Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CLP responds...



With the encouragement of several here, including Hidden who gave me her email address, and not exactly sure why I was doing so, I wrote Carol Lynn Pearson. I gave her my gratitude for her compassion and thanked her for what has become her life's work to increase tolerance, understanding and love for our gay brothers and sisters within our religious community. I voiced my frustration at the amount of stories that seemed so fatalistic regarding holding together a mixed-oriented marriage or in keeping faithful to testimony and gospel convictions within the confines of the Church, and how stories like mine don't have many examples of success and as such, one is left to feel the inevitability of failure to stay on this path I've chosen for myself.


I wrote, not expecting a response. But within a few hours, there she was, writing me back! I was stunned.


I share some of her words to me, respecting confidentiality and the spirit of intent with which these words were written specifically for me, hoping that it helps others in the process who are in similar situations as mine...

Referring to living a life as a gay man, going through the motions of life, enduring, yes, but not living, she noted:


"...You could find satisfaction identical to this man’s, except that you have been cursed with a great deal of passion, and so will find life not as easy as he does."


Regarding the lack of success stories of those like me, she said:

"So, no—I do not have in my files a lot of the “good stories” you want, stories of a marriage that not only endures but is deeply joyful. I know many stories of marriages like yours that survive. Especially older men have written to me that there is no way they would jeopardize what they have for the possibility of finding the man of their dreams. Several have said that they attend Evergreen, not for the possibility of being “changed,” but for the support they find there for the decision they have made to stay in the marriage. On the other hand, a young man wrote to me that he, 100 percent gay, had decided to marry his best friend; but, he said, “I could never go to Evergreen; I know that I will always have to guard against being in a room with that many gay men; I will have to be vigilant every day of my life.”"

Regarding advice for me...

"Yes, there are gay-straight marriages that survive and have various levels of satisfaction. Last year the Deseret News did some features on a group of such marriages. What I cannot in good conscience say to you, is that your feelings are going to change. But I can say that yes, it is very possible for you to say, “Above all I intend for my marriage to come before everything else and to be faithful to my wife for the entire journey and for us to continue to love each other deeply with the very best love we have.” Either way (and I have said this to every gay married man who has ever contacted me), either way you are going to make a large sacrifice. Only you can know which road will ultimately bring you the greatest amount of peace.

I send very best wishes for all angels to walk with you on this journey. I know that the pain and the conflicts you feel are enormous."

She ended with these sincere and kind words for me that have affected me deeply...


"And I certainly honor you... for your determination to create your own original path amid the paths to your left and to your right, none of which feel authentic to you. Of course you can succeed in what you are so committed to."

* Passion is a curse...

* You're not alone, though there aren't many of you...
* It's possible, but it will take large sacrifice...
* You can succeed in what you are so committed to...

Nothing earth-shattering, but something to think about nonetheless.


Any thoughts or feedback?

25 comments:

pinetree said...

Sounds about right. Just a huge sacrifice one way or the other.

Theres this really great line from this show Brothers and Sisters where the husband of Sally Fields' character has died and one of her kids tells her that her husband was adulterous but still loved her. In response she turns her head with tears and a frown and says (something like) "What kind of love is it if you don't give anything up for it?"

And thats how ABC gave me religion.

And maybe sacrifice is evidence of the depth of your love. In which case, you'll have to start loving a lot more, one way or the other.

MoHoHawaii said...

I liked CLP's response. I thought it was wise and compassionate. What she said fits with my experience with this issue and with what I've seen in the lives of others over the years.

Here are the points I liked:

a) "Deeply joyful" MOMs aren't in the cards. Workable, stable, companionable relationships are the best that can be hoped for, realistically. I'm glad she didn't sugarcoat this.

b) Neither leaving a MOM nor staying is without compromise, risk and pain. No one can say from the outside what the best course is.

c) The level of passion makes a difference in how hard it is to maintain a MOM. I certainly wouldn't call your passion a curse (it's a huge part of what makes you you), but it is a factor in the situation.

