Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More questions...

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...


Sean said...

I don't know if I will answer any of your questions. I might just give you another view.

One thing that you have to realize is that you are different. You are not like the typical man. You are gay. Simple as that. I can see where she is coming from when she feels threatened by these relationships. There is a possibility for attractions to develop and for things to happen... things already have between you and your friend, correct?

I think that she would be fine if they were straight friends. Just like you are fine with her going out with her girlfriends. How would you feel if she went out alone with a very close guy friend? My guess is that you would feel the same way that she feels when you go out with your "friends," correct? It would be the same if you were straight and had a close friendship with a woman besides your wife. It is one and the same despite who you are attracted to.

Ned said...

Congrats on #300!

About your questions: If you need more vitamin D in your diet, taking more vitamin C isn't going to work.

If you need to establish supportive, nuturing, non-sexual relationships with males, then how does it make sense to try to meet that need with a female, even if she is your dear wife?

Beck said...

SEAN: But, she's attracted to me. I am not naturally attracted to her ( as hard as that sounds) and so it isn't that easy to reverse the situation and call it equal. It's the apples-and-oranges, or maybe nectarines-and-peaches (very similar but still different) situation. It just doesn't seem as simple as you make it out to be, even though her logic is the same.

Maybe I'm trying to find a loop hole that doesn't exist, nor should it. I don't know... it just doesn't seem the same. When I am with my "friends" I am getting back something I need that I don't get from her. When she is with me, she gets what she wants and needs from me.

Why is this so hard to explain to myself? Am I fooling myself that there is a difference?

I tried to ask this of my therapist and he came up with an example that was so confusing to me I can't even begin to restate it, so how could I explain it to her.

If it's this hard, then maybe it isn't true, maybe I'm grasping for air...

Beck said...

NED: I like the vitamin analogy a lot. But, doesn't she need the same vitamins? I guess she gets the vitamins she needs from the same source (me) while I need them from different sources.

Is that fair? Is that true?

Or am I trying to make it true to allow me to do what I want to do that may not be the appropriate thing for a married person to do, even if "she is my dear wife".

Sean said...

Setting all attractions aside, you married your wife for time and all eternity. You are supposed to use her as your helpmeet, your friend, your guide, and many other aspects of life. You promised to help each other out for better or for worse. This means to me that you are supposed to look unto her, even to "cleave only to her."

I agree with Ned on healthy male relationships and the vitamin analogy, BUT do the males you have relationships with have to be gay? That is where she is threatened. She is afraid that you will run off with one if you develop mutual attractions for one another (my guess). Like I said earlier, it would probably be completely different if the male interaction came from straight guys. That is why I have suggested multiple times in the past to join a book club or a photography club to build a healthy straight male relationship that doesn't start off or relate with sexuality.

Just my thoughts again. I don't know if they even help.

Beck said...

SEAN: I hear you and I appreciate you still commenting when it seems that I don't listen.

But, know that most of my "friends" have been of the "straight" variety, and that didn't ease her mind.

What I can learn from this is that I still need "friends" (and that is plural) and the more friends I have that give me the "vitamins" I need, and the more honest I am with her about them, the better it will be... be they of the gay or straight variety.

Ned said...

Beck, for what it's worth, like you, most of my friends have also been of the straight variety. Also almost all of my crushes throughout my life have been on straight guys. Is that because of the "safety factor" that I can crush on them without the worry that they might do the same?

But as "L" advises in the title of his blog, I "keep changing". For example in the last few years I've been much more friendly with the openly gay people I know at work. I've also been less intimidated by those by those men (straight, gay or bi) that I want to associate with--even if it is just little things like saying "Hi, how's it going?" or "I hope you're going to bring in your incredible Christmas treats again this year."

I'm not quite sure how this relates to your situation, but I do believe that my life is blessed by a variety of friends and associates--and that I am a better husband and father because I am not as isolated and needy as I once was.

Yes, I'm still somewhat isolated and needy and probably will be the rest of my life, but I do see some progress and am grateful for it. Does this make sense from your point of view?

Scott said...

First of all, if your wife truly gets all of the relationship satisfaction that she needs from you and needs no other "girl time" or anything like that in order to be satisfied, then I think she's a fairly unique individual in that regard. Most married women (in my observation) aren't able to fulfill all of their companionship needs in their husband (nor are most men able to get everything they need from their wife) and they need time with their girlfriends to feel fully satisfied from a relationship standpoint.

For you (and me, and many others) the situation is even more complicated, because there's even more that we don't get from our wives. As you've discovered and noted, leaving those needs unfulfilled has a negative impact on other aspects of our relationships, and our marriages can suffer.

So there's no question (in my mind) of whether we need to fulfill those needs. It's just a question of how to do so appropriately and in a manner that will cause our wives the least amount of anxiety.

There's been discussion here about finding male companionship among straight men vs. gay men. I imagine that for some married gay guys it's entirely possible to find and maintain straight male friends who can fulfill the need for male companionship, such that the wife need never worry about a possible attraction developing and being reciprocated.

But I've never really had any straight friends who I would consider myself close enough to that I could be satisfied with the relationship as a substitute for the elements of companionship that I miss by not having a husband. I've just never been able to relate to any of my casual straight friends in any meaningful way. My entire life I've assumed that this was because I was a shy person, and that I would simply never have any close friends.

But then I acknowledged that I was gay, and I came out, and I found the MoHo community, and I met a bunch of gay guys, and I found that I did relate to many of them in many ways. Of course there's the shared experience of being gay and Mormon, which automatically gives our relationships an edge, but I also find that in general we're more likely to share interests and hobbies and passions and likes and dislikes. For the first time in my life, I find myself surrounded by people who I would consider real friends.

