Thursday, December 16, 2010

Family: Grace and Courage

I was going to move on to a different topic, but events in my own life, as well as some of the comments left yesterday, have compelled me to continue the discussion on self and mixed-orientation marriages (MOMs).  Like Monday’s post, this post is being written “real-time.”

One of the most important realizations that I have come to about myself in the past 2-3 months is that I am a person.  I realize that can sound like a ridiculously simplistic and self-evident statement.  But it’s not.  For many, many years (as, for example, I have discussed here and here), I felt like I had abandoned my identity – both gay and otherwise – for the sake of making my MOM work.   

This abandonment was deliberate and was all part and parcel of buying into the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, marriage and eternal salvation.  Essentially, I felt that if I was to be “cured” of my homosexuality, I had to surrender my gay self and “purge” it out of me through absolute dedication to my marriage and renunciation of any part of me that could be remotely linked to my gayness.  In the process of doing so, I lost my Self.  I ceased being a person.  In scriptural terms, I ceased being something that “acted” and became instead something to be “acted upon.”

This person who was “acted upon” became weak, hollow, mechanical, lost.  Although he was able to “act” in certain areas of his life, when it came to his relationship with his wife, he was a re-actor, i.e., he was “acted upon.”  He was not a true emotional partner in his marriage because he was hobbled and crippled by the belief that, at the very core of his being, there was something terribly wrong with him that could never be “fixed.”  This belief left him weak, vulnerable and ready and willing to be “acted upon.”

This situation changed within the past several months.  Through a series of “epiphanies” that began before the life-changing events of Conference weekend, I began to discover, rescue and resuscitate my Self.  This process received a massive infusion of oxygen after Boyd K. Packer’s conference talk ignited a chain reaction deep within me, bringing my Self out into the open, gasping for air after years in the dank, dark corner of a very large “closet.” 

It was through these epiphanies that I experienced “grace” in the terms expressed by Paul Tillich, a German Protestant theologian and Christian existentialist whom I had first encountered years ago when I was a freshman in college (a time of my life, described herefrom which I find myself drawing in my current circumstances):

I could not possibly have found better words to express what I felt had happened to me.  Grace had come upon me.  I felt my Self reuniting with itself.  I felt empowered, affirmed, liberated, renewed, baptized even.  This power, which I referred to in yesterday’s post, is unlike anything I have felt before in my life.  It is what is giving me strength as I face the challenges before me.  It is what gives me hope in the face of what otherwise might seem hopeless.  It is what gives me faith in the face of what might otherwise seem meaningless.  It is what has transformed me into a Person who acts, rather than something that is “acted upon.”

This brings me back to yesterday’s comments.  After reflecting upon my own experience and reading about those of others in a MOM – both on my own blog as well as elsewhere (e.g., here), I believe that the key factor in determining the ultimate success of such a relationship is the degree to which the man (and the woman for that matter, but focusing here on gay men in MOMs) is a Person – in touch with himself, affirming himself, a person that “acts” rather than merely being “acted upon.” 

I thought this was reflected, for example, in Miguel’s comment about when he told his wife that he couldn’t go on in their MOM:  “I don't think that my wife believed I would one day make the leap and accept that I was unhappy and wanted to move on when she'd bluff about "what do we do, or where do we go from here?". She was truly in shock when I told her I was done trying and said: "I was hoping you never had the courage to say those words."  Miguel decided to act, rather than merely be acted upon, and I found it telling that his wife used the word “COURAGE” – which I think speaks volumes about the relationship they had, which I can very much relate to.

This was also reflected in CJ’s comment:  Too many couples, gay or straight, view marriage as something to "get through", as a "trial". It doesn't need to be that way. No, no relationship is perfect, just as no two people are perfect--but that doesn't mean that any of us need to settle for "getting along". The *right* relationship--and I mean, by "right", right for you, the individual--is one that supports you, and nurtures you, and helps you grow into the person you want to be.”

This was also reflected, I think, in the (other) Cj’s comment:  I would say emphasize that MOMs can work out fine. As long as both partners are willing and able to make it work, it will. It takes the basics of hard work, forgiveness, communication, patience, and sacrifice.”  To this, I would add, “As long as both partners are being true to themselves, are functioning persons who each have a sense of Self, and who are each persons who are capable of “acting” in a fully self-conscious way.”

To conclude, I wish all my brothers in MOMs – as well as all the rest of my gay brethren – grace and courage.  Grace and courage.


