioned protocols in this situation. I fed him the same crap that I was being fed at LDS Family Services. It all fit into the plan so well. Surely God would not allow His holiest counseling service into being misled to give desperate young men a false sense of hope.

But he's not here. And it's time to start heading back to school. And I continue to struggle, not quite in silence, but certainly not out in the open, as everyone around me continues life as usual

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sad, confused, and angry

I just came across the blog Gay Husbands, Straight Wives that takes an unapologetically negative tone in describing gay men who marry women. Some of it seems fair and true, other parts seem biased and heavily clouded by the negative experience of a mixed-orientation marriage that ended in disaster.

My wife and I are miserable right now. She wants to stay married but keeps telling people that I deceived her when we got married and that she deserves a decision about whether to plan on spending her life with me. None of this is new to anyone who has read my blog.

What is new is that reading this blog has helped me become aware of the ways that I am continually damaging my wife in ways that are seemingly beyond my control. I have come to realize that I take out a lot of anger and frustration on her that she does not deserve. I don't want to do this anymore but don't know if any amount of counselling, faith, and self-sacrifice will remedy a problem that simply would not exist in a normal heterosexual relationship.

help . . .

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Survived My First LGBTQ... Support Group Meeting

I have been so desperate to talk face-to-face to someone who knows what I'm going through. I was the third person to arrive at the designated support group location and could tell that I was totally giving off standoffish vibes. I could feel myself telling everyone that I was uncomfortable there but I did not know how to stop it. I busied myself with stuff on my phone. When the group facilitator, Cori (my Campus Health counselor), arrived the ice was immediately broken. She made everyone feel welcome and it became obvious that I was the only first-timer in the group. And surprisingly to me, there was only one other male and about a dozen females in attendance.

We introduced ourselves by name, portion of the alphabet soup with which we identify, gender pronouns we prefer for ourselves, and "a brag and a drag." By the time I had selected my letter from the soup and noted that it was my first time ever attending a group of this kind I was already a little teary-eyed. What is wrong with me??????

I don't know if I was intimidated or scared or what but I did not know how to act while surrounded by a mob of lesbians. Everyone seemed very friendly and many appearances were comically stereotypical. Three out of the group had gone together to get their hair chopped off short and dyed funky colors during the previous week.

In general the conversation was less sexual than one might expect from such a gathering, yet much more sexual than I am accustomed to discussing in polite company. Perhaps the most awkward part about it was the impromptu discussion of Katy Perry during the Superbowl and wishing her "boobs" had been more visible or that there had been another wardrobe malfunction. I just did not anticipate hearing a lot about boobs at my first gay meeting, but that's probably because I didn't expect to be surrounded by gay women at my first gay meeting.

Cori asked for topics that people wanted to discuss. The girl next to me suggested "bi-curiosity." The only other guy in the room suggested "doubting your conclusion that you are gay." Then the facilitator made it obvious that she wanted me to participate since I was being quiet and it was my first time so I suggested "religious/cultural conflict." We ended up discussing things in that order.

One of the girls preceded every one of her comments with "I was really high at the time so I'm not sure this is really how it happened . . ." The other guy seemed like he was generally more shy than me but more comfortable in the current setting than I was. Another girl had introduced herself as heterosexual and described herself during conversation as asexual.

The bi-curiosity topic was suggested not because the girl next to me was experiencing it, but rather, because she had been on a date with a girl who presented herself as a legit, bonafide lesbian, only to later reveal that she was still trying to figure out for herself if she was into girls or not. This was a difficult situation for the girl next to me because she really liked this girl because she was the first "straight-looking (like a blonde sorority girl)" girl that she had ever been on a date with. Hm. Not something I had ever considered. Several others chimed in about how difficult it could be to help another girl experiment when all you really want is a real long-term relationship, not one that could very likely go nowhere because the other person is so far behind in her coming out. Also things I had never considered.

