Recently in Relationships Category

What's With Mormons and Marriage?


A few months ago I began thinking about the question, "What's with Mormons and marriage? Not just temple marriage, but gay marriage and plural marriage and mixed orientation marriage and early marriage and no sex before marriage? Is there another group on earth that fetishizes marriage more than Mormons? I don't think so."

And then I started thinking about the fact that while I've come across several anthologies of essays by Mormon women on motherhood, I've never seen an anthology of essays by Mormon women on marriage.

So I want to put one together. And I am soliciting essays for it.

Dirty Little Secret (Or, Intimacy vs. Loyalty)

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You remember back in April when I wrote about an online forum devoted to helping people deal with the challenges of living their lives in a closet? One discussion in this group involved people remarking with wonder and astonishment that when they finally "came out" to their spouses, even though it was really, really hard, especially in the immediate aftermath, eventually it brought a new level of closeness to the marriage--sometimes it even improved their sex lives! (This at least in the cases where incompatible sexual orientations weren't an issue.)

I didn't comment, but I wanted to shout, "You mean that when you finally began to be emotionally intimate with your partner, the intimacy in your marriage increased? You mean that when you finally stopped lying and withholding, both of you felt more trust and were better able to share what really mattered? You mean that when you became a more authentic person, your relationships were more authentic as well?"

I couldn't see how these people couldn't see that refusing to be intimate with one's partner would damage the intimacy of the partnership. But over the weekend I happened to pick up Fascinating Womanhood again, and read this:

When you see the sensitivity of a man's nature, you know how careful you must be in conversation. You cannot permit yourself to have an unbridled tongue and say anything you please. You cannot pour out your heart to him as you would to a a mentor. you must withhold feelings and confessions which would wound his sensitive pride. (183)

Reciprocity and Gratitude


When I was engaged two decades ago, I was in a position to do things for my fiance that he could not do for me. This was OK with me at the time. I was in love: it brought me joy to do things for my beloved. It let me think of him, and imagine his happiness, and feel close to him.

At some point I noticed, however, that while he enjoyed the things I did for him, he didn't see them as special the way I did. Not only did they not require reciprocity--which we both knew he couldn't provide--they didn't even seem to require gratitude or, more disturbingly, acknowledgment at times. I began to realize that he thought they were his due, what he was entitled to, not something I willingly chose to do for him because I loved him, and that I could have chosen not to do.

I met my fiance in Arizona but he was British, and I knew that at some point before the wedding, he'd have to go back to England. The particular way he decided to go home involved considerable sacrifice and hardship for me. I wasn't happy about it, but I understood that sometimes, things just have to be a certain way. You deal with it as well as you can, which is what I tried to do; I also tried to make things easier for him.

On the eve of his departure, I told him, "I need you to say two words to me."

"What?" he asked, grinning. "Bug off?"

Let's Don't Divorce Them


Marriage Manifesto

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My friend Troy is awesome. He is not only gay (sexual orientation) but queer (social identity) and after the four panelists had spoken in the Brokeback session at Sunstone (see the intro and the excerpt), I asked him to come up and make a comment, in part because he knew all four women on the panel, and in part because I knew he'd deliver both a queer-positive and a woman-positive message. He gets it: he understands the patriarchy is the basic problem, and claims that one reason he's such a decent, enlightened person is because he has listened to the women in his life. He also doesn't take the "oh, I'm gay and it's such a source of heartache" approach to homosexuality--he acknowledges that people go through that stage, but at some point, he says, embrace your gayness! Love yourself for who you are! Be positive about all the fabulous aspects of gayness, instead of trying to retain as many elements of straightness as you possibly can.

Troy does a radio show in Salt Lake called Now Queer This. He's working a documentary about some brouhaha in southern Utah over legislation to define a marriage as existing only between one man and one woman. He has filmed orthodox Mormons, gays, and polygamists as part of the movie.

Troy gets this as well: alternative marriage is alternative marriage, and so he supports the decriminalization of polygamy. Independent polygamists get it too: many support legalization of gay marriage between consenting adults because they realize that it will pave the way for decriminalization of polygamy among consenting adults. (Which many in the gay community find distressing.) My family, which is well stocked with Mormon Republican lawyers and judges who find both gay marriage and polygamy revolting (one is counter to god's will, and the other is entirely god's will, but not something anyone with any self esteem and a real love for her spouse would ever do if she could possibly avoid it), understand that point as well--and they're really afraid.

Not the Star I Paid to See


Picking up where I left off yesterday on the matter of unpleasant parents:

Another good thing about the way Mormons deal with kids: everyone (well, almost everyone) learns very early that there are places where it's just not appropriate to bring children. This doesn't cause kids much pain or resentment, because a lot of those adult forums are plain boring, and kids are rightfully glad to escape them. You learn that your parents can go off and leave with you a babysitter and it won't kill you, the babysitter OR your parents--in fact, if the babysitter is cool enough, you might even have fun, and you usually get something special for dinner.

The last ward (a Mormon congregation) I attended was an young adult/student ward at the Institute at the U of Arizona. There were no kids in this ward, because you had to be a childless university student and/or single person over the age of 18 but under 35 to attend it. The idea was to help young people meet potential mates, though childless couples in which at least one spouse was enrolled as a student could also attend this ward.

