It’s wedding season! For engaged LGBTQ couples, it’s a time of immense joy that is often paired with a fair amount of grief, too. This summer we’re exploring challenges specific to the months leading up to marriage. This week, we’re talking about friendships who seem supportive of an LGBTQ relationship—until the couple gets engaged. One of our readers wrote into our Mailbag with the following question:
My partner and I are getting married in October, and we're faced with a lot of heartache that we didn't know existed. Particularly, 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. There are many people we know already who will not be attending our wedding, but 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.
We’re both so sorry to hear about your friends who have surprised you by rejecting your wedding invitation and, by extension, your relationship. What a disappointment that must be, and what a betrayal that must feel like. In some ways it must be easier to accept the friends and family who rejected you upfront rather than ones who sprung this on you without any previous indication of their beliefs.
I try to put myself in their shoes to see if I can understand their choices, and if possible to give them the benefit of the doubt. I imagine that in the years leading up to your engagement, they were trying to be supportive and loving in spite of their views; to them, this meant hiding their true beliefs and trying to stay in relationship with you. At first glance this sounds like a valiant effort to preserve friendship, but relationship can't thrive on a ruse — it thrives on authenticity, even if that authenticity brings conflict.
What would have been more genuine is if your friends had expressed their reservations early on with love — if they had talked to you about their views truthfully, without trying to change you and while still actively pursuing friendship. Perhaps then you could have come to a mutual understanding, even if you never saw eye-to-eye. Perhaps this authenticity could have saved the friendship, and perhaps even grown it into something deeper and more meaningful.
But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, they hid their beliefs on homosexuality until your engagement forced the issue. In a situation like this, in which you were blindsided, I don’t see how you could have done anything different or better to preserve the friendship. As for the future of your friendships, it would be wonderful if you were able to have some productive conversations with them to mend the relationship; this is possible if both of you are willing to respect where the other is at, and if all of you are committed to leaning into friendship. But that’s a tall order to fill given the circumstances. A more likely outcome is that the deep and sudden hurt caused from this incident will cause distance, and that distance may cause the friendships to fade. If that happens, care for yourself and take time to grieve the friendship. The loss is real.
I can relate to your story. For most of the friends we invited to our wedding, we tried to have conversations explicit enough to know that they were supportive, or at least supportive enough to attend our wedding even if they still had some reservations. We tried not to invite anyone we weren't sure about because we wanted the day to be celebratory and didn't want specter of rejection haunting our special day.
Even so, there were a couple friends we invited who didn’t attend, and only later did we learn it was because they were unsupportive of us getting married. We felt duped by them, and we felt unsure where our friendships stood. Ultimately, it spelled the end for these friendships; we felt hurt and I think they felt guilty, and so our contact just kind of drifted apart. I feel as if our friendships might have been saved had they been more forthcoming, rather than springing their beliefs on us at such a critical moment. It was a jarring way to learn the news.
We believe community is an essential aspect of a healthy marriage, perhaps even more in the early years. Friends can help see us through a season full of changes, and they can help us thrive as we’re learning to navigate the challenges of new marriage. That makes this sudden rejection by your friends doubly painful: It’s the loss of friendships right at the moment when you’ll need them most.
Despite your heartache over these friends, try not to let it ruin your day of celebration. Lean into your future spouse, and lean on the friends who do support you. Have faith that you are working toward something big and wonderful in your life, and that even if there is pain involved as you move toward your nuptials, your marriage is worth it. Your soon-to-be husband is worth it. What you are losing is valuable, but what you are gaining is so much more.
David Khalaf is a fiction writer living in Portland. He and his husband, Constantino, are the authors of Modern Kinship: A Queer Guide to Christian Marriage, forthcoming from Westminster John Knox Press, January 2019.
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