Monday, July 09, 2007

Feeling very envious II...

So I ask myself some tough questions about why I am committed to my marriage and making it be strong and solid, and yet, could still turn around and look over my shoulder and desire what I've refused to embrace and have left behind years ago at the risk of becoming that proverbial "pillar of salt", and all I get are more questions running through my head...

As I commented to myself in response to J G-W, I am committed to my marriage and find myself not willing to leave or abandon this wonderful and sacred relationship. But, am I committed to my marriage because...

1. I have no other choice? If I were presented with another choice, a truly viable option of a wonderful and sacred and committed guy, would I immediately abandon ship to be with him? And am I not making such a choice because there is no real guy out there? But if there were, other than in a fantasy setting, would I do it? Would I leave it all for Mr. Right? I mean, really, am I in this marriage because I have no other real alternative?

2. I am lonely and so afraid to be totally alone? Is her companionship better than no companionship at all? Am I staying married because I enjoy her company, our friendship, our love of learning and exploring and creating and discovering new and amazing things? Or am I married because I really fear loneliness?

3. I have a sure thing in my hand and I don't want to risk losing it? I am married and have a great family with super kids and a beautiful home and environment within which we live. Am I married because I don't want to give that up, because I know it is real and here and now and the other is just a "possibility", but not reality?

4. I am fearful of the future, including my eternal future and consequences if I really abandon my responsibility and sacred covenants regarding my wife and children? Is this really just fear of justice verses mercy? Is there damnation in my future of a telestial nature for not staying committed? Is it just fear of being damned?

5. I am fully vested in her, in our life together, in our intertwined relationship of our physical, mental, spiritual, emotional worlds we've created for each other? Is there so much invested that it is just too foolish to walk away from it all?

6. I am comfortable and safe where I am, and unwilling to risk that comfort and safety for the unknown? Am I really just too comfortable with my life and the social and cultural and economical advantages of comfort and safety within the community and world status to give it up or trade it in on a guy?

7. I am spiritually connected to her, with a personal testimony and witness of the Holy Ghost that gives me assurance that this is right and good and true and real and to hold on to for no other reason than that spiritual conviction? Could I feel that way about another man just as well?

8. I love her... simply that... because I love her? And because I need her in my life? Is there such a love that describes this complex relationship and bonding we've developed, despite my gay longings?

So, with all of this self-purging, then why do I still feel like I want to at least "know" what it feels like to have a man love me? Why is this still important after all these years? Why is there still this longing? I mean, as I said, is it more just feeling regret for having married so young and never having explored these feelings when I was younger and available? Am I still coveting the green grass on the other side of the fence because I'm not completely satisfied with the just as green (though I can't see it) grass right under my feet? Am I just wanting to sin, just bite the fruit and get it over with, in order to obtain knowledge? Am I regretting that I'll never know the meaning of these urges, these desires, these attractions and why they exist in the first place?

Why can I not seal my heart to hers? Why can I not make this decision, this choice once and for all? Why do I have to keep revisiting it over and over and over again? Why can I not just be hers? Why is there something still missing? Why is this so hard? Why do I just want to give up?

With all of my wonderful and amazing blessings that come from being married to a saintly and gifted woman, with my astounding children, with the experiences of joy and sorrow, of love and pain, why do I still want more?

I truly am a wretch...


J G-W said...

Well, it will take a man much greater than I am to heal you of this mighty, unshakeable angst. Perhaps Jesus Christ himself is the only one with enough mojo to do it. But you have won a place of special affection in my heart, and I can't bear to see you feeling so miserable and calling yourself a wretch. So I will give it the old college try.

To restate the problem, as best I understand it: You have all these powerful feelings of attraction to men that continue to pester you and perturb you, even as you get up there in age and the proverbial biological clock continues to tick away, and you've never, ever given yourself an opportunity to act on any of these feelings, to test them and see what potential there might have been for you to find true happiness in the arms of another man. And now you are tormented by the possibility that you might have been much happier had you, years ago, paired up with a man instead of a woman, or, worse, that greater happiness might still be possible if you were only willing to divorce your wife and strike out in search of true love. But you are wracked by uncertainty (and guilt for even considering other arrangements, when to pursue them would surely cause great pain to your wife and children).

