My Husband Is Gay

I love this article from Jan 2015 on Religionandpolitics.org: http://religionandpolitics.org/2015/02/04/my-husbands-not-gay-homosexuality-and-the-lds-church/

After all of the hubbub and screeching harpies decrying the validity of SSA men marrying women and having the audacity to lead happy, productive lives, this blog post came as a very refreshing and balanced look at the subject.

In meeting Tanya Bennion, I was struck by her strong stance in stating that her husband is in fact, NOT gay.  I wonder what the term “gay” means to her.  I have a huge amount of respect and fondness for the Bennions as they are very open, loving and humble in their desires to bring healing and light to everyone they possibly can influence.  I wonder what I can learn from them about being NOT Gay.  Because as much as Dear Husband is NOT being intimate with a man, he most definitely IS gay.  There’s no way around it.

As Dear Husband has come to understand and apply the Atonement of our Savior in his life though, his attractions have become more defined.  There is a clarity to his attractions to men and his attraction to me.  It is almost as though he is beginning to see through the eyes of his infinite spirit as well as through his mortal eyes, and they see different things.

He spoke in church today about “thy will be done.”  He said something to the effect of: I always wondered what would happen to “me” if I turned myself over to the Lord, as I’ve been counseled to do in scripture.  What if I like “me”?  I don’t want to lose that guy and become like a carbon copy of some other white middle aged religious guy.  But I realized that I will still be “me”, but SO MUCH BETTER.  The spirit amplifies and brightens and enhances, so I will be a brighter, amplified, enhanced version of whatever it is I come up with. Which is amazing.

And it is.  As Mikeal has turned his life bit by bit to the Lord, his version of “me” has become brighter, more fearless, happier, more attracted to his wife (!) more ambitious and more knowledgable.  Among other things.

So about that attraction.

Part of giving up “me” is giving up the little bits of satisfying the homosexual urges.  As long as I have known, him, he has held firmly to the belief that he could never let go of the gay.  That it is such a defining part of who he is that he would shrivel up and cease to exist in any meaningful way if that part of him were to be surrendered to the Lord.

But guess what:  He was completely and totally wrong.  (But we all knew that.)

As he has surrendered it bit by bit he looks at us differently.  When reflecting on his past gay relationships, as thrilling and complete and whole and satisfied as he felt, they don’t measure up to the WHOLEness that he feels as a part of us.  But it took that leap of faith- that surrendering the identity he cherished with no guarantee of a return other than what his faith taught him- to finally experience that truth.

So maybe that’s what Tanya Benin means when she says her husband isn’t gay. Maybe he has totally surrendered his homosexual identity and placed it on the Lord’s proverbial altar and the Lord has in turn filled that space with Him.

Woah.

And to think we are on that path too.

It just isn’t something that can be conveyed on a NYT article nor on a Facebook post, nor on an hour long pilot of a tv show on a cable network.  It has to be experienced. One on one with the spirit as we take those tentative steps into the unknown.

Here’s what religion and politics has to say about the “gay” title:

“As the show’s title hints, what does it means to be “gay” in 2015? This question strikes deeply at the identity politics of gay and straight categories. Many liberal thinkers have been caught off-guard at the ways in which these politically and religiously conservative Mormons in Utah—these “not gay” men and their wives—increasingly appropriate the language of queer and postmodern gender theory to justify their conventional heterosexual marriages. Refusing the label “gay” for many is not about denying their attractions or desires, but about refusing the various presuppositions about that term, just as bisexual, trans and queer folk frustrate the categories of a stable homosexual identity.”

And for those who call it irresponsible:

“Perhaps unwittingly, the Mormons who participate in these mixed-orientation relationships increasingly appeal to ideas of sexuality that are similar to postmodern theories of sexual fluidity, as well as classical liberal notions of sexual agency. While critics of My Husband’s Not Gay may see these couples as deluded, some of those critics are also operating on a strict homosexual/heterosexual binary. Mixed-orientation couples acknowledge that while they may not choose their orientation or desires, they can choose with whom to have a relationship. As such, they emphasize their agency, choice, and sexual honesty in response to accusations that they are constrained by their religion.”

