Mixed Orientation Marriage – A Personal Story – Pt. 1

Mixed Orientation Marriage – A Personal Story – Pt. 1

I’m writing a series of biographical reflections on my life and experience with having been in two mixed orientation marriages. There are so many men and women that struggle with these matters that I believe it may be helpful for me to expose my own heart and life journey in order that some may realize they are not alone in the angst and struggles with being gay and yet married to a straight women.


I Was Just A Teenager

Over forty years ago, I was a young teenager who was gay but really didn’t know it. I have vivid memories of a male fifth grade teacher that I was very attracted to. I always got along with the teachers who were females. I was intimidated by competition and social interaction with other guys. I was always a different, creative, and spunky young boy.


I was very sexually naïve and had not had any sexual experiences with another person. I had a couple of neighborhood friends and we joked about our bodies and other kid stuff, but when it came to girls, I excused myself from the conversation. I was very timid in life and just didn’t try to engage in sex. Internally I just told myself that sex before marriage was wrong according to my Catholic upbringing. So I used the excuse that I was moral to not think about it.


I had dated a few girls in high school. I wanted to be like the other guys and have someone that was special in my life. Socially, I was very distant from other guys. I hated Physical Education classes and skipped them a lot because I was so disconnected from the mindset of sports. So, I hung out with a group of girls and had a friend, Shelly, that was my closest friend through high school. We were never interested in dating one another and actually on one prom event, we took pictures of the other friends who were going to prom.


After trying to find a girl that I was connected to, there was one in particular that became my first love so to speak. Beth was much taller than I was but that didn’t matter to me. I loved being around her. She was caring, nurturing, and loved to laugh. We had a couple of dates, but most of our time was spent together at school in our common interest of art class. After a few months dating, her parents cautioned her about our relationship and suggested she break off the serious nature of our connection. When she told me, I was broken hearted.


Soon afterward I began to date a girl named Kristy. She was fun loving, but she seemed to be emotionally closed off. Her friends would talk about her emotional isolation and that they didn’t know how to reach into her heart. I took on the challenge and began to try to get to know her. We dated for a while and then we broke up. Once again, we got together and began dating. Although our relationship had many valleys, we remained in a dating relationship through graduation. I believe I remained with her rather than to be alone.


1972


JohnSmidGraduationAfter graduation I began to work for a department store where I got really close to a young guy named Tom who worked with me in my department. I was infatuated with him. He was edgy. He had long hair and seemed to enjoy talking with me. I loved to follow in his footsteps almost like he was my older brother. As I grew closer to him I was pretty consumed with our friendship.


After several months Tom told me that he would be moving to Chicago. He had a girlfriend there who was in college and they were going to live together. I was devastated. The fear of not having Tom close by brought me to a lower point than I had experienced in any other relationship that separated. I remember one evening talking with a lady who was like a second mom to me and I was crying on the phone with her. It truly was as though we were breaking up. But, we were able to remain in contact through letters after he moved.


At one point I chose to take my first driving trip alone and go see Tom. I took a long weekend and went to Chicago. When I saw Tom and his girlfriend, Ellen, I could see how much they enjoyed one another. I felt like a third wheel and didn’t really enjoy the weekend. Tom didn’t have a lot of time to spend with me alone and this was unsettling. On the drive back I felt lonely and the pain was so uncomfortable that I didn’t want to go through that again. It felt like I was in a relationship of unrequited love. Tom didn’t love me like I loved him. I went on in life to experience more of these. But it was with a man! That didn’t resonate with the culture around me of straight people. But I understood the feelings.


When I got home I remember going out with Kristy one evening. While we were sitting alone in her house I said, “Maybe we should get married.” I believed Kristy would be a good homemaker and I knew she loved children. I also felt as though she understood my crazy childhood and life experiences. She had a very similar family history and siblings. In my mind at the time, those were good reasons to marry her.


She agreed and the planning began for a wedding a few months later. I really had no interest in a sexual life with her. I knew I’d not be alone any more, but romance and intimacy were not something I focused on. Actually I was afraid of sex with her. I felt so naïve about sex and feared I’d not know what I was doing and fail. I figured I’d just pour my life into marriage and family so that the whole dating thing, and potential for future break ups was less likely.


One month before our wedding, Kristy told me that she had been sexually active with one of the guys she dated in high school. I was completely devastated. Even though I wasn’t sexually interested in her, I prided myself in holding a high value of sexual morality. I felt double-crossed. In a fleeting second after her disclosure she could see my intense reaction and said she really hadn’t done anything but just wanted to see what I would say. Regardless, my head was swirling and my heart pounding. What would I do? I realized that the wedding plans were solidly in place and believed we couldn’t change them. So, with immediacy, I made the decision to ignore what I had heard and go ahead with the wedding. I really believed I had no option. I think if I had thought it through and talked with someone about it I may have broken off the marriage. But I didn’t know how to talk about it all.


