The second blogger married for 25 years that I interviewed is Abelard Enigma. He serves in his bishopric, has children, and recently began working through his situation with his wife. Prone to writing very supportive and encouraging comments, Abelard is someone whose opinion I respect a lot. Like SG, I want his advice so that 20 years from now I?ll have the best chance of being where I want to be?still married and flourishing. Here is our chat:
You’ve been married for decades, and you’re still plugging along happily. What’s it like to be gay and married after 25 years?
Well, that’s the $1,000,000 question. Can’t you start with an easy one first? :)
Ummm… what’s your favorite color?
I was guessing green from your blog. Which is very nice, by the way.
Green is my 2nd favorite color.
Gay and married? I guess it depends on what day (or even time of day) you ask. Some days I don’t think about it at all. And some days I think about it a lot. The subtitle I put on my blog is deliberate (“An exploration of what it means to be Married, Mormon, and Gay”). That is how I like to prioritize things. First and foremost I’m a husband and father. Next I’m a member of the LDS church. And coming in third, I’m gay. In practice it doesn’t always work out that way. But, that is my goal, that is what I strive for.
Well, maybe I shouldn’t make assumptions. Do you feel like your marriage is happy? Is it accurate to say you’re still “plugging along happily”?
Yes, my wife and I have always had a good relationship. She is not only my wife, but the very best friend I’ve ever had. We are very compatible in terms of interests, likes, dislikes, aspirations, etc. We, of course, have had our rough times. But, nothing really serious. This gay thing is probably about the worse we’ve gone through (I just told her last January). But, we have a strong enough relationship that, I’m confident, we’ll make it through this too.
Why only last January? Did you not really admit it to yourself before that?
I didn’t admit it to myself until last fall. When I first joined the church in college, I genuinely believed that God had cured me of my homosexual desires. I felt that way all through my mission and the first couple of years of my marriage. But, the desires returned, and I spent years being in denial. And, those years of denial came with a price, to the point that I even considered suicide a few times.
One thing my wife has noted is, since accepting this myself, I seem much happier than I have in a long time.
Do you consider yourself to be bisexual or fully gay? In terms of attractions, I mean…
Let me put it this way. If a cute couple walks into the room, and you later ask me to describe them. I could probably describe the guy in explicit detail, and then say “there was a girl with him?” In other words, fully gay. I love my wife, but I’m not sexually attracted to her, at least in the way that other men are to their wives.
So, how did your wife respond when you told her? How have things played out since then?
She cried a lot at first. and I mean a lot, more than I’ve ever seen her cry. And that made me feel like a slug. I never want to make her cry – and I felt helpless to do anything about it. But, after a couple of weeks, she was crying less. She has even gotten to the point of joking about it a couple of times. She once quipped “It occurred to me, if I see a cute guy, you’re probably checking him out too.”
But, then things got really crazy around our home with my son’s wedding, and it was pushed to the back burner. The wedding is over now and things have pretty much returned to normal, but we haven’t gotten around to discussing the ‘bombshell’ (that’s what we call it). I’m waiting for the right opportunity to say something. But, with kids home from college, it may have to wait until the Fall.
It seems, though, that things haven’t really changed. It’s just that you’re both more aware now. Has there been a feeling that things have “shifted” in some way or that there might be more consequences to come?
That’s hard to tell just yet. She has told me that, for the first time in our marriage, she feels insecure. I don’t really know what I can say to her to remove her insecurities. I am what I am. What’s important is that I’m the same person I’ve always been. She has shared that, intellectually, she realizes that.
After 25 years, you’re still together, after all. You must have been doing something right all that time. What have you done over the years to make your marriage a success? Do you think being unaware or “in denial” about your gay feelings has made things easier or harder in your marriage over the years?
Regarding how we’ve made our marriage a success: I’ve always supported her and made sure she has time to herself. I also support her in whatever things she wants to try – no matter how crazy. By support, I mean watching the kids, making dinner, doing laundry, etc. while she is off going to RS homemaking (or whatever they call it these days), working on a Masters degree, teaching classes (sewing, quilting, etc.), hanging out with her friends, etc.. And she does the same for me. For example, I have a G-scale train in our back yard – how many wives would tolerate digging up the garden for a railroad right-of-way?. We also share in the responsibilities. For example, even though my salary is our major source of income, she takes care of all of our finances. And, she doesn’t yell at me for leaving the toilet seat up :) We made a deal: I’ll make sure it’s up when I use it – and she makes sure it’s down when she uses it.
