Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Option 1 - mixed orientation marriage

The first option for the gay mormon that I want to discuss is mixed orientation marriages. This is a topic that seems to come up here in the Mormon queerosphere with some regularity. I've even blogged about it myself, which hit a raw nerve with some people.

Last summer, Elbow blogged this subject which also generated some passionate responses. In his blog, he said
... I want every woman who is considering to marry a gay man to RUN FOR HER LIFE! And I sincerely mean that. There's no reason why a woman should try to force herself into a marriage that is full of homosexual thoughts, desires, and tendencies. It's not an environment for love to flourish and it's not an environment where self-esteem and self-worth can thrive.

At the risk of sounding like a hypocrite - I tend to agree with him. I believe that, in general, a gay man should not enter into a heterosexual marriage. There are, of course, exceptions (myself being one of them). But, I'm speaking in generalities.

The thing is, most mixed orientation marriages will end in divorce. No, I don't have any irrefutable statistics to back up this claim. But, consider

  • Church leaders have said on a number of occasions in recent years that men with same sex attraction should not enter into a marriage as a way of 'fixing' their SSA.
  • Try searching Amazon using "mixed orientation marriage". There are a number of books on this topic. And, all of them recommend against it (at least that's what I gather from the reader comments).
  • Carol Lynn Pearson approaches this topic briefly in her book "No More Goodbyes", and she recommends against it.
  • On the internet, there are numerous stories of mixed orientation marriages that haven't worked out. There are precious few stories of those that have. In fact, the only ones I'm aware of are in the Mormon queerosphere.

As I've said before: A gay man should marry a woman for the same reasons that a straight man should: Because he loves her. But, therein lies the catch - can a gay man truly love a woman? Being best friends is not the same as love. Being compatible is not the same as love.

The answer is yes, a gay man can love a woman. But, it's a different kind of love than the straight man experiences; and, when it does happen, our church leaders support the possibility of a mixed orientation marriage. But, you can't force it to happen. No matter how much you want it, no matter how hard you try, you cannot force yourself to love a woman for whom you feel no natural attraction. And, that doesn't mean you are any less of a man because you can't marry a woman. Those of us who are married are not better or more righteous in any way.

The thing about mixed orientation marriages, not only are you impacting your own eternal salvation, but you're impacting the eternal salvation of a daughter of zion. So, a gay man needs to be very careful about entering into such a relationship. A mixed orientation marriage can and does work for some of us; but, it is not the end all answer for every Mormon guy who likes guys.

And now, at the risk of sounding totally schizophrenic (I'm old now, I can do that) ...

The gay Mormon man should not totally dismiss the idea of marriage to a woman either. I think you should, at least, remain open to the possibility while accepting that it will likely never happen. But, you never know. You may, one day, meet a girl for whom you have feelings that you've never experienced about a woman before. It happened with my wife and I. The first time we met, we both knew that we would one day be married. And, she didn't even like me at the time! It was, at least, 6 months later before we even went out on a date. And, we broke up before I left on my mission - because we knew that 2 years is a long time and our feelings for each other might not be the same. But, after my mission, we rekindled our relationship and were married 9 months later.

A mixed orientation marriage carries with it a lot of unique challenges. Once you get past the honeymoon phase, physical intimacy will likely become a challenge. Even emotional intimacy may be difficult at times. There are some things you may never be able to do. For example, my wife and I don't kiss. She would love to be able to kiss me; but, I just can't do it - it's repulsive to me. To be honest, I don't really know if it is the act of kissing itself that I have a problem with, or is my problem with kissing girls. But the fact remains, we seldom kiss, and we've never made out. Other gay men may be able to get past this - I can't.

So, how can we make mixed orientation marriages work? How can we improve our success rate? We have a good mix of people here in the queerosphere. We have married people, divorced people, those considering marriage, those who have written off the possibility of marriage. I'm sure everyone has thoughts and ideas on this - so let's hear them!

11 comments:

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

Responding to your closing questions, I think the best way to improve relationships is to encourage people to be comfortable and accepting of themselves and honest with their partners. People should seek the path that truly brings them the greatest happiness, not the one that others tell them will bring them greatest happiness.

Jake said...

Once you get past the honeymoon phase, physical intimacy will likely become a challenge. Even emotional intimacy may be difficult at times.

From the input I've gotten from gay couples, that's how it is in any relationship. Wikipedia even has an entry on the infamous "Lesbian Bed Death" you hear about so often in the media.

