Many men come out of the closet as gay after they have been married to women. I get it. I have seen it. I know of many men that have done it. Under the best of circumstances, I can only imagine how difficult and painful that experience is. Living in a mixed orientation marriage and leaving one must be two of the most difficult experiences a married couple must face.
I had to come out too.
I met my wife at the university library. She worked three days a week at the school library in exchange for financial aid. She hated that job. I made it a point to visit the library every day that she worked. On at least five occasions I created ostensive card catalog issues just to engage with her. She must have thought I was such an incapable guy as I pretended complete ignorance each time I requested help from her. She never shied away from my ridiculous questions and untimely interactions.
In time I mustered the courage to ask her out. She didn’t immediately accept my offer. After at least two weeks of avoiding the topic all together she finally accepted but with conditions. She insisted that she pay for half the meal and there would be no “sneaky business.” I was enamored by her commitments and boundaries.
Our first date turned into a second date, and then five, six, and seven.
On a warm June morning, hand-in-hand with the most beautiful woman I have ever met, I walked into the Denver Colorado temple to be married. I loved this woman with my whole soul. She was my person. She beautified my weaknesses and highlighted my successes. She was everything I had hoped for in a wife. I was the luckiest guy in the world and my eternity could not be possible without her by my side.
Two years into our marriage I started noticing slight disconnects forming between us. I didn’t understand what was happening. Perhaps I wasn’t fulfilling her needs, maybe I needed to be a better husband. Did I need to better honor my priesthood? Was I not fulfilling my callings or was I faltering as a home teacher? Perhaps I needed to be more spiritual, or maybe more sexual. No matter what I did, it felt as if my wife was drifting away from me. My knees callused from seemingly endless nights of tear-filled prayers and bargaining with God. I would do anything to know what I did to deserve this disconnection. I was willing to change and become better, I just needed to know what needed to be done.
The answers to my prayers never came but the distance between us grew wider and wider.
Two years ago, I had to do something that I never thought I would have to do: come out. I had to come out as the straight spouse. Two years ago I learned that my wife is gay. I am here to share my experience and my story to the closeted queer person who may be contemplating a mixed orientation marriage. I am also here to share my story to those that are in a mixed orientation marriage.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be in this situation. How do you prepare to be the straight spouse in a mixed orientation marriage? I am not sure I can adequately share the pain, the disappointment and the very intense trauma that comes with such a confession from your spouse. I was devastated to hear the news. Everything I had imagined for our life shattered into deviant and deadly shards of glass — shards of glass that I felt compelled to walk through every day, every hour, every minute of our marriage. This was not the eternity that I had committed to.
It took me many months to realize that my wife did not choose to be gay. It took me as many months to learn that she was doing her very best to adhere to a religion that taught both of us that the only way to obtain exaltation and eternal life was through their narrow path. That path does not include any forms of sexuality that deviate from heterosexuality. That path does not give latitude to anyone who is different than them. The agony and pain we experienced during this process was perhaps the most difficult journey in both of our lives.
In time we told our families. Then our friends. And eventually a long list of therapists.
Although her darkest secret was now known to many people, the divide between us never seemed to minimize. No amount of counseling or therapy could connect the separate islands we now lived on. It seemed that in order to bridge the space between us, we had to conform to untrue tradition. The Church and society predetermined that she would have had to change or hide the beautiful person that she is. I couldn’t be responsible for that. Being a lesbian is an important and beautiful part of who she is. She did not need to change that, rather, she needed to embrace it. She needed to be authentic in her quest for happiness.
I needed to let her go.
Fourteen months after my wife came out to me, we filed for divorce. She will always be my best friend. She will always be a light in my darkest moments. She will always be the charming girl from the university library who took a chance on me.
My best friend is now my ex-wife and in the very near future she will be the wife of a beautiful woman. She and her fiancé plan to marry this summer. Their marriage will not be solemnized over the same white alter we knelt at in the Denver temple, but in a garden surrounded by affirming friends and family. Knowing that she now has the opportunity to both give and receive love unconditionally fills my soul with joy that I am not able to express.
I will be at her wedding to support her. It will not be from an obscure seat in the congregation, rather I will be walking her down the aisle.
If permitted, I would like the opportunity to share some advice. Mixed orientation marriages often end in divorce. The overwhelming majority of men and women who enter into mixed orientation marriages report a quality of life with less happiness than people who suffer from illnesses like Lupus and physical disability.
A very small number of mixed orientation marriages work. A mixed orientation marriage will not change your sexuality. It will not cause you to have fewer feelings of attraction to the same sex. If you are gay or lesbian and hope that an opposite sex marriage will “change” you, it could not be further from the truth. Nothing about you needs to change. You do not need to be fixed. You need to be loved. You need someone who you can love completely. You need a compatible relationship that fulfills you; not one that prevents connection and growth.
If you are in a mixed orientation marriage and do not believe there is a way out, know that you have options. You aren’t the first person to journey down this path. You are not evil or unworthy for desiring a life of authenticity and happiness. Understanding your sexuality is a process and you deserve joy.
Incredible things happen when you and I decide to live our best life. Life is not about impressing our neighbors, submissive religious tradition, or finding space within the boxes that the world decides we belong in.
I fully believe that blessings in life come when we honor God for His ability to create His children exactly as we are. Being queer is not a punishment for anything you did or didn’t do. I have learned that the plan for mortal happiness isn’t just husband and wife it is far more expansive than that.
I will work to help the world see that happiness and eternal love is available to all of God’s children. I have come to know and respect the LGBT community and will do my best to make your path in this life (and in the next) as honorable as possible.
We want to hear your story—here’s how to share it with us…
Each Sunday we feature a new Coming Out Story on the Latter Gay Stories website. Coming out is an important process that is different for everyone. Some experiences are difficult; while others are heart-warming and inspiring.
Coming out is rarely easy—but your story will help others draw inspiration and make progress by learning from your experiences.
We rely on weekly submissions to keep the Coming Out Stories alive and invite you to share your your story now.