Lately I've been mulling over what compromise means in the context of a MOM. In the LDS setting all of the accommodation is supposed to be done by the gay spouse who is, from the culture's point of view, at fault or at least disordered. I think this view is counterproductive if the goal is to preserve the existing marriage. Approaching the issue of accommodation from a nonblaming point of view seems more likely to succeed. The gay spouse and straight spouse won't have all of their needs met. This is clear, but with negotiation and compromise the best possible situation can be constructed. Without this compromise, the marriage is at much more risk.

Philip said...

What she said resonates with my own experience.

I think in my marriage what I have been able to achieve is not more joy but more peace and I think my wife also unable to achieve joy has achieved more peace. And I think it is somehow indicative of what is missing from our marriage that each of us achieved this peace alone, independent of one another.

Regards,
Philip

Philip said...

Beck,

BTW...thank you for sharing Carol Lynn Pearson's response. She has been one of my favorite people since I read her book "Goodbye, I Love You".

That book had such a strong impact on my life. It was the first book I ever read that gave voice to the gay/bi side of mixed orientation marriages.

Regards,
Philip

Hidden said...

My thoughts?

Just one.

Told ya she'd write back ;P

Silver said...

I found CLP's words very compassionate and filled with wisdom. She knows the reality of the situation from the viewpoint of the wounded spouse. She knows the deep pain of betrayal and the dashing of dreams.

I am somewhat surprised that I'm writing this, but I pity my wife and the other women who suffer the loss of the spouse they thought they had married. The fortunate ones know before marriage, but as in my case the burden reveals itself years later to the surprise of both spouses and in the loss trust and confidence.

I hurt for my wife and other women who carry the burden and knowledge that the passion of their man may never truly be for them, but directed toward others. The woman who finds this issue in her treasured companion must feel a terrible sense of loss and abandonment. In my case, I will never be the man she thought I was. He died along with the knowledge of my duelling passions. That dream can't ever be restored.

It isn't just the man who has to sacrifice and endure and compromise. The woman in my opinion gives up far more. In most cases they endure in silence or with very limited support compared to what is available to the man. We find fellowship which is far more rare and difficult for women to find. The very nature of a woman leaves her much more vulnerable than a man.

I feel compassion for CLP. I feel blessed by her compassion and understanding words. She has known very deep pain and has gained very profound wisdom and insight in the process. She has walked a hard road and has come out the other end with loving charity and understanding for those of us who walk uncomfortably between two choices that are both unsatisfactory.

On a brighter note. I do find joy in my marriage. I find joy in my children, my home, my neighborhood, my lifestyle, my religion and yes, my wife. She is kind, compassionate, understanding, patient, enduring, forgiving, yet wounded..deeply wounded. I find joy that she stays with me and that she still finds the good in me, loves me and agrees to build a lasting and happy life with me.

Straight marriages fail also. Many of them endure great difficulties. Our struggle is confusing, politically unpopular and especially hard to understand for some, but not unique or unusual. Our passions are strong, moving and relentless, but I don't believe they are necessarily exclusively compulsive or more so than those of straight men. Sex is compelling and powerful in any orientation. Are we really all that special or unique? I have to wonder.

I didn't choose my orientation. I didn't choose this conflict. It emerged on it's own and it demands to be dealt with. I can however choose my actions, my associations, my affliliations and my daily path. I choose to be faithful for now and I pray I have the strength to remain so. My worst fear is that I will hurt my wife even more so I strive to be worthy of her and to honor what she has sacrificed to stay by me. I'm no saint. I just hope I am good enough to be good to her.

Beck, Thank you for your thoughtful posts, your friendship and your courage. We may not always be in sync, but I really value the exchange of ideas.

Beck said...

PINETREE: Sacrifice is part of this life. We don't learn if all we ever do is do whatever we want or whatever feels good. Often, caring about and loving another requires "giving up something good for something better". I like your words: "sacrifice is evidence of the depth of your love". Thanks.

Beck said...

