Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Choosing the better part?

In my last post, it triggered a comment from Parallel that asks a fundamental question of whether we, as gay men in straight marriages, can have or should have other close male associations that may lead to distractions in our marriages and cause difficulties in our attractions to our spouse, and as such may lead to "gay play". Do men like me want that proverbial cake sitting so beautifully at the center of the table, but to eat it too?

You bet we do!

And that is the challenge of this life - how to balance all things for good, and to choose the better part.

My response:

Thank you for your concern for me. I know it is sincere and I take it as such.

May I state that I have been blessed with a precious and special wife who I love eternally. I am amazed at the miracle she is in my life and I want nothing more than to be with her forever.

However, though you may think I'm delusional, I respectfully disagree that my open heart to my friends is the source of my difficulties with my wife. The source of my difficulties is much deeper and more fundamental than that and remains in me, whether I have close male friendships or not. My relationships with my friends are not "gay play" nor giving into the "force". They are deep and unique friendships with other males and in no way are "gay play". Yes, believe it or not, it is possible to have dear, even close friendships with other males as a gay man, without placing my eternal exaltation in jeopardy. In fact, I would argue that "100% happiness" comes from learning to be a true friend, opening oneself and risking oneself for others in such friendships.

Yes, I have attraction issues. I am attracted to my "boy-friends", both physically and emotionally. I love them! I care for them deeply. I cherish such love as a wonderful and exciting thing. But, I have, with the help of the Spirit, set my own boundaries and have not crossed them. And the Spirit has witnessed to us the miracle of our friendship.

Does that make me less celestial? Am I choosing to limit my eternal potential? Am I seeking only 50% or 75% of happiness? Do I want my cake and eat it too?

These are questions that I'm glad the Savior will help me to answer as He is my judge and knows the intent of my heart. The Spirit has whispered to me to open my heart, to be sensitive and generous with others and not be afraid of such risks. It's a crazy life - complicated by the fact that there is a lot of gray out there. His Grace is sufficient for you and me in this not so black-and-white / all-or-nothing world we live in.


One of So Many said...

I think as much as we try...we will always be looking at Sodom over our shoulders...even just a little bit.

Abelard Enigma said...

This is a topic which my wife and I have discussed on several occasions. her question:

"I am attracted to men, but it would be wrong for me to seek out a relationship with another man. You are also attracted to men; so, why is it OK for you to seek out a relationship with other men?"

My counter argument:

"Imagine you are visiting another country which is very different culturally and English is not the spoken language. As an American, you stand out and feel self conscious. You encounter another American with whom you immediately become friends. Sharing a common heritage creates a bond between you. However, if the two of you had met in America, it's likely you wouldn't have even noticed each other because that shared heritage is not special - it is the norm."

As gay men, I think it is natural for us to want to seek out other gay men. In many ways, we are strangers in a strange land - and it's natural for us to want to seek out others like ourselves - people with whom we share a special bond.

Telling us that, as gay men, we should not seek out friendships with other gay men, because gay men are bad people, is like telling a Muslim that they shouldn't seek out friendships with other Muslim's, because Muslims are bad people. Yes, there are bad Muslims and there are bad gay men. But, that should not prevent us from seeking out good Muslims or good gay men - people with whom we share a certain bond.

I disagree with the council given in the "God Loveth His Children" pamphlet where it tells us we should avoid having gay friends. I believe that, as gay saints, we need to acknowledge that it is natural for us to want to seek out gay friends. So, we should follow the council given in the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet which says:

"Choose friends who share your values so you can strengthen and encourage each other in living high standards."

Samantha said...

I think it's vital to have friends of the same gender--for everyone. There are things that women need to discuss and share with women, and also things that men need to share with men. As SSA married people, we just have to be a bit creative to maintain healthy friendships without crossing lines that would hurt us and the people we love.

Jason and I have discussed this at length. We both believe that having successful same-gender friendships means that our spouses are involved in those relationships in some way--even if we're just reporting to them after an outing. That way we can gauge if we're replacing our emotional attachments to our spouses and it also keeps us thinking about who should be first in our lives. In addition, it gives us yet another opportunity to bond with our spouses, which is as it should be.

