Saturday, February 07, 2009

As some things change, other things remain the same...

I've never intended this blog to become a "political / current events" rant. It exists for me to vent thoughts and feelings I have that can't be vented or expressed in any other productive way. Sometimes I wonder how productive blogging is when after nearly three years of doing so, I'm still pretty much the same.

But this morning, Mike (Choosing to Choose the Right) got me thinking as he posed whether there is a change in this blogging community going on. I responded:


"I don't know who you are referring to, but speaking for myself, I find my views changing. The more I understand myself, the more I realize that this world is not as black-and-white as I thought. I find myself becoming much more tolerant, compassionate, understanding, sympathetic, empathetic, loving, etc. to those who seriously choose a path different from my own. This does not mean that I'm preparing myself to make that same choice or take that same path. What it does mean is that you (whoever you are) don't really know me, and therefore it is difficult to be judged for the decisions I'm making. As such, I don't want to judge those who make difficult choices different from me. I find myself much more willing to accept others who are taking a different path, and I feel an affinity with those who seek wisdom, and yes, even the whisperings of the Spirit, in different ways.

As I've come to be more compassionate toward myself (I used to hate and despise myself), I've become more compassionate toward others.

I don't think that altering or changing my perspective of compassion for others and seeing the wisdom and "spirit" in their choices, has weakened my resolve to still follow my own internal wisdom and spirit to do what I feel is right.

It's just not so cut-n-dry anymore about believing "my way or the highway" approach to this very complicated issue."

I've been vocal about my support for Cog, John G-W, and Cody (Gay LDS Actor) among others and the choices they are making for their respective families. Before this blog had entered my consciousness, I never would have been so compassionate and inclusive and willing to embrace their decisions. Now I do - completely! Maybe in one sense, this blog has helped me to grow.

Yet, in another sense, I don't feel growth at all:

My email dialogues continue with my dear Italian friend "Thomas" and, to a lesser but still amazing degree, with my young dear friend "Will", whose friendship remains strong and loyal, close and confidential, yet much more along the lines of mentor and mentee, teacher and student, with a touch of bromance. ("Tim" has currently disappeared since Christmas).

I particularly share with Thomas deep feelings and pains and struggles and stresses. I share feelings of love and intimacy that sometimes are sexually charged. I share in ways that emotionally connect us and he shares back. I like these dialogues, yet they remain for the most part secret and hidden.

Recently, as I was working, I flipped through radio stations and caught a host discussing the appropriateness of such relationships. The intent of the program was discussing whether men should have women other than their wife as a close friend, and whether women should have men other than their husband as a close friend (going to lunch together, car-pooling alone together, emailing privately, etc.). Obviously, my thoughts reversed the situation and I asked myself it it was appropriate for me to cultivate and continue to encourage these private emails from different men in my life, and to a broader sense, to the men / women of this blogging community.

The program spokesman summarized that one can know if the relationship is "appropriate" if:


1. It does not create an emotional connection,


2. It isn't cloaked in secrecy,


3. It isn't sexually charged, and


4. It's importance is above that of the spouse.

Well, I guess my relationship with Thomas fails to be appropriate in at least three of the four, so I guess it's inappropriate. Where this blog isn't helping me to grow is in the fact that I don't want to bring this relationship into the appropriate range. So where does that place me? I guess in the "jerk / cheater" spectrum of the spouse continuum.

As some things change, other things remain the same...

19 comments:

Abelard Enigma said...

Is a gay married man who has a non-sexual relationship with another man equivalent to a straight married man having a non-sexual relationship with another woman?

I'm not so sure. In the straight man scenario - you have a man mixing two heterosexual relationships. In the gay man scenario - you have a man mixing a sexual heterosexual relationship and a non-sexual homosexual relationship. It just seems like apples and oranges to me.

That's not to say that a non-sexual homosexual relationship cannot be damaging to the marriage - there is such a thing as emotional infidelity. So, you do need to be careful and make sure that your loyalty is always with your wife.

Beck said...

ABE: I see your point. But per where I was going with the "emotional infidelity" angle...

