WARNING: Yeah, this is one of those posts in which I discuss sex...just in case you'd rather not read about that...
I receive Google alerts for posts about mixed-orientation marriages. I suppose I do this because I want to see the perceptions surrounding such marriages from different groups. For the most part, MOMs I've encountered in which the woman is same-sex attracted/lesbian/gay/whatever have come into being through religious or societal reasons. The women have married a man:
a) because that was what they felt they should do based on the teachings of their chosen religion.
b) because all their friends were doing it, and it seemed to be the appropriate step for them, as well.
c) because they had yet to admit they felt attracted to other women.
d) because they truly believed that if they married, as instructed by religious leaders, the feelings they had for women would focus on their husbands or that those feelings would go away.
This list, of course, is not representative of every woman's reason for marrying in spite of same-gender attractions, but the reasons listed are fairly common in such marriages.
As a result of marrying for those reasons, the majority of women in MOM's I've encountered do not enjoy a healthy sex-life with their spouses. Reasons for sex within their marriages:
1. Their husbands ask for it.
2. They want children.
3. They feel obligated.
In nearly every case, the women feel violated in sexual relations with their husbands, regardless of how lovingly or attentively they may be treated. It never feels "natural" or right.
I state the results of my research because they differ from my own experience. I did not marry because I felt it was decreed of the Lord. In fact, when Darrin and I decided to get married, as was traditional in the church (and because Darrin asked me to), we both fasted and prayed for spiritual confirmation that our choice was the correct one for us. Neither of us received the confirmation we were seeking. In the end, a stake president convinced us that we, ultimately, were the ones who needed to decide if we loved each other enough to live together forever. In retrospect I realize that had I married because I felt it was what the Lord wished for me, and not because I made the decision of my own volition, I would have spent a lot of time resenting the fact that I felt compelled to get married and did not choose it of myself.
I did not choose to get married because it was a societal norm. In fact, I had decided I would never get married simply because the thought of marital intimacy was so repugnant to me. I had made plans for my life that involved no one but myself. I had no idea that I would wish to spend my life with Darrin. I was very surprised when I discovered I wanted to be with him every day. I was more surprised when I began to feel emotionally connected to him--more than I had felt with any other person, including women. I was confused when I recognized I loved him with a depth I had never experienced. I was astounded when I began to explore the possibility of expressing that love physically.
I have never felt physically attracted to Darrin--or any other man. The thought of having him near me, naked, was terrifying. I spent many months figuring everything out in my head, trying to become comfortable with the idea that we might have sex. When we were apart, I could not figure it out. But when Darrin held me, when we talked, when I slept in his arms, I knew he wouldn't ask anything of me that I could not give--and somehow, that made me love him more than ever and want to show him that love in every way.
We did not come together on our wedding night with everything working itself out and the two of us sleeping off a blissfully passionate experience. In fact, I believe Darrin fell asleep after the first disastrous attempt and I went to the bathroom and cried. The next morning I asked for a divorce/annulment/whatever-just-get-me-out-of-this. Darrin suggested we talk about things first. So we did. And I realized I wanted to be married, I was just overwhelmed and sad that I was not able to enjoy sex with someone I loved deeply. Darrin confessed that he was having some difficulty feeling comfortable with it, as well, which led us to a discussion of things we could to to make things easier for both of us. Darrin said that since we'd be married a very long time, it was okay if we took things slowly and just worked on becoming used to being intimate. We talked about ways of touching that felt nice--and ways that felt intrusive or frightening (actually, I was the only one who had anything to say about that, but was very relieved that Darrin would listen and carefully avoid those things that would hurt me physically or emotionally). I would love to say that in the nights that followed, everything worked itself out and our sex life was hot! It didn't, and it wasn't.
However, as life moved forward, my desire for physical intimacy with my husband never went away. I wanted to be close with him. I wanted to have sexual relations with him. I didn't feel aroused by him. It seemed I was doomed to feel emotionally attracted to the point that I was dying to express it, and physically unable to respond to that attraction. Let's all pause here and scream the word: FRUSTRATED!!!
