Tuesday, December 14, 2010

“Real” Family vs. The “Family"

Today’s post is a reflection on some of the comments that were left on yesterday’s post, entitled “The Family.” There were several comments of support, which I appreciated. There were also a couple of comments recommending caution as I move into this next phase of coming out.I appreciated those, too. Then there was the comment that consisted of “eye roll”; I deleted that one. Aside from being left anonymously, it didn’t impress me as being terribly articulate.

Then, there was this comment from Beck:  “In a certain sense, this post makes me want to celebrate you discovering a new "family" that is helping you through a difficult transition. It can be addicting and intoxicating, as I've felt the newness and excitement of meeting people who "know" a side of me that I hardly, if ever, give voice and expression. It is very liberating.  At the same time, this post makes me very sad. I think of your "real family", especially your wife and children. Am I alone in thinking that there is no choice other than 1) keep the family you have and live in misery, or 2) leave the family for another "family" in hopes of finding happiness? Is there really no other way? Can there not be another path? Is it just me?”

I started to write a reply to this comment, then decided to make it the subject of today’s post.

I don't see myself as leaving my “real” family.  Unlike many married MoHos who have come out to their wives and have found a willingness on their wives’ part to try to make the marriage work (i.e., from that point forward, in spite of their husbands’ attraction to men), my wife did not react in this manner.  Even though she had known about my attraction to men since before our marriage, as soon as I broke the "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell" rule and uttered those magic words, “I am gay,” my marriage was effectively over as far as she was concerned.

She is the one who is driving the break-up of my marriage; I don't really even have a choice of, as Beck put it, "living in misery."  But regardless of what happens, I will always be my children's father, and they my children.  They will always be my family. 

Furthermore, I am not leaving my “real” family for the "family."  I am part of the "family" by virtue of the fact that I have accepted who I am.  I don't know what the future holds; perhaps I will, one of these days, find a Mr. Right and form a relationship that will add another facet to my “real” family.  But whether or not that happens, I will be a part of the “family” in that I will be gay and will almost certainly be living as a gay man.  That fact will become part of my “real” family because that gayness will be my reality, i.e., who my children’s father “really” is.

As to Beck’s questions about their being “another way,” I will leave that to other commentators, except to say that I think each person in a situation like mine has to examine his heart and look at the facts and parameters of his own particular situation.  As I said in my post yesterday, there is no “playbook.” I didn’t plan my coming out; it erupted out of me.  I didn’t decide to divorce my wife in order to embrace life as an openly gay man; she was the one who decided she couldn’t live with a man who had admitted that he is gay.  Those are my basic facts. 

Now, I am examining my heart and seeking to navigate a very difficult situation.  I am not discouraged, however; at least not most of the time.  I certainly have my moments.  But I basically feel good about the direction in which I am headed, despite the challenges.  We’ll see how that holds up.  But one thing I know for sure:  I couldn’t have come this far and couldn’t face my future without the support of the “family,” and I’m very grateful it’s there.


  1. I like your answer to the questions. It seems that you, luckily, do not see things so black and white, manichean. You see the nuances of grey and are accepting of them. I believe that you are making your own way but creating your "family" now to consist of real "family" members.

  2. Sorry your wife feels that way, but we have no control over the behavior of others - only ourselves. There is a woman in our Ward who is doing the same thing to her husband. He wants to make it work - she wants him out. Completely.

    Whatever the outcome in your own situation, I pray the best for you and yours. Know that your "Fam" is always here for you! Hang in there...

  3. I do not mean to tell you what to do. As I just wrote to Forester, no one should tell someone else what to do. All we can do is share our experiences and learn from each other what we will.

    It just seemed to me that your previous post was in an "all or nothing" realm, and I wanted to express how I found myself in that "all or nothing" line of thinking for some time, that my life was over as I knew it, and that my marriage was definitely over. Of course I would still remain the father of my children, but even that seemed at that time of coming out to my wife, to be over, or at least forever changed beyond my control.