I assume that questioning one's sexuality even once you have a pretty good idea that your orientation is of the non-majority type is pretty common. This stands in stark contrast to my process of deny, deny, deny, deny until you can't deny any longer, then adopt "bi" because it gives both you and your parents hope, then get married only to finally face the truth. But I digress . . . The girls kept trying to suggest things like maybe go on some dates with some guys if you feel comfortable with it. It was all very nice and supportive, but let's be honest, guys are visual creatures. Haha. I'm only slightly kidding. But all I could really do is look back at my own experience and chime in about some things that were pretty hard to deny in retrospect. I proposed thinking about being in a room of his peers and considering if he would be more excited to see the guys or the girls get naked. I suggested that if he had caught himself looking at/thinking about other guys for long periods of time all while rationalizing to himself that he just admired them and wanted to be like them that might be something to pay attention to. I also commented that if he had ever watched straight porn and only paid attention to the guy, not caring at all what the girl was up to that might be an indicator of note. One of the girls countered that lots of straight women like lesbian porn. That might be true, but I am pretty sure that the parallel is much less common for guys.

For the most part I really regret suggesting my topic for discussion - should have known!!!!! It was interesting to find out that the girl next to me had been raised in the Mormon church but her parents divorced several years ago and they have not participated since. Another girl noted that her "Jack Mormon" mom never took her to church but she frequently went with her grandparents while growing up. Most of the other comments were so derogatory or unintelligible that they are not worth mentioning here. High girl chimed in a lot during this portion. The saddest part of it all was that most of them not only could not understand that this was a very real issue for me, but also that they didn't have the sensitivity to at least feign compassion for me. We had been invited at the beginning to speak up if others' comments were offensive, but I was so intrigued? by what was happening before my eyes that I did not think about saying anything until it had all quieted down again.

As a group they were very immature (maybe rightfully so - they were probably all undergrads at an institution that is not nearly as selective as it used to be in its admissions). It left me highly dissatisfied and unlikely to go back except for the desire I feel to try to be there for the one other guy who was there. There was a significant amount of talk about asexuality, which got me thinking . . . I feel really asexual right now. Not in the oh-my-gosh-I've-actually-been-asexual-and-not-gay-this-whole-time kind of way, but in a different way. My soul just feels too tired to love or be loved, my mind is spinning too much to know up from down, and heart is too torn to know what it should do any more. I actually feel more alone than I did before the meeting :(

No One is a Victim Here

I just finished my third counseling session with Cori and feel like I need to debrief about some of what happened by writing. I wish I could meet with her more often. During our first session she disclosed that she self-identifies as a lesbian, had grown up Catholic, and that she is completely open to helping me find whatever path is right for me without pushing me down any path based on her own views. I had always felt like a female counsellor cannot fully understand things like male sex drive or thought patterns and being counseled by someone who is openly gay would inevitably lead to me being pushed down that path. I was wrong on both accounts. She is very warm and understanding and is completely open to letting me find a path that is uniquely mine.

Apparently I scored pretty high on the depression questionnaire today so she commented that despite it appearing that I was in good spirits that there must be a lot going on. I agreed and confessed that I had no idea where to start because my mind has been pulled in so many directions over the past few weeks. After a moment's thought I indicated that despite being pretty confident during the last session that my wife and I would probably get a divorce, I was much less certain about that and everything else today.

She noted that the Church had been in the news regarding their statement about treating LGBTQ folks a little better. I mentioned that most of Mormondom is hailing this as a hugely positive event but that the reality for the MoHos who deal with these issues on a daily basis is that it shows the continuation of a mind frame that leaves thousands of us feeling like we are a disgrace for existing. She agreed that she had not received the message in a very positive light.

I also told Cori that my wife and I had begun couples therapy with a man who is probably not very well-equipped to deal with our situation and that we have been told that there probably is no one local who has dealt with our situation. She asked me to clarify in which ways he was ill-equipped. I told her that he is LDS, which makes my wife happy, but for me is more of a non-issue insofar as we do not compromise the best clinical practices for LDS dogmas that may be misguided. I explained that he has never had any experience dealing with homosexuals. I then said something like "if i hear one more person say this is like alcoholism, my head is going to explode."
[Can anyone direct me to a good source that really distills this down in a way that others can understand? Please explain it in the comments or direct me to a link where someone else has described how/why homosexuality is not like an addiction or any other ridiculous parallel that people like to draw. I would like to have some intelligent dialogue from which to draw the next time this happens. Any help?]
She was observably taken aback and I quickly clarified that our counselor (let's call him Scott) had not said that to me but had demonstrated a very limited understanding of what makes reconciling homosexuality and Mormonism so difficult and had vaguely lumped it into an unspecified group of struggles that many people must face for their entire lives. I noted that, if nothing else, he is providing a safe place for me to talk (compared to trying to do it with just my wife and me alone where things tend to get way out of hand) and equipping us with some tools for better communication.