Is that a fair restatement? Assuming it is, here are a few observations...

It goes without saying that whatever happiness you might find in an arrangment different than the one you are currently in is completely hypothetical. You yourself have acknowledged this. In fact, it's part of the problem, because if you knew that greater happiness weren't hypothetical, and if you knew that you could find that happiness in a way that would not sabotage the happiness of innocent others (such as your wife and kids), you would probably leap at the opportunity. (By the way, I would include preserving the happiness of loved ones in the overall package that contributes to your own happiness, because you are evidently the kind of person who could not truly be happy knowing that your happiness comes at the expense of others.)

But all of us have hypothetical "greater happinesses." We can all, every one of us imagine scenarios in which we might be happier than we presently are. Why does your hypothetical happiness assume so much more intensity than it does for others? Why does it intrude so frequently and painfully and disruptively into your present, very real, very non-hypothetical happiness?

Because in your mind, the hypothetical happier scenario is tied up with those inconvenient, pesky feelings that surge up every time you see some handsome young stud.

Here's something to consider... I'm in a very, very happy relationship with a man, and still every day I see gorgeous guys galore (it is Minnesota, and it is summer), and every time I see them, the hormones still rev up every bit as strong as they ever have. Being in a relationship with a beautiful partner doesn't diminish that reaction in the least, though there was a time when I let those hormones take me places I really had no business going. And believe me, to do so made me much, much less happy than I am now that I have found a way to avoid letting my thoughts and actions be controlled by them. (Some days I have to work harder at this than others. Like today, for instance, don't ask me why, has been on the more challenging end of the spectrum.)

Luckily for me, I can conveniently dismiss those transient urges without having to wonder whether I would still be tormented by them if I had paired up with a guy. Because of your unique and wonderful history, you cannot dismiss that miserable question so easily.

So that leads to the more important point...

As I have come to know wonderful folks like you who are married, or folks like Ty Mansfield who is currently celibate, or folks like a fellow I met at Affirmation last fall who had actually been in a same-sex relationship that he abandoned in order to have good standing in the Church, and as I have wrestled with my own testimony and my sense of destiny, and come to a place where I feel good about myself and my relationship, I have been troubled by this wicked, evil question. The question goes something like this: Well, every one of us can't all be right, can we? Either homosexuality is fine and right as rain and all these people who are trying to overcome it or avoid it are just making themselves miserable for no reason. OR it is wrong and I am going to hell. But we couldn't all possibly be right, could we?

But at some point I came to this strange sort of realization that the point of the probation our Heavenly Parents sent us down here to go through is not to see where we end up, but to see how we get there. Conscience is crucial and love and joy and law and family and eternity, all absolutely essential. And sometimes they all seem to flow together in this most deliciously beautiful harmony, and sometimes they seem locked in ferocious war with each other. And we have to make choices -- like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden or Abraham did on the mount with Isaac -- we have to make choices that seem wrong no matter which one we make. We have to make choices that wrack us with anguish and regret, no matter which way we go.

And then we have to work through the consequences of the choice, and it is the working through that makes us what we are. That's the refiner's fire that turns us into gold. And it is quite possible that each of us makes a different choice, but that the end product is the same: in the end, sweetness and endless joy, and exaltation and blessed, perfect union with God and with all our loved ones. Not a one will be lost.

Whatever you are today, you will be a million times better and with a vengeance some day! I have to believe that these unwanted feelings today which fill you with uncertainty and distress will be remembered someday with unvarnished joy as part of the path that led you to your truest and highest happiness. I believe it with my whole heart, as I believe there is a God who loves us and is leading us.

Please be happier! Please be comforted! And don't call yourself a wretch! I love you!

Kengo Biddles said...

I agree, be happier, be comforted and call me tomorrow around noon so we can talk a little. :)

Beck said...

WOW! What a response! I don't remember such a comment so carefully articulated.

