Hey all! It’s been quite a while since I have been able to write. Jenni and I have moved up to Washington to start my graduate studies in Seattle. We’ve been married nearly two years now, and we’re expecting a baby girl! While not exactly at steady state, we’ve found a good rhythm, and we find much to be thankful for and happy about.
Jenni and I wanted write our story– how we met, how we started dating, how we chose to get married, and how we’ve been doing since. I’ve wanted to write about this for a while, but this time, I wanted to write the whole story. What most of you don’t know is that Jenni and I are in a mixed orientation marriage, to use that long and awkward acronym; in other words, I’m gay. That leaves a lot of questions to be answered. Wait, why did you even get married then? When did Jenni find out? How does Jenni deal with that? How do you deal with that? Are you really happy?
We’ll talk about all those questions here. I will say up front that this post is going to be a bit limited in scope. My personal coming to grips with being gay will only be briefly summarized, and hopefully be covered in a later post. We want to mostly talk about us, about our story. Most of it will be narrative in form as well. That means we’re not advocating a certain political stance or trying to change anyone’s opinion. We’re just telling our story. We think it’s really cute, and we hope it makes you smile!
I had been in the singles ward for several months now. It had taken me quite a while to even warm up to the idea of attending a singles ward. I had seen the movie, “The Singles Ward,” I was convinced that it was going to be a joke. Add on the pressure that my mom and grandma kept pushing me to go, and you could have almost guaranteed I wouldn’t have gone.
But now I was a regular. I had a calling as a ward missionary. I had a good circle of friends. And I had just met Jenni. Jenni was also a ward missionary with me in the ward. We were guaranteed to see each other every Wednesday where I would chat with her, usually about the newest book I was reading (because that’s the limit of my conversation when I get super-nervous). I had first met Jenni at a baptism where she gave me some squished cake, and I had been trying to get up the nerve to ask her out ever since. She had caught my eye, because she was beautiful and she had this depth to her that I can’t really describe. She had served a mission in Anaheim, California, and she was currently teaching at a junior high school in the area.
The hard thing was at about the same time I was going through an internal struggle of my own. I would probably put it on identity crisis level. I had grown up always wanting to one day be married in the temple. But I never knew how that was supposed to happen. As a kid, I knew that getting married was something grown-ups did, and that someday I would figure it out too. But here I was, supposed to be a grown up, and these mysteries were still there. I didn’t even know how to date. I would spend time thinking of strategies to smoothly hold a girl’s hand through some kind of clever trick. I had never asked a girl out on a date to her face; in high school, you always came up with some clever kind of doorbell ditching trick that involved leaving your name frozen in ice or at the bottom of a cereal box for your date to find. Since coming home from my mission, I had been on a few dates with girls, but I became so scared whenever it showed any signs of getting serious (and by serious, I mean that the girl started to use smileys in texts or asks me out on walks).
Pretty soon, it became obvious to me that I couldn’t blame my relationship status on merely being awkward. I realized that I was gay. And I was so scared.
By a fortunate turn of events, I met a girl at my work was able to help me through. She was Mormon and lesbian, and had already been through many of the hard steps I had gone through. I started attending a support group with her. I was surprised to find so many people with different stories and different views. There were those who were trying to date members of the opposite sex or who were in mixed-orientation marriages. Some planned on remaining celibate. But there were also guys dating guys and girls dating girls. Some wanted to remain in the Church, some expressed deep frustrations or doubts about it, and others had left the Church altogether. This was a paradigm shift for me. I didn’t think that there were so many people in my situation. I also thought that there was only one option. Should I try to date? There were so many cute guys there– I had never used the word to describe them, but then I did. I decided I would continue to attend, but I would wait to see what happened. I didn’t resolve a course one way or another.
I did date for a while, but I was non-commital. Dating could be so much fun, and I had finally found out what it was like to be in a relationship. But I didn’t know how to bring that into harmony with my faith and my church activity. I eventually did what I felt was right and went to my bishop. But I was so scared. Would I lose my temple recommend? I decided to write everything in a letter instead, which I did and delivered to him. He set up an appointment with me, and I was finally– finally able to come out to a priesthood leader. It felt so good. He didn’t hate me. He wasn’t disgusted. In fact, he asked me to help me teach him how to help others in my situation. I presented him with a list of goals that I wanted to try to achieve with regards to dating, marriage, and my personal chastity. Disciplinary action wasn’t even mentioned. I was surprised, but grateful, and I felt a measure of hope. I continued to pray for guidance from the Lord.
I first remember noticing Chad at a baptism in our singles ward. I have always liked tall guys and Chad was 6’2 so obviously I noticed him. I don’t remember much else other than I thought he was cute so I talked to him and ended offering him some smooshed cake that had been sitting in my car for a while. He took it.