We talked about my efforts to blog and how diverse the approaches for dealing with the truthfulness of the church are and how vocal gay Mormons can become about their solution being right and that I can so easily be swayed from one extreme to the other, and everywhere in between, about what direction my life should follow. I mentioned that I have felt a little attacked about being selfish for staying in a marriage where I will never be able to fully love nor give my wife all that she needs and deserves. She interrupted me there and said "No one is a victim here. All of the players here are adults and are free to leave or make the decisions that are right for them." And then I lost it . . .

Well, I didn't lose it as bad as I sometimes do, but that was the trigger that started the crying during this session. As the tears flowed and I tried to make sense of them I realized that I had been internalizing what others have said about staying married being selfish which was leading to even further self-hatred. I am really not trying to be selfish in all of this. I am trying to be honest, methodical, and genuine in my effort to find what is best for us as we try to navigate a situation that I do not wish upon anyone. So I reaffirm that here: No one is a victim here. We are trying our best to play with the cards that we have been dealt. If my wife feels like a victim or needs to leave then I will honor and support her in that decision (although I would really prefer that we not immediately disassociate ourselves from one other, move to opposite ends of the globe, and speak vitriol and hatred about each other the rest of our days). Cori gave me permission to take my time and really figure out what's best given our circumstances. Amongst other things, I mentioned that I am terrified by the idea of dating (for the very first time in many ways) and that I cannot yet pinpoint what my essential needs are that are not being met, but maybe we will find a way to change that as we continue in counseling together.

So the struggle continues . . . My wife has been trying to place the decision squarely on my shoulders, noting that she is committed to staying and that I am the only one who still needs to decide if I can commit myself to making this work. She tries to place being the victim on me, saying that she is holding me back from being happy and being the person that I need to be - which I continue to tell her is not how I see the situation at all. If that was really how I saw things, as her holding me back from happiness, then I would already be gone. I'm not sure how many more times or ways we can have the conversation that we will each take responsibility for our own happiness, because it really seems like we're going in circles. I continue to say that until one of us is decided that leaving is the only way to find happiness this, by necessity, remains a two-person decision. I have pleaded with her to really consider what staying together will require of both of us. Last night I tried to show her that I had become aware of The Straight Spouse Network that might be a good source of comfort and understanding and a realistic view into what our lives together would likely entail. She basically said that it doesn't matter because I'm the one who has to make the decision. I could not disagree more because staying together would require each of us to pay the price, which Oisin so eloquently described, more than we have thus far been willing to pay to make our marriage work. Until she has really considered that my attractions will never be a non-issue, that I will need significant support and understanding for the rest of my life, and that I will more than likely have to make up my mind again in the future, she still has some deciding to do.

Am I wrong here? Can someone back me up or help me see things otherwise? [also, a reminder to comment below if anyone can help me explain why homosexuality is not like an addiction]

Monday, February 2, 2015

Advice and Insights Needed

Hello everyone. I am really looking for others' experiences/advice/suggestions with any of the following:

Personal Details on Blog
I have really been considering posting stuff like my current location and hometown where most of my family lives. If I lived in the SLC area or similar area of high Mormon concentration I probably would have done it already. I am on the outer edges of the Book of Mormon belt so location could cause me to be identified more easily which has many potential pros and cons. I feel like I really need to talk to people and maybe someone who reads my blog lives near me but doesn't know it. Any suggestions? Things I should consider before doing this?

