Observations on MOMs from a Rambling Lesbian
I am new here. But I was invited to write this blog post because people wanted to hearthe viewpoint of a lesbian in a Mormon mixed-orientation marriage. I am not sure exactly what kind of perspective that gives me, but I will share what I have observed and learned over the years from my own experience and from my bird’s eye view intohundreds of other lesbians in MOMs.
- I have never seen a happy MOM. This is not to say it does not happen, but I have never seen a marriage with one partner straight and one partner gay, that is monogamous or polyamorous, where both partners are happy. I have seen marriages with one or both partners bi that are happy and healthy. I know of few open marriages that have been successful long-term, and none when the reason they are open is because one partner is gay. In one successful case, both of the base partners were fundamentally polyamorously wired. The wife was bi and they had a mutual girlfriend. It worked for them and has for years. Most of the other cases of open marriage, and all of the cases Ive known with strict MOMs, have been transitions into divorce.
- Female sexual fluidity only takes you so far. I would consider it fundamentally irresponsible of myself to date or consider marrying a man again (I began my divorce last summer). Yes, women are sexually both more bisexual and more fluid than men. But it only goes so far. I do not know of any lesbians who married men, knowing they were lesbians and figuring they were fluid enough, who have been happy long-term. And I know dozens who married under the idea that What does gender matter? I have found the person I want to spend my life with, who cares if hes a man? This is the 21st century for crying out loud! But, come 5-10 years later, their sexuality seems to move back into the well-entrenched lesbian domain and they have this hole in their soul that CANNOT be filled with their male partner. A small, but growing, number of MOMs seem to originate from forward-thinking and liberated lesbians (and their partners) who believe that gender should not matter. But the reality is that it DOES matter, if you are not bisexual. No matter how I try, I cannot connect to a male individual with the same depth sexually, emotionally, or spiritually that I can connect with a female individual. Its how my brain is wired. No matter how much you try to dress it up, you cant force yourself to like broccoli if you DONT, much less force yourself to love it.
- The majority of the divorces between lesbians and their straight male partners that I have seen have actually been triggered because the marriage sucked, not because of sexual orientation. This was the case with my marriage. There appears to be a strong correlation between women who are motivated to ignore their gayness (and thus marry a man and have a traditional family) and women who enter into domineering and misogynistic marriages. This, I believe, is a HUGE difference between lesbians in MOMs and gay men in MOMs. And this, of course, makes perfect sense if you consider that most cultures that are homophobic are also strongly patriarchal and sexist. A gay man who subverts his sexuality to remain favored in a traditional culture at least gets to keep the power bestowed upon him from that patriarchal culture simply because he is male. But a lesbian who gives up her identity as a gay woman also gives up a great deal of personal power in entering into these traditional and unequal marriages.
- My right to sexual satisfaction is diminished. Everyone knows men are sexual. But women? Ha, noooooo, of course were not that filthy thing called sexual. At least, that is still a strong undercurrent running through the fundamentally conservative environment I have lived most of my life in. If a gay man is sexually unhappy in a MOM, people understand that, and give him credit for that loss. But a lesbian sexually unhappy in a MOM? Oh, come on, half of straight women are sexually unhappy in heterosexual marriages! Why are you complaining?
- My right to personal happiness is diminished. It is my job as a woman to sacrifice myself for my partner and my children. My own personal happiness is not important; it is the happiness of those around me that I must focus on. Our society encourages men to be successful, to think of themselves, and to take care of themselves. But our society tends to guilt women who are successful (how have their children suffered? or have they, gasp!, forsook having children to selfishly pursue their own interests?), to train women to think of others, and to focus on nurturing the people around them. So, how could I POSSIBLY consider breaking up my family simply for my own happiness? How selfish is that? I should be glad to be miserable for the rest of my effing life just to not inconvenience anyone around me.
In conclusion, I would never recommend a strict MOM (meaning one partner straight and one partner gayI have no problem with combinations of bi). Furthermore, Id be tempted to hit anyone considering such a marriage with a frying pan, especially if s/he was the gay one trying to convince their straight partner that it could work. And the sad truth is that MOMs that have already been created, for whatever reasons, will probably never be fully satisfying relationships. The vast, vast majority of them end in divorce, and for a reason. I would tend to advise people in these situations to divorce as soon as you are ready, so that you can start on the rest of your life. I have just seen too many MOMs hold on, sometimes for ten or twenty years, only eventually to still end in divorce. And theyve spent years, or decades, of life wasted, struggling in a painful and emaciating relationship. There really ARE worse things than divorce.
Leslie — Thank you for coming here and taking the time to share your experiences and perspective with us!
I know exactly what you’re talking about in #5. This point came up at least once in The Exponent’s tales of Mothers’ Day:
Wow! Great essay!Thanks for writing it and sharing it here.
These observations align closely with what I’ve observed along the way. I especially like point #3 that mentions the asymmetries found in patriarchal culture. Patriarchy is a foundation of LDS culture and is not mentioned often enough when we talk about LDS reactions to homosexuality.