Well, this seemed like an important development in our relationship! Getting free food from a girl has to be some kind of hidden message, right? So I eventually got the nerve up to ask her on a date. Just so you know, Jenni is a teacher. And she kind of intimidated me, because she seemed a lot more grown up than me. Like a teacher. So I was probably super awkward.
If that wasn’t enough, just wait. I took her to a bookstore. I immediately took her to the Christian Literature section to find a C. S. Lewis quote that had inspired me recently. The topic? Marriage! Boy, that might have proven to be an awkward first date! The quote was good though:
“Love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit… It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
I actually liked the quote and since it was only a first date I magnanimously decided not to read too much into it. We got to know each other a little better along the way because we were both called as ward missionaries and we would have meetings every Wednesday night where Chad would regale me with all the details of the latest book he was reading. Now, I love books and I love talking about books but this guy put me to shame.
Hey! Talking about books is about the easiest conversation starter for me, because I’m always reading a new one! I always have trouble coming up with questions past, “What’s your favorite color?” so my conversations tend to be one-sided or they quietly putter out.
Dating Chad was unlike dating any other guy I had ever dated. It went something like this: I would see him at church on Sundays where he would ask me out on a date for the following Friday. Then aside from seeing him on Wednesday and talking about books, I wouldn’t see or hear from him again until our date of Friday at which time we would go on our date, have a good time and he would return me home promptly by 9pm.
I was a bit confused because dating other guys who were interested in me didn’t usually seem so systematic. They would call or text me or invite me to do things during the week just to talk to me or spend time with me but things didn’t go that way with Chad and it made me wonder if he were really that interested in me.
In my defense, Jenni often doesn’t text back for hours at a time. In fact, her family usually just texts me if they want to get ahold of her now haha!
Then one night he took me to the symphony and he put his arm around me. We were both really nervous and it felt super awkward so he took his arm away and that was even worse! Why did he take it away? Maybe he didn’t like putting his arm around me. Maybe he doesn’t really like me after all.
Yeah, that was awkward. I sure felt it. See, I always had a hard time gauging how relationships were supposed to progress (attribute this to what you want– being naturally awkward, being gay, or perhaps a little of both). Weren’t you supposed to hold hands at some point? You had to do that before kissing for sure. MY mental process during that night was,
“Oh wait. Sitting here just listening to the orchestra isn’t much of a date. Aren’t you supposed to do something? I’ll just look around and see what other couples are doing. Oh, that guy up there has his arm around his date. That guy too. Oh, that guy keeps taking his arm back and forth. Well, what’s the harm? It can’t be that hard. Twenty seconds of courage right? Sweet! Success! She laid her head on my shoulder! Oh wait, this is getting serious! She’s staying there!… A minute or more? How long is this supposed to go? I’ll just adjust like I want to look at the program. Yes, that’s good. Oh no, oh no, oh no. Is it OK to put my arm around her AGAIN? Or would that be too awkward? I won’t risk it…”
Can you see the mental agony? Oh, so painful. And virtually every moment of every night on a date I would be carrying on this mental dialogue, trying to figure out what was appropriate, what was the right thing to say.
Well, after a few months of what could be loosely termed dating, I just stopped asking her out. I gave up. I must have been doing something wrong, because it wasn’t working. It was a dark place to be, and one of the most hopeless I remember going through. What was I supposed to do? If I can’t even date a woman, let alone marry one, where did that leave me?
So I rebelled a little in my own way. I met a guy, a returned missionary, in a similar situation as me, and we began dating. We thought that we would walk some middle road together– how we would go to church and read the scriptures– and somehow, we would be able to piece together a life living the gospel and being in a same-sex relationship. It didn’t take us long to realize that the two were incongruous, and we called it off. But I still didn’t know what to do.
One Sunday at church in the singles ward, the bishop gave an inspiring talk with the central message on dating. It sounds silly, but it helped me pick up a little more courage, and gave me the hope to try one more time. Jenni and I were talking outside before heading home, and I just blurted it out, “Would you like to go out on Friday?”
I wasn’t sure what was going on. I didn’t know what Chad’s intentions were or why he was asking me on dates or why he suddenly stopped. Then one day I got on Facebook and decided to read Chad’s profile. His summary was extremely long. In fact I’m convinced that I am probably the only person who, to this day has actually read it all the way through. Little did I know that he had done it on purpose in the hope that I would read it. Anyway at the very bottom of this super long summary Chad stated that he has same gender attraction. A part of me was surprised and another part of me told me that makes sense.