Finding Balance
Can I live the rest of my life as a gay man married to a woman or do I need to reroute my life? I feel like I am in a time crunch to figure this out (which in the past had led to feelings of pressure, anxiety, and worse). Some of this is in my head, but there is some verifiable reality to it. I know that my wife is ready to know, once and for all, should she plan on living the rest of her life with me or should she start making plans to move on. I can't blame her. If I had a  definitive answer I would have told her by now. How do I come to a conclusion? Studying out both sides, praying, asking others, none of it seems to provide me any real solace. How do I come to solutions that I won't regret for the rest of my life? Any advice?

Personal Ad
I found this idea on a MoHo blog that is no longer updated. The author was contemplating putting up a personal ad that reads as follows:
MGMM&W (married gay mormon male & wife) seeking same for friendship and mutual support.
While kind of funny, I think that this is one thing that my wife and I could really use right now - some real people who don't have to just pretend to put themselves in our shoes. Would such an ad on craigslist (are there other places this might be appropriate?) be advisable? Has anyone ever tried something like this? How else could we go about finding people in the same situation?

The Other Side of the Argument
I am really trying to study this out before I make a final decision about my marriage. I have been somewhat suspicious of Northstar and just found their sister site voice(s) of hope. While Ty Mansfield seems like a nice enough guy, I wonder how much having to back an organization that is so tied to his personal situation affects his ability to think clearly. Does anybody have real experience with these or similar sites? Are these just guys who have repressed themselves long enough to write articles and create videos but will find themselves abandoning their wives and children in a few years?

Non-sexual need fulfillment
Is there any evidence anywhere that I can create fulfilling male relationships that will fill some my emptiness without it necessarily being sexual in nature? I think I can survive the rest of my life without a homosexual relationship but I know I cannot survive without more fulfilling homosocial/emotional  interactions. Any advice there?

Thanks in advance to anyone who has more experience or resources with any of these issues.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Meeting with the Stake President

I just joined those who have also recently met with ecclesiastical leaders. I have never met with, and hopefully never will meet with, our current Bishop. I do not trust him with the simplest of concerns and certainly have no reason to trust him with my biggest trial. In brief, during his 1-year tenure thus far every 5th Sunday lesson has in some way centered on the message "learn how to not be offended because I cannot change who I am," he has openly discussed in Elders quorum many very private discussions he has had with others who have sought his counsel, from the pulpit tried to shame someone into confessing that s/he had talked to the Stake President about how our Bishop does not seem trustworthy, mocked a woman with cancer about the wig she was wearing . . . it goes on and on. Consequently, the few times I have chosen to reach out to church leaders recently it has been with the SP, not the Bishop.

Our Stake President is very kind and much more wise than I would have guessed before I had the opportunity to meet with him in person. He has never given me any reason to feel bad about myself for my attractions but maintains that the path that is acceptable to God has some very tight restraints. He is apt to say things like "the ways of the world might seem easier in the short run, but will not bring lasting happiness . . ."

Today I explained that I am trying to work my way out of what has been the second very low point for me since getting married. I told him that it has been about six months since I started approaching the point where life no longer seemed worth living. I didn't get into too many details except to say that the last time I felt this bad I promised myself that I would do all in my power to find a solution to make life worth living before throwing in the towel.

I explained that my wife and I have been very seriously talking about divorce - i.e. That is the path I fully intend to follow unless God is able to convincingly help me see some other way very soon. I also told him that since deciding to head in that direction I have felt more peace than I have felt in years. He asked me some clarifying questions about how that might happen, what kind of support system we have, and what our lives might look like after that. I told him that my wife has expressed that she would likely seek someone else to marry who could better meet her needs. I also told him that I do not intend to spend the rest of my life alone but that I could not, in good conscience, inflict this situation on another woman, leaving me few church-sanctioned options.

He said a great many things, reminding me to "not throw the baby out with the bath water." He said he was pleased I was there and was seeking God's guidance in making my decisions. He read from Matt. 4:23-24, which says in part, that Jesus went about healing those  with "divers diseases and torments." He explained that many people suffer torments that are not physical and often difficult to endure. He didn't directly say that I could be healed but alluded to it. 