I read somewhere that gay men in MOMs tend to think they’re “gay” only after an emotional connection to another man, whereas lesbians in MOMs tend to think more about their lesbianism after sexual attractions to a woman. These are probably stereotypes, but it’s interesting if we juxtapose them to the stereotypes of men as sex-interested, and women as emotion-interested. I like how you said, Leslie, that, basically: “sexual fluidity only takes you so far.”
I echo MoHoHawaii: WOW! How refreshing to hear a story from a lesbian in a MoM. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences, reflections and observations.
I particularly want to thank you for your frank comments about the risks of MOMs. As you point out, there are many other factors that enter into the success of a marriage, other than the fact that one of the partners is queer. My own marriage was teetering on the brink of divorce before I came out; coming out was what pushed it over the edge.
One of the big differences between my situation and that of other gay men of whom I am aware or whom I know personally is that their wives know of their gayness yet want to hold onto the marriage. This makes a huge difference in the outcome, one which some gay men don’t fully appreciate, I think. In some of these cases, there is a good fundamental relationship between the couple; in others, not so much. Again and again, each situation is different; yet each situation has certain similarities and themes.
But, again, thanks for your frank comments. These conversations SO need to be held and aired, for our own benefit (i.e., those of us in or on our way out of MOMs) and for the benefit of the next generation.
as a lesbian in a MOM this is depressing.
A., how so?
Yay for Lesbians!! I’m one myself. I’ll be writing here in the future. I’m glad to read your perspective on MOMs.
Terrific post, Leslie. Glad to see it here!
Thank you for all your kind words! I figured actually that I’d get flamed for being so frank in my assessment of MOMs and their poor outcomes.
@chanson: Yes, I LOVE your distinction about mothers giving up their lives for their MALE children. I co-founded a support group for women in emotionally abusive marriages, and almost ALL of us in that group got serious about leaving when we had tween daughters. Coincidence? I don’t think so. There was something about realizing that as mothers our current lives were simply grooming our daughters to do exactly what we did, that gave us all a big kick in the butt to stand up to it so that our daughters would have a better future.
@Alan: YES. I have definitely seen and heard that: gay men realize they are really gay when they have an emotional connection to a man, and lesbians realize they are really gay when they have a sexual connection with a woman.
@MoHoHawaii and Invictus Pilgrim: Thank you! And Invictus, yes having a spouse who wants to keep the marriage intact really ups the guilt on you. It does change the dynamic entirely.
@A.: I think I understand when you say it is depressing because I tried for years to make my MOM work, and I didn’t want to hear from people who said it was unlikely to succeed. But, I can also tell you that I have been out of it for almost a year, and it has been SO wonderful. I can breathe. I have hope for my future.
@KassieS: Yes, so YAY for lesbians! 🙂
@Holly: Thanks friend!
You make some great points. Another big problem I always saw (which you see very clearly in the MOM in the play Angels in America) is the misery for the straight spouse. They don’t get what they need either. To live with the knowledge that this person isn’t really attracted to you, even though you love them and you “know” they love you too. It’s incredibly unfair to that straight spouse to expect them to live without the kind of intimacy and attraction expected in a marriage.
Well, technically, I was quoting someone else’s comment. 😉 But the comment stuck out in my mind because I remember thinking the exact same thing when I was a Mormon teen.
Makes sense. It’s a very common theme in the Mormon feminist blogosphere.
@Macha: Yes, there is no doubt these marriages are excruciating for the straight spouse as well. They are a lose/lose situation.
Thanks for writing this. I think we need more perspectives from lesbians.
I’m guessing that in a sexually conservative culture that has earlier than average marriages, people will be somewhat clueless.
I was engaged to be married to an LDS man for almost two years. Even after I realised that I was most likely going to be unfaithful to him with women (I had had same-sex relationships before he and I got engaged) and told him as much, he still wanted to go through with our marriage. I am REALLY glad I resisted. Despite my young age, pressure from Church teachings and the fact that I was physically attracted to him (enough to sleep with him during our engagement), I knew that I wanted to be with a woman, long-term, rather than a man.
I know that other people have very different experiences from mine, but I did know in my early twenties that I was attracted to both sexes and that my model of a relationship involved monogamy. I don’t have many problems being faithful to a woman. I fear I would have had huge problems being faithful to a man, however. That would not have been fair to him or to any children we might have had…
Great post, Leslie. Thanks for giving a female perspective on this.
I’ve tried hard to avoid labeling myself or my spouse in our MOM, but based on this analysis I would have to assume that we are both homosexual-leaning bisexuals, because our marriage is ridiculously happy.
Just had to add my 2 cents, since my husband told me it was MOM Week on MSP 🙂
Leslie, I can’t come up with a real comment right now, but I’d like to add my thanks to those of the previous commenters.
Madame Curie @15
there are few things in the world I love so much as relationships that are “ridiculously happy.” If one such relationship defies general expectations–including mine–for relationships, all the better.