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.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

If My Marriage is to Survive it might Take a Village

I have read a few comments lately from other MoHos who say that while they are not sure what to do to reconcile their faith and their attractions, the one thing they know for sure is that they will never marry a woman. Some of them also go on to say how selfish and hurtful that would be. I plan to write more soon about why I chose to marry and would hope that others who seek understanding in difficult situations would afford me the same as I try to figure out for myself and explain to others why I made the decisions that I did.

I can't change the past and am really struggling to know what to do about my present, but to those MoHos who have never married I think it would be interesting for you to ponder this question for yourself before reading the rest of my post:

What would it take for you to be married to a woman?

Or for any straight reader, what would it take for you to be married to your same gender?
[Here I must interject that I have at times prompted straight people in my life to put themselves in the shoes of a MoHo: What if you lived in a world where (nearly) everyone fell in love with and married their same gender? What if you had only ever been attracted to the opposite gender but everyone had told you your whole life that it was wrong, sinful, perverted to love the opposite gender? What if your church and family and friends would disown you if you didn't marry the same gender? Would you do it? Would you live a life of loneliness and celibacy? Would you have the courage to be different and ostracized? 
 When I posed this question to my wife over two years ago she started sobbing. She asked how we could possibly stay married and said that she could not manage to be married to a woman if put in that situation.
When I asked my mother-in-law that question she said "I can't even imagine that situation because I would just know it would be wrong."  What I should have responded is "why don't you pull your head out of your self-righteous, bigoted ass and try to have some empathy for once in your life," but I refrained.]
So again, I invite you to use your imagination a little and maybe leave a comment or write your own post about what it would take to try to make a marriage with your less-preferred gender work. After all, it was not very long ago that people were beaten and/or killed for not fitting the norm, and even today it still happens in some places. However, let me make it clear that I do not intend for this exercise to encourage gay people to enter mixed-orientation marriages. People must do what is right in their individual circumstances. I just think it is interesting to put one's self in another's shoes.

My wife asked me a similar question recently: "What would it take for us to make this marriage work?" I have been very clear with her lately that if we decide to continue as a married couple it will be much more difficult than either of us ever imagined. I feel like we are finally, for the first time in our marriage, starting to address the really difficult things directly but we still have a long way to go.

She asked me if I could make it work if Greg was still in my life (i.e. my best friend and confidant, without a physical relationship). Even though I still desperately want Greg to be a part of my life, to tell me that we are still friends, to say that he accepts me for who I am, I told her that it likely wouldn't make a difference because he is a flaky, self-centered, jerk. Sometimes I have to come up with reasons to hate him just so I don't go crazy over the fact that my best friend told me that if I ever contact him again he will get a restraining order against me.And yet, part of me wants to believe that this type of scenario could work; that if I could find some very compassionate, straight males with whom I could build the type of masculine bond that my heart aches for, maybe it would be enough to fill the void.

I think I pulled this quote from Beck's blog a couple of years ago, but now I can't seem to find it again to link to it:

When I was in complete denial I was fine. I went over a decade with hardly a hiccup in attraction issues... I dealt with it just fine - but I pulled away from my wife, I became dull and lifeless, but I survived. 

When I opened up to my bromances, I started coming alive. I was excited and passionate again, not just about them, but about my church service, about spiritual things, about work, about creativity, about reaching out to those in need, etc. But, with my bromances came the fact that I was turned on to guys and this is what was bringing me to the fact that I was always turned on to guys, I just suppressed it for so long that I had forgotten - and then it started to gush forward... and here I am.

At times I feel like a volcano ready to explode... I've used that analogy many times here, because it feels appropriate. I have kept my eruptions to a minimum, and let steam off from time to time, but, like your partionalizing friends, the time may come when I just explode! And who wants to see the carnage from that? 

Do I go back? Is it possible to go back? That is the question. Is it possible to experience so much more than I have and then switch it off. Is that possible?
I can relate to so much of this. When I box up all the baggage and live my life on autopilot I am nearly able to forget that I am attracted to men at all. But I too become "dull and lifeless," followed by episodes of being angry and irritable for no particular reason. I also become distant from my wife. I have become pretty proficient at running on autopilot for months at a time, but it really starts to wear on my wife.