And you'll note that I said "three of the four" qualifiers of inappropriate behavior. So, if my "loyalty to my wife" is still in there as part of the picture, does that mean the rest of the qualifiers are neutralized?

Abelard Enigma said...

if my "loyalty to my wife" is still in there as part of the picture, does that mean the rest of the qualifiers are neutralized?

:) I didn't say that

My only point is that this sort of situation is not as cut and dried as some would want to believe. If you were straight and it was a woman you were talking about then your relationship would border on being inappropriate.

But, you're gay - and it's a man. That makes it far more complex as there are other factors affecting the dynamics of the situation.

I just don't think you should give too much credibility to things you read that may or may not apply to your situation.

Unfortunately, you are sailing into uncharted waters with this - so you need to rely on your own feelings on it.

I wish I could give you a better answer.

robert said...

I see the comparison as quite valid. But I also see relationships as more fluid than most people do. I don't think you can put any relationship into a box and ask it to stay there unless you are flat out unwilling to grow beyond a certain point. Many married people do just that and redirect their own personal growth into their children. The problem with this redirection is that children eventually grow up and see it all for what it is. So be prepared?

GeckoMan said...

Define 'appropriate.' In the end I think it is we ourselves and the Lord who must cut through life's complexities and be brutally honest with our decisions and behaviors. Certainly NOT talk-show radio hosts! Appropriate must include deference to those we love and make covenants with, but just because my wife thinks one thing, doesn't mean I have to or will tow her line. Appropriate for me always comes back to respect, honesty and obedience to the deep things we know are true (even if that means we strayed a little in determining what 'appropriate' was.)

And what of the Church defined standard? I'm not so sure anymore that just because the Brethren say the line is "here," no wait, it's really "there," that I embrace it. I guess I go back to my original proposition, and pray the good Lord weighs more in the balance than simple stock answers.

Beck said...

ABE said: "...you are sailing into uncharted waters with this - so you need to rely on your own feelings on it."

So, does that mean you don't call me in from the shore? Or you don't throw me a life jacket? You just let me continue charting those waters?

ROBERT: My relationship with Thomas has changed over the years and has been very fluid. I've known him and loved him longer than I've known my wife (and we've been married 27 years!). As we enter these "uncharted waters", I feel a need to let the relationship grow and develop without boxing it up and putting it on a shelf.

I feel I know my limits of "appropriateness", but then again, I may be delusional as well and not know it...


GECKO: Appropriateness for me is not violating marital covenants and commitments. The dynamics of friendships that I've always sought throughout my life, particularly with men who become "more than friends", have brought different levels of appropriateness to our marriage. For some reason, I just can't give it up, box it up, and shut these men out of my life.

I guess I'm still trying to learn the meaning of "appropriateness".

Abelard Enigma said...

does that mean you don't ... throw me a life jacket?

You and I have gotten to know each other pretty well over the last couple of years - and I don't believe you would do anything to jeopardize either your marriage or your membership in the church; so, do you throw a life jacket to a man who doesn't seem to be in any immediate danger?

However, if I may be so bold - I'm sensing some guilt on your part. That's what I mean by needing to trust your own feelings. If you're feeling a little guilty then, perhaps, you need to back off a bit on your relationship with Thomas.

Philip said...

"Is a gay married man who has a non-sexual relationship with another man equivalent to a straight married man having a non-sexual relationship with another woman?"

No.

A gay man married to a woman who has a non-sexual relationship with another man is equivalent to a straight man married to a man who has a non-sexual relationship with a woman.

I think most people have never consider the possibility of a straight man married (not in the legal sense) to another man. I know I didn't until I met a straight man in a six year relationship with a gay man. He said he had never experienced same-sex feelings prior to meeting his male partner but a year into the relationship realized his same-sex feelings were limited to just his male partner.

Basically, he was one man short of being heterosexual just like I am one woman short of being gay.

Now the dynamics of that kind of relationship must be much closer to mine than a straight man or even a bisexual man in a relationship with a woman.

But to be honest I just met him at a bisexual conference and the one evening of conversation was the only contact I ever had with him.

By the way, while this straight man loved his male partner just like I love my wife, one huge difference was that there were no children involved in his relationship.

