Sunday in Outer Blogness: Navigating Relationships Edition!
Is it just my pattern-seeking brain, or does the conversation in blogspace tend to converge around different themes? There was something in the air this past week that inspired the Bloggernacle and Outer Blogness to contemplate how to deal with relationship problems caused by differences.
Naturally the focus was on differences in belief within families. On the non-believing side, The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes weaves a story around the lyric “Your mother loves you but not the way she did before.” Aerin contemplates relationship problems and the selfishness spectrum, from healthy self-interest to narcissism. On the believing side, Blog Segullah posted a question about how to deal with an otherwise great husband who leaves the church. (And I was very pleased to see that — in the comments — almost nobody felt it was grounds for divorce, and building up the marriage through loving acceptance of differences was a popular solution.) In a similar vein, Mormon Matters argues for acceptance of disaffected family members, offering a parallel with the Orthodox Jewish example.
And what are those issues that divide us?
G is frustrated by friends who are willing to hold whichever opinion has the prophet’s current stamp of approval. Happy Lost Sheep actually posted a transcript of a family discussion of issues in LDS history. Andrew posted an online conversation that was almost the flip-side — explaining to people outside the Mormon community why Mormonism shouldn’t be dismissed as stupidity. DPC got defriended-then-refriended by a newly agnostic friend, and it put him in a philosophical mood about his own place within Mormonism (and Hackman also dealt with some Facebook drama). Similarly, the Urban Koda waxed philosophical about how the LDS church can have both a positive and negative effect on families.
Then there was a very interesting discussion about relationships where the problem is deeper than a difference over belief. Mister Curie has been posting a fascinating memoir called Pieces of the Past, describing his experiences growing up Mormon and gay. Like so many guys in his situation, he marries a woman, but this time the plot thickens, as his wife is also gay!
Now, before we delve too deeply into that dangerous topic of gay people who marry in an opposite-sex kind of way, I’d like to recommend that everyone read J G-W’s beautiful metaphor of a relationship as a dance — in response to the hurtful battle of your-experience-invalidates-mine when trying to decide whether to stay with a mixed-orientation-marriage. (Recall that Madame Curie also posted about how the fear of how personal these discussions can become.) This situation presents MoHoHawaii with a dilemma:
What do I say to young people who might be contemplating entering into a mixed-orientation marriage? I might be tempted, out of consideration for the sensitivities of people already in mixed-orientation marriages, to soft pedal my advice. Maybe the point of contention is whether I should downplay the seriousness of mismatched orientations as a problem for long-term marital satisfaction.
Then MoHoHawaii and J G-W present some fascinating discussion of how orientation isn’t just about sex, but is also about the nesting instinct. This was response to Scott’s post about selfishness where he claims that “the selfless thing to do would be to dedicate myself to Sarah’s happiness and do whatever it takes to make our marriage work” and that “every relationship requires [the] spouse to bury, deny, ignore, or otherwise sublimate a significant part of himself […] to some extent, of course.”
Moving on to lighter relationship topics, Marcus describes being a cultural chameleon to fit in. And what about the pets in our eternal family? Jon presents some quotes to show that (if you believe in LDS doctrine) All dogs go to heaven.
And as our last social topic of the week, let’s talk awards! The Mormon Alumni Association is planning to award the William Law X-Mormon of the Year Award for the year 2000! If you’ve somehow missed it so far, you have only one day left to get in your nominations before we start the voting. Also note that the Niblet Nominations are up (including lots of folks from our community), but I don’t think they’ve started the voting yet. If you don’t win a Niblet, never fear — the Mormon Alumni Association also has an award in the works for online excellence. Stay tuned!!!
Hmm…mixed-orientation marriages. My feeling is that there are different kinds of gay, and therefore different kinds of mixed-orientation marriages. I’m not just talking about the Kinsey scale, but more of a…how much I need to act on my gayness-ness versus other forces (spirituality, culture, family, whatever). Some dances are easier to learn than others. I think the LDS-MOM is a harder dance than most because of the requirement of a strictly heterosexual dyad….which didn’t start until probably the 1920s or so. But for some reason, Mormon people never seem interested in the historicity of the heterosexual dyad because they take Church doctrine to be ahistorical — or at least, only changeable by God.