J G-W said: "Is that a fair restatement? Assuming it is, here are a few observations..." Yes, and no. I am not "wracked by uncertainty" as I am certain that I am in my situation for the long-haul and I am certain that this is the right path for me... but now here comes the but: But, I am never completely satisfied with my choice (though for the most part I am very content and fulfilled with the choices I've made) and it bothers me that I can't let go of the wondering about the "what ifs". So my wracking comes more from "why I can't let go" of the idea to be with a man, "why I can't just give it a rest and be satisfied with the choice I have made". This constant bickering within myself is the thing that wracks me the most and makes me feel so wretched.

"Well, every one of us can't all be right, can we?... the point of the probation our Heavenly Parents sent us down here to go through is not to see where we end up, but to see how we get there... And we have to make choices"...I agree - it is the process that counts. We are in a process of choice making, and in making choices, we obviously DON'T choose other things - some things are left unchosen. I know, I know. But why can I not let go of that which has not been chosen? Why can I not be satisfied with the choice that is made?

"And then we have to work through the consequences of the choice, and it is the working through that makes us what we are. That's the refiner's fire that turns us into gold..." I understand this intellectually, but I still don't feel very golden, in fact, I feel more tin than anything.

"...these unwanted feelings today which fill you with uncertainty and distress will be remembered someday with unvarnished joy as part of the path that led you to your truest and highest happiness." I know this, too, it's just that in certain times like now, I need to be reminded... I need to remember...

"Please be happier! Please be comforted!" For the most part, I'm happy. As I told my dear friend at lunch last week (the conversation that started this familiar soul-searching renewal again) I'm doing "okay", and that I'm "fine". He pointed out and was saddened that I couldn't say that I was "happy". I AM happy, for the most part. I don't feel like ending it. I'm not depressed. I enjoy my life. I don't dread it. I just want these pesky feelings of "what ifs" to just go away...

"And don't call yourself a wretch!" Even in "Amazing Grace" we sing "...can save a wretch like me". I feel a wretch in the sense that I feel ungrateful. I feel ungrateful to the Lord for not being satisfied, for not embracing with satisfaction and joy the wonderful and amazing blessings he's given me... Not being satisfied with my bounty, my family, my love... that makes me feel wretched... ingratitude.

"I love you!" WOW! Thank you! From the moment I came across your post, I felt a tie, a kindredness, an affinity, yes, a love for you. I get attached easily to people. Thanks for letting me be attached to you.

Beck said...

KENGO: You are so sweet... Just come here and give me a hug!

Samantha said...

This isn't going to make you feel any better, but I'm saying it anyway.

The yearnings you have are not unique to one who is married but feels drawn to men. If that were so, there would be no men and women who commit adultery at the expense of years of marriage and losing their spouse and children. This happens regularly in the world, and too often in the church. If we sat down together, I'm guessing we could come up with more than a hundred people we've known personally who have ended up in this situation.

My own mother, after 24 years of marriage, found a man she yearned for, one she thought would fill all her needs and make her feel in love again. She planned how she would leave my father, made arrangements to meet the man, fantasized about their new life together--and then "came to" herself and realized that rather than look for something new, the proper course of action was to confess to my father that she needed more in their marriage, and for them to work on rebuilding together.

My point is this: Human beings often desire the unknown. It's exciting, and seeing others who have what we think we want exacerbates the desire to go find something new. I don't think your yearnings will go away. Sorry.

The truth is that, really, you're still a baby when it comes to acceptance of your attractions toward men. It's only been a couple of years since you began exploring what that means. That's bound to bring some feelings of regret and dissatisfaction. Only you can decide what to do with those.

Another Other and I were discussing this last night. We both acknowledge the feelings that come. It's not impossible for feelings to come unbidden and unexpectedly. However, we've also made it to the point where we understand how to cope with and manage the feelings.

I guess I feel that sometimes we who have SSA believe that we are amazingly unique and that if the SSA vanished or diminished our marriages would somehow become perfect and we would grow old together without complications. It's not so. As with every challenge that presents itself in life, at some point you'll have to decide where your SSA fits within the construct of your marriage, or your marriage will not last.

Finally, all people have yearnings toward other people, regardless of commitment to marriage and family. It's part of being human, and gives us the opportunity to prove ourselves in all aspects of life. Opposition in all things can present itself in such a wide variety, yes?

Chris said...