So- gay or not gay- I am married to a man who is first and foremost a Son of God, a disciple of Christ, a devoted father and an adoring and hard working husband. That’s all the label he needs.

Advertisements

Disappoint ment.

Sometimes you disappoint those you love. People you love so deeply your universe revolves around theirs. And you disappoint yourself in the process.
I’m not a huge fan of disappointment- especially because I know what I’m supposed to do about it, but the pull to wallow and bathe in the sorrow is so. incredibly. intense. Disappointment usually also involves a need to change course, which is usually painful and usually hard. And I would much rather be immature and childish about it and not grow.
So there.

So I’ve got some maturing and adjusting to do. And on the other side of that discomfort will be a me that I much prefer and will fit better into the universe I’ve chosen. But I may wallow in shame and sorrow for just a few more minutes…

How do I?

I used to be debilitatingly perplexed by a zillion and one “how” questions.

How do I stay married to this man?

How do I stay in this church?

How do I remain friends with all of those amazing people that I love but are living contrary to my testimony?

How will I ever be truly happy again?

I realized that there really is one answer to all of these questions.  And the answer is Christ.  If Christ is Charity, love unfeigned, kindness, and joy, then He truly is the answer.

Back when these questions kept me up at night, I was searching earnestly for the answer.  My life was consumed with finding the answer.  I read books, blogs, magazines, listened to podcasts, met with therapists, prayed, stewed, spoke with whomever I could speak to, and joined message boards.  Not one of the answers I received gave me the hope and peace I was desperate for.

The blogs said my situation and choices were hopeless.

The books made me feel confused and overwhelmed.

The magazines were mostly about home decor so they just made me sad.

Podcasts made me feel sick.

Therapists made me feel temporarily empowered.

Prayer made me feel empty.

Stewing gave me gas.

Talking to people just made them steer clear of me.

Message boards made me angry. (they were so “pie in the sky”.)

It was exhausting FEELING so much.

Frankly it made me angry when people would give me the “turn it over to Christ” answer.  Because it flat out didn’t work.  There was no amount of doing all the right things that would take away my pain.  So I continued to search, and continued to eschew the seminary answers.

But then I got REAL desperate. And I went back to the last time I felt true joy and hope. And that was at the temple. Even though it didn’t take away my pain, there were moments here and there that I saw goodness and the potential for joy.  So, craving any tiny morsel of goodness, I decided to try God at His word.  (you know, that whole “experiment on the word” business?)

But God wasn’t going to let me get by that easily.  Nope.  After spending a couple of years delving into and entertaining trains of thought counter to Him, I wasn’t going to automatically feel superhappy in His presence.  It doesn’t work that way.  The unGodly can’t abide the Godly.

So basically, it was awful.

But part of me knew it was right.

After several months of wrestling with the spirit, I went back. And again.  And what happened was that I started to enjoy that kind of stuff, and started to fill my life with it.  I was still intensely miserable, but I began to feel glimmers of hope and peace when engaging in things of the Spirit. And bit by bit, the questions stopped thrumming in my brain and heart and were replaced with testaments of truth:

God loves me, and my pain has been felt and absorbed by Christ who really knows me.  Like, REALLY.

My Husband is  also precious and known and covered by the atonement so I don’t have to take on his garbage.

It is a privilege to love this man.

It is a privilege to be a mom to my kids.

It is in God’s great design for my eternal existence to learn the things that these questions, doubts, pains and spiritual sickness are teaching me.