But there was this divorced woman in her late 20s who insisted on bringing her five-year-old daughter with her, and largely because the bishop felt sorry for her, both mother and child were allowed to attend. The daughter went to all the meetings with her mother, including Relief Society, the meeting for women. Well. One Sunday I was teaching the lesson, and I made an off-hand comment about how there was no Santa Claus.


It Says Sour


I wrote Monday about how I generally like children, but there are plenty of parents in the world who irritate me. Wednesday I wrote about dealing with parents and a child I liked, and today I'm sharing an anecdote about an encounter with a parent who totally pissed me off.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Target for some particular product. I don't remember what it was; I only remember that they didn't have it. They did, however, have Clueless on sale for $7.50, a spiffy anniversary edition dvd with lots of special features, and as I collect adaptations of Austen novels (in case you didn't know, Clueless is based on Emma) and as my VHS copy of Clueless has grown worn from use, I decided to buy the dvd. So I took my single item and went to stand in the express checkout line.

The woman ahead of me in the express lane was dealing with two children. She seemed a bit frazzled--her son, who seemed about six, wanted some gum, but kept picking out kinds that were sour, and she kept saying, "It says sour! See? It says sour!" I can be pretty good at tuning out other people, so I just ignored her and thought about the pleasant activities I had planned for the rest of the day--I think I was planning to sew. The cashier rang up and bagged my movie before the woman had removed her bags from the counter, and for some reason her son, who had not taken any of his mother's bags, picked up my bag.

As I explain in this post about my freak dancing accident, and in this post about my bursitis diagnosis, I've been in pain lately. That's one reason–actually two reasons--I didn't post anything here yesterday: sitting was uncomfortable, and then I ended up spending several hours seeing a doctor and having x-rays and working with a physical therapist. The other reason I didn't post yesterday is that I had a dinner invitation that took precedence over writing.

My hosts were a colleague, her husband and their three-year-old son, who is really damn cute: big smile, bright brown eyes and this head full of tousled curls because his mom has been two busy to cut his hair recently. I sat down next to him at the dinner table, remembered what I'd posted Monday, and asked myself, "All right; do I like kids or not?"

And I decided I really do, if the parents allow both me and the kid to treat each other like people.

I asked the kid how old he was, what his name was--basic ice breakers, to which he gave me basic answers. His dad said, "We forgot your knife," and went to the kitchen. And the kid said to me, "I have a blue knife."

Go Away, Parent, You Bother Me


I think of myself as someone who likes children, mostly because there are a lot of children I like. OK, occasionally I meet a kid I truly dislike, same as with adults: a couple of my friends had five children, four of whom I found mildly repellent: they were not only badly behaved, but just plain weird--one in particular I rather expect to end up in the penal system. But generally, I'm well disposed to like kids. If I see a cute baby in a stroller, I usually smile and try to make eye contact. If I hear a child crying, I usually think, with a pang of genuine sympathy, "Oh, that poor thing."

I especially like kids old enough to walk and say at least a few words and feed themselves a high-chair-tray full of diced broccoli, but still small enough that you can pick them up and tickle them and play peekaboo with them: there's something profoundly wonderful about making those wee ones squeal and clap their hands in delight. I also like little kids whose parents buy them really cool electric train sets (that would be my brother and his wife). As I've watched my nieces and nephews grow up, I've noticed that sometimes they get hard to talk to around nine or ten (and they can stay that way for about a decade), but if a kid likes to read, I can usually manage a reasonably interesting conversation. And I'm gratified by the fact that the kids I like seem to like me OK, too.

There's a famous scene where WC Fields (I have no idea what movie it's from--I tried to find out) says to some child, "Go away, kid, you bother me," a particular expression of his general antipathy for children. I was always baffled by that in my youth, and offended as well: how could anybody who'd been a child dislike children on principle? I still sort of feel that way.... Because I really do like kids at least as often as I like adults. Change that: I like children more often than I like adults. It's certain parents, I've realized lately, that I really have problems with.

Of Friends and Furniture


A friend recently mentioned to me that certain problems he's facing in a relationship are due in part to the fact that he too quickly arrives at the point "where you see the other person as a comfortable old piece of furniture you can take for granted and don't really have to think about."

I contemplated this notion a moment before speaking. "I don't think I've ever gotten to that point," I said.

The friend settled back in his chair, which was not particularly comfortable. "Really," he said archly. It was a skeptical challenge more than a curious request for information.

"Really," I said. "It has to do both with how I see people and how I see furniture. It's not at all that I'm a nicer person than you or anything, because the point I arrive at is the point where I think, ‘You are an ugly piece of junk and I can't bear looking at you any more and my life would be so much better if I could get you out of my house and replace you with something that isn't hideous and uncomfortable,' which is how I feel about the couch I have right now. I hate my couch. I just hate it. It was old to begin with and now my cat has shredded most of the upholstery. I really want to throw it out and replace it."

I have thought about the conversation in the days since it happened. It has helped me understand something about what I want from the people I rely on and the objects I recline on, and how I need to respect both.


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