Regarding my years of denial: She has told me on a couple of occasions that if I had told her while our children were young – she doesn’t think she could have handled it.
I guess, for us in particular, being in denial at the beginning of our marriage worked out best. But that’s not to say it would work out that way for everyone.
Those sound like some pretty typical strategies for a good marriage. You haven’t had to do anything “extra”? Do you feel like your situation has forced you to just, sort of, grit your teeth through your marriage, ignoring the unmet gay desires?
Intellectually, I know that for me, specifically, the most likely outcome of pursuing a gay relationship would be a life of loneliness and despair. It seems gay guys put a lot of emphasis on youth and beauty (myself included) and I have neither. But, I can’t ignore that there is a part of me that wants to be with a man. It’s not the sex, I want to be hugged and loved by a man. I want to be wanted by a man.
Yes, certainly that’s the issue. But, you’ve felt that way presumably for decades. Have you had to do something during that time to make it in your marriage? Have you had to “white knuckle” through parts of your marriage to resist running off to San Fran? ;-) Basically, I want to find myself where you are now after I’ve been married for 20 years. What can you tell me about that?
Before we moved to Texas, we lived in the Bay Area and used to go to San Francisco regularly. To be honest, it’s not that appealing to me :) But, your question is valid.
To keep myself focused, I believe it’s important to put my wifes needs before my own. Although, that is sometimes easier said than done.
There was one time I recall when our children were very young. She was off with the kids visiting her parents for a couple of weeks while I had to stay home and work. I was working a lot of overtime with a single guy who was, shall we say, very good looking (and, I suspect, bisexual). We spent several evenings working late at night where we were the only ones at the office. That was probably the closest I’ve ever been to being seriously tempted. So, what did I do? I decided to paint our living room and dining room – and I went out and bought a puppy (much to her chagrin when she returned home).
Do you have children?
Children have a way of really bringing a couple together. You are united in a common goal.
And yet, I remember watching a Dr. Phil episode recently where the father would try to rescue their marriage by having another child. It seems that having children would have that effect, but I wouldn’t recommend having them as a way to strengthen a marriage that seems otherwise threatened (not that that’s what you’re saying).
I agree with that. Having children will not magically fix a troubled marriage. It’s analogous to getting married is not going to cure your gay feelings. But, I believe, children can strengthen a good marriage.
We have a close family. Our children are much closer to each other than either my wife and I are to our siblings. Our home was the one where our kids friends wanted to hang out. That is something we strove for. We’ve always tried to make our home a place where they wanted to be. Not a prison that they couldn’t wait to leave.
So, overall, what advice would you give to someone who is young and gay and LDS, and wondering whether marriage is an option for them?
Well, I agree 100% with the counsel from our Church leaders who say (paraphrasing): You should not get married in hopes of controlling your homosexual desires. I can attest that being married does not make the gay feelings any less strong. Some may argue that, at least, I get to have approved sex. That’s true, but it also serves as a constant reminder of that which I crave, but can never have. In other words, I don’t think being in a mixed orientation marriage makes it any easier or harder to be a homosexual in the church – it’s just different.
As far as what advice do I have? I believe a gay male should get married for the same reasons that a straight male should: Because you love her and want to be with her. Marriage isn’t for every gay man. But, I also believe you shouldn’t out right reject the idea either. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever would have married had I not met my wife – I just didn’t look at girls that way. And, you never know, one day, the right person may walk into your life. That’s what happened with my wife and I. We both instinctively knew that we would eventually marry when we first met – and she didn’t even like me at first.
But, I was quite the nerd. Picture this: mid-70s, maroon colored bell bottom pants. I wasn’t a member at the time and had hair down to my shoulders. Looking back, I don’t think I would have liked me either :)
Abelard’s blog, Mormon Enigma, is online at this address: http://mormon-enigma.blogspot.com/