Today’s post continues a discussion about issues involved in mixed-orientation marriages and the relevance of these issues to both gays who are currently in MOMs as well as to single gay Mormons who are perhaps wondering about the possibility of eventual marriage to a woman.
I want to again thank those who contributed comments, both publicly on the blog and privately through e-mails. After yesterday’s post, I received one such e-mail from a young gay Mormon who didn’t think he should comment on the blog because he didn’t want to inject his comment into what he perceived to be a discussion among men in MOMs. After reading his e-mail, I wrote to him and told him that, quite to the contrary, I think this discussion is extremely relevant and important to young Mormon men who are perhaps considering the concept of marrying a woman, thinking that perhaps they could find a degree of happiness in such a marriage.
With his permission, I am quoting from this man’s comments:
“I've only dated one girl in my life, and we were together for about a year and a half. I still feel like you and all that have commented on your last couple of posts have described how I felt in that relationship. I was hoping desperately that one day I'd wake up and *click* I'd be in love. But that never happened. I loved her, but wasn't "in love" with her …
“I guess the point in emailing you is to let you know how relevant the MOM discussion has been for me. In that relationship, I was determined to just make it work, because I'd never dated before, and didn't know what a relationship was like. I was disappointed because all I was ever told about how great relationships are seemed to be false. I felt unauthentic, guilty, ashamed, broken. I wanted to be in love, but I wasn't. My willpower to resist and maintain my identity was slowly sapped away. When we finally broke up, I was broke up, because my identity as a straight guy was shattered. She was the foundation of that facade. (Of course, that wasn't her intention, she just was.)
“Every once in awhile, that little voice sneaks into my brain and tells me that I should give dating girls another try. I could make the relationship work, and eventually marry. It tells me I could be happy, and maybe I would for a short period of time. But I think what makes me gay is, not only am I attracted to men, but my long-term happiness can only be sustained by one. In short, I want to be happy, and I think God wants me to happy to. So will I ever get married to a woman? I don't think so.”
I personally found it very interesting that he used terms in describing his courtship that sounded eerily familiar to those that Mark and I have used to describe some of our feelings: “I felt unauthentic, guilty, ashamed, broken … my identity was slowly sapped away.”
Another commenter, Martin, wrote of the struggles he had in his MOM, which ended in divorce: “There was practically no opportunity to gain perspective, living behind the
Curtain (sorry, Zion ). The script screamed to us, over and over, of what we must look like. And so, we hammered away at our souls, efforts made daily that did nothing to stem the flow of futility from our core desire to love and be loved.” I found the phrase, “hammered away at our souls,” so compelling that I used it as the title of this post. I hope Martin doesn’t mind. Utah County
I also hope Martin doesn’t mind that I recast slightly and present here his beautiful, insightful and thought-provoking prose about his identity as a gay Mormon:
I Stand As a Witness
I was not formed
To fit inside of a proclamation.
Rather, I am an explanation point,
Waiting to be examined
In all my complexity.
Not as part of a myriad of rows
Of Dutch tulips stand I.
Rather as a wonder of God's creative juices,
Humiliated not by the consternation of man.
Humbled by my own contemplation:
That this creation
Can never be reformatted
Into the image of your Thou.
Instead, it is I who must remain.
And somewhere in that intersection
Lies a brave new friendship.
Thank you, Martin, for sharing these beautiful thoughts and feelings. I hope you will share more of your thoughts in the future.
Lastly, I wanted to address some comments that Cj shared about romantic love and marriage. With respect to yesterday’s post, he said he agreed with “the post and some of what’s been written.” He then went on to express his opinion that marriage is more than romantic love, that a relationship involves more than just focusing on one’s own needs, and that in order to “make it work,” one needs to focus on the other partner’s needs through selfless love. I think this is a fair summary.
Well, (the other) CJ posted her thoughts on Cj’s comments, which can be read on yesterday’s post, and I would recommend reading them, because I think she makes some valid points.
My response to Cj’s comment basically comes from a different angle. I agree with the theory behind Cj’s comments, but I don’t think they are applicable within the framework of the discussion about mixed-orientation marriages. Cj disagreed with the Beatles that “Love is all you need.” I agree with him!
Many gay Mormon men enter into a MOM thinking that “love is all I need,” thinking that if I just work away at this hard enough, if I am selfless enough, if I focus enough on my wife’s needs, I can make this work. But this is a fallacy. In my opinion, in many if not most instances, love will never be enough in such a marriage, and the end result of selfless devotion to a marriage that is doomed never to be truly fulfilled and fulfilling is the death of self (to one degree or another).
This is not to say that MOMs cannot “work.” As has been discussed this past week, each MOM is different and is the product of a number of different factors, including in no small part the willingness of the man to forego fulfillment a fundamental element of his nature and identity. I respect each gay man’s individual journey as he comes to terms with his MOM in a way that is authentic for him.
However, it simply will not do to cast such a soul-wrenching process as a struggle between focusing on one’s own desires versus selfless dedication to the marriage. This facile paradigm is simply not applicable to the terribly complex dynamics of a mixed-orientation marriage and, in my view, does a disservice to the men who struggle daily with the issues that have been described over the past few days.
It is also my view, with sincere respect for Cj and his views, that his concluding comment also represents an insidious fallacy, particularly in the Mormon world. He wrote: “When both partners are selflessly focused on each other, that's when marriages make it.” This is what we are taught in the Church. And there is some truth and validity in this statement – when it is applied to a straight marriage or even to a gay marriage (as Cj points out). However, in the context of a mixed-orientation marriage, it is, to one degree or another, a death sentence; for this approach, this mantra, requires that both the husband and the wife kill part of themselves for the “greater good.” The marriage becomes a mutual suicide pact, rather than an agreement to affirm the best in each other and create something new and beautiful out of the freely-given contributions of each partner.
I will reiterate that I honor, understand and respect the views and comments of gay Mormon men who are committed to making their MOM work. But I think it is critically important that the issues involved in mixed-orientation marriages be faced and discussed critically, honestly and openly. And this process in part involves recognizing and rejecting fallacies that, while perhaps applicable to straight marriages, contribute to and mask the destructiveness of mixed-orientation marriages.
I could write more, but I think I'll leave it there for today.