No, really. I mean it. Stop laughing.
Before I continue, I'll just say that I am not, in any way, about to say any gay/SSA guy who marries a woman does so for the same reasons as mine or with the same factors. This is only my story, as I remember it.
I had opportunities. A couple of girls were basically ready to go if I were on board. We would have dated a while, and I'm pretty sure we could've married.
I did have this vague sense that somehow, it wasn't right. I wanted it to be. I wanted to have a family more than anything, and I wanted it to be with a righteous, faithful woman who would be a great mother and who loved God first and foremost, as I did, because we would both build our relationship on that love, that spirituality, that singular focus on the glory of God as we raised up a righteous posterity together. And I found such a girl. And another later. And I loved spending time with them. I loved being with them. I even enjoyed physical rough-housing with them as an excuse to be close without all the awkwardness of "making a move" or whatever. As far as I knew, what I felt was what people were supposed to feel when they fell for someone, and I was just hung up on commitment issues, or I might be asexual, or...something. I knew we'd make a great team, and I believed two righteous people could build a life and happy marriage together. I had faith that the Lord would bless us if we were doing everything for the right reasons. I tried to figure out what was missing, but since I couldn't quite figure it out, I held on to what was good and hoped something would come of my prayers and scripture study and talking with other guy friends and parents and that I would just be able to take a leap of faith and start officially dating exclusively. But I wondered why I didn't want to be closer, physically, when my friends were having so much trouble keeping their hands off of each other. I figured my love for these girls was more holy because it clearly had nothing to do with lust. I believed it when I was told how healthy and stable I was because I was so clear-headed about my relationships. I believed I was maybe just 'picky' to a fault.
I could've done it. Looking back, I believe we could have had a very happy life together. We would have had struggles, like all couples, and we both had plenty of growing to do, but we would have done it together. I had never fully faced, let alone vocalized, my attractions at those points in my life. But I know a lot of couples who went into marriages with more baggage than that and worked it out. I still wouldn't recommend starting a marriage that way. At this point, I couldn't fathom marrying someone I haven't been totally open with, someone whose personal questions I couldn't answer completely honestly. But not everyone feels that way, and back in the days I'm thinking of, including before and just after my mission, I didn't realize there was anything to hide anyway, just a nagging curiosity I needn't bother anyone with and which would surely be inconsequential once I was happily married and preparing to have a family.
I'm so glad I listened to my hesitations. I wasn't ready, even though I thought I was. And I would much rather begin a relationship on the kind of open, honest note I now feel ready for. In fact, its hard to say if my relationships with past girls may have been different if I'd been this self-aware back then. Who knows? But I know that, given my circumstances, I'm glad things have worked out as they have. Surprised? Yeah, me too: I forget this sometimes. Even if I wish circumstances had been different, I can't think of any chunk of my life I'd just as soon erase. I learned so much from each and have friendships and experiences from each which instructed and enlarged and challenged me.
Anyway, even though I sometimes wonder how my life might be different, even better, had I married a girl, I'm glad I didn't at the time. I'm glad I didn't start a relationship with a large part of myself in the shadows. I'm glad I've been able to explore my questions and path without the worries of how it might affect a family, even though I know that's just part of being a family and might not consider it a burden if I had one. I'm glad I've learned what I have about myself which I'm not sure I would have allowed myself to learn had I been married. Even though I'll never be perfect enough to be a perfect husband or partner, I'm glad I listened to that quiet inner voice which said, "You have some things to figure out that are essential to the kind of relationship you want and need." I'm glad I listened to the concern I felt when I realized I couldn't look back at her quite the way she looked at me and couldn't imagine putting her through decades of wondering why she wasn't good enough for me to return that gaze. Sometimes, I think I've been afraid to say these things because I don't want to induce someone to unnecessarily regret their own decision to marry or anything like it. But I have to be honest that I'm glad I didn't marry a girl when I thought I could have. And yet, that doesn't mean I would diminish the goodness of these girls by acting like I somehow dodged a bullet or that I think I'd be miserable with them. It just means I think things worked out as was best, with them happily married with children now and me figuring things out. And again, I haven't closed the door on the possibility that a marriage with a woman could (theoretically) potentially not only work but best meet my desires and needs, doable now that I have been through what I've been through and have more perspective. But hashing all of that out in words is still another post...
