Back in January, I wrote a post about my mixed-orientation marriage with Anna. Since then, I’ve mulled over things I wish I’d said a little better, and things I would have liked to include but didn’t.
The reactions to the post were varied. Many people in our lives voiced their support and gratitude that we’re sharing our journey with them. Others were confused and, quite frankly, turned off by it all. Some saw it as a situation to be fixed, a broken “half-marriage” if you will. Those who do life with us day to day, and those who know us well, are fully aware that this isn’t the case. But with the limited picture painted for them in a few thousand words, I can understand how many see a much more dire circumstance than what actually is.
The fact of the matter is that it is impossible, in the scope of a blog post, to capture all that a marital (or any significant) relationship is. And just as it is important to consider authorial intent when reading divinely inspired scripture, so too must a reader consider the purpose of any writer when making inferences and forming impressions and opinions based on that writer’s words. In fact, I imagine that if we all, myself included, got a little better at that, we’d get a lot further in dialogue with those whose beliefs and experiences run so counter to our own.
My intent in writing that blogpost was not to give a comprehensive account of my marriage. Rather, I had three objectives in mind: First, I was attempting to shed light on the fact that traditional marriage to a member of the opposite sex is an option for gay (or same-sex attracted, if you like) Christians in some instances. Secondly, I wanted to acknowledge some of the challenges that such marriages will likely include, by highlighting them in my own. And finally, I wanted to express my gratitude to the Spiritual Friendship community for providing a space for me to work out the complicated relationship between my faith and my sexuality, alongside others who can relate.
I hoped that in addressing these three things, others in mixed-orientation marriages would feel encouraged that they aren’t the only ones on this path that often feels like a trek through uncharted territory. I hoped that it would bring awareness to other Christians that there are likely people in their churches and communities who are in such marriages, and that it would give them a glimpse into some of the unique challenges that they face and for which they need their Christian family’s support and prayers. I trust that all these things have been accomplished to one degree or another.
Unfortunately, what I wrote, or more precisely, what I didn’t write, has also left many with the impression that my marriage is a daily heavy burden, an altogether unpleasant cross that Anna and I must hoist daily upon our backs and drudge through life together. And this just isn’t the case. We have a very full, rich life together, and we are happy with each other. Certainly, we’ve had very dark seasons. There have been times when it did seem that marriage was a mistake. That is not, however, where we are now, nor is it where wehave been throughout most of our marriage. The emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical intimacy that we share is very real. So are the challenges that we face in those areas. In many cases, those challenges look very different from the challenges faced by those in typical heterosexual marriages. But at this point in our lives together, I’m convinced that they are no greater.
Mike Allen lives with his wife and daughter in Shanghai, China, where he teaches English at a private Chinese school. He volunteers with an international youth group, and he blogs in his spare time about faith, sexuality, and life as an expat in China at Adventure in Shanghai.