I sit there, my mouth hanging partly open staring at the interviewer.
“Do people actually think that?” I think.
I take a deep breath, I try to answer but my mind is blank.
“I love Chad,” I say as if that statement was all the answer necessary to answer such a question. And to be honest, it should have been enough.
“Let me put it another way,” the interviewer said, “what would you say to someone who said to you ‘oh you are just young and ignorant and your husband is just using you to fulfill his desire to fit in with societal norms. That you are a victim to his desire to lead a fake life and you don’t even know it’?”
I stare blankly. The rephrasing doesn’t help, I understand the question, I just had never thought of it before. Me? Duped? A witless victim of my husband’s desires? A fake relationship? How could that be? I had chosen to be with Chad! Could it be I was some sort of victim and I didn’t even know it?
I ask for a second to think but nothing comes. I look down at Chad and my clasped hands. Did I really need to justify my relationship? I wonder how some people could be so unfeeling as to discount everything Chad and I had gone through, everything we feel for each other in such a dismissive statement.
I stumble out some answer about how much I love Chad and how wonderful our marriage is, but I know the interviewer was hoping for something more profound.
I came away unsettled. Why couldn’t I think of an answer to the question? I thought about it all the way on our ride back to Salt Lake that evening and the next day on our 14 hour drive back to Washington. Finally, I grabbed my journal to write down my thoughts.
I don’t know how profound it is going to be but I am now ready to answer the question.
For those of you who don’t know me you need to know I am a huge Jane Austen fan. I love Pride and Prejudice and even talked my husband into taking me to an English Country dancing ball for my birthday. Although my husband doesn’t exactly enjoy dancing, he graciously agreed and even dressed up in Regency era attire for the occasion. (see picture below) We both ended up having a lot of fun by the way.
Anyway today I am going to talk about Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. It’s been a while since I actually read the book so forgive me if I use the movie adaptation to make my point. In it you have the sensible Elinor and the passionate Marianne, two sisters who see the world very differently. Marianne doesn’t understand how her sister could be so passionless as to love the boring Mr. Farris. How could two people who seem so calm and sensible possibly be happy together? Where was the love, the passion? Marianne learns however by the end of the book/movie that although Elinor’s love does not look how Marianne thinks it should manifest itself, that Elinor and Mr. Farris actually love each other very deeply.
In the world today you have those who see the world very differently. You have those who just cannot understand why a straight woman would choose to marry a gay man and so must justify for themselves why this phenomenon happens; and you have those like me who believe it is possible if two people have a similar outlook and expectations from that love and marriage. For those in the first camp, there is no explanation besides simple ignorance. Don’t they know the facts? These men must be using them and they don’t even realize it. Poor victimized women.
And those in the second camp don’t understand how others could explain away someone else’s very real feelings just because they don’t fit within their preconceived beliefs on love and marriage. They feel flabbergasted that they should have to justify their love, the lives they have chosen to other people. Even more stunned that the very people they have to justify themselves to are often the people who use these same arguments to defend gay marriage itself. Now lets be clear, I am not arguing about the merits of gay marriage vs. traditional marriage. I’m only asking that you make room in your beliefs for me and my husband as well. That if my husband and I choose it, that other people welcome it and celebrate it instead of trying to discredit my life and my experiences because they simply can’t understand why or how someone would choose that.
Yes, I am a straight woman married to a gay man. Its called a mixed orientation marriage. I love him and he loves me. We have a wonderful life together. Strange? Maybe. Unheard of? Perhaps for some. Fake? Definitely not.
Just as no two people are completely alike, no two relationships are alike. Each person you date brings a completely different experience into your life. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with more than one person (preferably not at the same time) knows this. Also anyone who has ever even just observed different couples know that each relationship is unique. Every relationship has different ways of making it work, of expressing that love and their views on life. If we can come to an agreement on this then perhaps I can find enough common ground to explain why I decided to marry a gay man and how I am very happy in my choice and relationship.
Each person decides who they are going to marry by choosing the aspects of a relationship that they believe will make them the most happy. No relationship is 100% perfect and no person can make you 100% happy. But as you date around and as you grow in different relationships you begin to understand what aspects of a relationship are most important to you and what your own personal beliefs are about what makes a successful relationship and what makes you personally happy in a relationship. Comparisons here are useless. What will make me happy simply will not be the same as what will make you happy. Now that does not discredit the general principles that make a happy and healthy marriage such as open communication and emotional and physical closeness. However, how that takes shape in my relationship and what I put emphasis on as the most important may be different from someone else. And that is ok. As long as I am acting in a way that makes me happy, that is what is most important.
And I am happy, very happy. I often think about how I must have won the marriage lottery, being married to Chad is that good. In fact sometimes I feel bad for how good I have it. Marjorie Pay Hinckley once said to her husband Gordon B. Hinckley, “you have given me room to fly and I have loved you for it.” (this is a generalized quote, you can correct me if you find the exact wording) Chad never holds me down, he supports me in all my crazy ideas. He also doesn’t plug me into a gender role of domestic stereotypes, he just lets me be me and loves me for who I am. No coercion, no manipulation, just love. And I love him for it.
Some may believe that Chad is just using me to fit a social norm. That he is only marrying me to fit the teachings of the LDS Church. Of course he is! I am using him to fit a social norm as well! Why else would I wait 29 years and after I was married before having sex? If the Church had condoned same sex marriage, would Chad and I be married right now? Probably not. But on the other hand, he didn’t find the first woman he came across and think, “Hey you’re a woman, let’s get married.” We built a very real, very loving relationship together. Chad and I both believe that what will bring us the most happiness is to live the teachings of the Church which are a part of us, just as much as Chad’s same sex attraction is a part of him. But here is the most important thing to understand about this: I trust that Chad knows himself enough to know what will bring him personal happiness. It may not be the same choice that others would make if placed in the same circumstance and that is ok.
And I hope that others would give me the benefit of the doubt as well. That even though my choice is not the same as what someone else would have chosen in the same situation, that I know myself well enough to choose what would bring me happiness in life. Perhaps it is my feminist side coming out but in this day and age there is nothing more patronizing than to tell a woman that she is ignorant and doesn’t know what will bring her personal happiness.
If for me, a relationship that puts a little less emphasis on the physical and the initial spark of attraction is what will bring me happiness, who are others to tell me otherwise? I had decided even before meeting Chad that was the kind of romantic relationship I wanted. I wanted that steady, dedicated, based on your personality more than your looks; that built from the ground up love more than that sudden spark kind of love.
I didn’t go into the marriage being duped or tricked. Chad and I had talked about these things extensively before getting married. Did I have worries and concerns about certain aspects of our marriage even after we were married? Yes, I did. But we were determined to work through any concerns or problems that arose. Isn’t that what real love is?
I love Chad because he is loving, kind, dedicated, humble and spiritual. Because he holds me when I cry and tries to make me laugh. Because I can look into his eyes and see how much he loves me. Because he holds my hand. Because he cuddles with me during church, then randomly looks into my eyes, whispers I love you and kisses me. Because he wakes me in the morning to kiss me goodbye as he heads off to work. Because he works so hard to serve me and will do anything to make me happy. He makes me want to be a better person. How can I feel used in the face of such selfless love? Our physical and sexual expression is an extension of that love. A desire to not only feel pleasure but to feel close and to be one. To me there is no more real, fulfilling and beautiful kind of love. It is the love I wanted, the love I chose and the love that makes me happy.