Samantha makes good points -- temptation comes to monogamous heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

I'll make the point that others here won't, though. You are gay, and married to woman. You are missing something in your relationship with your wife; you are missing affection and attraction that comes naturally, without thought. What you do with that void is up to you, of course. You may well find that you can live with it; that your life with your wife and children should not be disrupted.

I know you know this. I offer it only as counterpoint to Samantha's comment. Because while she is right when she says that this challenge you have articulated is not unique to you because you are gay, you are, in fact, in a unique situation precisely because you are gay.

Chris said...

And you are not a wretch. Not at all.

Abelard Enigma said...

I truly am a wretch...

We'll have none of that kind of talk - do you hear me!

I don't accept that this is all just a 'temptation'. I'm sure hetero guys can look at a girl and think "she's cute" without taking it to the next level "I want to have sex with her" or, if they are married "I want to leave my wife and father her children." So, why can't we with our natural attractions? Why do we have to feel so guilty because we look at a guy and think he's cute?

We can't control our thoughts and we can't control our attractions. But we can control what we do with our thoughts and attractions. And, from my vantage point, it seems to me that you're doing a damn good job at controlling them! (pardon my french.) And you are a tremendous example for me to look up to.

So, give your wife and kids a big hug. And, when you see a cute guy, just enjoy the view and leave it at that and try to stop dwelling on the woulda-coulda-shoulda.

J G-W said...

A very wise Protestant minister once pointed out to me that we should never take it upon ourselves to judge ourselves, as tempting as it may be. Only Christ has that prerogative, because he died for our sins and sees us through the eyes of perfect love. Our part is just to trust God and keep the faith.

J G-W said...

Beck - I'm glad you don't feel "wracked!" "Bothered" is much better than "wracked."

Beck said...

Okay, so from this experience of publishing my endless questions that never seem to go away, and getting them out there for me to dispose of, I've been blessed with caring and concerned insights from the Queerosphere that help me to realize:

1. My yearnings are not unique. Even though I feel so very alone and misunderstood and have no one in my "real" world that relates with what's going on in my head, I am not unique, or at least not as unique as I think I may be. Okay. I can appreciate that.

2. It is human to desire the unknown and that adds to the excitement and enticement. I am definitely human, so this is normal to desire what I can't have.

3. My yearnings are not going to go away, so I better learn to deal with them. Well, I'm trying, but obviously not doing a very good job at it.

4. I'm still very much a baby when it comes to learnding to deal with these yearnings / attractions. Oh, yeah... I admit this one big time... I'm very adolescent in my understanding of what's going on here - and this teen angsty thing is getting way old for a baby my age.

5. If I don't get ahold of my angst, it's going to destroy the marriage anyway.

6. This is all just part of the "Plan" and that temptation will come whether I am gay or straight. Yeah, I intellectually get this one - and appreciate the reminder - that it's going to be there whether I embrace it or not... it will always be there.

7. I am missing something in my relationship with my wife and am missing affection and attraction that comes naturally, without thought. Oh yeah... big time!

8. I am, in fact, after all, in a unique situation precisely because I am gay.

9. I'm not a wretch... well, I'm still debating this one... Okay, then I'm insane, because I simply keep doing this to myself over and over and over again, expecting new and different results.

10. I can control what I do with my thoughts and attractions. Yes, I can... and for the most part, I've done this pretty successfully for several decades now.

11. I'm doing a damn good job at controlling them! Well... let's see, I may be controlling them in physical actions, but they are beginning to control me when it comes to the amount of time they're taking away from and out of my life!!!!

12. I am a tremendous example for others to look up to. I appreciate this, though an example to look up to should have more answers and more conviction than I do... I am clear on my beliefs and values. I know where I stand and why I chose what I chose... I just can't help but question those choices. What kind of example is that?

13. When I see a cute guy, I should just enjoy the view! Yeah, I certainly am good at doing that... maybe too good.

14. I should never take it upon myself to judge myself, as tempting as it may be. Yeah, right. I judge myself all the time. Don't we all? I get the point and know Christ knows me better than I know me and I've felt this and know this to be true, but it still doesn't stop the self-judging, does it...

15. Trust God and keep the faith... I am doing a pretty good job with this one. I am pretty anchored and know what I know from personal experience. I just want to shake the "looking back and wondering". That part I don't know at all.