MOHOH: Here are my counterpoints:

a) Joy is eternal. Happiness is for the moment. Joy is hard to find in this life. I've had joyful moments with my wife. But, life is tough and not "sugarcoating" it, it isn't always sustainable. I know it isn't easy - it hasn't been - but it doesn't mean it's downright miserable either.

b) You're right. No one can say what the right course is. In some ways I wish that CLP had just said "Beck, here is the path you should take and the next step will be..." But she can't. And no one can. My situation is mine and I need to own up to it and get over trying to find how others have done it successfully and with deep joy so that I know how to follow. It's up to me. I understand that.

c) I love my passion. I love that I'm a bit over the top when it comes to some things. I love that I feel and am sensitive and I care and I'm emotional and I make attachments easily. These passions are who I am. Her point to me was how some in my situation are "successful" in their MOMs as they are satisfied in just going through the motions. I can't do that. And as such, my passion is a burden or a "curse". But, all said, I'd much rather be passionately cursed than emotionally dead.

The blame-game is disasterous. The compromise is in the finding what works for both without pointing fingers.

Beck said...

PHILIP: Peace is a good word as well. Joy, as I noted above, is hard to achieve in its true sense, but peace works for me. I like that.

HIDDEN: Yes, you were right. Your encouragement put me over the top and I wrote her when I thought to myself "Why am I doing this? Why do I want to bother this poor lady with another sad confused gay married Mormon man?" And yet, with much tenderness, she came and she reached out and she comforted. I hope to keep the dialogue going to a certain degree. Thanks again for motivating me on...

Beck said...

SILVER: Our experiences haven't been the same. Our "coming out" stories are different - demonstrating the uniqueness and individuality of our circumstances and experiences. It is hard to advise and give guidance to others when we are so unique. That's what I like about CLP. She's not telling me what to do. But through her words come love and respect and understanding - and I cherish that, just as I cherish your words and your experiences and your uniquenesses!

Damon In CO said...

Hi Beck,

Like Hidden, told ya so!

I teared up at her responses to you. She has an excellent way of phrasing the things she says. I think her advice to you is the best advice you can hope to get from anyone. I knew that her response would be helpful for you.

There are sacrifices, no matter which choice you make. Only you can decide which choice is the best for you.

Thanks for sharing her response. As I've said before and to echo Carol Lynn, I admire you very much for your decisions to honor covenants you made to with wife, whether or not you were consciouly aware of your sexuality at the time.

I love you Beck. I hope and pray and wish the best for you!

~Damon

Serendipity said...

SILVER: You are so right, it is hard to be the wife. I kind of wanted more attention from Dichotomy's family. Most of the attention went to him when he came out, and I kind of felt at the time like you expressed: in some ways I think it might be harder to be the straight spouse, realizing that what I thought I had wasn't what I thought it was. I guess I can't know that for sure because I will never experience the other side of it.

I also agree that there is not as much support for me. I joined the straight spouse network email list for a while, but I couldn't relate to that group. Most of the vocal ones in the group are divorced or have open marriages. When I tried to bring up topics of support for staying together and working through issues, I was presented with "realistic" views from these spouses that it was probably not going to work out and I should just accept that and move on. I decided that reading the posts was not good for me, so I unsubscribed. I have found much more comfort and support from the discussions on these blogs.

I am also appreciative of CLP's realistic yet hopeful view. When I wrote to her about how grateful I am for her book and the understanding it gave me, I was so impressed by her heartfelt and encouraging response to my situation.

It would be great to have other spouses like me to communicate with. A few weeks ago I thought I really needed such a group. Now, I am doing very well with you mohos for support and open communication with my husband, and I hope that I can eventually be that kind of support for others (...maybe even for some of your wives, when they are ready).

-L- said...

I really love Carol Lynn for just the type of amazingly beautiful things that she sent to you. I recently posted a critique of an article of hers (maybe you saw?... hee hee), but I have always had a lot of admiration and appreciation for who she is and what she is constantly working to accomplish.

mohohawaii: "a) "Deeply joyful" MOMs aren't in the cards. Workable, stable, companionable relationships are the best that can be hoped for, realistically. I'm glad she didn't sugarcoat this."

