Monday, June 21, 2010

A mixed-orientation analogy

Anyone who's read this blog knows that I don't think we should be encouraging young people into mixed-orientation marriages. My outspokenness on this issue tends to offend people who are already in mixed-orientation marriages, even though my position on existing MOMs is positive. I support these couples 100%, wherever their paths take them.

I finally came up with an analogy that might make this clearer. Bear with me.

We all know that it's not a good idea for teenagers to get married. Marriages between 17 year olds have a very high rate of failure. Those that don't end in failure are often stormy. The couple often find themselves growing apart by the time they are 30. Etc. We can point to specific reasons why early marriage is an extraordinarily bad idea. There's no need to recite the list here.

Now, let's suppose you and your spouse did marry in your teens, and your teen marriage happens to be one of the exceptions to the rule. You've stayed married for two or three decades and are satisfied with your marriage. Maybe there have been some rough spots along the way but all-in-all you are content with the family structure you have built.

Question: Does the fact that your teen marriage is doing well decades later mean that we should soft-pedal our advice to young people who might be contemplating such a union today? Is the fact that we strongly discourage marriage between teens on practical grounds showing a kind of disrespect for your successful marriage?

I think it's pretty easy to see that the answer to these questions is no. No one is showing intolerance for your marriage by strongly advising young people against marrying when they are 17. That some couples are capable of maintaining their teen marriages into middle age doesn't change the fact that young people considering this step should be alerted to the extreme inadvisability of teenage marriage.

Now, suppose that you are well versed in the many problems of teenage marriage. Maybe you even were in one of these, and it was a spectacular and painful failure. Maybe you are acquainted with a large number of couples who have experienced sorrow as a result of underage marriage. Maybe you've read the statistics and the academic literature on the subject. Then, you happen to meet a happy couple who years earlier married young. What would your feeling be toward this couple? Would you disdain their relationship? The answer is no, of course not. You'd be happy for them.

What if you met a couple who happened to be struggling as a result of problems connected to marrying so young. Would you hope for them to fail as a way of validating your own anti-teen-marriage ideology or would you empathize with their issues and hope for the best? Again, it's not a stretch to imagine that you'd be on their side.

Finally, what if your own teen-aged son or daughter came to you and asked your advice whether they should marry their sweetheart. Would you encourage the pair of enamored 17 year olds to pray about it and ask God if they should marry? Would you pass along anecdotes of couples who married young and beat the odds? I don't think so. You'd tell them in clear terms what the story was, with no ifs, ands or buts.

In my mind, the parallel between these two situations (teenage marriage and marriage between people of unmatched sexual orientations) is strong, yet I end up thoroughly offending people in mixed-orientation marriages on a regular basis. I have yet to offend anyone who married young. My theory about this is that people in mixed-orientation marriages can be a lot touchier about the issue than people who might have married as teenagers. I'm not exactly sure why.

I'd love to hear from any of you in mixed-orientation marriages or from anyone else with an opinion on the topic. Does my analogy make any sense to you? I'm happy to take criticism. If you think I've been smoking something, let me know.

11 comments:

Mister Curie said...

I have only felt support from you for my mixed-orientation marriage and have not been offended in any way. I think your analogy makes a lot of sense. I also discourage the formation of mixed-orientation marriages, but fully support a mixed-orientation marriage once it has occurred.

Holly said...

I think this is a terrific analogy.

My theory about this is that people in mixed-orientation marriages can be a lot touchier about the issue than people who might have married as teenagers. I'm not exactly sure why.

teenagers who marry really young are usually driven together by their libidos, while MOMs typically end up happening because at least one person in the marriage has a misplaced sense of obligation and a fear of the truth--however strong the initial attraction between the two parties. (And I say that as someone who was head-over-heels in love with a gay fiance.)

Which would you regret more?

Quiet Song said...

I will defend an eighteen year old or nineteen year old's right to marry any place anywhere. Similarly, I will defend a teenager who is of the age of consent and has the statutory right to marry (parental consent, emancipation, pregnancy, previous assumption of parental responsibilities) any time and anywhere. That goes for same sex underage marriages if permitted by statute. There is no law against a gay person marrying a straight person. Your opinion that it will fail, is your opinion. People are allowed to fail in this country. More on my blog later about the right to fail.

Beck said...

Like Mr. Curie, I, too, have felt nothing but unquestionable support from you for my decisions to stay with my wife and make my MOM work for me and my family. I am not offended at all when you encourage others who are not yet in a MOM to avoid entering one. I do not encourage them as well, for the same reasons.

If a MOM was formed as mine was with one or both parties in full denial, it is hard to give such advice for they will not even recognize that the advice applies to them.

Once one or both realize the "truth" about their mixed-orientation, certainly heart-ache, betrayal and pain will result, and the road to "bliss" won't be an easy one... but if that couple still wants to "make it work" and continue on, should we not support them in that choice? I think you would most certainly agree that we should.

