Friday, August 20, 2010

Carl and I are Separating (get ready, this is a long one!)

I wrote this with Carl's permission. He's okay that I'm sharing this with you. Please read it with sensitivity. Thanks!

Carl and I are separating. Four and a half years ago, I married a homosexual man in the Mt. Timpanogos LDS temple. At the time, I knew he was gay, and I really didn’t see the weirdness in it. He had chosen to live in a heterosexual relationship and enjoy all the blessings and privileges of such a union. No one counseled me about it or told me the incredibly high failure rate of this type of marriage. Some people talked to Carl about how hard it would be, but no one spoke to me and gave me some cold, hard statistics. I just figured we both wanted it, so it would work.

I loved Carl so much, I mean in a romantic way. Sure enough, that love deepened to a more real, sustainable love. The thing is, the romantic part went away completely. Not because I wanted it to, but because the romance was completely one-sided (all from me!). I read Dr. Laura books about how to keep your husband happy and excited to be with you. I tried losing weight, asking how he liked my hair the best, allowing him to pick out my clothes, even wearing make up! I was just trying anything that would give me a clue as to what this guy wanted. I finally accepted, probably about 2 years into our marriage, that it wasn’t me he wanted. It wasn’t any woman he wanted!

I remember being really nervous when I felt like it was time to start a family, because I didn’t know if Carl could freely give of himself to a child when he didn’t even feel capable giving his heart to me, his wife. Carl is a very good, loving man, and he felt like since he was already in this marriage for life, he could handle any responsibility that came along with it. So, he was okay having a baby with me. So, we had one! Our beautiful little Jude was born December 28, 2008. Jude is hands down, the most wonderful, perfect thing that has come out of our marriage. If I had to go through all the struggles of feeling sexually rejected and alone again, I would absolutely do it again 10 times if it meant I could have such a beautiful gift in the end! He has blessed both of our lives immeasurably, and the scariest part about separating from Carl is I don’t know if we’ll be able to return the blessings. Jude is my number one worry in all of this mess. I keep hoping that because he is so young he won’t remember leaving his dad who he loves so much.

Family members have asked me, “So, you’ve made it this far. Why are you separating now?” I believe there have been some refining fires in our lives that have forced us to see the true nature of our relationship. Here are the fires. . .

1) January 1, 2010: My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly of a massive heart attack

2) February 15, 2010: We moved clear across the country to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where we didn’t know a soul except for each other. The influences of our family members were gone.

3) March 30, 2010: Carl told me how lonely he had been for a really long time, and that if we didn’t change our course, he didn’t think he could last another 20 years in a married relationship.

After discussing all this, we think all these things just piled up. I was grieving the loss of my dad and taking care of Jude, and was not completely emotionally available to Carl. At the same time, all of Carl’s “cheerleaders” or family members who believed he could do it were no longer around. All we had was each other, and we realized there was really nothing between us. It was like being roommates with someone, except with the expectation to be committed to each other and to pretend to be excited about it. I don’t know how to convey what this really feels like. It’s more than just a “rough spot”. If it was, it would be the longest-lasting, most continual rough spot I can imagine. Do you see the trickiness of it? Carl’s attraction to men will never, ever go away as long as he is alive. I could be the most giving, loving wife in the world, and Carl’s neurology would not respond. He will never have a natural inclination to procreate and be part of a traditional family. The proof of that is that he never has! He’s had a desire to do the right thing. This has all been out of duty, hoping to please those who are watching him. It was, of course, really hard for me to realize this as a woman who thought she had found her one true love. It was hard to realize I had never been desired, from the very beginning. The LDS church’s official position on the subject (of course, I was na├»ve and didn’t know this before I made covenants) is that people with same-sex attraction should NOT get married. Now I know why!

Sorry, I guess I felt like I had to defend our decision to separate. It is hard for LDS people who make and keep covenants to understand sometimes.

In all of this, I find myself incredibly sympathetic to Carl’s side of things. Can you imagine never EVER allowing yourself to even have a crush on someone because that someone happened to be the “wrong” sex? To suppress feelings as strong as romantic love your entire life. . . through PUBERTY? Oh yikes! Some people are still convinced that homosexuality is a choice. I guess it is sometimes, like maybe in the case of sex addicts who need to change things up to get the same rise, but Carl will whole-heartedly assure you he did not choose this lot in life! Why would he choose to feel damned, inferior, like he had to compensate for some “weakness” he has? Are you kidding me? I don’t care how messed up your family life was, no one would CHOOSE to be homosexual!! It is so so hard! All scientific evidence (including studies done by biology professors at BYU) strongly suggests that children are born gay or straight. It has something to do with the hormones in the womb during the second trimester of pregnancy, and it affects 5% of all pregnancies, regardless of race or culture, and even in several animal species. There are all kinds of theories out there as to why nature would select for homosexuality. One thing I am absolutely sure of is that it IS part of God’s plan. He is 100% aware of every person and animal out there with same-sex attraction and He loves them just as much as everyone else, because they are His children and He made them that way. He even loves them when they choose to enter into sexual relationships with other homosexuals. And not so secretly, I think He understands it.

