Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brokeback marriages

There is an interesting article about Mixed Orientation Marriages that I read recently (or what the author calls "Brokeback Marriages"). Like most articles on this topic, it tended towards the negative; but, it's not as negative as others I've read. The author states that 80% of such marriage end in divorce - but that suggests that 20% do not.

Anyway, the author talks about a "coming out" process and the stages a couple typically goes through when one spouse reveals to the other that they are gay.
  • Humiliation - The Humiliation stage occurs when the gay partner finally reveals his or her secret and both spouses begin to agonize over the news. Typically, the straight spouse blames herself or himself for not being "woman enough" or "man enough" to keep their mate interested. Straight spouses may question whether they ever really participated in the marriage and whether the marriage was ever authentic
  • Honeymoon - The Honeymoon stage occurs when the partners agree to remain in their mixed-orientation marriage. Typically, gay spouses who want to remain in the marriage do so for one good reason: they love their straight spouses. With both partners feeling loved unconditionally, they renew their marriage vows on an emotional level.
  • Rage - The Rage stage occurs when both partners reach the limits of what is tolerable. The straight spouse may have felt satisfied with the way things were and wants to maintain the marriage as it was, but both partners realize that they cannot retreat back into the closet. At this point, they often feel the same sense of heaviness that descended upon them before the disclosure.
  • Resolution - During the Resolution phase, couples consider again whether to stay together or separate. This is a question each partner should ask individually, and the couple should broach it together. They need to express to themselves and to their partner the type of marriage they want. They also need to weigh what they have invested so far against what is at risk if they break up. Other considerations to weigh include the loss of heterosexual privileges for both of them.
I don't necessarily agree with everything the author has to say - but I think he does make some interesting points. Just wondering what others think about this


Bravone said...

Hmmm. I will have to think about this one. I don't think we went through those phases, at least not all of them. I think it varies based on the partners and their relationship before the revelation. In our marriage, there was never a question of love, respect, kindness, consideration, etc.

For us, it clarified a lot of things and opened our lines of communication which enhanced our marriage. We were always emotionally close, but I kept a lot inside with disastrous results. Now that we can share our feelings openly, we are doing much better.

I think our marriage was built upon so many other solid considerations that the sexual aspect, although important and sometimes not perfect, doesn't play the major role. The revelation of my "nature" hasn't had the negative affect that might have occurred if our relationship had been built upon physical "sand."

Samantha said...

I think it makes a huge difference if the couple enters marriage with the knowledge of the gay spouse's orientation intact.

I also think, while there is some credence to his words, he has left out some key points, such as religious beliefs and the fact that all marriages, mixed or same orientation, go through different stages--some are more comfortable than others.

It's very easy for MOM's to get on the "my marriage is completely unique" bandwagon. We are unique, but we also have things in common with our straight counterparts. I think there is value in recognizing this--especially if we wish our marriages to survive.

playasinmar said...

I don't know the author's credentials but it sounds like their research was Brokeback Mountain.

Kengo Biddles said...

I know for Miki and Me, since we were honest from the beginning, we never actually went through these steps. I think we're more like a normal marriage (is there such a thing?) than not -- and I think that showed in Miki's interview with Mr. FOB on LDS Lights.

Scott said...

I think that the author of the article somehow manages at the same time to over-analyze and oversimplify the subject. There are as many different kinds of MOMs as there are mixed-orientation couples, and the character of a MOM could run the gamut from being no different from any "normal" marriage to being a nightmare of bitterness, anger and despair. Most of them are probably somewhere in between.

I think I would have a hard time fitting my relationship with Sarah since I came out to her into the structured stages that the article outlined. If there was a "humiliation" stage (and I'm not sure there was) it didn't last more than a few days, I don't think. I don't think we've ever seen "rage", and I honestly don't ever see it happening the way it's described. The "honeymoon" stage does read familiar. Sarah and I are definitely more emotionally connected than we used to be. I'm not sure I have any opinions about "resolution".

Kengo Biddles said...

Grief has steps, but you don't go through them singly, or in order.

Repentance is the same way.

I think it's much the same with this--the author's on a good track, but I think it needs much more to be refined.

Abelard Enigma said...

I can relate with all of the phases in my own personal relationship; although, I prefer to use the word "Frustration" rather than "Rage" to describe the third phase. One thing the author did point out is that these phases are not necessarily sequential nor does reaching the "Resolution" phase mean you're done - you can move back and forth between phases.

I agree with Samantha that when comparing MOM's and SOM's (Same Orientation Marriage) - there are more commonalities than there are differences. Although, you could probably say the same for SSM's (Same Sex Marriage).

I also agree with Samantha that a couple entering into marriage with their eyes wide open to the fact that one of them is gay can make a huge difference. However, for a variety of reasons that doesn't always happen. I hope we're not hammering the last nail in the coffin for those marriages, like my own, where the homosexual orientation of one of the spouses was revealed much later.

Beck said...

Though everything said here is a generalization, I must admit that my marriage has gone through the "humiliation" stage, a very real "honeymoon" stage of rediscovery, and now a "frustration" stage (I agree with you, Abe that "rage" is too harsh a word for this phase). As for resolution - I guess that is what I'm working through now.

Yes, religious beliefs, maturity levels, friendship strengths, commitment levels etc. all factor into this simplistic view.