I tend to think of mixed-orientation marriages from a cross-cultural perspective. Take Thailand, for example. There’s no Buddhist stance against “homosexuality” (mostly because this way of labeling “sexuality” is Western-specific), but there is a strong cultural element to have a family. Thus, a guy might be “gay” in his 20s and then not in 30s, or gay all the time, and though married, not in a strict dyad with his wife. This is why mixed-orientation marriages, to me, are more often a feminist issue than “gay one.”
I have posted on my blog some questions I had after reading a couple of these posts.
Please, have a look at let me know what you all think.
It’s true that cultures can vary in surprising ways. But pair-bonding — “nesting” — is a human phenomenon, not a cultural artifact. Are you suggesting that MOM’s are fab as long as the guy isn’t expected to emotionally bond with his wife when she bears his children and devotes years of life to him? If so, that’s an incredibly male-centric view. But perhaps that’s what you mean by calling it a feminist issue: As long as women are trained to accept their role as livestock, then their emotional/relationship satisfaction is irrelevant.
Wayne — I just read your new post — good insights. I think it’s true that the LDS church encourages a “you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality that encourages people to leave 100% when they may well have family/cultural reasons to keep one foot in, if that were an option.
When you say Western specific does that include India and China?
Wow, here’s another one that just popped up!!
My Interfaith Marriage: Reflections, Five Years In
chanson @ 2: Yes, that’s what I meant by it being a feminist issue. In terms of nesting, vulnerable infants need a stable environment, but I don’t think nesting necessarily equals 2 adults (or one male, one female). Just look at the early days of the church. =p
Wayne @ 4: Na, West means America/Western Europe.
Wow. Outer blogness is always good, but this edition is great. This is an invaluable list of discussions on a truly vital topic. thanks.
I’d like to encourage all SiOB readers to take a sec, click through, scroll down to the last category listed in the 2009 Niblets Awards, and vote for SiOB as “Best Weekly Feature”:
Chino — Thank you for nominating this feature!
Holly — glad you like it! There was some really amazing discussion this past week.
Just to clarify, even cultures where Buddhism exists do put confines on what one can do inside a marriage.
I know in Japan for example people’s lifestyle is not necessarily dictated by Buddhist precepts. The Buddhist precept on sexuality is pretty clear, but it only applies if you actually take up the Buddhist practice: as a lay-member or Monk. For Monks sex is strictly forbidden, the lay-member is encouraged to keep from misusing sex.
I don’t know how Thai Buddhists practice but I would not be surprised if you asked a Thai if their sexual decisions were based on Buddhist law, they might say no.
Here is a link which talks about Buddhism and Homo-sexuality http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_budd.htm
Hi Wayne…the reason I picked Thailand is because it’s 95% Buddhist. I should clarify: Family structure isn’t dictated by Buddhist doctrine the way it is in Mormonism. There’s no Buddhist stance against homosexuality (and alternative domestic relations), but this doesn’t mean certain instances of Thai culture aren’t anti-homosexual or non-same-sex-inclusive for other reasons. Universally, there would be a Buddhist stance against, say, being adulterous and hurtful to one’s spouse regardless of gender. (And there is, of course, the more communitarian/ascetic aspect of celibacy for monks and nuns, where your “family” is all of humankind.) All in all, Buddhist doctrine informs what family members do and how they treat each other, but not what form the family itself takes.
Conversely, Mormonism requires the female-male pairing and celibacy is actually considered lesser than being married and having children — although arguably, celibacy is gaining traction in Mormon culture due to SSA. My feeling is that after the polygamy issue at the end of the 19th century, the Church made very explicit what was an “ethical” family structure, which put itself in a corner with regard to SSA.
Another big difference between Mormonism and Budddhism is that Mormons will tell you that they are Mormon. In a place like Thailand being Buddhist is more a way of life than a Religion.
Of that 95% I would bet that the portion of Buddhists who actually have knowledge of the rules and follow them is fairly small.
As far as I know in Theravadan tradition, Monks are the only individuals who actually have to follow the rules. Mahayana is much more demanding of non- monastic practitioners(I could just be bragging)
I’m not an expert, but I don’t think this is the best way to conceptualize what’s happening. Monastic tradition is different than lay tradition, and although monasticism is upheld, that does not mean that lay people (who have businesses to tend to, or engage in the rearing of children, etc) are not “following the rules.” Monks, for example, have to tend to the business of the monastery, given that their way of life is not free. But just because they’re dealing with money, I don’t think this makes them any less “Buddhist” — although, I’m sure they would rather not have to deal with it.