NOTE: This is my 300th post! I'm not as prolific as some. It took me 40 months to get to this post... that's 7.5 posts per month on the average or not quite two posts per week or one post every four days (consistent enough to remain constant, but not too excessive to be annoying - don't you think? (not to imply that one may be inconsistent or annoying) - or am I not frequent enough? Or too annoying?)... for what it's worth.
Anyway, we've continued the dialog. I've been taking it at the speed with which she is most comfortable, and Sunday night she opened up with several questions and we were able to open up to each other and discuss calmly and rationally without getting emotional or defensive. It was good. In fact, for the first time in a long time, we were able to put emotions and defensiveness aside and really try to listen and learn from each other on "this" subject.
NOTE: I want to correct something from the recent posts. I want it to be clear that my wife is sincerely and earnestly trying to understand what is going on inside me. I don't want to portray that she doesn't want to try. She does! The problem is: she can't understand why I feel the way I do, why I need guy-to-guy friendships for bonding and strength and acceptance and understanding. She does see that it is a terrible lot to go through life completely alone, or feeling alone in thinking that "I'm the only one who feels this way and has to go down this untrodden trail". But, she feels alone as well. So she gets that part and the importance of connection with others.
But, she doesn't understand why I can't focus more on my marriage and on her than on these relationships. She has no desires for any such relationships in her life. Sure, she has friendships and associations with groups and activities with which she's involved, and they support and give her "purpose" and "fulfillment", but none of these relationships are sharing emotional and intimate discussions about feelings and longings and wants and desires and hopes and aspirations and understandings and connections. She doesn't seek, desire or want such relationships with either another guy or another woman. She just wants and desires ME!
So, she asks: why can't I just desire her?
It's hard to explain it. At least I explained that my desires are not necessarily "sexual" in nature, which was a huge relief to her. She finds the thought of gay sex repulsive, which is to be expected, I guess.
It's also hard to explain why a gay guy like me needs to have these connections and bondings and relationships "outside" my marriage bonding in order to be better "inside" my marriage. I know it to be true (from personal experience - particularly when I shut myself off of all bonding outside of marriage and all it did was shut me off inside my marriage as well - for two decades I might add!). It's hard to explain that someone like me in a mixed-oriented marriage needs these friendships and relationships and one-on-ones with others that understand me.
When I say such things, she immediately does the reversal and says that wouldn't I think that if she had such encounters with another man, wouldn't I feel them to be inappropriate? unfaithful? wrong? And, of course, I would...
So why the difference? Why does the reversal not work? Why do I feel that it isn't the same? How do I articulate and explain the difference so that she understands and is not threatened by or scared of this need of mine? Is a gay guy supposed to never have connections with another guy, ever, if he is married? Is that his lot in life? Why should a gay guy in a MOM be treated differently? Is that fair? Is that right? Or is there really a difference? Or is it just asking for special compensation where none should be granted?
Does it all come down to sex? Is the close relationship with a guy wrong for my wife because of the sexual attraction possibilities? Is the close relationship with a guy wrong for me simply because of the sexual attraction possibilities? Or is it in that marriage is supposed to be only:
"Thou shalt love thy wife with ALL thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and NONE ELSE."
-- D&C 42:22
Can there be a marriage if one shares his heart with another in understanding, compassion, bonding? When does this cross into "spiritual infidelity"?
Coincidentally, there is an interesting article in the September 2009 Ensign entitled: "Fidelity in Marriage: It's more than you think." Though it addressed emotional and romantic infidelity of a heterosexual marriage, it is intriguing for me to view it in terms of a mixed-oriented marriage.
Toward the end of the article, there is a series of questions that one is asked to answer honestly about assessing relationships we might have "outside" our marriage. In the spirit of my "relationships" with my guy friends, including MOHO friendships mentioned recently in this blog, my answers are as follows:
1. Are you turning to your friend for comfort rather than turning to your spouse? Yes, to a certain extent I am, as my "friend" gives me comfort and understanding that she can't. But, it doesn't mean that I'm not turning to her as well in those areas that she can, particularly as we work on discussing these things more honestly, as hard as that has been in the last few weeks.
2. Do you find yourself thinking about your friend even when you're at home? Yes, most definitely.
3. Do you seek opportunities to be with your friend even when work doesn't require you to be together? Yes, most definitely.
4. Do you email and text your friend when you're not together? Yes, nearly every day.
5. Have you told your spouse about these messages? Yes, I have. It was hurtful to her that I would hide such things from her, and it continues to make her feel uneasy and uncomfortable, even "sick" to think that I chat with my "friends", but she is becoming more accepting of it.
6. Does the relationship with your friend take more of your time and energy than your relationship with your spouse? At times, but for the most part, no... most of my energy is spent in my relationship with my spouse.
7. Do you compare your spouse to your friend? No. There is no comparison. It is totally different.
8. Would you be uncomfortable introducing your spouse to your friend? Absolutely not. In fact, I've encouraged her to meet my "friend" but so far she's not ready to do that.
Depending on how you answer these questions, you may need to make some changes in your life. Consider an open and honest conversation with your spouse - being sure to focus on yourself and not the other person. If you find you have some real challenges to overcome, you may want to talk with your bishop. Well, I am not going to talk to my bishop. Some may think I'm robbing us of the priesthood inspiration we deserve and should demand in our lives. But for me and my house, this discussion will remain between us, and as we discuss my need for "friendship" outside the marriage, with increased openness and honesty, I think it will remain between us.
But, back to the question at hand: How do I explain the "need" I feel for these friendships, connections, bondings? How do I explain that they are necessary in order to stay married, not as a reason for infidelity? And is there a difference for a gay guy to have these things where a straight guy shouldn't, simply because the straight guy should be attracted to his wife? Is this a double standard? Is it wrong? Is this asking for a special exceptions? Can it not be equated with a straight relationship of infidelity? Or is there no difference? And if there is a difference, should it be required of my wife to accept the difference and accept such friendships within the bounds of marriage? And if so, can it be done without suffering "spiritual infidelity"?
Help me! I need help in answering these questions for myself so that I can explain it to her...