    As time went on, love and commitment returned on her part and on mine. We worked through things, tough and hard things, until we've forged a "new" path that is without a "playbook". All I was trying to point out, was that often in this community, there seems to be the "all or nothing" thinking, that there can't be any other way. I firmly believe that there are many other ways of varying degrees what are just as valid and appropriate for individual circumstances to consider, some without a trail of any kind to follow.

    Yes, you will always have your "real family", and yes, the "family" you've discovered can become just as "real". I see you working through this carefully and cautiously, and am very impressed with your calm and reasonable tone. Sometimes I wish you would scream with frustration and passion! Your calm and reasonable manner, at times, wants me to reach out and slap you in the head and embrace you with an enormous hug at the same time.

  4. This is a very thoughtful answer. You seem open and flexible about the future, and it seems you know how all these different pieces of your life fit together. I'm also really glad to hear you are so committed to your, as you put it, "real" family.

    I guess my question is (and maybe you've already touched on this) how do you think the relationship you have with your wife will develop? You seem to be following her lead as far as your relationship goes, and after reading your post, I was wondering if your wife is still processing your coming out to her or if she has already decided what direction she wants to take.

  5. Sometimes our "family of choice" is the one who understands us the most, shares more intimately of themselves and is less likely to put up walls. Whereas, our "real" family often feels entitled to hurt us, to emotionally blackmail us when they think it is necessary - as if they have governance over us.

    What I've learned, as an out, gay, divorced, former Mormon man is that a) my kids will always be my kids, regardless if I'm divorced or married; b) my ex-wife could choose to keep our friendship in favor of staying married, thus restructuring our relationship into one that was healthier than it was before; and c) that living with reality versus hope based on a foundation that clearly wasn't working for us has led us to a peaceful place for all concerned. I love the lyrics to the song by Roberta Flack, from the movie, "Making Love":

    Here close to our feelings we touch again
    We love again
    Remember when we thought
    Our hearts would never mend
    And we're all the better for each other

    There's more to love I know
    Than making love

    Here no more confusion we see our lives
    We live our lives
    Remember when we thought
    We never would survive
    But now neither one of us is breaking

    There's more to love I know
    Than making love

    Some things never change
    Some things sometimes do
    And now I'm feeling strong enough to let you in
    And now neither one of us is breaking
    Now we know there's more to love
    Than making love
    And I'll remember you and making love
    And I'll remember you

    Wishing you peace during your life transition, love to keep you going and friends to shore you up. I hope you have a wonderful "family," Invictus. You deserve nothing less than that.


    Mark Cochran

  6. It happened to me in the same way. I chose to be more honest and utter the words. That freed her up to make the choice to end the marriage with a divorce. It devastated me. Later, she pushed me out of the closet to my kids. They overheard her talking on the phone. While my ex led the charge, I'm forever grateful... and a little embarrassed that I didn't have the courage to do it all myself first. Divorcing and coming out has been the best thing that ever happened to me.

    I still have my family...my kids and I probably spend more time with them than any married straight father I know.

  7. Beck's comment, I think, reflects a common assumption: one's "real" family must a) be biological relations and b) exist within an easily identifiable nuclear pattern. It's common everywhere, but it's more common within LDS culture--how could it not be? We're told, over and over again, both directly and indirectly, that standard family roles are where it's at.

    I've struggled with this, myself, although in a different context. I come from a non-traditional family, and I never really thought about what that meant until I was seriously contemplating having children of my own. I asked my husband, what were we supposed to say? How were we supposed to explain? His response was an excellent one: kids don't know there's anything wrong, or anything different, about their lives unless you tell them. And, truthfully, he's right: kids are adaptable. So are we adults, really; we've just forgotten how, as time goes on.

