When I first started to accept that my attraction to men was not going to disappear, I sought to better understand it and how I could reconcile that attraction with my commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the internet, I found a discussion group for religious men (of various Judeo-Christian denominations), and their experiences helped give me some perspective. In most cases, I was at least two decades younger than these men, many who were married.
However, as I learned from their experiences, the question in the back of my mind was always, “But, is it ok for me to get married some day?”
Although I admired many things about these men, including their humility and kindness, I dad not to followed their marital paths. The single men were sworn bachelors, and all of the married men had not come to terms with their gay identity until years and even decades after marriage. In each married man’s case, his attraction to men was only revealed to his spouse unwillingly: the wife discovered something surprising on the family computer, or the husband was forced to confess as a result of religious discipline for an act of infidelity.
I found these stories to be very disheartening and extremely depressing. Even though several of these men were able to mend their marriage relationship, many of them felt subservient to their wives, and my reading of the relationship suggested a permanent lack of trust and respect between spouses. Other men in the group were divorced, having marriages that broke up over the issue of homosexuality. Was this the future that awaited me if I wanted to get married? If so, no thank you.
So, I spend the next several years convincing myself that I didn’t *want* to get married. I suppose I figured that it would be easier to remain unmarried by choice than to end up divorced or stuck in a loveless marriage. I focused on all the problems associated with marriage, and frequently dropped hints to family and friends that I was a confirmed bachelor by choice, not by circumstance. I can only imagine that they thought, “We think the *lad* doth protest too much.”
In all this time, I continued to devour stories about marriage between gay men and straight women. Could it work? And even if it could, was it fair to either party? Popular culture certainly seemed against it. I read stories of (and chatted online with) several divorced LDS men who entered such a relationship, without telling their wives of their same-sex attraction. Usually, these men were quick to warn others against marriage, and the testimonials of their ex-wives were just as strong, if not stronger, against marriage between gay men and straight women. They seemed to say, “If we couldn’t make it work, no one can. You are foolish and naive to think that a gay man can be happily married to a woman. The man will feel unfulfilled, and the wife will suffer tremendously.”
But none of these testimonials spoke to my situation. I was aware of my attraction, and I was willing to be honest about it before marriage. In that context, could it work? And even if it could work, would it be fair? Could I be as good a husband to my potential wife as a straight man would be to his? I could not find any testimonials about this.
Were there people who entered marriage with a full understanding of the husband’s same-sex attraction, but who were happy (and not just “holding things together”)? It seemed as though the only time such a couple would share their story was in the aftermath of divorce or near-divorce as a warning to others (or as a vocal scapegoat for their failure). So if there were happily married couples, they were probably not talking (or blogging) about it.
I realize that I probably wanted statistics to tell me whether it was ok to get married. But making life choices by statistics (alone) is not very wise. Making important life decisions based on the good or bad experiences of others (alone) is also unwise. The fact is that just because someone had a successful marriage does not guarantee that I will, nor does the fact that just because someone’s marriage ended in divorce, then mine will too. I can read all I want about what makes a marriage work or not, but ultimately, the success of my potential marriage was up to me and my potential partner.
Despite my protests against marriage, several years later, I began dating a woman that I could imagine myself being married to. We openly discussed our faults, our fears, our hopes, and my attraction to men. We both carried issues into the relationship that, were we to rely on statistics or the warnings of others, might have discouraged us from marriage. But I think we had a few things going for us that many of those statistics and testimonials did not: we had a fairly balanced attitude towards the gospel of Jesus Christ (including a realistic understanding of what God can and cannot do in conjunction with our commitment), and we had plenty of warnings of the many pitfalls that could beset our journey.
In the years since, we’ve been happy. We’ve had to learn and grow as all couples do. We have seen some other couples our age, where both spouses are heterosexual, struggle in their relationship, require intensive marital counselling, and, in some cases, even divorce. Very recently a heterosexual couple that I have been close to for years, announced that they were getting divorced. Does their story mean that all heterosexual people should avoid marriage because their marriage failed? I certainly don’t think that they would agree, despite the sadness they feel. They recognize that the success or failure of a marriage is not determined by the sexual orientation of its partners, but rather that a happy marriage has a lot more to do with patience, love, and prayer–elements that, sadly, in recent years, lacked in their relationship.
In recent months, concerns about gay-straight marriages have been debated in LDS communities, perhaps in large part to widely circulated stories such as the Weeds and the Mansfields. Many other couples, whose marriages were not successful, have been vocal about their experiences, and admonish others to avoid such relationships, because it is only a matter of time before such marriages fall apart. I used to be bothered by the pessimism and arrogance of those admonitions. But then I realized that it is thanks to those strong warnings that my marriage is as strong as it is. I paid attention to their warnings, and my wife and I have done our best to avoid their mistakes.
I’m grateful for couples who are willing to speak up about marriages between gay and straight spouses. The majority of those voices belong to those who have left such marriages, and these men and women share important warnings for anyone considering (or currently in) such a marriage. And I’m also grateful for that much smaller minority of voices from those who are happy in their committed relationships; their stories also need to be heard.