While this is the only gay male couple I have ever met where one partner is straight, I have met several lesbian couples where one partner is straight.

However, I never really got to know these couples either.

Regards,
Philip

Philip said...

I wasn't clear about the point I was trying to make in my previous post...equating "a gay man married to a woman" to "a straight man married to a woman" doesn't bring into the comparison the dynamics involved in being in a relationship where both parties are not of the same orientation.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

ABE and PHILIP: You can define and categorize these relationships however you want - the bottom line is, I feel a pinch of guilt and that is what bothers me no matter whether it is equivalent to my straight married guy counterparts or not.

Yet, not guilty enough to stop... playing with fire one eventually gets burned, right?

Alan said...

"Inappropriate." That word drives me crazy. It's the squishiest, most vacuous, malleable, stretchiest, most versatile pejorative in modern English. It can mean almost anything as long as it's bad. Basically it means whatever the person using it doesn't like, no matter how ridiculously self-centered or ignorant the reason. Once a school principal yelled at me for sharing a bottle of water on a hot day with my son's classmates when I went to pick him up. That was "inappropriate" and I should have known better! Sheesh.

The radio host's four criteria for "appropriate" relationships sound like something right out of the LDS Social Services pop psych playbook. I won't argue with the one about sex. But the first two seem just as squishy as the word "appropriate" itself, and could be used to justify excluding all relationships from someone's life other than their marriage. I've seen this done, and it damaged individuals and marriages. They probably have some limited validity but as black & white rules, sorry, insufficient. "Inappropriate." They need serious qualification.

First Questionable Rule: "no emotional connections outside marriage." Hogwash. Everyone needs enduring friendships, and every enduring friendship will be an "emotional connection." Married or not, women need emotional connections to other women because women can fill emotional needs that men can't. Married or not, men, while often loathe to admit it, need emotional connections to other men because they fill emotional needs that women can't.

Any healthy, well-adjusted married person will recognize this about their spouse and give that spouse the freedom and space to create and foster such relationships because they know that will make their spouse a happier, healthier, more well-rounded person. Any husband or wife who looks solely to their spouse for all "emotional connections", or worse, tries to prevent their spouse from having such connections with others, will end up making both parties miserable and could destroy the marriage. I've seen it happen. A healthy marriage is one in which each party gives the other respect and space to be their real selves, and is sufficiently self-confident not to be threatened if their spouse maintains emotionally connected friendships outside the marriage. Each spouse has to trust the other to ensure that those emotional connections don't stray out of bounds, of course. But cutting them off completely isn't the answer. Like infidelity, that tactic too can ruin a marriage.

Second Questionable Rule: Not secret. Okay, wiggle room on this one. Keeping secrets from a spouse is normally not a good thing. But at the same time, no married person ever completely divulges every last thing in their mind & heart to their spouse. There always has to be some private space. Sometimes disclosing things does nothing but hurt ("Does this dress make me look fat?" "Ay carramba, Maria, your hips look like beach balls!"). This is where mutual trust and respect come into play. I'm not arguing for carte blanche to cheat on a spouse or create any relationship that truly does threaten the marital one. But I challenge any married reader to tell me honestly that they have always told their spouse every single aspect of every relationship they've ever had outside the marriage. It doesn't happen. And it doesn't need to. Marriage doesn't mean you give up yourself.

Beck said...

ALAN: Thanks for your passionate response!

As for appropriateness - when my little bell goes off inside me that says that I'm crossing my self-imposed limits of what feels
"appropriate" for me, then it can be called "inappropriate". And just look at my blog and my history and you know that I push the limits here to help myself understand these emotions inside me... and at times I may be viewed as walking on the edge.

In defense of the radio host, he was addressing relationships of the opposite sex within a marriage not the same sex relationships. He saw nothing wrong with the wife having emotional girlfriends or the husband having emotional guyfriends. It was when the wife had emotional guyfriends and the husband had emotional girlfriends that it became "inappropriate". And then keeping those kinds of relationships "secret" added to the inappropriate nature of the relationship.