Just today, a friend of mine who's a bit older was laying out his financial/relationship rules for gay couples who experience this point in their relationship. Apparently it's pretty common for couples--not being bound by marriage or children--to just leave at the slightest waning interest.

Abelard Enigma said...

People should seek the path that truly brings them the greatest happiness

Don't you think that, for some, a mixed orientation marriage IS the path that would bring them greatest happiness?

I know that, for me personally, I'm really enjoying being a grandfather. I'm looking forward to Christmas when we'll have all 4 children (with spouses) and all 3 grandchildren. Having me, my wife, children, and grandchildren isn't quite the same as my former wife, children, grandchildren, plus me and my boyfriend. It gets even more complicated if you add new husband for former wife and his children and grandchildren to the mix.

Peter said...

THANK YOU!

Chris said...

Don't you think that, for some, a mixed orientation marriage IS the path that would bring them greatest happiness?

Of course. And I didn't suggest that that's not the case for you or anyone else. You read more than I wrote--I made no suggestions that there is one right path for gay men.

However, I also think many gay men who marry women (and especially those who do so at a young age) do so because of their own internalized homophobia and cultural/societal/family pressure. It's impossible to say precisely to what extent any of us are or were married to women were so motivated. But I don't think it should be completely discounted either. I'm sure there are many young gay men considering marriage to a woman simply because they cannot fathom that they could be happy living a gay life. They might be surprised.

Speaking from my own experience, I don't regret that I married and had a family, and I certainly thought that was the right path to happiness for me. But now that I'm out and divorced, I'm certain I could have been happy and fulfilled without that experience.

As for the complications of post-married life, they are just that: complications. But my family is what it is, and I love each member very dearly.

playasinmar said...

I’m one who feels it’s a mistake for most gay men to get straight-married.

Obviously it works for some but thanks for pointing out that exceptions are, in fact, exceptions.

Beck said...

For some unexplainable reason, I fell madly in love with my wife from the first time I saw her. It was "love at first sight". I had NEVER felt this way about any woman before or since. I had felt that same feeling for a couple of different men, but at that time I couldn't grasp my feelings for them as permissible or even allow myself to equate them to what I was feeling for her.

In hind sight, they were just as strong. But I couldn't pursue them as I could with her, so I went forward with my feelings for her and they magnified over time and I felt complete peace and harmony and passion and LOVE for her that it felt the right thing to do. I was not coerced into marrying her. I felt some duty and responsibility to do so, but the driving force was - I wanted to marry her because I was crazy in love with her and wanted to never lose her. I wanted to give her my all.

You know most of the rest of the story, but in this portion of the story, was it wrong of me to marry her? Was I destroying the happiness of a "daughter of Zion"?

26 years later I might answer differently than then. (Heck, two years later I might have answered differently). That isn't fair to do in comparing not only before and after of my relationship, but of any other.

I say, when one is madly in love with another, why preclude that as a feasible option?

Beck said...

BTW, I'm curious as to the selection of the picture for this post. Is that me holding my wife's hand while desiring my non-sexual relationship with the cute returned missionary guy standing before me? :)

One of So Many said...

A Mixed Orientation Marriage for us SGAYS is at least 3 times as hard as it would be otherwise. But it isn't impossible. It takes a lot of work and the right kind of people being together.

It's why it is more the exception than the rule. Odds like that make Vegas seem like an easy win.

GeckoMan said...

Easy for you to say: "Those of us who are married are not better or more righteous in any way."

WHAT? WHAT?? Whoa Abe, you don't really mean that do you?!! (And all this time, I thought I had a trump card in my hand. . . ;)


Actually, you and Beck definitely speak the truth of your own experience. The mixed orientation marriage can work, even if it may not flourish in 'natural' affection. (Certainly there are plenty of straight marriages out there where love/attraction dies and couples end up in divorce as well.) My wife and I struggle at times with our own set of unique challenges, but we're making it come true on our commitments and are happy most days. We certainly are grateful for each other and love our family dearly.

I too would not go back on my own very naive decision made 27 years ago this month. I made it for one simple and scary reason: I prayed about it in faith and felt a direct and positive answer to do it, and so I did. Let us never forget or discount the spiritual side of this life-decision. (And I acknowledge the answer from the Lord can go either way.) In my case, I see there are lessons I never would have learned, blessings I would have never enjoyed, had I not heeded that directive of the Spirit. And yet, I also confess that there have been times when I doubted that inspiration I received long ago; but not today.