I told him that I genuinely want to follow God's will but I need that guidance to come from Him, not from other men. I admitted that I no longer feel like I can just blindly follow every word that proceedeth forth from the mouths of the "brethren" and that I have accepted that they make mistakes, especially about an issue that greatly affects me, and that for all I know they may still be in error.

I could tell in his responses that he was certain that my response from God could only be that I stay with my wife. I am still trying to seek God's guidance but what if I've already received it. If I can't trust peace in my heart and a newfound zeal for doing and being better in all aspects after beginning to accept that divorce might be best for us then what can I trust? Have I been deceived as every Mormon I talk to seems to imply? Have I conflated a feeling of relief with a false sense of peace from God? Am I wrong to point out that I have never heard of or met someone who has been "healed" and that I have seen the examples of dozens of MoHos who think they have their Mixed orientation marriage figured out only to find themselves fleeing, completely depressed and disillusioned just a few years later. What am I to do? Is anyone else dealing with these thoughts?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Response to Oisin

In response to my last post, Oisin wrote a post of his own which was followed by another post with an apology at the end. While I did not expect an apology, I am grateful for it and harbor no ill feelings. I must admit that I had a hard time sleeping the night that I read the original post, but his is not the only voice that I have had running through my head over the past few weeks. So in response . . .

No, my wife and I do not have any children. My wife has desperately wanted to have kids for our entire marriage, but I have not been able to consent with the realization that our marriage is an "underwater tsunami" at times. I too would love to have kids, but it seems very irresponsible at this time. However, when we put aside trying to be the perfect Mormon ideal of marriage and family life, things are relatively calm and we genuinely enjoy each other's company.

There have been several posts in the MoHo blogosphere lately about compassion, for which I am grateful. As Oisin pointed out, my recent posts have had nothing positive to say about my relationship with my wife which is more a reflection of my angst and depression than an accurate portrayal of our evolving situation (also, while none of my posts are untrue, I sometimes focus so much on minute details that I leave out some important supporting details of reality). In fact, the last few weeks have been some of the best of our 3.5 year marriage. My wife really is a very faithful companion, has a great compassion for and knowledge of children that will make her a great mom, goes out of her way to do little things for me to show that she cares, and has a solid faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Although surprising for me to read, you are right that our core problems often have very little to do with "the gay" inside of me. It was perhaps most painful for me to read that we/I have "got major trust and maturity issues," but that is probably a fair assessment of our situation. Up to and including my adolescence I was often praised (one of the things I love most in life) for my maturity but it seems that somewhere along the way I have regressed, or at least stopped progressing. While not a valid excuse for not doing better, I'm sure others can relate to feeling like so much energy is expended on trying to reconcile being Gay and Mormon that other aspects of personal growth sometimes get neglected.

I think my wife would agree that most of her trust issues in our relationship go back to the very beginning - when I simultaneously ended my roommateship with Greg and tried to have a romantic/intimate relationship with a woman by getting married. While I thought I had done all of the work required of me in reparative therapy, was confident that I was well on my way to being "cured," and believed the LDS Family Services counselor that this was a temporary condition, what I failed to realize was that I was still getting most of my emotional needs met by a male to whom I would return each night after a date with my wife-to-be. It was only after I was moved physically, emotionally, and socially from him that I realized what a huge void had been left. In trying to work through my feelings I wrote in a notebook, that my wife later found, that I was still in love with him and did not know if I could ever get over losing him. She was devastated to be married to someone who loved another (even though I really could not comprehend how much I loved him until he was gone) and I don't think she has ever been able to get past that (not that I can really blame her). From whence come my trust issues, I'm not quite sure.

I completely agree that it would be much better to jump ship now than to have kids, with the increased stress they bring, and then decide to bail. But as I'm sure you are aware, that is not as simple a decision as we would like to think. That option, as all others currently before us, scares my wife and me to the point of paralysis. Do we have the "currency" to pay the high price for a mixed-orientation marriage? Right now - admittedly, NO. Some very useful things are coming out of our recently-resumed marital therapy, but we are both in agreement that we cannot continue down the path that we have been on thus far.

Oisin, though painful, thank you for your response to my post. To others who have comments, I am glad to hear them as they help me stretch my mind in an effort to find the path that is truly right for me.