I also couldn’t help but wonder, why would he post this on Facebook like this? I went and talked to a couple of friends about and I decided that this wasn’t for me, that this wasn’t something I could or wanted to deal with. I knew someone whose marriage had been destroyed by her husband’s same gender attraction because he had acted on it. So for a while I congratulated myself on dodging that bullet.
OK, to clarify, I thought that this would be the easiest way to come out to Jenni. I had been discussing with my bishop the struggles of dating when you’re gay, and this was one of the toughies; should I come out early on in the relationship, so she would know what she was getting into? Or should it come later after we had already gotten to know each other pretty well? It was an important question, but it didn’t seem to have an answer. I came up with the idea to leave the fact on Facebook for her to discover at the end of a really long biography, such that only she would read it (I mean, if you’re dating someone, isn’t there a high likelihood they’ll read your Facebook bio?) Then I’d just see what happened after that.
The summer passed and we both dated other people. I would always kind of pay attention to the girls Chad was interested in but I was still in my congratulatory mode. I had gotten online on LDS singles and I was exploring the world of online dating. But all of the guys I dated always had some sort of struggle, whether it was pornography, they were divorced or whatever. And I asked myself, “Aren’t there any guys out there who aren’t struggling with such issues?”
One day I was praying and thinking about why I had such a hard time getting close to guys and the thought came to me, “If all of these guys’ struggles are deal-breakers for you, then what struggle or weakness would you be able to accept?”
I couldn’t think of one.
I realized the problem wasn’t with Chad or the other guys I had been dating, the problem was with me. That I was the one who needed to change if I really wanted to be in a serious committed relationship and eventually get married.
At about this same time I was reviewing in my mind all of the guys I had dated recently and I thought that of all the guys the most spiritual, trustworthy person out of all of them was Chad. In other words, Chad was the person I most regretted not pursuing.
Then one day in sacrament in our singles ward, our bishopric spoke on dating. After church, I bumped into Chad and he walked me out got my car and he asked me on a date. And I said yes. And so we started going out on dates again…on Friday nights.
So yeah, we went out again on a pretty fun date, but we were kind of still in the same boat we were when we had stopped. I asked her out for a second date the next Friday. Would this be another dead-end? Luckily, Jenni made the first move.
I didn’t want to get stuck in the same ruts again so I sent Chad a Facebook message (because I was too much of a chicken to say it to his face) and basically said , “Hey, I like you but I’m looking for a serious relationship and if that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s fine but this probably won’t work out.” This is abbreviated, it actually was a very long message.
Well Chad texted me back, sounding relieved and said that he likes me, he just didn’t know how to take it to the next level.
I was at a fireside with some friends when I got the text, and I was just so happy. I kind of left in a hurry, and my friends didn’t know what to make of all the fuss. Jenni and I did go on the date that Friday night. But we texted, and I went over to her place a lot more.
At this point I hadn’t gotten over the fact that Chad was gay, but I was trying to be more accepting and I was determined to not let it stop me from getting to know him better. So I kind of set it aside knowing we would have to deal with that at some point.
Around Halloween time we went to this haunted corn maze. I had never been to a corn maze before and had always wanted to go so Chad agreed to take me. There was a haunted part and a not haunted part of the maze. Chad took me through the haunted part. It was super funny because I’m a pretty calm person for the most part so haunted mansions and mazes and things don’t really elicit much of a reaction from me. But oh boy, Chad was freaking out! It was great, it made me laugh and we had so much fun and as a plus Chad ended up using it as an excuse to hold my hand for the first time.
I still thought I needed a “clever” reason to hold a girl’s hand haha. We did so many fun things. Jenni got me into “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I took her on a trip to southern Utah with my family for some hikes. But there was one thing that was still nagging me; how do you move from holding hands, to you know kissing? That seemed like such a huge step! I would cycle through more “clever” ways of finding an excuse to kiss her, but every time I dropped her off for the night, any ideas fled. Well, this one night, we were standing on the steps– and she was standing one or two above me– and it seemed like the perfect time! So… I kissed her on the cheek. We apparently were beyond that stage, because she said, “You can kiss me if you want.” And there you go. So I kissed her. Super romantic. Not many people had to get permission before they kissed!
Little did he know that I had set everything up that way. I had determined that since he was so much taller than me we would have to use the steps next to my apartment to balance out our height.
We date for a while, but the longer we date and don’t talk about the fact that Chad is gay the more the topic feels like the elephant in the room. Finally I bring it up. I had a lot of questions and so many fears and it wasn’t easy to talk about.