That's complete bullcrap. And I'm having a hard time not flying off the handle pointing out the deeply offensive way you've attacked Mormons for criticizing YOUR marriage as one that will never lead to happiness. What the heck?

MoHoHawaii said...

-L-, The point I was making is that, by definition, mixed-orientation marriage involves two people whose sexual orientations do not align. Our built-in faculty for forming pair bonds is profoundly influenced by sexual orientation. This is just the geography of the place, the contours of the hills. Mountains, are to be respected not moved-- we can make accommodations to better fit the fixed geography of our mixed-orientation marriages, but we shouldn't expect to move the mountain. It does not surprise me that CLP's case files lack runaway success stories.

By admitting the structural realities of mixed-orientation marriage I mean no disrespect to your marriage or Beck's. I believe you when you say you are happy in your marriage. I believe Beck when he says that he loves his wife and wants to take his marriage to the best possible place. I respect you both and wish your families the best. (And I would never, never vote to deny your families their health insurance, tax filing status or survivor's benefits.)

Philip said...

mohohawaii: "a) "Deeply joyful" MOMs aren't in the cards. Workable, stable, companionable relationships are the best that can be hoped for, realistically. I'm glad she didn't sugarcoat this."

mohohawaii,

I have come across four marriages that I would consider thriving, happy MOM marriages. Two are open marriages. Two are monogamous. Both monogamous marriages include a bi spouse. I have yet to meet
a thriving, happy monogamous marriage that includes a gay spouse. So I guess I agree with you but I would point out the rare exceptions and not discount or dismiss these exceptions because they are rare (not saying that you do but a lot of people do). But even the four marriages I know of had a diffuclt time of it for at least a couple of years after disclosure.

I don't consider my marriage one of the four thriving, happy MOMs. My marriage is more like an endurance test. My wife and I have a very strong bond but unfortunatelyy my being gay has kept us from having the kind of intimate relationship we are both capable of. So my efforts and my wife's efforts at improving our relationship have been met with limited success. Where I have been able to make great progress is with how comfortable I feel about being gay. It's ironic but what nearly destroyed my marriage was the extremes I went to fight my homosexuality. Once I started to accept my homosexuality, I wasn't spending all my time fighting my feelings and was better able to spend time and energy on the other problems in my marriage. It may sound counter-intuitive but becoming more comfortable with my sexuality allowed me to focus more on my marriage. And the peace I posted about earlier that I have achieved in my marriage is a direct result of that acceptance.

Regards,
Philip

Dichotomy said...

I'm still pretty new at this, but my experience so far has echoed Philip's.

In my case, it was denial of my homosexuality that put a strain on our marriage. Our sexual incompatibility has been an issue for quite a while now, and casting about for something or someone to blame (while ignoring the answer that was staring us in the face) took its toll on both of us emotionally.

I was convinced that I was "less of a man" because I didn't seem to have the sex drive that I felt I should (or that my wife wanted me to). For a while I could blame it on the antidepressants I was taking (Prozac and its ilk are notorious for suppressing libido) but when my meds were changed I lost that excuse. I considered getting tested for low levels of testosterone, etc. I was sure that there was something wrong with me, either physically or mentally.

My wife suffered just as much, convinced that my lack of interest in sex translated to a lack of interest in her. All she wanted was to know that I wanted her, physically, and as much as I love her and want her to be happy, I couldn't give that to her.

Then, in one epiphanous moment I admit that I'm gay and God tells me that it's okay and I'm at peace with that. I tell my wife and after a few days of mourning she is blessed with peace, too. Suddenly we don't need to exert all of our energy in figuring out the "why" of things, and we can accept our sexual issues and make things work. We can communicate better, we can focus on each other's needs and feelings, and I can honestly say that I don't think our relationship has ever been stronger than it is right now.

Like I say, we've only been a month and a half so far, so I think it's too early to say if we've got a long term "deeply joyful" thing going on. But based on what we've seen so far, I'm not willing to state categorically that it's impossible.

Beck said...

