Constantino and I recently returned from a much-needed vacation to celebrate the completion of our book on marriage (or, perhaps more accurately, to celebrate having survived co-writing a book on marriage). We spent a couple of weeks in Europe, which afforded us the opportunity to visit some of our friends who now live there. One of these is a good friend I’ve had since middle school, who is gay and has been partnered more than 15 years. The visit was not only a chance to catch up, but a chance to apologize for how I failed him years ago when he first out came to me.
Dating is like sailing between Scylla and Charybdis. On one side, there's the danger of falling hard and fast for "exciting" but tumultuous, unhealthy, or simply non-viable relationships. On the other, there's the danger of becoming complacent in a relationship that is adequate but has no deep sexual and romantic chemistry—a relationship with a person who could perhaps be a great friend, but not a lover. Both dangers lead to the eventual death of the relationship—one quickly, as if eaten by Scylla, the other slowly, as the ship sinks into Charybdis. Either death is bound to be painful.
Last Sunday, I had the honor of sharing my heart at our church here in Portland, Pearl Church. It was an opportunity to tell a bit of my personal story, and also share my hopes and dreams for our little church. More than anything, though, my talk was a love letter to our church and to those like it that have suffered in the name of generous inclusiveness.
From a reader: “As a gay Christian, I am looking at two possibilities for my life: I could marry another man, and live the rest of my life with nagging doubts that I have sacrificed my relationship with God for this marriage. Or, I could choose not to marry a man, and blame God for the loneliness that I feel. … There's a third option, and that's to kill myself now, while I still am in good relationship with God.”
This summer we’ve been exploring challenges specific to the months leading up to marriage. For our fourth and last installment of the series, we’re talking about "Listening"—one of the habits a couple can learn during their engagement that will help them in marriage.
From one of our readers: “Friends who have been friends with us for years suddenly decided they won't be attending our wedding because they don't agree with us being "gay married." I'm wondering if you two faced this surprise heartache as well, and how you two dealt with it. … It's out of the blue when someone you've known for the past 10 years suddenly decide there was a limit, a glass ceiling, to our friendship; and that limit hits at marriage.”
Healthy dependence is good for a marriage, and it’s good for you as an individual. But it’s not something that just happens on its own. Learning to rely on another person can be difficult, especially if you get married later in life, when you’ve already lived years as a self-sufficient adult. The season of engagement affords couples an opportunity to start practicing dependence, to start yielding to each other and learning how to accept each other’s influence. Healthy dependence isn’t just emotional attachment to one another — it’s two people integrating into a symbiotic whole, engaging in a perpetual cycle of give and take.
The in-law experience is not monolithic. Frequently, however, LGBTQ couples face tension from family members who don’t support the relationship but don't reject them outright. That can leave us in the awkward position of trying to build relationships with people who don’t seem particularly interested in having us around
We’ve written about getting married at an older age and how it has given us more time to individually discover who we are as people. Although that’s true, I’m finding that perhaps I’ve put too much faith in self-awareness, and have misinterpreted our stability as stagnation. All of which is to say, I never expected us to change very much once we got married. How very naive I’ve been.
“So, is the Holy Spirit a boy or a girl?” asked one of the kids. “I don’t know!” said their pastor. “I usually say ‘he,’ because that’s what I am used to, but really the Holy Spirit is neither a ‘he’ nor a ‘she.’” “So they’re a ‘they!’” shouted out another kid, and the rest nodded, taking it at face value.My 38-year-old self marveled, feeling at once old and youthfully invigorated.