Christ and His atonement cover everyone.  And not everyone is going to get it. (like I still don’t totally get it.) But His love is infinite and so whole and so healing that if I were to fill up with it, and act upon it, and be IN it, then I will BE peace, joy, hope and light.  And that no matter who is doing what with whom, I will love them.  Not “in spite of” or “even though” but just love. Because the ultimate “coming to Christ” isn’t arriving in the Big Happy Kingdom and receiving my eternal reward…

It is LOVE.

And love heals, cleanses, enables, changes and creates.

And it answers.

And now I find myself in a space where it does make sense.  And Christ really is the answer.  And I’m telling wives of gay men who are cheating on them and immersed in porn and lies and heartache that their answer lies in Christ.  Find Him, and find happiness. Find healing.  Heal yourself, and quite possibly you will heal your marriage.  But if your marriage crumbles, you’ll be on sure footing and the crumbling will happen around you but not to you.

Christ is love.

So be in Him.

Faith crisis?

I was recently contacted by a wife in a mixed orientation marriage. Her question was whether or not a MOM can survive with one spouse not living the faith. She is contemplating leaving the church, but her husband is firm in his faith.
My response:
“You will be amazed what your marriage can weather! If one of you is committed to keeping it together, it will survive. We both went through a major faith crisis- Mikeal much longer and deeper than mine- but because we loved each other and deeply desired the kids to have an intact family we were determined to stay together and live with the unanswerable questions. Actually our “reasons” for staying together changed regularly. At one point we actually did decide to split up, but he spent his entire time while looking for apartments on the phone with me. We realized that our love for each other was so deep and real and that we could work our way through. So we did.
Eventually we both found our faith and that the faith path brought much more strength and happiness than we ever felt on our own. All of the answers were there and even more vibrant and real than I ever knew. The gospel is thrilling to me, and the power that comes to our marriage when we rely on God first then each other is humbling. I never expected to feel completely fulfilled in my marriage and was willing to accept that in order to stay with the man and kids I loved. But I do feel fulfilled and desired and complete. I can honestly say that I would make this same choice all over again. I wish it didn’t take a major 6 year marriage and faith upheaval to arrive here, but it was worth every sleepless night, uneaten meal and tear shed.
Have i gotten dramatic enough?
Part three of the film never posted. It would be nice to see more just to get a better feel for who we are. I never anticipated that a 25 minute discussion of our intimate life would be shown to our closest friends and strangers alike. 🙂 I’m glad you saw value in it. (She had asked about our Far Between video)
I would encourage you to find God and learn to trust Him. Study the Atonement and make Christ the center of your decisions and reactions. When we see the world through a lens of Christlike charity, people become precious and your choices reflect kindness and understating.
Much love,

Mandi”

I would add that “surviving” in marriage is a short-term solution and that the one-faithful-member status rarely is sustainable over the long-term. A part-member family is difficult on its own, but in a MOM without having
something larger than “self” or even “couple” to be the impetus behind sticking it out, the foundation is just too shaky, the opposition too strong to withstand. I would love to be proven wrong, but I will always cast my lot with the Gospel.

It has to be him

The update has to come from Mikeal.  His part of the story is most relevant to the audience, and the most important as far as coming to Christ and turning his burden to Him.  So I’m done writing and stewing.

Sigh of relief.

Drafts #2 & #3

I SO don’t want to alienate those who have found nothing but rancor within the church, however truth is truth, and we discovered peace in it- just as the scriptures, prophets, and others on this path have promised.  I guess I can’t have it both ways.

So here goes.  There are two versions- similar to each other.

“The years since we filmed with Far Between have been full of healing, growth, finding wisdom and goodness.  We were determined to pursue the path of healing together, allowing space for our individual journeys, but always with an eye to the whole.

During the past couple of years we have been working together on remodeling a home.  The demolition, clean out, fixing and re-fixing unseen problems and the long, arduous and sometimes impossible process of building, finishing and polishing became indicative of the work we were doing on our relationship.  Old wounds, unseen fears, unproductive habits and thought processes all had to be opened, honored, learned from and worked through all while we were building and polishing the attributes that had always served us.  Our friendship and emotional connection as well as our ability and willingness to communicate were the strengths that only grew stronger as we traveled the healing path.