I have to admit that being a sexual being, and having a sex drive allowed me to complete the sex act, and yes, orgasm is a part of that, but I felt that the entire time that we were being sexually intimate, I was talking to myself, reminding me that this was a good thing, trying to concentrate on the physical sensations which would allow me to to have that orgasm--but there seemed to be nothing emotionally fulfilling about the act. I didn't really feel that I was expressing love, but rather, participating in a physical exercise. This did nothing to alleviate my frustration.
After a few years, I could no longer participate. I was experiencing health problems. I was undergoing chemotherapy. I had a toddler. I was going to school. I was exhausted. The mental and emotional stress brought about by having sex with my husband seemed insurmountable. I felt defeated.
Interestingly, when I look back at that time, I realize this was when I truly fell in love with Darrin. I knew he was attracted to me. I knew he wished to have sex. We slept each night in the same bed, which made his feelings more intense. He also understood that I was going through an incredibly difficult time. I was in pain constantly. I wasn't sleeping. The doctors believed I would die. Each night Darrin pulled me close to him and held me. It felt as though he was willing to accept whatever I could give--and that was enough. I felt loved in a way I had never experienced. I knew when he was aroused--still, he simply held me close. This time it was he who was frustrated. It could not have been easy to treat me with tenderness and restraint at those times, but Darrin did so. He told me he wanted me with him, no matter what. Years later he told me he was certain I was dying. He said, yes, there was sexual frustration, but more than that, he just wanted to hold me for as long as he could. I was unaware that he had felt that.
In time, I recovered my good health, and I found that my experience with my husband had increased the depth of my love for him. I remember distinctly one night, as we were making love, something jolted through me--a realization that Darrin expected nothing from me. I could stop at that exact moment and say I couldn't finish what we started, and he would dress, pull me close, kiss me and allow me to sleep, and he would do that because he loved me and would never push me to give what I could not. Suddenly, he was no longer a "man", but someone I loved with my whole soul. The act of making love took on a new meaning. I was becoming one with the person who held my heart. We were joining in an expression that meant we belonged to one another and no one else. He had access to the most vulnerable parts of me, physically and emotionally, and he had proven time and time again that he would cherish and defend those as carefully as possible. As I realized this, for the first time, "making love" meant exactly that. And afterwards, I held him, because I was overwhelmed by how much I loved this person I had married.
That night began a journey I am still pursuing. Darrin and I have been married a long time. In a typical heterosexual marriage, it's not uncommon for sexual expression to wane with time. My marriage has done the opposite. As I've become more comfortable with my husband, sexual expression has become more joyful and frequent. I must be honest and admit that I am still not aroused by the sight of my husband, nor am I physically attracted to him. But I am emotionally connected in a way that translates into physicality that is beautiful and fulfilling, and I want this to continue for a very long time.
I wrote this very long post because for the first time, yesterday, I encountered a woman who was in a situation similar to mine--lesbian but married to a man, enjoying a wonderful sex life with the person she loves. She posted her situation on a lesbian group site to which she belongs. The women there insisted that she was not, indeed, lesbian, but bisexual--for no self-respecting lesbian would ever allow, let alone enjoy, sex with a man. I read the comments and thought, this is why I don't tell people. This is why I don't explain how it works for me. No one, who has not experienced what I have can understand why I do what I do. This is why I feel isolated--unaccepted by the lesbian community--a misfit in the hetero community.
I'm not sure why being an anomaly seems daunting. I don't understand why I wish there were more who have had experiences similar to mine. But I emailed the other lesbian-married-to-a -man, the one who married not for religious or social reasons, but because she wanted to be with a person she loved for the rest of her life--even if it wasn't the gender she was naturally attracted to, and I told her I understood.
And now, after my long explanation, I suppose I'm hoping that at least one person who reads this finally understands me, because it would be nice to know that what I'm doing makes sense to someone. However, in the end, as long as it makes sense to Darrin and me, I suppose it doesn't really matter if it makes sense to anyone else.