The suicide rate for homosexuals is 5 times higher than for straight people. There is all kinds of self-hatred that goes on. You won’t see it in wild gay pride parades and half-clad males wearing women’s clothing. Instead it exists in their quiet moments alone, when there is painful time for reflection and wondering if it would be better to just be dead, to not have to face the choice of hurting their family members or which degree of glory they are worthy of. Carl had a great point about primary kids who might be feeling the beginnings of same-sex attraction. Our kids are taught from day 1 that they can grow up, get married in the temple, and it gives them a ticket to live in the highest degree of glory with their spouse forever, and create worlds and have children forever. Well, 5% of primary children hear that and become terrified. One in 20 children thinks they are incapable of that kind of life. Why would they strive and grit their teeth and work so hard for a reward they doubt they could actually commit to? Many of them would rather take a lower degree of glory where they could be with others who are like them. There is really no motivation for a gay person to be celibate their whole lives because, unless homosexuality is a “disease”, it cannot be changed in the next life, and they will miss out entirely on their chance for romantic love if they don’t seize the day. This is getting very doctrinal. I’m just saying, there is not much motivation for a gay person to stay single his entire life.

On my end, I read a book by Carol Lynn Pearson called “No More Goodbyes” about how to support our loved ones who face this incredible trial. What I got out of this book is that our job is to simply love. Quit judging, quit thinking we, as straight people, know what is best for gay people. Just stop thinking and love and welcome them in. If we must teach our children about same-sex couples so they understand what’s going on, then we must teach. Sorry it’s hard. Sorry they are asking questions at younger and younger ages. Some people I know are offended that anyone would try to teach about same-sex marriage in schools. I don’t know if they are worried that their children will hear about it and want to “convert” to homosexuality or what. I think that’s a ridiculous argument. Your kids are either gay or straight. They’re not going to change just because it’s brought up in school. I don’t actually know where I stand on this issue. I just know I hate that argument that your kids will suddenly want to marry someone of their same sex. It is our job to teach our children love. I don’t think we should teach our children that promiscuity is okay. Carl made the point that a lot of gay men act like animals and are extremely promiscuous, only because they are treated like animals. A lot of people in LDS culture, unfortunately, think it is okay to think of gay people as “over there” or somehow separate from us, like in a leper colony. That is wrong. We are to welcome them in, help them feel secure. They are our brothers and sisters and they live WITH us, not apart from us. If someone feels loved and secure, they will not be crazy and promiscuous, searching frantically for some inkling of real love. That means introducing yourself and your children to the gay couple next door, allowing your children to play with their children, inviting gay couples to your dinner table. Be charitable, be generous, be loving. Of course use discernment. There are gross gay people just as much as there are gross straight people. But there is no reason why good, decent people should not be welcomed into your home, black, white, yellow, gay, straight, disabled. There is WAY too much judging going on. They’re just people. Just love, just love. Sorry! That’s my soapbox.

I also want to talk about the atonement and forgiveness. When my husband told me he was afraid he wasn’t capable of sticking with this marriage, I was definitely hurt and angry. One time, I was so angry I thought I might rip his face off for treating me like this! And Jude like this! I felt so out of control I talked to one of my friends who also happens to be a social worker with good training in counseling. He told me that I would go through a whole gamut of emotions, none of them comfortable or pleasant. They are part of the grieving process, letting go of the expectations I had for my life. I wanted 4 kids (all birthed naturally, of course!) and a huge dog and a remote house in a wooded area that was little inside but had TONS of outdoor living space where we could play; And I wanted a husband who would come home hungry, not just for dinner, but for ME! I wanted someone who wanted me in every way a husband possibly can want his wife. I never had that, and maybe I never will. My friend said that when the anger or sadness comes, I need to invite it in, just feel it completely, acknowledge it, and let it go. I should not allow myself to let it linger and latch onto something inside me. This advice has been SO IMPORTANT as I try to retain my softness and my ability to give love to others. It has been a beautiful experience, letting go of the anger, knowing that Someone has already taken care of it, and then letting His love fill me to take the place of the anger. I have never felt so cradled, so looked-after, and so loved. I am full of love, and I find myself being a better mom and friend because I have so much love I just have to give it away! I was reading in Alma 34 where we are instructed to plead for mercy to replace justice in our own wrong-doings. When I read it recently, though, I realized we have to plead for mercy to fill our hearts, so we will not hope that others get what’s coming to them. It’s hard to explain, but I just know that when I read it, I wanted to be like Christ, and have mercy on Carl instead of praying that justice would be served. To my surprise, I have forgiven Carl (and taken responsibility for my own part in all of this), but we are separating because I can’t trust Carl to never find a relationship outside our marriage. I can’t trust him to remain faithful since he has such strong feelings of same-sex attraction, and since he has been lonely for so long. He also is worried about this, probably more than I am. And that’s it. I love Carl, and he will always be welcome in my home. And if he ever finds a mature, stable, permanent partner, he will also be welcome in my home (though I have made it clear I won’t have the “18-year-old boyfriend of the month” situation coming into my house!). I am at peace, and I can only say it is because of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is so so beautiful, and truly passeth my understanding.