1973


We proceeded with our wedding. Interestingly, we failed to get a marriage license in time for the Nebraska standard two day waiting period. We were thrown into a tizzy and the priest suggested we might consider having our official marriage performed in Iowa since they didn’t have a waiting period. This was the answer and we had a casual official wedding the morning of our formal wedding in the evening.


John and Kirsty 1973Among our good friends taking the roles of bridesmaids and groomsmen, I asked my friend Tom to stand with me. Even in the challenges of my emotionally needy relationship with him, it was good to have him there. He was a person of security. But as I reflect on this, it was as though he were more important than Kristy was. I felt so emotionally vulnerable seemingly knowing I was headed for a marriage that was not a proper fit for me. Our wedding was fairly traditional and took place in our home church, which was Catholic.


We didn’t go on a honeymoon. We were seriously lacking in funds due to a lay off from my job, so that just wasn’t in the picture. But underneath I think I felt relieved. As I look back, it seems more like I didn’t want to have any time away with Kristy alone. I know underneath I was beginning to feel the pressure of being in a relationship with a woman. I sure would have loved to be alone with Tom!


Due to the lack of sexual interest or romantic feelings towards Kristy, our relationship felt more like roommates than intimate lovers. We were sexually active and subsequently we had two daughters. I loved having the kids. Our family life mostly surrounded extended family and maintaining our home. We didn’t have any close friends that we socialized with. I had done several remodeling projects on our house, which kept me busy. I also worked part time jobs so I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about how emotionally separated I felt from her.


I had a life goal that had been in my heart for some time. It was to have a brand new custom built home, brand new furniture, a new family car and all of the things that go along with my dream of a suburban family life. So, through a series of events, I worked to obtain those goals. We got the new house, the car, and all of the extras by the time I was 24 years old. I distanced myself from the anxieties and discomfort of my opposite sex marriage and same gender attractions through focusing on those things. It seemed to work for a while.


After we had been married for about five years I began to realize how much I was enamored by the good looking men that I saw each day. But I also recognized that I felt distant from them too. I felt alone and disconnected. I focused on some of them that I saw more often than others. I was drawn to their bodies and fanaticized what it might be like to be emotionally close to them. I rode a commuter bus to work and back for a season and I would look forward to seeing certain men each day during the 30-minute commute.


One day while engaged in listening to a conversation among friends someone used the word “homosexual”. I don’t remember the context it was in, but it was like a flashing red light went off in my head! Yes! That’s me. I’ve finally figured out what this is all about. These attractions and emotional struggles now made sense.


I knew a guy at work that most of us in our office knew was gay. I believed he would be someone I could talk with about my revelation. So, after arranging a time to meet, I sat down with him and told him what I was going through. His response was a little shocking. He said, “John, I knew all along that you were gay.”


Our discussion led to some drinking and further lengthy discussion. He then offered to take me to a place where we pursued engaging in a sexual encounter. It felt so natural for me. It was like I had always believed a sexual encounter would feel like but I had never done this with a man. Yes, I was married, but at that moment I threw caution to the wind and went with something I had wondered about for very long time. I didn’t know what I desired because I didn’t have any preconceptions of what sex with a man might be like. But when I experienced it, it was the physical experience that related to the emotional desires I had always had. My life changed forever that evening.


I went home very late and the next few days were full of all kinds of emotions and thoughts. Kristy knew something was different about my countenance. Finally she asked me what was wrong. My response shocked me as much as I’m sure it did her.


I’M GAY AND I WANT A DIVORCE


1979


I had already become seriously discouraged in our relationship. We had come close to breaking up a couple of years earlier but I just shut down and moved forward. The next months were very painful for both of us. I became completely closed off from her and she continued to try her hardest to get me to open up. I was unwilling to even talk about anything. She suggested I might want to talk with my dad.


I agreed and sat down with my dad and told him that I was going to get a divorce and I told him why. He wept and said he was very concerned that I was going to pursue a divorce. He really said nothing about me being gay. My dad was more concerned that our family was going to break up than he was worried about the fact that I was gay.


During the next couple of months Kristy told my family as well as hers that I had announced that I was gay. This opened up the door for several discussions where people tried to talk me out of the decision I was making. But for me, I was unwilling to go back to living hidden behind my circumstances. I had begun to meet other gay men and I found such camaraderie with them and for the first time in my life I was able to relate to a community. I followed through with the divorce and came out completely. But this wasn’t the end of my story.


(more to come)


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