BIG BUT (a sort of epilogue to not end this post on an unintended note):
In talking with a friend or two (or reading blog entries by some) who did marry before coming to terms with their own homosexuality, they've admitted to times when they've wondered what life might be like had they not married. For example, one might think of his family and realize he wouldn't trade them for anything, and part of him is glad he got married when he did because he's not sure he ever would've consciously chosen to had he come to terms with his own homosexuality more honestly beforehand. One friend said he considers himself blessed to have his wife (and believes his wife when she says she's blessed to have him), even if he does sometimes wonder what it would've been like to have a relationship with a man.
I've replied that even though I'm glad to have my options before me, and even though I firmly believe gay/SSA people should absolutely be up front about their homosexuality before marrying someone, I completely affirm the attitude of being grateful for what one does have and not focusing unnecessarily on what "might have been". What's done is done, and anyone can play that game, but with what purpose? He can't go back and tell her ahead of time. That's over. And he's married with children. Some people believe their only option is to pursue a same-sex relationship or to be a husband and father legally only and to live an otherwise independent life or open the marriage. And I know that you can't always simplify a situation down to "you made a commitment, and it would be selfish to go back on the promises you made." But I still insist that, if at all possible, the best option is to maintain the agreement made at the inception of the relationship, to keep the contract and conditions understood at the beginning, and to stay together for the good of the children if a happy home can be built or restored. Even though I have good friends with children who have divorced, and I understand their situations as well as a never-married gay friend can *smirk* and don't look down on them at all for their decision and see how it's sometimes even better that way, I am always happy when a couple can keep their family together and become a stronger couple through whatever trial they face.
I wonder how many gay folks married to members of the opposite sex who say they wouldn't trade their spouse and family for anything, if they were sent back to before they met their spouse and forgot they ever had a family, and same-sex partnership wasn't proscribed by beliefs and was considered no different from mixed-sex partnership (procreative methods aside), would never have chosen to marry their spouse or even have considered marrying someone of the opposite sex. I wonder how many of them would have instead pursued a relationship with someone of the same sex, without the challenges of a mixed-orientation marriage, and married for life, maybe adopting children. And if they were then to remember their past life in a mixed-orientation marriage, what they would feel, how they would compare their experiences, etc. I think you have to acknowledge that maybe, if society were different, and personal beliefs about truth were different, some would've chosen differently, at least for a while. But the choice they have before them is now.
I've said to such a friend something like, "I believe you wouldn't trade your family for anything, and that's beautiful. And even if you would have been with a guy if you had it to do over again, I don't think you should let that bother you. It's natural to wonder what might have been. If you have to mourn it, mourn it, but I'd say you're right to let it go because you have a really great wife who's a great companion, and you have great kids, and you clearly love all of your family. I'm not one to believe you're just accepting a consolation prize because you weren't able to have the real deal. I believe you are choosing what matters most to you and what you most value, as we all are. What you have has possibly already proven better than what most people have, and better than you might otherwise have had. How can you possibly know? I can tell your family is your greatest joy. The 'what ifs' might always be there to some extent, but if you can let go of them, knowing yourself and your situation, you have a great 'what is' right in front of you. I have to say that as I face the prospect of maybe finding a partner and building a life with him (or possibly her), or possibly never finding anyone after all, or who knows what, what you have now is enviable and beautiful to me in such a meaningful way, even if challenging in ways I may never fully understand. From my vantage point, it could be a shame to trade what you have for what you might have theoretically missed out on and which may or may not prove to be everything your imagination makes it out to be. What you have seems well worth the struggle to keep it, and though I have no illusions about you being perfect, I really respect your perspective and commitment to the most important people in your life and have faith in your ability to continue finding even more joy with them as you have been doing. I know you don't need my support or approval, but I just wanted you to know that this particular skeptical agnostic fully supports you." And I still mean it. But what do you think? For those of you in that place, what is your reaction/response to such thoughts? Are they lacking? Comforting? Meh?