Sometimes when I am talking to people who deal with attractions to the same gender, they will ask me what their chances are: chances to be happy in the Church, chances to be able to have a happy and successful heterosexual marriage. I used to ask those questions. I wasn’t really interested in statistics, though. My question really wasn’t about other people, but I wanted a prediction, an assurance about my future self: could I make it?

Statistics, of course, cannot answer that question. The number of people who made it to the moon before Neil Armstrong: 0. The number of people who climbed Mount Everest before Edmund Hilary: 0. Despite those long odds, the effort to get there was still worth it. I honestly don’t know what the odds are with this challenge. I was recently re-reading a book that had a wonderful answer to this question, however. It’s a mother speaking to her daughter:

No one ever said that you would live to see the repercussions of everything you do, or that you have guarantees, or that you are not obliged to wander in the dark, or that everything will be proved to you and neatly verified like something in science. Nothing is: at least nothing that is worthwhile. I didn’t bring you up only to move across sure ground. I didn’t teach you to think that everything must be within our control or understanding. Did I? For if I did, I was wrong. If you won’t take a chance, then the powers you refuse because you cannot explain them, will, as they say, make a monkey out of you.
(From Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, page 597.)

Leave a Reply

16 comments

  1. avatar

    Borealis,

    Great thoughts. I think the question is easy. It has every chance you give it.

    Rex

  2. avatar

    LDS Church leaders advise against this kind of ‘experimental’ or ‘therapeutic’ marriage. (GBH in General Conference, Dallin Oaks 1997 interview)

    But the real clincher for me is the effect that such a marriage would have on your spouse.

  3. avatar

    daager

    I think if you were to ask most women if they would like to marry a gay man the answer would be a resounding “no”. It is entirely different when a man presents himself as being “gay” after the marriage is made. That is a potentially crippling environment for both parties. I think men who seek marriage to a woman as a cure for their unhappiness with their sexual orientation are either in an incredible state of denial, or, at worst, expressing utter duplicity in their efforts.

  4. avatar

    GFB

    Daager,

    I think there is a real question to be asked about the homosexual partner is such a marriage. Would you want your child to have a sexual relationship with someone they were not attracted to? Would you want this child to be expected by society, their spouse, and even themselves to not only participate sexually with this person but enjoy the experience? Understand that there is also a huge expectation spoken or unspoken that your child would sexually satisfy their partner even when they had no sexual desirer.

    I think we often think of the pain a heterosexual spouse experience, but we neglect to fully examine the shame, guilt, and pain the homosexual spouse is almost constantly facing in an opposites-sex marriage without mutual opposite-sex attraction.

    I am not saying that there are not concerns for the heterosexual partner, because there are plenty of those even when the homosexuality is never acted upon and there is total discloser.

  5. avatar

    GFB

    MoHoHawaii,

    Yes the church does not recommend this kind of marriage, but I believe they do little or nothing to prevent them.

    I was married for 12 years before my wife was able to ask herself the question if she was gay. Even with evidence in both of our faces neither of us asked the question. We just kept blaming ourselves for the failings of our romantic and sexual relationship. Like a dog returning to their vomit we just kept banging our heads against the wall. We kept doing all the things the church tells us make a good marriage; we must have not been doing them well enough.

    Without open and honest conversations about homosexuality in the church we are not going to get very far. We continue to us language like same-sex-attraction as if this is a temptation no different than drinking alcohol. We are talking about an orientation people have whether they have ever sinned or not. Yet, the church continues to use ambiguous language that never really states that homosexuality is real. We never encourage self examination of ones sexuality. We discourage anyone being open about their homosexuality. We pretend that there are not homosexual members in every unit in the church.

    We need our leaders to openly address the reality of our own theology so people are not lead to believe that asking if they are gay is questioning their eternal damnation or the condemnation from the people they love. Our theology does not damn a homosexual person and a homosexuals love ones should never condemn them. But we need to do more so no one can misunderstand the churches teachings on these two points.

    Until it is acceptable for us to ask ourselves the question ?am I gay?, we will continue to have homosexual Mormons entering into heterosexual marriages without understanding of their own sexuality, or having any understanding the kinds of challenges they and their spouses will be facing.

  6. avatar

    Neal

    “Yes the church does not recommend this kind of marriage, but I believe they do little or nothing to prevent them. ”

    And I hope they never do!!

    This is an area of personal choice I don’t think anyone has the right to tell another “you can’t”. Just because one situation didn’t work out does not mean every other relationship will meet the same end. Do I think the parities involved should be up-front about their attractions, concerns and expectations? Certainly. But its entirely up to the individuals in the relationship to determine the worth and success / failure of that relationship. What you or I may consider to be “uncomfortable” may be perfectly acceptable to someone else. It isn’t the responsibility of the Church to police people’s attractions and approve or condemn a potential marriage based on pre-concieved notions that the marriage won’t work – for whatever reason. Nor is it ours.

    Neal

  7. avatar

    GFB

    Neal,

    ?But its entirely up to the individuals in the relationship to determine the worth and success / failure of that relationship.?