What we learned was that our healing would truly take hold and our marriage would thrive when we understood the power in our union- that the doctrine of Eternal Marriage exercised through our temple sealing contained blessings and strength previously unseen and definitely not previously understood. Through many tender mercies, and after many hours spent in fasting, prayer, and gospel study, we began to see our true potential as a couple and as a family.

We don’t know why we have been so blessed.  We feel as it states in Mosiah 27:29, “I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.” Our days have been full of enlightenment, peace and contentment.  We see each other differently.  We see sexuality differently.  The struggle is still very present, but the way we approach it has changed. We approach it together- in the power God grants to couples who actively seek Him. It is both humbling and exhilarating. We very much look forward to the future.

We pray peace and contentment to all who walk this path.  We dearly love the brothers and sisters we have met on this journey- those we currently walk with and those with whom we have parted ways. We honor all paths. We are forever grateful for those relationships and the richness they have brought to our lives.

Mikeal and Mandi Jensen”

AND Version #3:

“The years since filming our Far Between segment have been very quiet.  We are still married and still have three great kids.  But roots in the gospel have grown deeper and more profound.

We have learned that our healing would truly take hold and our marriage would thrive when we came to understand the power in our union- that the doctrine of Eternal Marriage exercised through our temple sealing contained blessings and strength previously unseen and definitely not previously understood. Through many tender mercies, and after many hours spent in fasting, prayer, and gospel study, we have begun to see our true potential as a couple and as a family.

Our days have been full of enlightenment, peace and contentment.  We see each other differently.  We see sexuality differently.  The struggle is still very present, but the way we approach it has changed. We approach it together- in the power God grants to couples who actively seek Him. It is both humbling and exhilarating. We very much look forward to the future.

Mikeal and Mandi Jensen”

I hope we are getting closer to the final product.

 

Reminders

I don’t dwell on the Gay thing much at all anymore.  When I first started this blog, and for many years after, it consumed much of my days.  Unfortunately, when it does come up it can be a bit jarring.  Clearly I haven’t fully reconciled the issue within myself.

It came up three times in the last 24 hours.

So I’m jarred.

A) Mikeal met a man at a conference this past weekend.  The man was a married LDS man who was gay.  Meeting Mikeal and having open and candid conversation with him must have made an impression on this man because first thing Monday morning, Mikeal received an email from him full of praise and gratitude and wishes to repay him for his kindness.  Mikeal forwarded the email to me and I was reminded how blessed I am to be married to Mikeal.  He is so inherently kind, loving and open.

It was jarring to me to be reminded of where we were in the not so distant past- angsty, confused husband, heartbroken and lonely wife.

TOO many people are living that nightmare.

B) I took the boys to a new barber.  They love barber shops, but we haven’t found “the one” just yet, so I’m barber shopping.  Clearly this barber was a “friend”, as we we like to call it. So what?  I run into “friends” all the time.  But this guy jarred me for some reason. Maybe he was sad and having a rough day, and I picked up on that.  I don’t know, but I left feeling jarred.

C) This morning, a friend of mine posted a blog post on Facebook about a gay ex-mormon, whose youtube videos against mixed-orientation-marriage were a thorn in my side for many years.  It praised him and encouraged loving and open dialogue within the church with our gay brothers and sisters. It used to be me posting those things, but since we have found peace in our marriage and have gained some more insight about the doctrine of marriage and the nature of sexuality, I am hesitant to do anything that could be construed as encouraging homosexuality.  I wanted to tell this friend about the offensive language I had read on this mans blog, and the hurt his words and images caused to me.  But of course that is so wrong, and only causes so much harm, so I prayed, and am still praying for forgiveness and to forgive him.  (every time his face pops into my head, I take a lesson from Eat, Pray, Love andand “send him love and light, and get on with life.” Anyway… jarring.