DAMON: Yes, you were right! Thanks for your love and support and concern for me. And your prayers!

How do I contact you? You need to voice your voice more often. How do we get you to be more a part of this community?

DIP: I think we can debate over whether the straight spouse sacrifices and suffers more than the gay spouse. Each side certainly has its arguments for winning the "I'm suffering more than you" game.

I agree with you and Silver that I have brought my wife into this situation, have left her to her own resources to deal with it, and as such have inflicted this upon her with no source of help. I didn't come out to her... in the words of Abelard, "I just brought her into my closet". As such, she has suffered much at my hand and has sacrificed much as she stays with me.

But, the important thing isn't who suffers or struggles the most, it is how are we going to go forward from here? Together hand in hand, or separately? Lovingly with support for each others pains, lifting each other, or taking sides and emphasizing who has to sacrifice or struggle the most?

Someday, I hope that you and my wife will meet and be a source of strength and encouragement to each other as we all go forward in the light of hope.

Beck said...

L: I have read your post on NL regarding CLP and must admit that at first I was taken back by your comments, particularly those dealing with suicide. As I've read the development of the comments, I must agree that the discussion has evolved through hurt and pain and misunderstandings to a good outcome of dialogue that wouldn't have happened had CLP not written her editorial in the first place.

I've blogged about how her editorial was used in my HP group meeting and how hurtful it was to have her words be twisted to continue preaching of persecution and hate toward our gay brothers and sisters.

Though I'm not on the same page as you in finding the same degree of fault in CLP's words, I do agree that we must keep the dialogue going to bring us to a better conclusion of understanding within the Church than where we are right now.

Though some of the Brethren have moved on and are taking a higher path with more compassionate rhetoric, the membership, as Ron as pointed out, is lagging behind, as I've testified in multiple examples within my ward itself.

As for "deeply joyful MOMs" being possible, I think it is possible (otherwise I wouldn't still be here), but like CLP and MOHOH and others here, I think it's still a difficult goal to achieve - though achievable nonetheless.

Thanks for commenting. Your "spur under the saddle" approach is always entertaining.

Beck said...

MOHOH: I understand what you're saying. I don't take your words to mean that I should not try to keep my marriage together as it is joyless and hopeless and destined to be so. I have always felt your respect and support for my choices and I honor you for that.

I do have mountains to climb. Our sexual incapatability is a huge mountain between us and always has been from day one. My inability to be madly attracted physically and intimately with my wife has been the biggest hurdle to overcome. We live on a steep slope where life is a struggle to make a joyful life together. But like those cherished hilltowns I love so much in Italy where life clings to the cliffs and becomes a literal outcropping of the mountain itself, creating an imagine of serene and bellissimo beauty, my marriage can become something of a jewel or treasure of beauty as well. Our "JOY" is not full. Our struggles are real. Our sexual incapatabilties make the landscape difficult to cultivate. But, it's still possible and worth the effort to try.

Thanks for always being respectful of me and my choices. I respect you and yours as well and wish you full happiness!

Beck said...

PHILIP and DICHO: Yes, you are on the same page. Yes, the sexual compatability has been more difficult as we refuse to discuss the reality of one spouse being gay and one spouse being straight.

I recognize in both of you your strength that comes from your self-awareness, your self-acceptance, and your open dialogue with your wives. This is the path to a more "joyful" marriage.

I understand that. I have stepped out of dark denial to self-awareness. I have stepped from self-loathing to self-acceptance and felt the enlightenment from such steps.

Now, the dialogue step is still difficult, though it is slowly getting better.

My sexuality is not getting better, however, and even though she understands, she still doesn't understand. When I'm not fully wanting to be sexual with her, when it feels like work and a task more than mutual satisfaction, when I allow myself to withdraw and inadvertantly make her doubt her self-esteem and self-worth in my eyes, we still fail to reach the goal of "JOY".

CLP says it's hard, but she gives me the hope that it's still possible as we passionately stay committed to our goals. I believe that.

PHILIP and DICHO - please keep sharing HOW you're overcoming this in your marriages. I need your encouragement.