    I completely agree. But I do not believe there is any freedom of choice if the choice is not informed.

    You bring up a good point Neal. I think I was too strong in saying that the church does little or nothing to discourage this. If I can modify my point to say the Church does little or nothing to help people be informed about this type of decision. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the rest of my post would back this statement up.

    I also believe having experience in this area, much happiness comes in opposite-sex-marriages without mutual sexual attraction. I do believe your definition of a successful marriage would need to be different for these marriages than traditional ones. I also believe an informed decision on both parts helps that success. Discouraging correct information or even self understanding I believe always retards the ability to have a successful experience whatever your definition of success is.

  8. avatar

    Borealis

    You will never find me advocating marriage as a treatment or resolution for homosexual feelings. And so I do not do so here. Nothing in the foregoing can be read to advocate, “get married and it’ll get fixed.”

    In fact, I will go further: one should not get married to attempt to resolve any psychological problem, be it loneliness or codependence or addictions. All these court disaster. I know a couple where the woman, a therapist of all things, married one of her clients, a drug addict, because she felt she could best help him that way. I don’t know how she passed her licensing exam with that kind of idiotic thinking, but needless to say, the marriage did not last.

    But I was amused at MHH complaining about “experimental” marriages. There is no other kind, I am afraid to say. I’m with Mrs. Gamely: if you wait until you have 100% assurance that everything will be fine (and I’m not sure why we’re focused on marriage here, this is true for anything), then you will never, ever, do anything. You are condemning yourself to misery. There is no reward without risk.

  9. avatar

    Am I making it? I still ask that question after 2-1/2 decades of a mixed-oriented marriage. I had a very frank and emotional “discussion” with my wife the other day. I ended up asking her if, after all she now knows of me and my attractions, would she still marry me? She paused and finally said that she would still marry me even after knowing. And the reason was because she still loves me and is still “in love” with me.

    I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I am not “in love” with her, nor have I ever been – and yet I still want to be married to her. This discord in our understanding of each other’s feelings for the other could destroy the “chances” of our marriage being a success. And maybe less committed relationships, or more sexually driven ones have a higher “chance” of failure.

    Neither of us married as part of a “cure”. We were too stupid to see that there even was anything to be cured of (which there wasn’t) and so we were innocent and in love. She was “in love” with me and still is. I was “in love” with the idea of someone being “in love” with me. I’m just now realizing those aren’t the same thing, and it’s nearly destroyed our relationship that I will never be for her what she feels for me. As much as I try, I cannot be for her what she desires and craves and needs, and it tears her apart. And she cannot be what I crave and desire as well… Some may call this a tragedy – maybe the saddest tragedy of all.

    But, to never have risked it at all? To never have had this family life together that we have created? To never have known the joys that come from such family life? Indeed there would be “no reward” at all… And what odds would you give that we have made it this long together, and reasonably happily? Probably not very good ones? And what are the odds of us continuing on into the future? Some say the odds are stacked against us that we should just give up trying to make it work. I say that love can overcome all odds. Don’t tell me we can’t make this work.

    I don’t know if any of this is relevant, but it is what it is…

  10. avatar

    I can’t help but point out that it is one thing to say that the Church discourages mixed-orientation marriages and that they discourage mixed-orientation for the sake of curing same-sex attraction. Yet, we get people all of the time trying to extend the Church’s warning that marriage isn’t the way to fix same-sex attraction into an across-the-board counsel against it altogether. I’m sorry, but it’s downright deceptive to claim that the Church discourages gay people from marrying opposite-sex people. It does no such thing.

    I have three of my children still living with me. The older two are married with children. My oldest daughter has triplets in the intensive care unit at the hospital. Sunday evening, she was visiting them while we watched her older son. We got a call from the husband of my other daughter. My daughter and my two grandchildren were coming down from the state where they live to visit. They arrived. After dinner, I asked my second daughter if she wanted to go up to the hospital and visit the triplets. All in one amazing day, I got to see all five of my children and all six of my grandchildren.

    That’s such a small sentence to describe such a profound miracle and I can’t adequately describe the joy of that day for me. Earlier that day, I bore my testimony and quoted the apostle John, who said, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth.” That testimony was rewarded that very evening with the miracle of being so close to my whole posterity, a miracle that would not have happened if I had been discouraged the way people try to discourage others about marriage today.

    Those five children all are quite aware of the nature of their parents’ relationship. They all know about my life and my choices. They know that because I wanted them and an eternal family in the way the gospel promises for the faithful, that I put aside my so-called orientation and married a woman when what I really craved was a man. Parents sacrifice for their children. I sacrificed for them before I ever helped conceived them and I don’t regret it one moment.

    I won’t even cast the pearls and treasures of my relationship with my wife before swine who view mixed-orientation so negatively. I’ll just say that we have a better relationship than most couples we know. It’s honest, difficult, risky, and completely committed.

    I’ll say what Beck said and add a bit of aggressiveness to it. Don’t DARE tell me that we can’t make this work. I’ll stack my marriage against anyone who, looking in from the outside, thinks we’re fooling ourselves.