I was praying as I was walking this morning, asking the Lord why I have been so jarred by these three encounters. Why have these encounters even happened?  Is it the adversary trying to wreck my resolve as we are moving forward in Christ?  Is it my weakness that have let these things bother me so much?

The answer was undeniable.  These people were sent to me as a reminder that this issue is very, very real. My experience isn’t the only experience people “should” be having.  The Gospel IS true, the doctrine of Eternal Marriage IS true, but homosexuality IS real, and those who live with it deserve my love and my hands of friendship, work and comfort. I still don’t know how to tow the line between truth and compassion.  My black and white brain and finite knowledge prevent me from coming to any sort of comfort zone in it. But it definitely means I’m going back to the drawing board with our Far Between update.  Clearly I missed the mark with the first three drafts.  And it also means that I have a lot of compassion to give and mending of hearts to start on.

As always, I begin my day with a plea to the Father to know who needs his hands through me today. I’m open. It may be interesting to see what comes my way.

 

 

First Draft Update

We aren’t sending this one in.  It’s just not *right*.

But for your reading pleasure:

For a large part of my marriage, I took for granted that Mikeal and I held the same beliefs, had the same goals, and that our similar temperaments would make it pretty simple to have a great life together.  At the time of the filming of our Far Between video, that was no longer the case.  I was on my way back to a firm foundation with the church, but Mikeal was very much unsure of his future in the gospel.  At some point early on in our difficulties I became convinced that our marriage would certainly fail if we weren’t both fully committed to living the gospel and aiming for eternity, together.  

As we discussed in the video, we have a great friendship as a foundation, and that, we believed, was the sole reason we had a viable marriage.  Friendship IS a great foundation to marriage, and one that helped us weather the darkest of times, but it became evident that it wasn’t enough to get us through the long-term.  

Mikeal’s intent in marrying me was to have an eternal family.  For a while, he didn’t believe that he had any real hope of achieving that, so his purpose became to do what he could to get the kids and I to exhaltation.  He hoped for no more than a flowing white robe and some comfortable post in a pretty spot to live out eternity alone. This definitely was never acceptable to me.  In my black-and-white world, it was all or nothing, and his complacency was a constant source of pain for me.  I began to receive bits of revelation that showed me who he truly was underneath all of the angst and uncertainty.  This placated me enough to be willing to wait for him to come around. 

On a Sunday afternoon in the fall of 2012, Mikeal showed me a message he had written to a friend.  In it he wrote of a revelatory experience he had while watching General Conference.  The Spirit had spoken to him and confirmed that the doctrine of Eternal Marriage, as contained in the church, is true and that marriage between a man and a woman is the only way to receive the fulfillment of all priesthood blessings and gain exhaltation.  He didn’t show the message to me for several weeks, because he wasn’t entirely sure of his experience, and wasn’t ready to jump back into church activity with both feet.  He needed time to digest this new and uncomfortable truth. If it really was the truth, then everything he had convinced himself of in order to manage daily life had to be examined, an experience he wasn’t keen on pursuing.

 Of course I was elated, of course he was skittish, and this didn’t suddenly make everything easy and simple for him to live as a gay man in a hetero marriage, but it certainly put a large block in our foundation and set us on the same path. Which was a massive answer to my prayers. 

We just spent the larger part of 15 months remodeling a house.  Just like any remodel, the more we tore down, the more we realized how much bigger the damage to the house was, and how much longer and more expensive the overall project would be. It didn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination for us to liken the home remodel to our personal and relationship remodel. There were many times- months even- where I just wanted to turn my back on the whole thing and walk away.  I would be shoveling debris from a fallen ceiling, in tears, wondering if I could ever feel at home in this relationship/home- the damage was just too extensive. In these times, armed with the truth, Mikeal would hold out his hand to me and reassure me of the ability we had to make this journey, and remind me of what would be waiting for us at the end.  He became the cheerleader and chief motivator.  