And yes, I do get something from these friendships that I've never gotten from a straight friend, so yes, I do believe that (for me, at least) I need gay friends in order to fill that missing element of companionship and keep my relationship with Sarah running smoothly.

(Also, gay friends are much more likely to be open to hugging than straight guys are) :)

Luckily, I'm blessed with a wife who understands, and who loves our gay friends as much as I do. I wish every married gay man could have a wife like Sarah.

Is there a potential for attraction? Of course there is. In fact, there are a few of our friends who I find attractive in one way or another (and no, I won't name names) :). Sarah knows this. She also knows that my normal reserve and guidelines of proper behavior are even more strictly observed if there's any possibility that feelings beyond friendship might develop. I love Sarah too much to ever knowingly hurt her, and my love for her modulates my interactions with my friends and greatly reduces the risk of romance.

I don't know if I've really answered your questions... I ended up going in a different direction than I originally intended, I think. Maybe I'll try again in a little while. :)

Crisco said...

I haven't blogged much lately, and haven't visited your site in a while. Wow, you have been through a lot lately.

The importance of having healthy relationships with your friends is not diminished by the fact you are gay. You are still a guy. Straight or gay, I think a man needs his buddies. Like Ned, I haven't really had any gay friends. Not that I avoid or have any problems with gay guys, I just don't walk in their circles and haven't worked with a gay guy in years. I have yet to meet any mohos in person. So I haven't felt any real temptation because I've just found myself with crushes on very straight guys and have so felt safe hanging out with them.
I also find it interesting that your wife has shown no desire to reach out to other women in mixed orientation marriages, but then again some people are more self-sufficient emotionally. My wife just last week was lamenting that she had no close friends. For both she and I, we both seem to have to be the ones to initiate any invites with friends. It's odd, but maybe it's our personalities.
Anyway, I'm glad you can be so open with your wife, even if there's so much she doesn't understand. I have yet to get up the nerve or feel inspired to share with my wife what I'm going through. She has so much on her plate with her own family and raising our little ones.

Beck said...

NED: Yes, to a degree, it makes sense that if my "needs" are met with others, I can be a better father and husband. Yet, that can be taken to an extreme and those needs can become more important that family and marriage. It's a balancing act... not enough, I get out of balance and feel like a volcano ready to errupt, too much, and my wife feels neglected and I feel a jerk. Just right... well, that's the balance of "needs" I'm seeking.

Beck said...

SCOTT: Thanks for catching up. It's important to me to know that you are still out there, even if I'm hiding over here in the private blogging world... I still need to know that you're around, so thanks for checking in.

Gay vs. straight friends - I need both... and the attractions are there for both. I tend to allow myself to get attached to certain guys - for most of my life, it's been the "safe" friendship where the closeness is all that there will be for straightness keeps the guy from crossing the line. But, my new found friendships tend to cross the lines if I don't watch it and aren't as safe. But the need is the same either way.

The difference now, is that I'm talking to my wife about it. I'm promising to be more honest with her and to not have rendezvous encounters without her knowledge and approval. For the most part it's all good, and I am blessed, as you are, with a superb wife. She's just a bit slower than Sarah on grasping it all and sees it more from her point-of-view.

But, I don't want to hurt her and I respect and appreciate your example of how you are handling similar needs and situations in your marriage.

Beck said...

CRISCO: Getting up the nerve and sharing what you're going through - that's the challenge of the day. For me, it's been two stages... about five years apart. First stage was just admitting that I was gay and all that goes with that realization and her accepting it and loving me just the same. The second, however, of needing relationships with guys and having that support with gay guys - that's been almost as difficult to face, be truthful about, and come to some mutual decision. But, the spirit is there and the commitment to make it work is stronger now that I've done it, and I encourage you, when you feel it is right and necessary, to do the same.

The lesson of the past few months for me is that it is easy to lie, but it is hard to admit to have lied for years. The hiding it from her has been the most hurtful part for her, beyond anything else I may have done. Moral of the story: I don't know, I'm still working on that one...

Bravone said...

Excellent comments. On this one, I totally agree with Scott. I have always had straight friends, and while they do fill part of my male bonding needs, they are incapable of fully fulfilling my male relationship need for the very reason that your next post discusses about Matt (I think that is his name.) Straight guys are simply unable to relate and/or oblivious to the need for a good hug for example.

When I am around my gay friends, hugging, expressing feelings of friendship and support come naturally. In most cases, there is no sexual attraction on either part, simply a commonality that we both understand and fulfill naturally.

When I text my best straight friend, if he responds, it is very factual and to the point. A text from a gay friend usually includes a 'love you man' or 'have a great day' attached.

Just being with someone who understands the thoughts we are are having, the experiences we have faced, and the challenges we endure means tons, and words never need even need to be exchanged. With gay friends, there is a built in understanding that I so appreciate.

I don't think that God intends us to resolve every issue or have every need fulfilled in marriage alone. Certainly our spouses should be the focal point of our lives, but why would God have created Quorums, visiting teaching etc. if he didn't intend for us to interact and grow from someone besides our spouse?

Beck said...

BRAVONE: Thanks for these comments.

Having known me all these years, you definitely know, and have witnessed personally, my interaction with other guys and the good that can come from those connections and interactions. I thrive on them. I become the REAL person that I am inside and I blossom and grow from those interactions and connections.

My world has expanded into the world of gay friends, though few they may be, and there is a difference... and the line of just safe friendship with oblivious but gorgeous straight guys is blurred when faced with the challenge that both gay guys can be attracted to each other and take the good aspects of connection to the next level.

It's finding that balance of "good connections" I'm seeking... for so easily can I slip or do I want to take it more deeply and really "bond" with another guy in ways that may be damaging and destroy this marriage.