On a different note, I'm guessing that same-sex couples don't avoid same-gender friendships, in fact I'm guessing that just like any other couples, they seek out people with whom they are compatible.

Darrin and I have worked together to be certain that we both enjoy the people who are closest to us. He's never suspicious or insecure because I make certain he understands that no matter who I'm with--he comes first in my life. And whenever possible, I try to make sure he's with me when I socialize (which isn't often, because he thinks he has to work and be a bishop and fix things around the house--REALLY!! I think he needs to just play with me all the time!).

My point in this very long comment is this: You and your wife have only been working on this for a short time--eventually, if you both maintain the desire to remain together, you'll figure out ways to help you, Beck, find friends who bring you joy, and help her feel a part of that in some way--and hopefully, she will seek out and find others who will support and edify your marriage, as well. In my mind that's the way any married couple should share outside friendships, regardless of orientation.

MoHoHawaii said...

I'm guessing that same-sex couples don't avoid same-gender friendships.

This is interesting. In fact, sometimes such friendships can cause jealousy in same-sex couples. The rules need to be pretty clear for this to work well.

Abelard Enigma said...

having successful same-gender friendships means that our spouses are involved in those relationships in some way--even if we're just reporting to them after an outing.

That is a very good point - and something I need to do a better job at. I've talked on the phone with a couple of people I've met here in the Mormon queerosphere, and I've gone out to dinner with a couple of people I've met in the gay christian network. But, it's been with my wife's knowledge. But I do need to do a better job of talking with my wife about my gay friends.

The problem is, not all straight spouses are ready for that level of interaction. Even if you are not talking about gay things, talking with your wife about a gay friend drives home the fact that she is married to a gay man - a fact that she just may not yet be comfortable with.

Parallel Mormon said...

In the first instance, I think it is valuable for us to have a friend in whom we can confide, a friend whose smile warms our heart, a friend whose affection means everything--and that should be our spouse.

I wonder if we aren't hitting upon another arbitrary limitation of choices: either a spouse with no same gender friends or a spouse with secret same gender friends. There is a third option, that of a spouse who means everything to us and, if need be, limited same gender friendships.

By limited, I mean that our spouse be active in the friendship, and the friendship should not under any circumstance offer us anything that we cannot already and do not already receivce abundantly from our spouse. Therefore, it might be okay to have a same gender friend along with our wife, a shared, mutual friend, but that friend should largely be superfluous and expendable. We need not receive from anyone else what we can choose to receive from each other (spouses).

I also fear that what my MoHo brethren are referring to as "friends" are little more than a gaylife line, (play on "gay lifeline"), a way to stay connected with the same-sex-attracted side of us, a way to titillate ourselves, give an outlet, or rather, give stimulation of that aspect of us, instead of working to give up the shortcoming/sin and overcome it.

The Lord does not work in darkness by hiding things. We should emulate that and not cultivate encounters with the forbidden fruit all the while telling ourselves that with a litte taste here and there we can avoid taking a big bite. All we'll do is hold ourselves back spiritually--and our spouses will know it, intuitively, emotionally and spiritually.

Show me one gay man/woman who wants to hold onto the gaylife line, and I'll show you one gay man/woman who will also complain that there is simply no way to overcome this weakness. Is there a connection? I think so.

Abelard Enigma said...

Parallel, nobody is suggesting that it's OK to 'get a little gay action' on the side.

While I agree that we need to 'cleave unto' our wives, I disagree that all of our needs, as a person, should be met by our spouse. A man can't meet all of his wife's needs - that why we have things like Relief Society, so that she can have interaction with other women. But we, as men, have needs too - some of which cannot be met by a wife. That's why men get together to watch football, play golf, etc. - to have interaction with other men. As gay men, some of our needs are, perhaps, a little different than our straight counterparts.

There is another factor that needs to be considered. The gay spouse may be perfectly willing to be completely open - but the straight spouse may not be ready for that level of openness yet. So, doing some things 'in secret' is not necessarily because we are trying to hide something, but because we are being sensitive to the straight spouses needs.

You may argue that a man shouldn't be doing things that make his wife uncomfortable. But, knowing that her husband is gay may begin to make her uncomfortable with innocuous activities - such as meeting a friend for lunch. Should a man be expected to lock himself in his house after coming out to his wife? Simply walking out the front door to go to the grocery store may make her uneasy while she is still adapting to the news.