    Mom and dad don't need to be married, to be family; dad doesn't need to be straight, to be a dad. Mom and dad don't need to live together; mom and dad don't need to be heterosexual. Parents come in all shapes and sizes, all backgrounds, all sexual orientations. Parents live in all different places, and lead all different kinds of lifestyles.

    And, as time goes on, new family members--new boyfriends, new husbands, etc--join, and it doesn't change the parents' relationship with their kids. Really. Trust me, I know.

  8. Beck, are you just a bit envious that Invictus is moving on while you are left trying to figure out the gay, married thing? Like you, my wife and I are trying, one day at a time, to work things out. It helps that she is such a good friend. It helps that we complement each other incredibly well. It helps that we desire to parent our children together in the same home.

    Yes, at times there is a part of me that wants my wife to throw me out so the decision is made and I don't have to be the bad guy. But so far it has been worth the effort to work on this together.

    Sometimes "it" can be very hard on both of us, but that's our choice.

    There is no one way. There are lots of paths to what all of us desire. To be happy and, as a woman (Carol Lynn Pearson) told me, "to live with as much honesty and integrity as possible."

  9. I'll probably respond to all comments in a post tomorrow, but I want to thank those who have commented.

    Beck, I would welcome the hug, but not the slap on the head. :) And as to being calm and reasonable, well, we'll see. I am obviously trying to keep a level head; but as I've said before, much of what has happened to me in the last couple of months has been beyond my control, and I am in a position of reacting. I am trying to react well, and I am also trying to be an actor (as opposed to a re-actor) as calmly and as deliberately as I know how.

  10. My situation was similar in a way to what seems to be happening to IP. My wife knew before we were married that I was gay. It turned into a forbidden topic of discussion after we were married. Over time I withdrew into myself and ended up in counseling for depression. In counseling I started to cast off my self-hatred and began to speak with my wife more openly. She grew increasingly angry and hostile. There was a perverse kind of "preservation of hostility" in action-- the less hostile I became toward myself the more hostile she became toward me! Eventually it was she and not I who pulled the plug on our marriage. We divorced at her request; at the time I was committed to the marriage.

    The point of this is that are two people involved in any marriage. What happens depends on the needs and desires of both parties.

    Some mixed-orientation marriages are stable; many will eventually fail. The question Beck raises is: What can be expected of the stable mixed-orientation marriages? Are they doomed to "stable unhappiness"? I think answers to this vary depending on the degree of sexual and emotional incompatibility that is present. If there is a significant amount of incompatibility, it's probably best to keep expectations modest. I think that realistic expectations are the answer to Beck's question.

  11. ANDY: Of course I'm jealous! At the same time, I'm grateful for the choices I've made and the life, that though with plenty of shortcomings and detours, has brought me and my wife a sense of satisfaction and happiness. I was simply trying to voice my opinion that there are more than black and white choices out there. And with Invictus' responses here, I have a better understanding of his approach being much more grey than predestined.

    INVICTUS: I meant to suggest (if you knew me better you would understand) that a "slap in the head" is a term of endearment! :)

  12. too exhausted from studying to give a thoughtful comment, you know how it is...but once again, great photos, I think you'll know what to do when the time is right....

  13. Oh family complexity! One of the biggest things I learned from my English Lit major was disillusionment about this idea of the heteronormative nuclear family, which is an invention of the modern Western world. It takes a lot of courage to live in this society and to say that no, I don't actually have t conform to this plan to be happy. I don't need to be married, have children. Children don't need a male and a female parent, and they can have more than two parents. I love my complicated family, and I'm perfectly happy with them.

    As far as I'm concerned, you take the love you can get, wherever you can get it. If it's people related by blood or not, you choose your own family. If it's going to be all or nothing, it'll be because somebody else wants it to be, not me. I wouldn't do that.

  14. Too painfully familiar. My marriage was effectively over the day I admitted it. Ouch. She could not, and would not, be married, or intimately involved with a gay guy.