This is the third in a series of posts addressing issues relating to gay Mormon men marrying heterosexual women. As I have previously explained, “beard” (as used here) refers to a slang term for the heterosexual spouse of a gay Mormon who is effectively used to conceal the husband’s sexual orientation.
In the last post, I wrote about the “decisions” I made prior to and at the time of my marriage. Today, I would like to discuss what these decisions have “cost” my wife. Before doing so, however, it occurred to me that I should perhaps describe why I wanted to get married.
By way of reminder, I was not raised in the Church, but had converted as a young adult, shortly after I graduated from university. My parents separated when I was an adolescent and went through an extremely bitter divorce. In addition, as I’ve written about elsewhere on my blog, there was a fair bit of child abuse, substance abuse and other dysfunctions that occurred in our family when I was a child. The divorce and these other issues took a toll on my older siblings, who acted out, got into drugs and made other “bad choices” (a good Mormon term).
These things took a toll on me as well, but I was wired (both by circumstance and, I suppose, disposition) not to act out but to strive to be the perfect child. This is one reason – among others - why I would never have allowed myself to come out as a teen or college student. I had a role to play, and that role was to be the white sheep, the good child. To admit that I was a homo, a queer, a fag, would have destroyed that role that I had taken on.
Thus, when I was introduced to the LDS Church, it resonated with this “perfect child” role, it appeared to offer me a way out of “homo hell” (through its teachings that homosexuality could be “overcome”), and the idyllic concept of the perfect, happy Mormon family strongly appealed to me, especially given my family background. Thus, I suppose it could be said that joining the LDS Church was, partly consciously and party subconsciously, a means to several ends.
It would simply not be accurate, however, to say that I viewed my marriage as a means to an end. I did not come into marriage with all the typical Mormon baggage of “no empty chairs in heaven,” and the life-long indoctrination that celestial marriage was the supreme goal of life, let alone all the cultural trappings associated with temple weddings. I did not view my wife as a “cover,” nor as my ticket into the celestial kingdom.
Leaving aside all the issues relating to me being gay (which I wrote about yesterday), I made a decision to get married because I wanted to have a happy, fulfilling marriage and a family. I wanted everything that my family of origin wasn’t. I had faith I could, with my wife, create this marriage and family; and this faith sprung in large part from a firm belief that God wanted me to not only get married, but to get married to this particular woman – my wife. She, too, firmly believed that God wanted us to get married to each other, that it was the “right” thing to do, that it was what we were “supposed” to do.
Looking back on that time, with the benefit of all the experience, wisdom and understanding that the intervening years have brought (garnered through much heartache, difficulty and despair), I can now clearly see a number of things.
First of all, I wasn’t “in love with” my wife when we married. I didn’t really know what love was, frankly. I had had almost no experience with relationships and had never dated much. I often thought of what Prince Charles prophetically stated when asked, after his engagement to Diana Spencer was announced, whether he was in love with her. The first part of his response, as I recall, was “Yes”; but it was the second part of the response that was memorable: “… whatever ‘in love’ means.”
But though I think I realized that I wasn’t “in love with” my wife when we married, I truly believed that this would come in time.
I have also realized that I had been affected by and had bought into the whole “companion” thing: in the Mormon Church, we speak of “eternal companions,” never of “eternal lovers.” (Male) Leaders are constantly referring to their “sweet companion.” (Am I wrong, or do women in the Church rarely if ever refer to their husbands as their ‘companion’? Frankly, the thought of calling my wife my “sweet companion” just about made me ill.) The whole message is that marriage is about being chums, sweethearts, faithful co-laborers in the familial and churchly vineyard. Passion, romance and consuming love are rarely talked about openly.
Thus, the fact that I wasn’t “in love with” my wife didn’t raise any red flags for me at the time of our wedding. I truly believed God wanted us to get married; I liked my wife and I felt that I could in time grow to love her. But, perhaps more importantly (to me at the time), I felt that we could be good “companions” for each other.
It has really only been since coming out that I have realized/accepted that, though I grew to truly love my wife, I don’t know that I was ever “in love with” her.
Do I feel I “cheated” my wife in this regard because I was gay? No. This is partly due to the fact that I had told her before we married that I had “struggled” with “same-sex attraction” since puberty. It is also due in part to the fact that I know my wife brought her own emotional “handicaps” into our marriage which then entered into the total mix.
Whether my wife feels she was cheated, however, is another question, and one that I cannot and will not try to answer (at least not publicly) – except to say that I sensed that my wife, the older she became, felt that something was missing, something she wished she had.
What I do see now that I do feel very badly about, however, is the deep-seated unhappiness in me that infected our marriage from the very beginning. Though I tried my very best (I honestly believe I couldn’t have tried any harder or done any better) to be a faithful, devoted Mormon husband and priesthood holder, the fact of the matter is that I was denying who I really was.
I now realize that, subconsciously, I was deeply unhappy and even angry and resentful. And I realize that my wife (and my children) suffered as a result of this. I was resentful of the role that I was playing (I now see) and was continually “on guard” lest any of my gay self be showing. I over-compensated. I tried even harder to be a “better” father and “better” husband. But this only made things worse.
I was trying extremely hard to be something I could not be. The tragedy is that I didn’t realize it. And my wife suffered as a result of it. Though I couldn’t see this, she would sometimes tell me that she felt resentment coming from me. This, of course, would make me defensive because I immediately became concerned that my true gay self was showing through, which made me try even harder, which made me even more resentful. And my wife suffered.
I would try to tell myself that I was the one making the sacrifice, I was the one who had had to overcome, I was the one who was denying himself in order to “do the right thing.” I was the one who was suffering. But the effort to play my role, to keep up the act, to “do the right thing” was so all-consuming that I was blind to what it was doing to my wife and to my children, and for that – both what I did and the fact that I was blind to it – I feel very deep regret and sorrow.
It was with this deep regret and sorrow that I apologized to my wife last night and asked her forgiveness for the pain that I caused her.
Confíteor Deo omnipoténti et vobis, soror,
quia peccávi nimis cogitatióne, verbo, ópere et omissióne:
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
Tu es mon Rédempteur.
En toi je jette mon fardeau.
Expie, Seigneur, de mes actions.
Accorde de la pitié pour ce qui a été blessé.
Adoucis et chauffe ce qui est devenu froid et dur.
Guéris ce qui est cassé.
Remplis ce qui est vide.
Aide nous tous à vivre la plénitude
pour laquelle nous avons été créé.