  1. What a beautiful post.

    Nobody needs to settle for a relationship that "can work out fine". We all deserve--and can achieve--a relationship that makes your toes tingle. Attraction is a funny thing; as you get to know people, some become more attractive, and some become less. I can't even begin to imagine how painful it must be to be married to someone you can love, but can't be *in love* with. All that foundational material--shared goals and values, etc--is as they say in the legal world, necessary but not sufficient. Whatever it is that creates the mutual love and dependence of a fulfilling relationship can only grow, I think, between a couple who can truly, truly be *in love*.

    Of course, I don't really know what I'm talking about, but I do have some experience with my own family, and our various members' struggles with their various orientations, as they've worked toward finding fulfilling relationships. And they have! You don't have to be perfect, to be perfect to someone else just the way you are. Heck, I've been staring at my husband for almost seven years, now, and I still want to clap and do the happy dance every time he comes into the room.

  2. I can so relate to your incredibly poignant and introspective post today, Invictus.

    From the time I married, I was troubled about it all. I convinced myself the struggle wasn't me, but was Satan's buffeting (even though I was regular with temple attendance, very active in my callings and tried harder than most to be "righteous"), and figured the world was conspiring to break us up, etc. So like you, I felt "acted upon."

    But. All of this was internal.

    The battle that raged was within. Unfair compromises were made on nearly a daily basis where someone else got to win and I lost a piece of my soul, bit by bit, day by day until I was empty.

    What I wondered about, but didn't have the energy to deal with was, during the entire 19 years of my own internal conflict, another, parallel conflict occurred on the other side of the bed from me - my wife. Full of fear, trying hard to control the situation, knowing she was losing the battle to win me over, she felt greater emotional alienation from me and from herself. She had her own strength sapped from what seemed like an endless battle just to have something normal. Something normal like a loving relationship where both partners had the will and the capacity to be in the marriage. Her marriage. My marriage. Our marriage.

    Speaking of epiphanies, sometimes they come in the form of a question from unlikely sources. In my case, it was my kids. The question being, "Daddy, why don't you and Mommy kiss or hold hands?"

    I began to wonder about that. What kind of compromise on my part had been so important as to render me emotionally and romantically impotent? Was following the one-size-fits-all plan outlined by the LDS Church the right thing for me? If it were, why was I so unhappy? Why did I create this life, based on solemn covenants and promises only to find I shouldn't have? What horrified me was how obvious it was to my young children, knowing this wasn't the example I wanted them to model their own relationships and their own lives after.

    Feeling compelled to act, almost instantly the color returned to my face. The vitality of my earlier years and the hope I once used daily returned, bit by bit. My head cleared. Confidence returned in all areas of my life. Coworkers noticed I began taking care of myself. I lost weight (good) and started having a sharper appearance. I cared again.

    "Something must be wrong, " I feared because I wasn't following the prescripted plan, yet I was unbelievably happy. I started on that path six years ago and quite honestly, have never been happier.

    While some remain in MOMs and are finding happiness, unless rigorous honesty and intent are present, where BOTH the husband and wife's needs are honored, I can see no point being in the marriage. If shame is the tool by which the gay partner's sexuality is still being managed, ultimately that partner is still dying inside, their self is being rejected and they are merely biding their time until the day when they feel worthy to be loved; loved in a way that fulfills them, sustains them and transcends like no other love they've felt.

    Wishing you all the best,


  3. I'm not gay, but have been reading several posts connected to this. I'm fascinated learning what goes on in the mind of a gay person, and feel such empathy towards you and your situations. Having been recently "divorced" from the LDS church, I've been having my own internal struggles with coming out to family and friends regarding my choice to be eternally damned. (their words - not mine). But I realize how much harder it is for you... for being gay and the turmoil you must feel at times to not be able to feel loved in a way that fulfills you.

    Having said that, how fair is it to the straight spouse? Looking at it from another perspective, how fair is it for the partner who doesn't feel "worthy to be loved, and loved in a way that fulfills them, sustains them and transcends like no other love they've felt"? I have a daughter that I believe is in a marriage like this. I have my suspicions regarding her husband. I could be wrong, and because of that, I don't think it's my place to say anything to either of them. But if he is gay, I can't help but feel resentment towards him for staying married to her when neither of their needs are really being met. My daughter deserves pure passion like her husband does. What happens next?