I was supposed to have another session with my therapist...
I didn't go.
Instead, I was faced with my wife wanting to discuss the "issues" at hand. She was concerned that I was not "trying hard enough" that I was "giving up". So, that became the priority and we talked... and cried... and misunderstood... and struggled... and cried some more...
Finally, I had to go to a meeting. So, our communication transitioned to email. Part of the discussion centered on fruit. Citrus fruit to be exact!
Believe it or not -- I just ate my very first grapefruit (I've never had more than two bites before, except when I was in Calcutta, and then it didn't taste like grapefruit -- it tasted like an orange). Wow! Are you impressed? I even squoze out the juice onto my spoon the way you do. And I enjoyed it.
This is how I did it:
I thought about it (grapefruit) a lot . I decided I am now an adult and can put aside my juvenile tastes and prejudices. I can't expect a grapefruit to taste like a sweet orange. It is, after all, a grapefruit. I need to appreciate its very grapefruit-y qualities. The very acidity needs to be savored and enjoyed.
It's kind of like learning to like dark chocolate -- which is funny, because I love dark chocolate now, and a few years ago, I couldn't choke it down.
And I WANT to like grapefruit!
Anyway, when I came in I took the grapefruit out of the refrigerator and sliced it open and sectioned it with a serrated knife, just like I do for you.
Then I sat down with it. Just before I ate it, I prayed for a miracle. -- and I got it. I actually liked even the very first bite! I was expecting it to be a grapefruit, and it was really a good grapefruit!
I ate every single bite, and even the juice at the end! I will definitely be eating more grapefruit from now on.
At first I took this analogy as accepting me as a grapefruit and being grateful for accepting me for who I am and not trying to make me be who I am not... but the more I thought about it, the more the message was... "see, I can change my tastes and desires if I just try hard enough". The subtle meaning of wishing that I would try harder to "change my tastes" came through and I became angry and frustrated that she, after all this time, and after all our struggles together, would still think that my "issues" would "change" if I would just "try hard enough".
So... if you are still with me at this point, here is my response:
This is great! I really appreciate your analogy here and your spirit of trying to change your tastes and choosing to overcome past prejudices and moving into new experiences. This is fantastic. Grapefruit is good. It may be an acquired taste for you, but it is still good. You were expecting it to be what it was, a grapefruit, and not to be an orange or a lemon. And with this perspective, you were able to enjoy the grapefruit for what it was.
You were not naturally "attracted" to grapefruit. You were okay with that because grapefruit didn't do anything for you and you didn't like its taste and you were fine in not choosing to eat grapefruit or associate with it and it was totally fine with you that grapefruit never would enter your life because you had no natural interest in grapefruit. But in the right mindset, you could change your mind and CHOOSE to be "attracted" to grapefruit. At the same time, you were able to accept the grapefruit for what it is.
My experience with you is very much the same. As hard as it is to say ( I am trying to be brutally honest here, so bear with me) I have not always been naturally "attracted" to you in a physical sense (I have been attracted to you in every other sense, from day one, including physically) and this has nothing to do with you. You are you. You are beautiful, just as the grapefruit is beautiful. And though I had the tendency not to physically be naturally attracted to all of your physical beauty and eroticness that makes you so appealing and wonderful sexually, I still loved you and CHOSE you and have become "attracted" to you in seeing and experiencing and desiring your beauty in so many ways. Though my natural likes and desires were elsewhere, though I didn't recognize this at the time, I CHOSE to be with you, to bond with you, to find joy with you.
Now, whether you will continue to like grapefruit or not remains to be seen. As for me, I have CHOSEN to be with you and want to desire you and don't want to go anywhere else.
But, to compare sexuality with natural likes and dislikes of food is somehow not a true comparison. Some professionals have argued that women don't really have a 'sexual orientation" as men do. I think it would be difficult for you to put yourself in an equivalent position as I am in. It isn't as simple as that. It isn't like just flipping a switch. If it were, then why is it such a big deal - anyone could change on a dime if they wanted to enough, right? But they don't. And why don't they? Do they just not desire to change their attractions hard enough? Do they just not sit down at the table and eat in the right frame of mind? Can they not get over that a grapefruit doesn't taste like an orange and so forget it?