I was the one who translated that into my current relationships with guys that I am "emotionally attached" to and that I keep "secret" (to a certain degree) from my wife. I was allowing those interpolations to play through my mind and Abe, Robert, Gecko and Philip were pointing out some of the fallicies in doing so.

It is a fluid and personal thing and I support and passionately share your passion of fighting against the labels placed on us from others who deem themselves as the "appropriate police".

Sean said...

i take concern with the idea that one cannot have "emotional" connection with other human beings. This is just stinks too much of Puritanical nonsense.

We are a race of beings, who, if one thinks deeper into the LDS Philosophy than the mere surface touching that seems to go on, have been given emotions because they bring joy, happiness, sorrow and pain.

To be like our Father in Heaven we must accept all the emotional feelings that come with beings with emotions.

to deny the fact the truth of being emotionally connected to others, regardless of the gender, is to deny our true nature.

sorry Beck, i didnt mean to rant on your blog space.

the only thing Father has asked us to do is NOT to have sexual (physically intimate relations) with those whom we are not married to.

aka: loyalist

Beck said...

SEAN: I'm with you, my friend! We are emotional beings. Our feelings are integral with who we are and why we are here.

The radio show was describing how such emotional connections lead to sexual infidelity. And to a certain degree, there is truth in that.

As for me, I tend to get emotionally, even romantically connected with straight guys - and as such our bromances are more platonic, yet romantic. And they are wonderful and beautiful and essential - and fundamentally "safe" as they most likely won't end in sexual infidelity.

It comes down to a fundamental question: who owns my sexuality in a marriage? Who owns my emotional connections in a marriage? Is it my wife? Or is it me? Or is it somewhere in between? Who decides what is "appropriate" and what is not?

Those are questions of fluid relationships that aren't so easily defined in neat little boxes.

ConservativeRepublican said...

I think it's reasonable to apply what the host said to homosexual attraction. I really don't see any difference between heterosexual and homosexual relationships in terms of fidelity to one's spouse.

That having been said, it's probably not something to worry about unless the feelings are really, really strong. When I was still confused about my sexuality in my teens, I knew lots of gay guys and had lots of opportunities to play around, but they never went anywhere. However, there was this one straight guy who I was especially close to. We were the best of friends. If he had made sexual advances on me, I probably would've given in, despite the fact that at the time I thought homosexuality was an abomination. Our bond was that strong.

It's that kind of bond that I think in-the-closet married men must be especially careful with. It's scarily easy for those kinds of relationships to turn sexual when the opportunity presents itself.

Beck said...

CR said: "...there was this one straight guy who I was especially close to. We were the best of friends. If he had made sexual advances on me, I probably would've given in..."

That's the point. I am especially close to these couple of straight guys / open to touchy-feeliness that have never made sexual advances on me. But if they had, or if they do, I more than "probably" would cave instantly.

I know I'm vulnerable in this way. I know that I would be beyond resisting from either of these guys. I know that I would want it more than anything at that moment.

"...It's that kind of bond that I think in-the-closet married men must be especially careful with. It's scarily easy for those kinds of relationships to turn sexual when the opportunity presents itself..."

I know it would be "scarily easy" if the opportunity presents itself. I've dreamed of such things. I know I wouldn't resist.

And so, I keep my distance. None of my "guys" are nearby. I see a couple of them (with their wives) a couple of times a year at Church. Thomas is half-way across the world. I have no one else. I don't put myself to find others. I am fine with it for the most part - but at times I feel like a faultline under seismic pressure ready to crack.

What we do for "appropriateness"...

Thanks CR for commenting and welcome to my blog!

ConservativeRepublican said...

Thank you for the welcome.

Honestly, it was more than 'probably' for me as well. Despite the fact that I thought homosexuality to be evil at the time, looking back, I can see that I would've had sex with him in a heartbeat.

