Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I Did Not Sign Up For This

A reader in the desert wants to know about this article entitled: "Gay or straight: He's still your husband":

http://www.beliefnet.com/story/196/story_19628.html


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I can get down with what the rabbi is saying. Relationships are about compromises. Her husband's admission to her of his feelings is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning of a discussion in which they find out if they can compromise or not. I will admit that discussion may never happen because some will be too hurt, angry, confused, making accusations about being "wrong" or just generally shocked to even consider accepting the reality and talking about it. I am not saying the woman isn't entitled to be pissed as hell and feel cheated. She doesn’t have to do a damn thing, but everybody doesn’t let go and give up easily.

If she is going to talk it out, it seems like her first question should be "why have you told me this?" Some will see the husband’s admission as unforgivable and the sign of a further desire to “cash-in". But this is playing the slippery slope game of "I know how everybody's sexuality works based on my subjective observations". The mainstream does this all the time by trying to enforce its dualistic "gay/straight" model on the entire population in the first place. Just the fact that this gentleman has decided he exists on the other side of that arbitrary line is not a statement about what he intends to do about it.

Perhaps he does not need to act on these feelings, but only needed to admit they were present. That may seem like a far-fetched idea, but maybe he has matured and has finally decided not to be intimidated by shame and fear of rejection any longer. Maybe he longs to be genuine and sincere in a desire for greater intimacy. For many people true intimacy trumps sexual preference and fantasy. Perhaps the wife does not require his strict fidelity and is willing to consider allowing him to "cash-in" under certain constraints. She might have her own wishes and desires she wants to explore as well. Maybe she would be willing to tolerate his experimentation if she has some leverage in negotiating how he goes about experimenting. Of course the rabbi didn't say anything about that. Or perhaps they won't be able to find a common ground they can both accept...but that can happen to couples no matter if the issue is sexuality, money or whatever.

Is the argument any different if the husband is admitting an attraction to another woman or type of woman? What if the admission is that he has no interest in sex at all and considers himself asexual? Can you remove sexuality from the wife's letter and replace it with any admission? What if he admits he is republican, or atheist, or chronically depressed, or doesn't want kids, etc.? Isn't it ultimately the same type of challenge? Isn’t the only real question “does she want and need him enough to try to understand?”

Two people who want to be in each others lives have to be committed enough to try to represent themselves and their needs. They have to be committed enough to try to be receptive to the other person and that person’s needs as well. We all change and we all discover new things about ourselves, but a person should understand and expect that potential outcome when they commit to a partner. How can we desire the personal freedom to grow and evolve, and seek to put limitations on those we claim to love? To give love is to encourage their growth and believe that the person we love is immutable and will always be there, regardless of what direction life takes them. I think if more of us received that kind of unconditional, reassuring love as children from our parents, then we would have an easier time conceiving of it between a husband and wife.

I know I sound like an idealist. Maybe these attitudes are why I am not married. Or maybe I just like guiltlessly sleeping with random women,and needed to throw y'all off the trail…whatever.

mr. wilson

4 comments:

jean-y said...

Mr Wilson, I enjoyed this post very much and think you made some very valid points. I hope it is OK with you, I've made a reference to your site and this post on my blog. If you want to check it out you can find it at http://jean-y.blogspot.com
J

Intellectual Insurgent said...

I often wonder how any two people can stay married in a lifetime if they are truly committed to evolving. It seems like marriage works either if you refuse to evolve or luckily evolve in the same way (which is a crap shoot).

Mr. Wilson said...

IntIns – I think it is the same in every relationship, or at least I have to since I have zero experience with marriage or even cohabitation.

We stay committed to the relationship when the relationship fulfills a need at a cost we are willing to pay. Of course it helps if we have an awareness of what our needs are in the first place. As long as we don’t evolve to the point of finding the other unnecessary or incapable of fulfilling needs, it is always going to be a case of communicating and negotiating. I think the negotiating is the toughest part because we all have different ideas about what we are asking for versus what we are being asked to do. But I don’t think this is a problem caused by evolving, because people don’t evolve only to become less equitable.

Sometimes we do get into relationships to fulfill needs that can abate. A person who marries to deal with anxiety over finances may become financially viable and not need the support. A person who is anxious about being alone, may undergo some personal growth and require less constant companionship.

But I think this is why marriage is such a serious decision. We have to be wise enough to see who we will become in order to take the life long vows seriously. We have to be wise enough to know our primary needs and not just the secondary needs that arise from those primary needs not being met. And we have to be equitable not only with others, but with ourselves.

Maybe now I am getting to the real reason that I am unmarried.

chad said...

In the naivety of my teen years when I first began to dabble in romantic relationships, I always assumed that married people opened themselves up to one another completely. After all, they are married, so there is no fear of rejection, right? It was only as I grew up that I realized that many marriages are totally under girded by mutual insecurity and co-dependency.
Having said that, I would hope that if I was married, I would be able to tell my wife about my greatest emotional burdens, even if those burdens made me look weak, sexually perverted, or otherwise unlovable.

The title of this post is so appropriate: “I Did Not Sign Up For This”
Obviously, many women will not tolerate being in a marriage with a man who admits to same-sex attraction, but the issue is not betrayal in the sense of infidelity. The issue is betrayal of the “understood” marriage contract that the woman feels is made void by homosexual feelings (much less behavior) which are not within the bounds of the stated wedding vows. Basically that's why many marriages dissolve, because the perceived agreement is violated by one or both persons.

Perhaps this could be avoided, if instead of vague expressions of affection, people stated the conditions of their marriage more explicitly in their wedding vows.
Chad do you take this woman to be your wife, to have and to hold for richer or at least middle class, in mild sickness and in health as long as you both shall live*
*(Then that guy who reads the disclaimer at the end of radio commercials comes on and reads a list deal-breakers like homosexual attraction, attempting anal without warning, changing religious affiliations, and severe flatulence...)


This is functionally how marriage really works, but I find it sad that so many people have to go through life without a relationship that is secure enough to truly be themselves within. I think my idealism about marriage is a good thing, and I hope to marry someone who is equally idealistic. I just hope that when the time comes, and my wife does disclose her vices, that I have the matrimonial vicissitude to honor my vows, and that she likewise is able to look past my faults.

Yours in respecting the covenant,
chad

“One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again.”
~Judith Viorst