16. In the end, I'm not wracked - just bothered. Yeah - I'm bothered that I can't get past this point. I'm bothered that I feel stuck. I'm bothered that I'm not progressing. I'm bothered that the sameness of this argument just doesn't change. I'm just bothered.

I really am okay. I really am. Sorry to beat the proverbial dead horse - the poor thing has been trampled upon, beaten senseless and now beginneth to stink - and yet, here I am, again.

I'm just stuck.

Abelard Enigma said...

I'm just stuck

Well, that's a whole lot better than being a wretch - I think.

There was an article in our newspaper today about "Manopause". Maybe you're just going through "Manopause" :)

J G-W said...

Well, actually I was just hoping the main take-away lesson would be that you have friends who care about you. We may or may not have a clue about how to help you. Probably mostly not. Take what resonates most and makes sense to you, and to hell with the rest.

Beck said...

ABE: I'm not sure what "manopause" is but I probably got it.

J G-W: That is the overall message! That's the amazing thing about this community - really wonderful and sincere friends who really care about each other! That's one of the attractions for continuing to blog. You become hooked on caring for each other. Unlike the real world where often friends aren't so open to sharing inner-most secrets, feelings, or thoughts, our blogger friends are and this instantly binds us together. It's really an amazing process.

What would the world at large be like if we were as honest with each other as we are in our blogs?

GeckoMan said...

This discussion is probably mostly over by now, but I've just been reading it. So maybe Beck, you won't see my thoughts except by accident, but I want to share them any way.

First off, what a bunch of thoughtful friends you have as a human resource. Go back and read all the comments again. I don't think you could find any more eloquent reasoning in any other venue. I find value and truth with all these points of view.

And compliments to you--I don't think I've ever seen the Moho angst more articulately or honestly described than by you and your questions. I'm going to share this with my wife, if you don't mind, because it verbalizes so many of the raw doubts and feelings we share. It will be a good place for us to begin conversation. Have you shared this and the comments with your wife?

This leads me to the main point I want to make: Spend as much of your emotional and spiritual dollars as you possibly can on your wife. Replace the soul-searching, doubting, rehashing, guilty, self-condemning expenditures of energy with investments of love, openness, gratitude and time with your chosen companion.

I say this at the risk of being mis-interpreted as a trite Mormon fix-all to a very complex reality. But I've struggled with your same list of questions. And I'll tell you, the doubt can go even further--now add on top of that angst, later on via life's disappointments, a generous dose of frustration with, and lack of respect for that chosen "eternal" companion. That's where I was, in an even worse place to be stuck, because it sounds to me like you still admire and appreciate your wife.

So how have I gotten past all this angst and downward negativity? I went back to the well of all human need, the wellspring of love and gratitude. Despite her faults, she has been my loyal companion, my standard bearer, my friend, the devoted mother of my children, the unintentional victim of my never being quite satisfied with her. I've decided it's pay-back time, and I'm investing again in her. After 26 years of marriage, our needs remain fairly simple: she wants to be spoken to more often, played with, cherished, acknowledged, affirmed. . . and so do I.

I still have my issues, but I can remember her more often. Once I've started this pattern of giving, I'm finding the SSA's getting easier to manage, I feel more secure, and I have on less critical filters of my own making, the design of my own self-centeredness.

Beck said...

GECKO: Sure, you have my permission to share with your wife... in fact, I'd be very curious what she is thinking or what she would advise, seeing that I DON'T share my blog with my wife. So, please report back.

As for your attitude about softening the angst by focusing on gratitude and love for my "chosen" companion, I see great wisdom in that and for the most part am able to do exactly as you describe and see the benefits of doing so as well. It's just occasionally I get these spikes of angst triggered by some event (this one by a lunch with an openly gay friend) and I just have to work my way through the angst until I'm back to a normal position and point-of-view again.

Thanks so much for your feedback and input. Please come back often. We obviously have much in common regarding life's experiences.

gentlefriend said...

Although I don't support you in beating up on yourself ("wretch", you should know that you are in good company. Nephi, in a dark moment said, "Oh wretched man that I am." What is interesting is how he got himself out of the spiritual slump: See 2 Nephi 4:17+.