Although I have only had one bromance of which to speak, I can say that when that friendship was a part of my life I felt more alive than I have ever felt in my adult life: going to church seemed worthwhile, serving others was easy, I wanted to meet people and do fun things, I was alive and wanted to change the world. Maybe I don't have to be in a romantic/sexual relationship to feel that way again? My wife and I have tried to become friends with other couples in our ward, but it has been difficult: it is a small ward, many of the people there are much older than us, being in a college town makes it just a brief stopping point for most young couples, and I have never had to deal with trying to find four people who all get along to make one new friendship work. There have been two occasions when I have seen a spark of a fulfilling friendship start to grow with the husband of other couples, but in both instances the couple moved away shortly thereafter.
[I acknowledge that this my never work. In the past when I suggested that this might be a possible solution, it was pointed out that such a scenario would result in me being emotionally unfaithful to my wife. Maybe that's true. I'm not trying to argue that this is definitely a good solution, but just an attempt to seek out all possibilities. As a wedding gift, my wife and I were given an audio recording of some marriage lectures that were given by a marriage "expert." In it he points out that most women do not get all of their emotional needs met by their husbands and consequently "gossip" with other female confidants to get it all out of their system. Maybe there is room for me to have a similar solution?]
I also have moments when I feel like I will explode. I feel like either my life or my marriage needs to end . . . not exactly healthy. I also feel like I have to let off some steam or I will go insane. To my eternal shame, sometimes letting off steam manifests itself as a need to look at salacious material, which, if discovered, results in even more pain, self-hatred, bitter arguments, and misery. Consequently, I was more than a little surprised when my wife asked if having porn in my life would make our continued marriage possible. I know she wasn't serious and would never actually consider such a solution, but it is very interesting that she would ask nonetheless. It offered a good opportunity for me to point out again that the core problem here has little to do with sex, but everything to do with male bonding.

She also asked if we could make things better if she didn't push as many of her emotional burdens onto me. I wanted to scream, "YESSSSSSSSS!" But I played it more cool than that, calmly agreeing that it could really take the edge off of some of our disagreements. I don't know how else to say this, but my wife is a perpetual martyr. Sure, she has had more than her share of difficulties in life, but good hell, that doesn't give you the right to lump everything wrong that has ever happened to you into one conversation every time you feel like having a pity party. Her mom once told her that she had this feeling that my wife would face lots of difficulties in this life, but that she was strong enough to handle them and it would make her a better person. She loves recounting that and uses it as an intro to her sob story about how she has it worse than anyone who has ever walked the planet. Things got really out of hand between us on Sunday night and I was more than ready to call it quits (which felt strangely relieving). Once I came to the conclusion that things probably would not work out between us it became very easy to remain calm, level-headed, and not get pulled into her passive-aggressive advances. I said that I was probably responsible for 99.9% of the problems in our marriage but whether or not we stay married, her position of always being the martyr was not helping us and would certainly be a detriment to the possibility of any future relationship into which she might enter.

To say that I have never seen eye-to-eye with my oldest sister-in-law is a huge understatement, but this week I really owe her some credit. On an evening when I was out of the house at a volunteer obligation my wife had two of her sisters over to our apartment. I'm sure she told them all the things I do wrong and how terrible I am, but to the eldest's credit, she agreed with me when my wife told her that I had called her a martyr. She pointed out that my wife does have a tendency to act like a martyr and that while my struggles, actions, attractions, etc. cause her a lot of pain, I too have been through a lot of suffering and she doesn't exactly make it any easier on me. They talked about many other things, the result of which being that my wife has really softened on a couple of issues, allowing us to speak more civilly once again. My wife also realized that I may never (nor could most men) be able to meet all of her emotional needs and that she will try to reach out to her sisters more instead of just heaping it all onto me.

So yes, with a small village, including some platonic bromances, some virtual sex partners, my wife's sisters, and anyone else we might need to pull into the mix, we might be able to make this work!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dear God

Dear God,

Would You hate me if I loved a man instead of a woman? When I come to meet You some day would You be ashamed of me? Would it break Your heart to see me seek out what my heart yearns for?

Surely You know that this is not just some wicked desire born out of lust and hedonism. Surely You know that I did not choose my attractions. Surely You know that I have tried to pray it away, be righteous enough to be worthy of it being taken from me, and tried to do everything in my power to change.