Before I told my wife that I'm gay, she would think nothing of me telling her that I'm going to meet so & so for lunch - if so & so was a man. She would be uncomfortable if so & so was a woman. Now it's all topsy turvy. She would think nothing of me getting together with a female colleague for lunch, but getting together with a male colleague may make her uneasy. Before, she would question my judgement if I told her that I was going to "Hooters" for lunch. Now, she knows that I really would be going for the food (I hear they have good chicken wings)

I also don't agree that 'gay' is something we need to overcome - I think it is something we need to learn to control.

Beck said...

Since this is my blog and since the relationships that are in question in my situation are my liasons with my very straight young men friends, I still feel it is being taken out of context what I need from them... These young men are NOT gay. I am not on a gay fling with them. But I do have a sense of bonding, a sense of attraction, and a sense of emotional tie with them - as friends! And my wife knows this and when they came to my house over the holidays, it was with the knowledge and in plain view of my wife. I am NOT having secret rendezvous with them, nor am I hitting on them for a little more gaylife action. First of all, they would be offended if I did that, and second of all, I have committed myself to not do that.

Yet, with these two particular friends (who by they way I only see once every few months as they do not live by me) we are very physical. We hug, we are open in our affection to each other and for some reason, that satisfies a need of mine. But, that companionship, that hugging affection and occasional friendship kiss is just that - occasional and friendship-oriented.

Am I completely honest with my wife about these things? I have been and I'm trying to be. Do I agree with Sam that she should be involved with my feelings that I have for them - absolutely, and I'm trying to do this in the best way I know how.

But like Abe said, to come out to my wife and then isolate myself from all contact of any man is unrealistic and wrong.

The warning voice is loud and clear. I know I've been playing with fire. I know that I've got to be careful. But,I also feel there is a part of me that craves for, and needs male companionship and bonding - something my wife cannot give me - no fault of hers - and I'm seeking to find the way that I can live where close male friendships can be a source of spiritual strength and physical and emotional wellbeing, while not crossing over into the "gay play" mode. I do not see this quest for meaningful, deep and personal male companionship as an evil thing.

For me, it just isn't so black and white, and that may be my biggest problem.

Parallel Mormon said...

Is it okay for a wife to meet a guy she finds attractive? I side with Abelard's wife, and mine, in stating a resounding "no."

A gay man might have to lock himself into his home (not necessarily house) to stay in the way.

In reading the scriptures I have become convinced that homosexuality is something we can, must and will, all will overcome. The question is whether we'll make good progress here and qualify for the prize or later and qualify for second or third best.

Controling is gaining power over it, and by having power over it we can so diminish it that it can become irrelevant to our lives.

I am not suggesting that the friendships in question are sinful in nature, but they are, in my opinion, intended to keep one foot firmly on gay soil with the other one carrying most of our weight on straight soil. One shift of the body is all it would take to reverse the arrangement.

Beck said...

Parallel, I completely get where you are coming from. I do. When the argument is used: Would you want your wife going out with other men she's attracted to? I obviously say, "NO!" emphatically. Yet, she IS attracted to ME and somehow that makes that argument not on the same moral ground with mine where I'm NOT physically attracted to her. I am NOT trying to justify my actions for a gay fling, but somehow, that argument just doesn't ring totally true with me when it is reversed.

As for working it all out now for the "big prize", I feel this is a long journey, one where we are judged as individuals with the gifts and talents we've been given and we'll be judged according to what we have done with what was given. Thus, there are no comparisons and no exact rules and regulations to live by, even as much as we profess them to be "thus" for all. As soon as we do, there will be an exception due to knowledge, circumstances, shortcomings, abilities etc.

Is my desire for male attraction something that should be overcome in this life? And what if I don't - am I destined to be "terrestrial" or "telestial" material? I don't believe in such simple view of this life, of the judgment, of the Atonement. To "overcome" is a term used a lot in these discussions. I prefer to think of it as Abe does - that I am learning to manage and control and keep within the bounds the Lord has set as my partner in this life's journey.

kittywaymo said...