    Be honest and stop trying to make people think that the Church doesn’t want us to marry.

  11. avatar

    cc

    From a purely heterosexual person: I have said before but I want to remind you again: No one is really happy every day in a marriage. As Rex said, we look at the good and know that we are doing the right thing and that life can be great at times. But please, please, do not think that just loving a person of the opposite sex will bring you total happiness. I was in an obsessive, intense marriage for 30 years. Now I have a calm, loving, good husband and life is so much better. Are there fireworks every day? of course not. Do I love him every minute? Of course not. So don’t “beat yourselves up” for something that is probably not attainable on this earth: complete happiness. Just enjoy the good that is there…have joy in it!

  12. avatar

    I wasn’t pressured to marry. When I decided to marry, I wasn’t active in the Church. I was influenced by doctrine and wanted what the gospel had to offer in the way of eternal progression.

  13. avatar

    We don’t have to wonder what those speaking for the Church have said on this issue.

    On the Church Website from 1986 under– News and Events and then– Newsroom:

    PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Is heterosexual marriage ever an option for those with homosexual feelings?

    ELDER OAKS: We are sometimes asked about whether marriage is a remedy for these feelings that we have been talking about. President Hinckley, faced with the fact that apparently some had believed it to be a remedy, and perhaps that some Church leaders had even counseled marriage as the remedy for these feelings, made this statement: ?Marriage should not be viewed as a therapeutic step to solve problems such as homosexual inclinations or practices.? To me that means that we are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.

    On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity ? that?s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.

    President Hinckley said that marriage is not a therapeutic step to solve problems.
    *************
    Elder Holland, Ensign, Oct, 2007

    Ways to Help

    Let?s assume you are the family member or friend of someone with same-gender attraction who comes to you for help. What do you say? What do you do?

    I?d begin by recognizing the courage that brought your son, daughter, sibling, or friend to you. I?d recognize the trust that person has extended. Discussing the issue with someone of trust is a healthy first step to dealing with confusing feelings, and it is imperative that these first steps be met with compassion.

    Next, if you are a parent of one with same-gender attraction, don?t assume you are the reason for those feelings. No one, including the one struggling, should try to shoulder blame. Nor should anyone place blame on another?including God. Walk by faith, and help your loved one deal the best he or she can with this challenge.

    In doing so, recognize that marriage is not an all-purpose solution. Same-gender attractions run deep, and trying to force a heterosexual relationship is not likely to change them. We are all thrilled when some who struggle with these feelings are able to marry, raise children, and achieve family happiness. But other attempts have resulted in broken hearts and broken homes.

    ***************

    It is pretty clear. The steps are:

    1) Cleanse of any transgression
    2) Show an ability to deal with these feelings and put them in the background
    3) feel a great attraction for a daughter of God (son of God)
    4) desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings

    but “marriage is not an all-purpose solution”

    I believe this means that if you can’t achieve any of the four steps there are other ways to qualify for eternal life.

  14. avatar

    Ron, thanks. That makes great sense to me. Those steps worked for me, although not in that order. I did 1, 2, 4, 3, although 2 is an ongoing challenge.

  15. avatar

    Seeking Glitnir

    GFB,

    what would you have the church do? They have said some of the things you have said, don’t get married for a cure, be honest, keep both eyes open.

    As far as doing what the church asks to improve ones marriage, I for one have found by doing the things the church has asked, my relationship with my wife is 100 fold better than it ever was, in every aspect. We still have our little spats here and there, but we feel confident in our marriage and our love for one another.

    I guess I don’t see how the church is responsible for what you deemed to be shortcomings in your relationship.

  16. avatar

    GFB

    Seeking Glitnir,

    I do not blame the church for any short comings in my relationship. Maybe I was unclear in my post.

    I did use my relationship as an example. I believe what has brought my wife and I together is first an understanding of our sexuality individually, and second an acceptance that trying for a romantic relationship only brings pain, because it is abusive to expect someone to engage in a sexual relationship with someone they do not have sexual attraction for.

    I also believe there is a great deal of pain for homosexual members that go to church in fear of fellow ward members understanding who they are. I know that I go to church pretending my wife and my relationship is something it is not. Don?t get me wrong I think we have something beautiful, but it is not anything like what people think it is.

    Yes the church has said some of the things I have said, but can you honestly say they have said enough with so much misunderstanding among the membership. Do you really believe they do anything to help people gain an understanding of their sexual orientation before they enter a relationship with inherent expectations that may contradict what they can offer?

    This is an issue in the church which misunderstanding has caused and continues to cause a great deal of pain. Yes, the church has said a few isolated things to remedy this colossal problem. We have just witnessed the massive power the church has at its disposal. The church though its member released a huge avalanche and helped achieves a victory in CA. You can not tell me that the church has put even a small fraction of the same effort in resolving the misunderstandings that causes so much pain. Can you tell me that if they did we would continue to have these problems in the church? I think our leaders have made a clear choice.