Thinking about it conjures the gut-wrenching feelings which knotted my stomach when someone told me he didn't want to pursue dating me anymore, that he wanted to find happiness in fighting the struggle, that he couldn't face a lifetime of questioning and wanted conviction. I could tell by the way he said it that I'd already lost him, and I wanted to respect his decision, so I didn't bother trying to argue. I didn't insist that I have as much or more conviction now as ever, that it's in different things that I had overlooked for so long, that it's in principles I'd masked with doctrines and rules...and...and... I was sure it wouldn't matter anyway. Knowing him and the dynamics of his situation, the grandiosity of eternal vision and righteous conviction offered by the religion he had been questioning and the organization he had just been introduced to were too great a temptation to withstand at the expense of harmonious family relationships and appealing community I knew and had left behind. Surely, it was more seductive or, if you prefer, promising, than any mere companionship, love, or personal investment I could offer for this life only. The lifelong love of a mere man versus the eternal joy and glory of godhood. Great. No contest.
I understood that to those who believe in LDS doctrine, he made a valiant choice to sacrifice something he wanted for something he wanted more and that his choice would be rewarded in eternity. 'To be completely honest,' the fact that he made that choice was a reflection of exactly one of the things I loved so much about him. Ah, the irony. I also understood that, from a popular LDS perspective, no human relationship is worth trading one's relationship with God or one's eternal potential. That operates, of course, under the assumption/belief not only that God exists but that to choose same-sex companionship in this life is, in fact, forfeiting one's relationship with God or one's eternal potential.
But to me, having doubted the existence and/or nature of God or at the very least whether God's sanctioning and condemning of relationships is as cut and dry as 'the church' has believed, the promise of eternal glory for living a celibate life or finding a wife doesn't hold quite so much seductive power. So it felt a little like giving up a potentially wonderful relationship in favor of the promise of living with the elves in the Grey Havens: losing a glorious reality for a beautiful myth. The reality is that our relationship was yet to be seen, maybe no more a guarantee than the possibility that he might find happiness by himself or with a wife and live happily ever after. I understood that, but it was clear from my emotional reaction to the experience that I had insecurities or fears around it beyond the relationship. It was hard to accept the reality and painful to feel like he was choosing an illusory fantasy over the real and present me, and wondering if that's how it would always be with the kind of person I fall for.
I also understood that from the perspective of his faithful LDS parents, for example, he would have been making exactly that kind of trade if he were to have chosen to be with me: trading the reality of eternal life for the illusory fantasy of happiness through same-sex companionship. As much as I loved him, they loved him a lot longer, and surely far more deeply, than I had the chance to, and even if I believed their views to be distorted, I certainly didn't want our relationship to bring such pain upon others who dearly love him, or to strain the relationships which matter most. That was part of why there were some things I held back. I do believe a relationship shouldn't be bound or determined by the expectations and beliefs of others, but family is important to me, and I would just much rather not be the devil who led someone's son astray from salvation. That was a constant concern of mine in that relationship, and I'm very reluctant to knowingly take on that particular challenge again.
Though I've wondered whether it'd be hard to deal with a companion believing things I think are likely myths, there's also something I like about being with someone who just has a simple faith and believes things I may not fully agree with but which I can respect. I don't want someone who's just jaded and believes "life's a bitch and then you die", which seems to be the most common alternative. And I'm not attracted to people who are cavalier about principles or morality. I'm turned off by "whatever, I am what I am and everyone else can take a flying leap." I tend to be attracted to the types who seem to have the tendency to believe in "something more", which most often manifests as religious beliefs. Maybe it's because I am attracted to sensitive dreamers, or those who are a bit simpler in their outlook and prefer to just accept rather than question ideas they like, or...something. But my worry, after a couple of recent experiences, is that I will continually fall for those who can't handle my outlook, who want more religion in their lives.
I've tended to let the generalization of relationships like this focus my attention on what I cannot offer someone, and I think I shoot myself in the foot with that focus, confirming it in a self-fulfilling way. I worry that it could become a pattern: in the back of my mind, I figure I can't offer what the church offers, so I don't even bother 'competing', and I wait for them to realize that and go back to the soul-saving safety of church activity, which necessarily leaves me alone again. I briefly wondered, in the situation above, if things might have been different if I'd had my own coordinated effort to show the nourishment of positive philosophy, engagement in worthy causes, and connection with a community of supportive and truth-seeking people to offer some of those things the church offers. I realize how foolish that may sound when you believe it's man against God, that such efforts are empty without the power of the Spirit which can only be found within the gospel. It might seem diminutive to assert his decision was based on social psychology rather than on divine guidance. I respect that. And I concede that I probably don't fully know his reasons. Whatever the motives or reasons, he made the decision. I quickly decided it probably wouldn't have made a difference if I'd done certain things differently, that a relationship with me simply didn't offer what he decided he wanted, and it was pointless to speculate. But it did spur something in me.
I'm trying to remember what I do have to offer and to be ready to share that better the next time around. I'm trying to learn to better articulate what I do believe and voicing common ground and insights I've gained rather than highlighting primarily what I have stopped believing. I'm trying to identify traits, principles, and skills I think are really valuable to a relationship and some which are fairly unique, even if they do come with challenges. *wink* As I re-enter employment and work on sorting out what to do with myself professionally to become financially stable again, I think I'll be a pretty solid candidate for a "real" relationship in time.
But I'm also finding it to be a fairly difficult exercise because no matter how much I come up with, I can't quite shake the notion that I'll always fall for a certain kind of person who needs or wants what I can't offer, and the voices persist: "but you can't offer exaltation, or harmony with his family, or firm belief in God (which is still a huge deal in the U.S.), or an entire community of people assuring him he's righteous and going to a good place in heaven, or the rewarding feeling of being usefully engaged in service in a community which recognizes it, or 'conviction' of a dogmatic or institutional kind, or, or, or..."
For this reason and others, I'm not interested in dating right now. Not yet. I obviously have some things to sort out, myself. I wonder if I'll ever have enough sorted out to feel worthy of and ready for the kind of relationship I want? I certainly won't if I sit around wondering if I ever will. I suppose I need to tune out the nay-saying voices for now and focus on becoming better and building a life worth sharing.
...OK fine, I'll not leave this on a purely rhetorical note like I tend to do in my journal without acting on it. I have plenty of challenging personality traits a future companion would have to deal with, most of which come out in very unintentional ways, and I'm honestly not sure how many people could handle those. But as "they" say, I can't promise the sun, the moon, and the stars (especially not the [Celestial] sun), but I can promise such things as:
- abiding love,
- loyalty to the relationship,
- fiscal responsibility (...with exceptions...keep me in line *wink*),
- conviction of principles,
- strong values,
- adaptability to change and others' needs,
- striving to stay physically fit and healthy,
- a thirst for truth,
- appreciation of arts,
- fresh-baked goodies,
- trying new foods, movies, events, techniques...,
- love of the simple things,
- willingness to put partner's needs before my own comfort,
- always something to looking forward to,
- appreciation of the mysteries,
- respect for others' beliefs,
- family focus,
- love of children,
- strong friendships, and of course,
- quality spooning.