I agree with PM to a degree on this one folks. I want to clarify that yes, I do see the point that all needs can't be met entirely by a spouse. But according to the Gospel, we should be as one flesh and mind, at least
as a goal with our spouses.

Its important to realize the advice/counsel the Brethren give us is not to stifle us or come down on us, its for our happiness now and forever. They counsel that regardless of sexuality, we should not be intimate (i'm talking personally, friendships, confidants, not just sexually or flirtations etc) with anyone but our spouse. We had friendships etc when single, upon marriage, we've covenanted to make our spouse our best friend, lover, confidant etc. My husband wouldn't like it if I hung out with a group of experienced doctors (those who know me know I have a doctor fettish:), well older docs anyway:) It's ok to want to support each other on the internet in ways that are Gospel centered and that our spouses know what is going on with our internet use/blogging. But as PM says, we are human and when we are engaging in titillation, flirtation, playing with fire.. you get the pic. It's easier said than done, especially for those of us who have a proclivity toward a certain type of person. It can also cause your spouse to feel even more insecure than she/he already is. When your the spouse of someone who is SGA, you constantly wonder: "geez, does he/she think that person is more valuable, attractive (fill in the blank) than me, and will they eventually give in and leave me and my kids?" I know that's not a pleasant fact, but it is indeed a fact. It can be elevated in some cases, as with L, who has a very strong, loving and happy relationship with his wife and kids. He has worked ever so hard though to get there. He has not taken careless chances, or put anyone ahead of his wife and kids, that's no easy task whether straight or SGA.

Well, I've stated in my stream of consciousness way that I think it's dangerous ground (kinda like shopping at Abrocrombie and FinchLOL) stay away from it, and make boundries with your spouse that the two of you feel comfortable with (about friendships etc) talk it over alot etc.

Love ya's! Kittywaymo

Sean said...

i now i dont show up a great deal but i do want to say one thing....

it's FRIENDSHIP folks!!

not a trist or luid encounter. We all know the difference.

I am married and gay. But i wont and dont let that get in the way of living my life. I will have friends, gay, straight, mormon, non, etc. I love my friends, i love my wife. But, and we all know this, we have commitments and convinants, to our spouse, to our priesthood (or sisterhood - that one's for you Sam :-) ); but to deny all...that is obsurd.

there may be some friendships we cannot have. thats true with any relationship regardless of the gender issues.

the greatest thing we can just listen to the Spirit. if it's right then ok; but when He says "not a good idea" then maybe one should listen.

the gospel is about growth not boundaries.

Sean said...

oh, and btw, the above is AKA : Loyalist. i'm no longer using a psdonym. but either way...

luvs to all

Mike Kessler said...

A note from the far side: Yes, openly gay men have friendships with gay and straight men that are totally non-sexual. Being in a same-sex marriage might actually make it easier for me to do so because, well, I'm married and I made vows that I take very seriously. Being gay doesn't mean you jump at any chance for sex with someone of the same gender any more than being straight means you want to have sex with any member of the opposite gender. There will be people you feel safely affectionate with -- most of the men I know, gay and straight, are comfortable with hugging and with a kiss on the cheek. That's how I was raised, anyway -- my dad and my cousins, as well as most of my straight and gay friends, give each other hugs and kisses. There is definitely no sexual component! But, Beck, you have two difficult things to figure out: First, if you can safely have male friendships without sexual temptation, and second, whether your wife believes you can. You're together for better or for worse, and it's not okay to knowingly (or even unknowingly) hurt her. Still, it =is= important to have friends, especially of the same gender. We all need someone to talk to without that person being our spouse. That's a lot of need to place on your spouse's shoulders -- there would be no need for others if you two could handle all the world's problems and joys yourselves.

Beck said...

SEAN: It is "friendship" I'm talking about - true close friendships. Thanks for understanding...

Beck said...

MIKE: I appreciate your point of view. On your first point, I can and MUST have same-gender friendships of a non-sexual nature. They are vital to my survival. This isn't a want - it is very much a need.

On your second point, I'm trying to prove to my wife thru my faithfulness that these friendships are nothing to be afraid of and that she can be accepting of them as we grow in understanding together. Being more open and non-threatening to our marriage are my goals.

How well I accomplish these things, balancing same-gender close friendships with my marriage remains to be seen...