This post continues the discussion that has evolved this week on mixed-orientation marriages (MOMs). This is a conversation that is highly relevant, not only for gay Mormon men who are currently in a MOM, but also (I would submit) for any young single gay Mormon man who is wrestling with questions concerning family, how the “Plan of Salvation” applies to someone like him and whether marriage to a woman might be desirable despite an attraction to men.
Yesterday’s post generated only a few comments, but – wow! – what comments! I want to thank CJ for what to me were the amazingly insightful and articulate comments she has left over the past few days, and particularly for the one she left yesterday. Though, as she states, she is not gay and is very happily married to a man (kudos!), she has experience with her own family and friends who have struggled with their orientations and have worked toward and have found fulfilling relationships.
I would submit that one does not necessarily have to be in a MOM to make highly relevant comments concerning marriage, such as these by CJ: “Nobody needs to settle for a relationship that ‘can work out fine’”, CJ wrote yesterday. "We all deserve--and can achieve--a relationship that makes your toes tingle …” I have to pause here I say that I love that turn of phrase: a relationship that makes one’s toes tingle. I’d like to take a poll of my readers and ask how many have been or are in such a relationship? (HINT.)
“I can't even begin to imagine,” CJ continued, “how painful it must be to be married to someone you can love, but can't be *in love* with.” [Ok, this is getting a little uncomfortably close to home.] “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*.”
Wow! If these comments aren’t food for thought, I don’t know what is. Obviously, I have freely cribbed from CJ’s comments to come up with the title of this post, and I have chosen to do so because I think that this pithy little phrase succinctly captures what, for many of us, is a defining characteristic of a MOM. (I won't comment further on this; I'd just invite readers to ponder it.) And how painfully truthful is her phrase “ … someone you can love, but can’t be *in love* with.” Truth is sometimes extremely painful, but only when it is faced and embraced can it cleanse, purify, enlighten and empower.
CJ’s comment was followed by a beautifully articulate commentary by Mark, who has been in a MOM and speaks from first-hand experience. For those who haven’t done so, I would highly recommend reading his entire comment, as I am only going to focus on a few select gems, such as this one: “Unfair compromises,” he wrote describing his marriage, “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 kind of compromise on my part had been so important as to render me emotionally and romantically impotent?”
I can “testify” of these feelings. I particularly loved Mark’s use of the phrase “emotionally and romantically impotent,” which precisely characterizes how I came to feel about myself after struggling for years to fulfill what I perceived to be my duty in my MOM. The more I attempted to “do the right thing” and to love my wife as I felt she should be loved, the more impotent, depressed and discouraged I felt.
I finally came to the same conclusion that Mark has expressed: “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.” I can certainly understand and relate to Mark’s comments about using shame to “manage” gayness in a MOM, and the effects that this has on one’s sense of Self. I cannot yet comment on his concluding comments, though I can imagine.
A couple of comments were left on my Facebook page by men who are or who have been in a MOM. After reading yesterday’s post, one man wrote, “Have you been reading my journal again??? You once again are writing my story.” To this, another man responded: “With a few disparate details, he’s writing all of our stories!” As I wrote in reply to these remarks, comments such as these indicate how much commonality there is among the experiences of gay men in MOM. To me, this in turn indicates a high level of truth in what we are experiencing or have experienced – an extremely relevant fact both to those in MOMs as well as to those who are trying to understand them.
Lastly, a comment was left by a father whose daughter is married to a man whom the father suspects is gay. He posed a very valid and pertinent question: How fair is it to the straight spouse to continue in a MOM where the man knows he is gay? Quoting Mark’s concluding words, this man asked, “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’? … If [my son-in-law] is gay, I can't help but feel resentment towards him for staying married to [my daughter] when neither of their needs are really being met. My daughter deserves pure passion like her husband does. What happens next?”
Indeed, what happens next? This man raises, to put it mildly, an extremely valid question. I don’t have an answer to this question (and I invite, even solicit, comments in this regard), except to say that questions such as this raise issues of morality – of a morality that calls upon us to transcend pithy, Sunday School-esque, overly simplified, black and white answers out of the Gospel playbook.
Questions such as these force us, who may be accustomed to wearing a ready-made suit of morality off the “Mormon rack,” to realize that the ready-made suit doesn’t fit, that we must examine these issues in a manner to which we may not be, and probably aren’t, accustomed. This may very well (and likely will) seem uncomfortable, even frightening; but I submit that we have to move “outside the box” to ask hard questions of ourselves whose answers can only come out of ourselves, and to confront larger issues involving honesty, integrity, fairness and love.
This does not mean our religion, our belief structure, cannot inform this process. However, I would submit that it is in honestly confronting such questions and seeking answers thereto, that it is in bravely moving outside the box to stand naked before God (and ourselves), that we will not only find enlightenment, but also discover the ennobling power of grace that reveals Self, exalts our humanity and brings us (authentically) closer to God.