Much like the remodel, our mortal journey is one of constant shift, change and refocus, and we will never truly finish the projects we are working on.  However, armed with truth and a clear vision of our end result, the upheavals and uncertainties take on a tone of learning and growth rather than despair and finality. 

The Jensens are happy, and oh so glad to be together.

An update? Why?

Kendall at Far Between asked us to write an update as a follow-up to the video we filmed a few years ago.  Normally I’m super thrilled to talk about myself, especially when I have such wonderful things to report.  But I’m stuck on this one.  The Far Between audience is a tough one- one that doesn’t necessarily like the rank-and-file, True Believing Mormon types, which is exactly where we have landed.  Mikeal is all about standing up, bearing testimony and leaving no one blameless (which in and of itself feels like a complete, bona fide, Moses-esque miracle) but I’m much more hesitant to anger the masses and draw contempt from a crowd that once shielded and comforted me when I was questioning.  

I like to be liked. 

I crave acceptance.

This morning as I was doing laundry, I realized how at peace I felt. And was astounded. You see, Mikeal is on a trip, the second week of a three week tour, and I am experiencing peace that I had given up on experiencing. For several years, I dealt with PTSD-like symptoms when he traveled because of the baggage that would come home with him. Not anymore. Instead of accepting his less than savory habits as a necessary accoutrement of being a homo in a hetero marriage, he is growing past them. He has accepted the atonement, and is using it to heal and become truly whole.  Not just whole-enough, or as-whole-as-I-can-expect-to-be, but ONE body, mind and spirit.  And you know what happens when the husband becomes WHOLE? The WIFE heals and the MARRIAGE heals and the whole man/woman/one-thing actually happens. 

It’s for real, folks.  The doctrine of marriage.  Totally, mind-bogglingly, real. Husbands and wives sharing the priesthood? Real.  So completely real.  In ways I cant enumerate. 

The struggle isn’t gone.  The gay isn’t gone.  We aren’t suddenly experiencing what a hetero marriage feels like, but we ARE experiencing what God intended for us when we knelt, nodded, and walked out of that sealing room.  And this is just the beginning. Doors opening. Minds enlightening. Calm overcoming. Truth. 

Which completely blows my mind. 

Which will make a lot of struggling believers pretty uncomfortable. 

But I can’t not shine a bright beacon of hope in the direction of truth. 

So say a prayer for us, and for those who need the tale of our experience to bring them into goodness. And also for those who may be upset by our words.  Especially those dear ones. 

We are all creatures of light. Let’s find it and shine it. 

xo

Within the Bounds

I would imagine that in the Highest Degrees of Glory, there is a lot of structure.  And within a lot of structure are a lot of rules, requirements, boundaries.  God operates within boundaries, why shouldn’t we?  If this earthly life is a proving ground for the “real thing” then the “real thing” is most likely going to resemble this testing period in some like or manner.  So He gives us rules.  Not arbitrary rules that he tweaks and changes at will, like a game maker who satisfies his need for control by toying with lives and emotions at his pleasure.  Rules that will bring us to Him.  His glory, that will one day be ours.  His greatest glory is our glory.  Do you get that?  It is unlike anything we see here in our lives.  His greatest glory is to see us glorified.  Successful.  Pure.  Like Him. 

So he arranges and teaches and guides and assists in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, all in an effort to BRING US TO HIM.  So if the rules are too strict, or too uncomfortable or too whatever, then there is something amiss IN US.  Not Him. 

He knew we would have desires that were averse to His rules.  He knew we would have to be raked over coals and walked over glass and stretched way beyond our perceived limits in order to be tempered, molded, shaped into creatures that can someday be capable of withstanding the magnitude of His incomprehensible glory. But it is all FOR us.  Not IN SPITE of us. 

The boundaries are loving.  They are His.  They are for OUR GLORY. 

So, what are you going to do with them?