I have tried. Many have tried. I hope you are not insinuating that I haven't tried hard enough, and that if I just would try hard enough all of this "natural attraction" stuff would just magically go away and disappear... I had a sour look on my face when I came home today because I felt you really thought that it really was as easy as wishing or desiring or trying and things would change if I'd just do it hard enough... I believe you know better.
This isn't something that I have chosen. Did you choose to be attracted to men? I know you say that I'm the only man you are attracted to, but I don't believe it. That would put you as an extreme oddity in all humankind - to be attracted to only one person. I don't mean that you want to be sexual with another man, but do you find men attractive, sexy, interesting? I can't be the only man that you are attracted to. But, say that I AM the only man you have ever been attracted to... so, why are you attracted to me? Did you choose to be attracted to me? Or was it just something natural that happened? You often answer my question of why you love me with "just because". Just because! And why did it happen? As repulsive as it may sound to you, why were you not attracted to another woman? You see, you didn't just sit down and choose to be attracted to me. It just naturally happened.
I can honestly say that I was instantly "attracted" to you from the first moment I saw you. You sparked something inside me that no other woman ever had done before or ever since. I can't explain it other than it was a miracle. And I have held onto that magical miracle of fireworks that went off inside me when I first met you. I have never forgotten those feelings or desires. This is a true "tender mercy" that I hold dear and sacred in my life.
As you are my grapefruit, some men are oranges to me. I am naturally attracted to oranges. I didn't choose to be, I just am. I like oranges. I like being around and interacting with oranges that are like me. That doesn't mean that I don't desire my grapefruit. You aren't an acquired taste, but instead a different taste, a beautiful taste, a wonderful pleasure.
I think this analogy isn't going anywhere successfully...
What I'm trying to say is that choosing who you are attracted to isn't as easy as choosing what to like or dislike at the dinner table. And explaining why you like or dislike something isn't really logical or explainable. It just is something that is part of you, and desiring it to be otherwise is not enough. I don't' care about the reasons why there are these natural dislikes or likes (be they environmentally caused, or caused by my father, or any other outside source or influence), they just are.
Now, what I can CHOOSE is what I do with this. I can CHOOSE to manage this, live with it, and I can CHOOSE to not accept it as a viable alternative for the way I WANT to live my life. I can CHOOSE something better. I can CHOOSE you. And that choice, though easily dismissed as "convenient", is so much more than convenient. I desire eternity. I desire a family. I desire a partner to share things with forever. I desire and CHOOSE to do these things with you. I desire YOU!
That said, I can lay out different scenarios of how to cope / live / deal with this situation of natural attraction and my CHOOSING you. I can:
1) stay away from all men at all times who I'm attracted to, and isolate myself from all friends of any kind where some kind of attraction can possibly develop, and try to focus and concentrate solely on you.
2) opt to cheat and lie and go behind your back and have rendezvous and encounters that lead to who knows what and hope that you won't be aware and try to get away with a double life.
3) choose to throw in the towel, give up, and move on - admitting we tried, but it just didn't work.
or 4) try to find a balance between what is a "natural attraction" and a beautiful relationship of desires and attractions with you.
I am not suggesting that I desire emotional or romantic connections with other men, and I'm certainly not desiring sexual connections with other men (I hope you consider me moral and committed enough to my values and core beliefs to know that I would never do that), but I am suggesting that I am happiest inside myself when I am able to express who I am, who I naturally am, and connect with other men, even in a bonding or brotherly-affectionate way. Though they are painful times for you to recall, I can say that my time in the MTC (as well as with the Young Men) were happy times for me because I was feeling natural and truly myself. And, if I do say so myself, you were "attracted" to me in the MTC because you saw how at ease and comfortable I was with myself being myself and you found those very qualities and values and attitudes and aura of my persona as being "endearing" and "attractive", even someone that you would consider marrying. I could say that you were and are attracted to me because of who I am, who the real me is, which includes these qualities and characteristics about myself. And in that environment, I was attracted to you and I did desire to marry you and I felt that we were happy and good for each other - and we bonded even more because I was myself, gregarious, free-spirited, engaging and involved.
I want to be that person again. Not because I want to have encounters or affairs, but because it will make me a better person with you as well. If I am more comfortable with myself, I can be more comfortable with eating the grapefruit and enjoying and desiring it for what it is - a beautiful grapefruit.
