Monday, April 30, 2007

SGA, Romantic Love and Marriage

Last night for hours I enjoyed consuming my way through the Blog feast prepared by Mormons with same gender attraction. So much good stuff, so little time! A frequently discussed issue is "Should I marry or stay married to a good friend whom I love when I don't feel much physical attraction for her." I cannot really answer this for anyone besides myself, but maybe my thoughts may help someone struggling for his or her answers. Foxx reviewed a book on the social history of marriage that started me thinking about my philosophy of marriage. The ideas that follow are not all original to me. I have read and gathered from many sources.

In the scriptures we have Abraham sending his servant off to pick a wife for his son. The servant brings her back "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her." Genesis 24:67. He married her and then he learned to love her. Because of Lehi's instructions the wife selection pool for Nephi and his brothers was just Ishmael's daughters. They married and then worked out their relationships during the physical hardships that followed.

It seems that down through the ages love was not the basis for mate selection. People married and some of them learned to love each other. One philosopher said that "we owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity: romantic love and gunpowder."

President Spencer W. Kimball said, "'Soul mates' are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price."

This suggests to me that almost any two people can come together and build a loving relationship if they are willing to put in the work and sacrifice to grow together in love. A therapist and Church leader friend of mine said: "We act our way into a new way of feeling more often than we feel our way into a new way of acting. 'Love' in the scriptures is a verb, not a noun. Love is not as much a feeling as it is a way of acting, no matter how we feel." (President Kimball told our country in the June 1976 Ensign to love our enemies so that they will no longer be our enemies, instead of building up stores of weapons to fight them.) Individually we tend to build up defensive tactics to defend ourselves. Reaching out kindly and sensitively helps us break down our own barriers and invites others to likewise let down their defenses.

My friend said: "You don't love a person forever unless you decide to day by day. Love is a daily decision."

What about sexual attraction? I remember sitting in a BYU marriage class before I was married. On the board was a drawing of male and female genitalia as the professor discussed sexual relations with the class. I remember looking at the female drawings and hoping that in marriage I could develop an attraction to the female body as strongly as I felt towards the male body. I hoped that boobs would excite me as much as pecs. For me, after many years, this has not happened. I do enjoy carressing my wife and feeling her touch. I enjoy giving her pleasure. I enjoy cuddling with her and enjoy the fulfilling oneness we feel in our intimate relations. The recognized sexuality experts, Drs. Masters and Johnson, said that the most important techniques that lead to sexual satisfaction are not developed in the bedroom. They are developed in the every day relationships outside of the bedroom. Through patience and acceptance and flexibility and creativity over time my wife have found fulfillment in our intimate relations. I think that is because we have used these same principles outside of the bedroom.

I have never experienced the pink clouds of romantic love or the surge of passionate physical desire in our relationship. But I do experience caring, respect, trust, empathy, friendship, and unconditional love in our marriage. We are committed to similar goals: to raise self-confident, caring children, to provide service in the Church and community, and to stay in tune with God.

Neither of us are perfect people. Marriage for us has been on the job training, with many mistakes contributing to many hard times. There have been times when we each wondered if we made the right choice to be married to each other. This is when our Temple Covenants have come to our rescue. The public commitments of the Temple marriage ceremony, supported by families, Church, and society have helped us get through the rough times when positive feelings wore thin because of stress and conflict in the relationship, economic challenges, sickness, and children. My wife and I have come to where we are because we have been both commited to higher purposes than the bliss of continual emotional, economic, physical security and satisfaction. It has been challenging. The Covenant we made to each other and God and society has helped us through many rough spots and brought us to where we are today.

I had a very immature understanding of “love”when I married. I hoped that it had to be more than physical attraction because of my SGA. It is! I wouldn’t trade our relationship for anything in this world. We have even survived raising many teenagers! (They are good kids and, in spite of their imperfect parents, I think that they will make this world a better place.) I still am not above temptation and will never be, but I thank God for the Temple Marriage Covenant that has helped us get this far along the path.

I do not criticize someone who has chosen another path, to not marry or to divorce because of SGA. I encourage each to seek out God's guidance and to follow and learn from the path they choose.


Loyalist (with defects) said...

thanks for the words and insight.

SG said...

Welcome to this little world of faithful LDS married or wanting and hoping to be married men who are same-gender attracted. Your experiences are exactly the same as many of us. It's refreshing to have another married man who is committed to remaining married!

Forester said...

I'm amazed each day that my wife still wants to be with me because I know she deserves better. We to are committed to our marriage covenants and to a higher purpose. We've entered into a time in our life where our kids take everything we can give and we have little left to give each other. We both miss how we used to take care of each other better, before the kids came. As much as I love our children, I look forward to the day when the children are gone and she and I will have more time to give to each other.

-L- said...

Not only does your wife deserve better, forester, but YOU deserve better too. You both want reciprocal sexual desire, and neither of you are getting the full deal. But, that sacrifice is part of the magic of making things work.

Gentlefriend, I do love your post here. You've described something very similar to what I think in a way that is described much better than I have ever done.

Samantha said...

Thank you for being here, for speaking out, for sharing your life with us.

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