Am I broken and cursed with a pitiable defect? Is self-denial and living a life void of fulfillment my cross to be borne? Is this my way of being tested as Abraham, as I have been led to believe? If so, why does it have to be such a poignant, ever-present trial?

I really am willing to do what You want me to do but I don't know what that is. Men claiming to be inspired have tried to tell me what I must do, but I really need my answers to come from You. Are You there? Do You see how miserable and disillusioned I have become? What would You have me do?

I need Your love. I need Your guidance. I am at a breaking point and don't know what to do.

Awaiting Your guidance,

Blank Slate Hopeful

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Breaking My Silence

After my wife found out about and read my blog more than two years ago I decided to box up my baggage and postpone dealing with it again. This failure of a coping mechanism continues to be my default. Most of that time has been spent not reading other MoHo blogs, discontinuing my counseling (from a counselor with whom I did not connect very well), pushing back against my wife who wants me to make some major life decisions, continuing my education down another dead end track (a master's degree), etc. It is my goal to be deliberate, slow, and steady in taking steps to actually unpack my baggage this time. However, during the other two times that I have started this process, people and events in my life have pushed me to accelerate the unfolding in ways that lead to self-destructive behaviors from which I break free by boxing it all up again.

Over the past 6 months I have noticed a continued increase in depression, unhappiness, stress, anxiety, etc. For a couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving I could feel myself approaching a level to which I had promised to never let myself sink again. As I have still not found a counselor with whom I can connect and who is able to offer long-term services, I decided to give it another try at campus health (this is where I had initially sought counseling as an undergrad several years ago, leading up to my realization that I am not attracted to women). Since it had been years since I was last seen there all they could offer me was a 'triage' session during which they would decide which counselor would be best for providing any actual counselling. The triage counselor said that "Cori" (name changed) was most definitely the person who would most be able to help me. The counselor's name was gender-ambiguous, but the spelling led me to think it was probably a female. The only available appointments in the foreseeable future were still weeks away and reserved for emergency appointments that could only be scheduled 48-hours in advance. The triage counselor ended up breaking a few rules to get me one of those spots, sensing that my situation was a bit more substantial than most of their clientele at this time of year who had skipped classes all semester and for some inexplicable reason were now experiencing high levels of anxiety about finals.

Just this simple act of verbalizing things that had been bumbling around in my head for months during the triage session significantly increased the magnitude of my spiraling emotions. My extended Thanksgiving weekend was not the relaxing reprieve I was hoping for. It was exhausting to have old wounds coming open again. During the week after the break I found myself crying a lot (a tell-tale sign that things were getting out of hand since I sometimes go years without crying), but I tried to keep it to myself as much as possible. I emailed a couple of professors, with whom I had a bit of a personal relationship, simply requesting a time to meet, but it was a very busy week for everyone so making schedules align was much more difficult than I anticipated.

I think that meeting with "Roxanne" might have been a mistake. Roxanne is a lawyer by education, now a professor, approaching retirement. She is very smart, not shy about her opinions, and makes more of an effort to be involved in her students' lives than any teacher I have ever met. She is also the professor to whom I was assigned as a Graduate Assistant this semester. Since I meet with her, one-on-one, at least once a week and she is very open about many aspects of her own life it was easier to feel more of a connection than I have felt with other professors. During my very first meeting with her at the beginning of the semester she showed me her electric tea kettle and said that she almost always has water ready and a wide variety of teas to which I should help myself whenever I want. I decided it best to unveil the Mormon elephant right away and said that I probably would not be drinking much tea. To my surprise she had no questions about why Mormons don't drink tea and showed me that she also had a stash of hot chocolate and herbals.

Over the subsequent weeks she was very open about her Jewish heritage and it became clear that she had a much better understanding of the inner workings of my religion than that most non-Mormons, and certainly knew more about my faith tradition than I did about Judaism. She has personally known many Mormon Bishops and Stake Presidents and understands that the congregations are called "wards" and are geographically divided and often have their own "personalities." She said that if she ever quit being Jewish that Mormonism would probably be a good option for her because she really appreciates that family and community aspects despite how bizarre she finds Mormon Temples.

Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof

Roxanne frequently talks about an ongoing "pissing match" that she has with God as she tries to make sense of life and faith and tradition. In many ways she really is a modern, female version of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof as she jokes with and questions God and throws her hands up in the air to simply ask "why?!" Although her observance of Judaism is admittedly not very strict to the letter of the law, she still celebrates most, if not all of the holidays and goes to great lengths to provide the trappings of those days for her friends and family. An oft-cited quip about why she continues as she does goes something like this: "I don't know how to live my life if I'm not Jewish. I have no idea what non-Jews do on Rosh Hashanah," she says, half in jest. Through these conversations I not only came to feel close to her but learned a lot about myself. I am having a hard time of making heads or tales of whether or not the Mormon church is true, but either way, the Church has provided a lens from which to observe the world for my entire life. I really do have a difficult time knowing how to see or live in the world without my faith tradition and she understands this so well.

For myriad reasons I do not have any friends or confidants left after getting married, so she seemed like one of my few options for opening up in a time of need. But as I mentioned, this may have been a mistake. It has been a while since I have really opened up to anyone in my personal life about anything so it was really difficult to get the words out. After a few sentences of beating around the bush I finally got myself to say "I am attracted to men." I had scarcely said more than that when she started to dominate the conversation. While I am grateful that she was quick to state her acceptance of and concern for me, my head was spinning by the time she finished an hour and a half of questioning and advice-giving. It was all well intended but her timing and delivery left much to be desired. I do not remember everything that was said nor the order so I will simply list some of the things she said and asked instead of trying to make an intelligible paragraph out of them:

  • "Does your wife know?"
  • "You have to get divorced. It's not fair to her and it's not fair for you to stay in your marriage."
  • "You don't have any kids, right? You're sure she's not pregnant? Do you have sex with your wife? You've been married this long and she's not pregnant so it's possible she will have trouble having kids."
  • "I know you said she really wants to have kids and is getting worried that she is getting too old to have kids. You could tell her that you are willing to create a child with her as long as you are very clear that you will not be staying in the marriage."
  • "You need to be creative and think outside the box to find solutions that will help both of you make the most of the situation."
  • "You could always adopt or if having children that are biologically your own is important you could get a surrogate, but that is much more expensive."
  • She told me about gay men she has known and their escapades . . .
  • "The one thing that's absolutely certain is that you have to get a divorce. . ."
  • She told me that the other professor with whom I was trying to schedule a meeting has a gay son who went through a slutty stage . . .
  • "You need to make lots of lists and think of all the possible options . . . list the order of people to whom you will come out . . . think of all the different ways they might react and how you will respond to them . . . tell them this is not their fault or about them . . . if they get angry let them know that you understand and will give them time to process the new information . . ."
  • She told me about two lesbians (one a Jew by birth, the other a convert) who were married by a Rabbi she knows and that there was really little reason for them to be married or little concern about them getting married or something because a Jewish wedding is all about creating children and continuing the blood line or something like that . . .
  • "Is sex positive, negative, or neutral in your relationship with your wife?"
  • "You will need to get divorced but divorces take a while so you could still have some tuition benefits for a while since your wife works for the school . . ."
  • She asked me if I was currently involved with or interested in someone in particular (I am not) or if I ever had been (I told her briefly about my former roommate) . . . after a few more questions about him she concluded that I was never in love but in lust with him and that I should be careful to only fall in love with gay men and that there was something wrong with him psychologically based on the way he told me to stay out of his life . . .
  • "You will have to have sex with a man before he will ever agree to marry you . . ."
  • Even if her son told her something that was really difficult . . . like he had bathed in the blood of Jesus and wanted her and their whole family to be saved with him as well . . . she would eventually choose him over her faith and that my family would eventually do the same
While the actual conversation had a bit more finesse than this disjointed list of nearly unrelated comments, the effect it had on me was as if she was spouting out directions about how I needed to live my life. She kept harping on the divorce aspect as if it was already a done deal when all I really wanted was someone to listen. Some of things she said may have been true or wise, but I was not looking for nor did I need any of this information right now. I left with my head ready to explode while in the middle of trying to prepare for final exams and finish final group projects and group presentations (of which there would soon be more than I would like to recount). I was a mess and now had even more to stew about than I did when I went in to meet with Roxanne.

This post has become way too long and I had intended to finish it two weeks ago. I plan to post a lot more very soon and to those in the MoHo blogging community I wish to say that I am back and I hope to be a more consistent member of the community.