If, however, the MOM is formed with one or both parties aware of the situation and reality of what mixed-orientation will mean to their marital relationship in the long run, and they have been "warned" and accept the warnings with open eyes and honesty on both parts, and choose to go forward, should we not also support them in their decision? I think we should and encourage honesty to continue and grow between them.

I think the analogy with teenage marriage works, and the underlying principles are the same. We should get the message out to our gay brothers and sisters that marriage is not the answer to getting rid of one's orientation, that marriage, no matter how great, will not change one's sexual attractions, and that to think it will be different is a falsehood of the highest order! There is no cure as there is no illness. It just is what it is, and one must accept and embrace that truth.

If knowing and accepting and embracing that truth one still chooses to enter a MOM, I feel I should still fully support them in that choice, just as much as supporting them NOT to marry or to marry one of the same sex.

MOHOH, you have may support in continuing to preach your anti-MOM "offending" message!

Scott said...

@Quiet Song: There's a difference between recommending against marriage (for teenagers or mixed-orientation couples) and denying them the right to marry. I believe MoHoHawaii would defend any couple's right to marry, and I would certainly do the same.

I'm not sure MoHoHawaii has ever claimed "that it [a MOM] will fail", either--just that a MOM (or teenage marriage) is going to face additional challenges that make the likelihood of success much smaller.

If I don't care about a person who wants to enter a MOM, I don't have any reason to try to dissuade them--they can marry, and if they succeed, more power to them, and if not, who cares?

But if I do care about them, shouldn't I do my best to make sure they're as aware as they can possibly be of the challenges that their unique form of marriage will bring them? And how can I do that other than to point out those who have gone before them and failed to successfully meet those challenges?

Of course, if, after I've done my best to help them understand the difficult situation they're considering entering into, they still believe that marriage is the right thing for them to do, then of course I'll do my best to support them in that decision and hope for their success.

Arthur said...

I think the analogy works just fine. I don't see how the bloggers you link to were disagreeing with your take on the Idaho firesides or MOM in general, you seem to be reading from the same book if not the same page.

There are a lot of reasons why people stay together, some better than others of course, and sometimes people genuinely like one another even if their marriage isn't conventional or operates like a marriage would with conventional partners. Yes, they can work. But reality is what it is and they usually don't. That's half the battle, recognizing when it's time to move on. Your approach strikes an appropriate balance.

Mr. Fob said...

Great analogy. This also matches my own take on MOMs.

Bravone said...

A thoughtful post. I agree with most of what you and others have said. I think those of us in moms may be a bit more sensitive because we some, not you, give the impression that it is simply a matter of time before our marriages fail. Others imply that we are lying to ourselves and not truly happy. Some feel we are not 'authentic.'

I agree with Beck in the following two paragraphs except that I firmly believe that if one partner knows of his/her ssa, he/she has a moral obligation to fully disclose. It must be a mutual decision.

"If, however, the MOM is formed with one or both parties aware of the situation and reality of what mixed-orientation will mean to their marital relationship in the long run, and they have been "warned" and accept the warnings with open eyes and honesty on both parts, and choose to go forward, should we not also support them in their decision? I think we should and encourage honesty to continue and grow between them.

I think the analogy with teenage marriage works, and the underlying principles are the same. We should get the message out to our gay brothers and sisters that marriage is not the answer to getting rid of one's orientation, that marriage, no matter how great, will not change one's sexual attractions, and that to think it will be different is a falsehood of the highest order! There is no cure as there is no illness. It just is what it is, and one must accept and embrace that truth."

Madame Curie said...

I like the analogy with teenage marriages. Very unthreatening.

A similar comparison might be made with teen pregnancy. I don't know anyone who would counsel a 16-year-old to get pregnant. But once she has the baby, everyone should support whatever decision she makes for how to raise said baby (to keep or to give up for adoption).

Folks in MOMs need more support, not less. Just because someone urges against getting into one does not mean they don't support those in MOMs already.

Chester said...

Good analogy.

Forgive me if I lack subtlely in this subject. Thankfully the girl I once thought I'd marry out of my flailing desperation to find a place in the church, THANKFULLY, rejected me.

While no marriage is bullet proof, the chances of failure are so high with a MOM. Within an LDS context especially (and I'm betting MOM's are largely a Mormon phenomenon), the success or failure of a marriage is everything. The most important things in the LDS church are tied to successful eternal family units. So when a marriage fails, things end up being so much worse than normal for everyone's psyche.

While I feel people should do what they want, I think MOM's, even full-disclosure MOM's (and I think anything other than "full-disclosure" is reprehensible and criminal) are entered into far too cavalierly. In the end there's no simple "calling it on account of rain." No, "Oh well, we gave it our best shot." It's dashed hopes. Tears. Disillusionment.

I truly feel for Mohos who want to stay in the church. It's precisely the church's laser-focus on traditional family structure, and it's anemic empathy for their own gay members that causes people to risk so much with a MOM.

The Wife said...

Thanks for directing me to this post! Somehow I missed reading it. I like the analogy very much. And just so you know, we have never felt offended in any way. Though it takes a lot to offend us! :)