Just so you know, I am a gay man who is engaged to another man. I am not LDS, but lots of my family and friends are. LDS customs and culture have had a significant impact on my life. The influence is so strong that I use 'heavenly father' during prayer, avoid caffeine, know all the words to just about every mormon hymn there is, etc., LOL. In some ways, I'm a strange combination of a baptist and a mormon with a heavy emphasis on the latter, but of course, the Church is not open to someone who partakes in homosexual conduct, so I must settle for calling myself a Non-denominational Christian with LDS tendencies. ;)

This may sound a little strange, but one major reason I find your blog so interesting is because it makes me think 'what if'. What if I had remained in the closet and joined the Church like I was tempted to do during my teens? What if I had the wife and kids I always thought I would have? How close would my life mirror yours?

Don't get me wrong. Despite the fact that some of my LDS relatives will disown me once the marriage happens, I am very, very happy where I am. I love my fiancé. But I read your words and instantly feel a strange connection. That probably sounds creepy, but I don't mean it in a weird way. The connection isn't to you, but to your experiences.

Anyway, you have a great blog, and I'll enjoy reading it over the years.

Hugs,

CR

Beck said...

CR said: "This may sound a little strange, but one major reason I find your blog so interesting is because it makes me think 'what if'. What if I had remained in the closet and joined the Church like I was tempted to do during my teens? What if I had the wife and kids I always thought I would have? How close would my life mirror yours?

Don't get me wrong... But I read your words and instantly feel a strange connection. That probably sounds creepy.."

No. 1: It doesn't sound creepy at all. I love these strange connections. I love that someone can relate with my weird and warped experiences that I call my life. I love this connection and look forward to understanding you and your experiences, particularly with your fiance' and your future together.

As for my life verses yours, the difference is that I was and am very active LDS - always have been. In my teen years and early 20s I refused to admit that I was gay at all. I married with the complete understanding that my attractions for men were based on spiritual connections and "brotherhood" etc. I couldn't be gay. It wasn't in the plan. It couldn't fit into my life. I wasn't "that way".

So, I got married to the one and only woman I was attracted to and we've been married now 27 years. It isn't something that I did "knowing that I was gay". My coming to terms with these attractions took decades to admit and grasp. I've now been out to myself 4-1/2 years and to my wife 4 years. I've been blogging nearly 3 years. My story is clear. I don't pretend to know what I'm doing.

But, I do find myself asking a lot of "what ifs" just as you speculate you would. I wonder if I would be married to my husband by now. I wonder if I would still be in the Church by now if I had recognized my attractions decades ago. I wonder if I would be any happier than I am now. It's a game with no answers. I am not that "what if" person that I dream of. I don't have those "what if" relationships that I desire. But I do have a wife and kids and a family life that I love and all the experiences that come with it.

I'm just plugging away at this journey. At times I wonder about the appropriateness of my guy romances and relationships, particularly in a marriage. At times I wonder about just giving up and letting it all go. At times I wonder about what it would be like to be "you".

If anything, this blogging community has given me glimpses in the other "yous" out there who have gone down different paths. And I love those glimpses and they help me to focus and to feel and to understand things that my experience alone would never have...

This is getting long, but please keep commenting. Hopefully, this exchange can be mutually beneficial. I'm glad you like the blog... whether it will be around for "years" or not remains to be seen. But thanks for being out there.

ConservativeRepublican said...

Beck,

Thank you again for a nice reply. This reply will be brief because I'm off to do Valentine's Day related things.

It is so very true that the 'what ifs' are part of a difficult game with no answers. At times throughout my life, I would see my friends and family active in the Church and... well, to be honest, I envied them, and to some extent I still do. Yes, I had my own faith, but it just wasn't the same. I was strongly drawn to the LDS Church for many years of my life.

There's a sense of community that the LDS Church provides that isn't found in many other places. It's especially hard when you are extremely close to your family and so you go to everything from baptisms to sacrament meetings to church basketball games to potlucks, and yet, at the end of the day, you're not a member and thus you're nothing but an outsider. And you know that you will forever remain one.

And despite the many prayers Heavenly Father has answered, I have never received any answer as to why. That's the part that is at times frustrating.

I feel better about things now, and like I said, I'm happy where I am (other than the intolerant relatives part), but I think the 'what ifs' will forever be present. As I said before, your blog provides me with a glimpse into the world of what might have been.

P.S. If you ever feel like e-mailing, please feel free to do so. I've enabled the e-mail link in my blogger profile.