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!

1 comment:

  1. Blank, I'm not exactly a "straight reader", but I felt like I needed to respond to your questions in my own way. It seemed too long for the comments section, so I dropped it into a blog:

    Best of luck to you, my man.