It took me off guard. But hey, it meant that my coming-out-via-Facebook-bio worked, so that was a plus! She seemed a little sad, and the situation seemed tense. It went from being fun to being serious, and so we sat down and we talked it out. I told her my story from the beginning. I was afraid she was going to cry, and she might have cried too. We had a lot to talk about over the next few weeks. I lent her a book that had meant a lot to me, “In Quiet Desperation” by Ty Mansfield, that had helped me, and I hoped it would help her too. But I really couldn’t do anything but let her figure out her feelings on her own and wait.
It was good because it helped get things moving. I read the book Chad gave me and found a lot in the book that I could relate to personally. Not that I was gay but in the sense that we all have things in life that we struggle with that we can only learn to deal with if we come unto Christ. I could relate to that. I also knew that if I were to come to the right conclusion I would need God’s help. I began taking a class through my ward, I think it was called “A Walk with Christ” and I joined with the intent of seeing if I could change and overcome my own weaknesses. I wanted to accept Chad for who he was but I needed my Savior’s help and as I wrote and thought and studied, I found that the class helped me to do that.
But I was also concerned. Could a mixed orientation marriage really make it? People always talked about how such relationships don’t work out and I didn’t know anyone who was in a mixed orientation marriage who was actually making it work.
Chad helped me here. He introduced me to a couple we’ll call Ben and Vivian. Ben was gay and he and his wife told me their story. It was nice to hear Ben’s remarks but it really helped me to hear Vivian’s thoughts and feelings. It helped me to see their nice home and beautiful family and I realized: this was possible.
Something that Vivian said that really stuck with me was that every couple have their problems and struggles and when you look at other people’s problems and struggles, you realize that you want to keep your own problems and struggles. Not because they are better or worse, but because they are yours and you are familiar with them.
After about six months, things were feeling really good. We had a pretty good pattern. I would go to school and stop by her place every night. We would talk til all hours of the night– sometimes 11 o’clock! (When I didn’t fall asleep). And now I was thinking about when I should ask her to marry me! When I look back, it seemed like it moved so fast. Just a few months ago, I was doubting whether I’d ever be able to get married in the temple. Same-sex attraction was still a reality for me, and wasn’t likely to go away. But man, it seems like asking a girl to marry you is a huge step of faith! How will she feel? Will your marriage last? Will same-sex attraction be an issue, or would it resolve itself?
I will let Jenni tell how it really happened:
Well I had never told a man that I loved him before. To me, that was a really big step and I had to be sure of my feelings before I just went and said it willy-nilly but as time passed I found that despite some of my fears that still existed, I loved Chad. So I determined to tell him. We went on a walk one day on the Jordan River Trail and I told him that I loved him. After that we started talking about marriage and whether we were ready for that step as a couple. Chad said that he felt that he was ready and we got engaged, unofficially.
I prayed to make sure that Chad was the right one for me to marry. I went a while without an answer. Part of me knew this had to be my choice but I also needed Heavenly Father’s confirmation. The answer I got wasn’t the answer I expected. And I couldn’t quite put it ot words until after Chad called my dad and asked him for permission to marry me.
My dad said to Chad, “I don’t know you but I do know Jenni and I trust her judgement.”
And I realized that my Heavenly Father was saying something similar to me. He was saying, “You’ve lived a good, worthy life. I know you and I trust your judgement.”
It wasn’t, “Yes, go for it.” It was “I trust you” and it meant so much more to know that my Heavenly Father trusted me than any “yes” I could have received.
I’ll let Chad tell BRIEFLY about the official engangement:
Well, you know, an engagement has to be super creative and fun, right? At the time, Disney’s “Frozen” had just come out, and I was still singing the songs in my head. So, without telling Jenni, I planned an elaborate musical engagement, with the help of our friends in the neighborhood and singles ward. Here’s a link to the video:
She said yes 😉
Happily Ever After
We were sealed (married) on July 11th, 2014 in the Bountiful, Utah temple. We have been happily married for almost 2 years. I know that if it wasn’t for my Savior, I would not be where I am today. In fact I would still probably be single trying to figure out why I kept coming up short on the marriage and dating scene. It was throught the Atonement of Jesus Christ that I was able to change and to accept Chad into my life and to help me become a part of his. Through the Atonement we can change and become someone we never could have become on our own.
One of the first things I told Jenni when we got married was that she made me feel safe. That seems odd thing to say, but it was true. I had felt lost for what seemed like such a long time. I had had to question my beliefs and come to grips with who I was. I had someone who accepted me with all my weaknesses, and someone I could share any problems I was going through. I love Jenni’s words on the Atonement about how it can help us become better, and our marriage has helped me to learn more about the Savior’s perfect love. Jenni reflects that love so well, and I’m glad I was able to marry someone so special. We still had some rocky points, and we definitely still will, just like all couples– but when we both are looking to Christ, it makes overcoming those hard times that much easier.