Since our discussion of a month ago, I have not had any physical, emotional, or any other kind of relationship with anyone. I have removed myself from all hugs at church (including priesthood hugs). I have not touched or even shaken hands with Will. I have not met or connected physically or in person with any of my MOHO chat friends. I have removed myself from all of these. I have done this because I told you that I would and that I did not desire to hurt you or deceive you or be dishonest. The hope was in so doing, I would be more focused on you. I have done it to restore your trust in me. And you are grateful for this step of honesty and devotion and intent that I have shown and you've said so even today.
But, the funny thing is, the more I isolate myself and remove myself from bonding with others, in friendship and brotherly affection and connections that are more natural yet platonic, the more I become uncomfortable with myself and this discomfort translates into indifference to you, to everyone, to life. I become disconnected and lose any desires I might have to eat the grapefruit at all. And I become irritable and disinterested in reaching out to everyone, especially you. I become assexual. As I've tried to counter this trend, it has proven true time and time again.
So, is there another option? Can there be a way where I can still enjoy being with oranges that can increase my desires for the grapefruit? Can I have connections in my life that are non-threatening to you and honest, that make me happier and more content with myself so that I can be more desirous of the physical nature of our marital relationship? I think so. It seems counter-intuitive, but is it really? If we are happy and content with who we are, then aren't we naturally more inclined to make those around us happy as well? It's the opposite of "misery loves company".
You want me to desire you more. You want me to try harder. You want me to not give up.
I want to desire you more! I want to try harder! I want to not give up!
But, the path we are on isn't working. I can't just flip the switch and the light comes on, or the taste buds change.
I am not seeking relationships that will tear down or destroy our marriage. I want relationships that will build up and make our marriage even stronger. I just need to figure out how to balance it all and make it work and have you understand me better and trust me.
You asked me what these other married guys do with their wives. I know that they work on it a lot. They are thinking of small thoughts of kindness, and focusing on how to be better husbands and fathers all the time. But they all struggle with the physical aspect of the relationship. It isn't easy. It takes work. And all of the other wives deal with the same feelings of rejection, of not being wanted, of being ugly, of not being good enough. It is the same. The ones who are making it work the most are those that are connected with others in an honest, non-secretive environment and the marital relationships seem to improve as the threat is removed.
I do not want you to suffer anymore. I don't want to blame yourself for any of this. And there is nothing that you can do to change it. It wasn't your fault. But it isn't mine either. I did not choose this. But I can choose how to live with it. And what I have tried (hiding it from you) doesn't work. What I have tried (ignoring it and hoping it goes away) doesn't work. What I have tried (praying and pleading with the Lord to remove it from me) does not work. What I have tried (isolating myself from all contact with other men) also really doesn't work. All that leads to is me bottling up inside myself, and then threatening to explode!
So what is left? I've got to think that finding a way to connect and be "myself" and do so honestly with you, can work to make my happiness with myself and comfort level with myself spill over to my happiness and comfort and attractions and desires for you. If this doesn't work, then I guess I'm open to other suggestions. But I'm not going to stop trying to make it work.
What I don't want is to keep going as we are, and making you suffer and constantly doubt yourself and inflict pain and suffering on you, or make you worry about me and doubt me and question my every desire. Instead, I want to enjoy and appreciate and desire grapefruit as much as you did today, even more... I want to totally embrace grapefruit and envelope myself in its sweetness and juiciness and goodness and savory delight. (But, I also want and need and crave oranges in my life)... bottom line, I LOVE YOU. And I am still here CHOOSING to be here with you. I want to be IN LOVE with you again because I LOVE YOU.
So what do you suggest? Where do we go from here?
That left me in fear of her response...
We didn't say much to each other in the evening. I was on pins and needles. I was reading in bed and she came in and didn't say anything. Finally, she joined me in bed and snuggled into me and whispered:
"I read your email."
"Uh huh... and?" I mumbled.
"I think I get it."
"Get what?" I asked hesitantly.
"Um... I know you have to hug, but do you really have to hug everyone?" she asked with a genuine and sweet smile.
And then she added... "Um... and do you really need to go to lunch with your MOHO friends every day?"
I smiled back and we turned off the lights... :)
So, how did I do? Was it a good thing to call off the therapy session?