“My best friend, Josh, came out to me as gay when we were teenagers back in the late ‘90s. I was the first friend he had ever told. We were hanging out one night and Josh kept mentioning this ‘thing’ about himself that he wanted to share with me, but every time he started to tell me, he got nervous and said, ‘Never mind. It’s too big.’
This went on all night…Josh trying to tell me his deep, dark secret and then getting scared and backing away. I was trying not to pressure him, but it was clear he wanted to tell me. He eventually asked me to guess what this big personal secret was. I already had a guess, that he was gay.
I timidly asked, ‘Are you gay?’
‘No,’ he said immediately.
I was filled with relief and said, ‘Oh good!,’ but then I looked at the pain on his face and realized he had not told me the truth. He really was gay.
He asked, ‘Lolly, why did you say ‘Oh good’ when I told you I wasn’t gay?’
I looked at his wounded face and said, ‘Because I think being gay and Mormon would be really hard.’
It turns out, I was right.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormon church) teaches that it is not a sin to experience same-sex attraction as long as you do not ‘act’ on homosexual feelings. Ultimately, if you are gay and you want to stay in good standing with the Mormon Church and achieve the highest level of exaltation (the Mormon conceptualization of heaven), you have two choices. You can remain celibate for the rest of your life or you can choose to enter a heterosexual marriage even though you are gay.
Being celibate for the rest of his life did not seem like a good option to Josh, so he decided he wanted to find a girl and get married. At the time he outed himself to me, we were just friends. We continued to be ‘just friends’ for years.
Whenever the possibility of us getting married would come up, I would not even entertain the idea. I was not interested in marrying someone who wasn’t sexually or romantically attracted to me. Yet, as the years went by, and Josh and I grew closer and closer, I eventually fell in love with him.
Back in 2002, Josh asked me to marry him and I said yes. We truly felt like we were doing the ‘right’ thing by getting married. After all, getting married was what was going to help Josh get into heaven because he did not want to be celibate his whole life. I loved him so much that sacrificing my own desires for romantic and sexual attachment seemed noble and worthwhile. Besides, we believed that after death, he would be fixed and become straight. All of my sacrifices in this life would be made up for in the next.
We got married in June of 2002. Our friendship continued to grow and we enjoyed building a life together despite the challenges that came from having a gay man married to a straight woman. We remained close and we shared and we communicated and we did our best to work through those obstacles. We both became marriage and family therapists and we had four daughters together.
Over the years, however, life threw us some curve balls that started to change our beliefs around homosexuality. Josh came out as gay and married to a woman in a blog post that went viral in 2012. As a result of Josh coming out, and the unexpected media attention that we received, both Josh and I started associating more with the LGBTQ community. Our friendship, love, and compassion toward our LGBTQ brothers and sisters began to grow and grow. Our involvement and personal connection with these individuals who embraced their sexual orientations and did not view themselves as ‘broken straight people’ began to shift our worldview and religious paradigm.
By 2017, both Josh and I could feel that accepting and embracing the beauty of Josh’s gay sexual orientation was necessary and good, but it was also impacting our marriage. How was he going to be able to truly love himself as a gay man except to be a gay man? As we discussed this sobering truth one night, we both came to the realization that our marriage, while started with the sweetest of intentions, had done a lot of harm to both of us. Neither one of us was being able to experience love in the ways humans are meant to experience love, and it was slowly deteriorating our happiness.
That night, while bawling in each other’s arms, we decided we loved one another enough to let each other, and our marriage, go. We would no longer be spouses, but we would always be a family. We ended our marriage with a divorce ceremony in which we shared our vows to each other and our four daughters promising that we will always be a family, even if Mommy and Daddy aren’t married.
This concept of being divorced, but remaining a family, has been very hard for a lot of people around us to accept. After all, when you get divorced, you’re supposed to break up the union and move on, right? Well, Josh and I have remained in the same house, co-parenting our children together for a couple of years now. I have had many people tell me how weird and unnatural it is, that I have kept Josh as my best friend and continue to live with him even though we are divorced.
I have to stop and ask if it is really that weird and unnatural to keep your family together? Is it weird to love someone so much that you want them to experience genuine happiness and love themselves? Is it weird to, rather than kick people out of your family, add more members to it? The answers to these questions seem obvious, at least to me, and that is why I have chosen to continue to love Josh as my family.
Josh has found the love of his life, Carlos, who has become a cherished member of our family. Both my girls and I adore Carlos. Even more outstanding is the fact that MY family likes him too. Talk about miracles…my family is a fan of my gay ex-husband’s boyfriend!
I am happy to say that I have also found an amazing guy! He adores me in all the ways I yearned for since I was a little girl. And, yes, he is loving and accepting of Josh and our unique family. We are still keeping our relationship under wraps for the time being, but I look forward to the day when I can announce him as the newest member of our special and devoted family.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Laurel Weed. You can follow their journey on YouTube, Instagram and their blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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