MoHoHawaii said...

I appreciate the candor and honesty of the comments on this thread.

I want you all to know that I am on your side (and this includes Dicho's wife as well as all you gay husbands). I wish you for you all the best possible outcomes as you deal with this issue in your marriages.

Silver said...

Honestly, I cannot take the time for a long post tonight, but I have faithfully read this entire string of posts. I'm proud of all of us for the way we communicate and the efforts to live good lives; regardless of lifestyle choice.

Mohohawaii, Thanks for your support of my struggle and my effort to build and preserve a good marriage. I honor your kindness and understanding.

Serendipity, I'm glad you noticed my comment. I have sent you an email and offer of support from my wife. I hope that can be of help for you. So hard to be alone in this as a woman (at least in my judgment and limited understanding as an SSA man).

Beck, as usual, a wonderful post and dialoge. So glad you kept blogging. It's never boring. Now my blog, could be a snoozer. Not a lot of traffic over there...

I love the contact and the support of the bloggers here. Thank you all for sharing your hearts.

Silver

Serendipity said...

It really has been great to read all of the comments and thoughts on this post. I have really enjoyed it.

Dichotomy says he is envious of Beck's blog. You see, he likes to host parties. I told him it is okay if the party is at Beck's place. We can enjoy it as well here as anywhere else.

-L- said...

"Though I'm not on the same page as you in finding the same degree of fault in CLP's words..."

I disagreed with Carol Lynn, I didn't roundly condemn her to hell. Everybody has acted as if I attacked her in some brutal way, but I did not. I repeatedly complimented her, and I stand by my favorable impression of her.

Mohohawaii, it's not just that I'm happy, it's that I have complete and incomprehensible joy in my marriage. [Philip, I'm not bi and we're certainly not an "open" marriage.] Where you see a mountain that can't be moved, you are mistaken. I don't know if I moved a mountain or if I've just shown that there wasn't a mountain there in the first place, but I'm not alone in my circumstances and their reality contradicts your assumptions.

Philip said...

-l-

I didn't say it was impossible for a gay married man to be monogamous and happy; only that I personally didn't know of any.

I think there are at least two things in my marriage that I think keep it from being joyful. One has to do with my sexuality. The other has nothing to do with my sexuality.

The non-sexual thing is that my wife and I don't communicate well. I am very open with my feelings to the point that I have trouble NOT expressing my feelings to others. My wife has always been the opposite. She has always been reserved; kept her feelings to herself. I have wondered what it would be like to be married to someone as open as I am. I have wondered how our marriage would be different. I think we would be so much closer if we could share feelings with one another.

The sexual thing is the many things I have learned about myself that were not obvious to me before. In other words, ignorance may not be bliss but self-awareness can be a double edge sword. For instance, I believed without question that my love for my wife was as strong as my wife's love for me; as strong as the love heterosexual men have for their wives. I no longer believe that because after 17 years of marriage I fell in love with another man and realized that I loved but was not in love with my wife. Up till the time I fell in love I had always believed "falling in love" was some silly romantic nonsense. I quickly learned that I have a much greater capacity for romantic and emotional feelings for other men than I do for women. It just took getting comfortable with my sexuality to allow those feelings to surface. Before I made this discovery I was confused about what was wrong with our relationship and thought that something needed to be fixed. But I had never questioned what I felt for my wife. In other words, it had never occured to me that the confusion was caused because there was something missing.

I think there is a lack of emotional intimacy in our marriage caused by our poor communication and what is missing from our marriage that keeps me from feeling joyful about my marriage. By the way, I am not talking about physical intimacy here. The intimacy issues we have have more to do with what goes on outside the bedroom.

But saying that doesn't mean that I would dismiss or discount your ability to be joyful in your marriage. However, because I have met so many gay married men that say they are happily married one day and their marriages crash and burn six months or a year later, I have become skeptical and like to get to know the person first and see if they are consistent over a period of time say two years before I am convinced the marriage will be one of the marriages that not only last but thrive.

Regards,
Philip