Since starting to blog, I’ve met many interesting people (if “met” describes chatting with someone you’ve never seen and have no idea who they really are!). There are three men in particular who have been married and active in the church for 25 years. This is quite an accomplishment for any marriage, but these men have gay feelings and their respective spouses know it. Considering the challenges of so-called mixed orientation marriages, I’ve wanted to hear how they’ve managed to raise children, be honest with their spouses, and stay true to the church. I want their advice so that 20 years from now I’ll have the best chance of being where I want to be–still married and flourishing.
The first gentleman is SG, a family man who has dealt with his same-gender attractions throughout his life. Married for over 25 years, SG agreed to let me post some of our chat.
Knowing you were attracted to men, why did you decide to get married to a woman?
I’ve been married for almost 25 years. When I got married, I knew I was sexually attracted to men; I’d been attracted to guys for as long as I could remember. But luckily, I also became attracted in every way to my future wife. It was also during the time when many men who are SGA [same-gender attracted] were told by their ecclesiastical leaders that if they would get married, their same-gender attractions would essentially go away. I was one of those men. I clearly remember sitting with my stake president right after my mission when he counseled with me about getting married; I was quite na?ve and very hopeful. I exercised all my faith and I believed him. To this day I’m so grateful for his counsel and for my faith. I trusted implicitly in the Savior’s ability to help me become sexually attracted to a woman with whom I could fall in love and become engaged and eventually marry.
All of it happened. I did meet a wonderful woman, fall in love, felt great feelings of attraction toward her, get engaged and married. We have terrific children. Marriage hasn’t been easy all the time, but it’s absolutely been worth it.
I’m still attracted to many men. But I’m also still attracted to one woman (my wife). I’m not the only LDS married man who is in this same situation. My wife and I have made it work for a long time. We’re incredibly happy in our marriage.
When your stake president counseled you to get married, did you pray about it and get personal confirmation that you should do it?
Or did you just trust him?
This is not a loaded question.
I did pray about it. I felt it was the right thing to do. But I did not have a specific girl in mind at the time. I just went on blind faith at the time; I hoped I’d know when she came along. Honestly, though, I did not have a great relationship with my Stake President. When we talked about my SGA issues, all he did was shake his head and say he didn’t understand. He also said “I’ve never seen anyone so prepared to go on a mission. What happened to you?”
Wow. Did he feel you were less worthy for having those feelings?
I certainly got the impression from him that he felt I was not only less worthy but inferior as a person and as a priesthood holder. Luckily, at least for me, he was released before I met my future wife. My Stake President at that time was wonderful. He was very kind and supportive. He’d been my bishop when I got home from my mission, so he also knew about my SGA issues. He gave me a blessing before I got married, promising me I’d be able to love my wife in every way, and that we’d have a successful marriage if we’d be selfless and stay close to the Savior.
I’ve had my share of priesthood leaders who lack insight into this issue as well. I don’t mean that as a criticism, just an observation of the average person’s working knowledge of the issue. Do you have any advice on how to stay humble in dealing with such leaders?
More and more priesthood leaders are becoming more educated about this issue, but I believe they are still very much the minority. We now have a wonderful resource we can draw on in black and white. I’m referring to the recent interview by Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman. They teach some wonderful principles about same-gender attraction. I believe we can share that article with them in a kind and non-accusing way as an early step in the process of telling our priesthood leaders about ourselves. If we want our priesthood leaders to love and understand us, we need to approach them in a loving and understanding manner. We need to educate them. We can also share with them President Hinckley’s quote from the Larry King show, when he said, in essence, “I don’t pretend to know what causes homosexuality. But we love these people. We don’t condone their actions, but if they are true to the teaching of the church, they are welcome.”
How did you make it this far? What have you done over the years to make your marriage a success?
The simple answer is threefold: a) We try to be honest with each other (it’s easier for her to be honest than it is for me; I got used to being secretive in my youth); b) my wife is very strong: spiritually and emotionally; and c) we’ve come to understand and rely on the atonement and the Savior’s promise to change us; through obedience to the Savior’s ordinances and covenants we can be sanctified. Our natures can be changed. I’m not claiming my SGA has gone away; far from it. But it has diminished to a point where my wife and I are very happy – and have been for almost 25 years – in our mixed-orientation marriage.
Why do you suppose some marriages work out and others don’t? Have you had to “white knuckle” your way through parts of your marriage, or has it been fairly easy?
I don’t know why some marriages work and some don’t, although I suspect sometimes those that fail do so because of one of two reasons: one or both of the partners has committed a major sin, or because one of both partners has become very selfish. In my case, I’ve had to “white knuckle” it several times.
That’s not a very popular assessment, although I think it resonates pretty well with Elder Oaks’ talk in the last General Conference.
How many times is “several times”?
Is it a pretty frequent thing for you? What do you mean by that?
I committed a major sin – not enough to get excommunicated but enough to be dis-fellowshipped. It hurt my wife terribly. It damaged our relationship for quite a while. She had a hard time trusting me. She was very justified in not trusting me, in my opinion. But after a great deal of soul searching and fasting and prayer, she determined that it was Heavenly Father who would ultimately judge me, and if my local ecclesiastical leaders determined I had repented and should be allowed back into full fellowship, she should forgive me, too.
Other than that instance, has the rest of your marriage been a constant battle trying to stay away from those types of sins?
As for white knuckling, those times seem to come in cycles. When other life events seem to be more difficult (work stresses, challenges with children or parents or other family members, petty disagreements with my wife, financial struggles, etc.) , those are the times when, at least for me, pornography and masturbation seem to have had a greater draw as a means of temporarily escaping from life’s difficulties. When I used to give into those pressures and escape, I found myself being more and more tempted to act out. It was during those times I had to either white knuckle it or I’d give in to the temptations.
The more distance I have from pornography and masturbation (the more time that elapses) the easier it is to live free of the temptations and not be forced to white knuckle it anymore. Now it’s been years since I’ve had to white knuckle anything.
That’s reassuring. I’m glad you can be honest about those things. Nobody is perfect, and it’s how you deal with the challenges that matters, I suppose.
SG’s blog, Hope in the Future, is online at this address: http://hopeinthefuture.blogspot.com/