I grew up hearing that love is work.
I have excellent parents who modeled the good and bad of marriage; who talked about sex and why it’s great and why it’s not everything; and introduced me to concepts of boundaries and good communication.
I sucked this up, wanting to learn how to do this love thing well. I heard from many sources (especially in the church): there’s no such thing as soulmates. Love is a choice. It is something you do.
And so, when love was always and only something I did, I wasn’t fazed.
Whenever I’d wonder why I wasn’t feeling something I thought I should, I’d remind myself that there’s no such thing as soulmates. By and large, I didn’t even ask those questions at all because the concept was so ingrained. Any time a boyfriend did something sweet and my response was a mental, “that’s nice,” while staying at emotional equilibrium – I thought that was because you won’t always feel love, but you choose to love anyway, to stick it out, to work until the sun comes out again.
As I’ve said before, none of that is necessarily untrue. It’s just that it’s not all of the truth like I thought it was.
I almost never felt romantic feelings. I thought I was just a pragmatic person. As I’ve said before, romance stories always made me embarrassed and awkward – all such stories were heterosexual, of course. Plus, I can’t stand romances that had a happily-ever-after instead of a more realistic (and frankly, sweeter) I-want-to-make-this-work.
But by chance I was introduced to several romances which features same-sex couples, as well as the realistic love-takes-work approach.
I read these books and did not gag. I read and I felt things. My heart awoke and I came alive with desire and yearning.
And I thought: this is because I’m depressed. These stories are helping me get back in touch with my emotions while I’m numb and sad. That’s why they feel so good. That’s why they fill me with longing.
That went on for years.
Why is it that I longed to read those stories more than I longed to spend time with my husband? I finally asked that question. Asked how those stories featured a kind of love which seemed realistic yet which I didn’t have. Asked whether it was okay to want those things, and why I couldn’t have them with my husband.
My relationship just needs more work, I thought. After all, there’s no such thing as soulmates.
But there is such a thing as being biologically, hormonally, genetically, psychologically unable to love a certain category of people to the greatest extent humans are capable of loving. It is possible to be with someone and be simply and utterly unable to receive their love or give them the totality of your own.
I can’t explain it, because I was never given words for this. It’s not a choice. It goes so much deeper.
I can choose all I want, make every effort possible, and he will still love me more than I love him. He will feel things and I’ll feel…cheerfully ambivalent. I’ll get passionate about things in my life, but not about him, never to the same extent. Maybe about him as a concept or about him as a friend. But I can’t feel for him that passion that he feels for me, that reveling in a person for simply who they are.
Yes, passion takes work. But it also takes sexual orientation.
So, church? You’re right, there’s no such thing as soulmates.
But there’s such a thing as people who are not your soulmates.
There’s such a thing as being unable to make yourself feel or be or care. There’s such a thing as an impossible situation.
Again, I feel so at a loss to explain how this feels. I don’t have the language, the stories, the narrative to explain it. I just know: it’s wrong. It’s inauthentic. And besides the fact that it’s hurting my husband, it’s also hurting me trying to be something I’m not.
I can’t explain this either. I do love my husband, in my way. I have happy times with him. I am (try to be) my authentic self in every other area of life.
But trying to love him, to want sex with him, to remember I’m supposed to desire to spend time with him – it takes more out of me than I have to give. It’s not a situation humans are supposed to be in, not something we’re built for. And so it sucks away my energy, my passion, and my creative output. I’m pouring myself into a black hole with no results except for this one: I’m not able to be my authentic self in other areas of my life, either.
I can’t be excited about Fairy Tail, or Soulless, or the MCU, or my writing, or my plant-related hobbies, or even my cat. I have to reign myself in, because I ultimately get more joy out of each of these than I do from him. (How fucking sad is that?!) It’s not that I’m not making the effort and choosing to love: it’s that he is unable to make me happy. To satisfy me. To make me feel joy, to be something I long for, to get me excited.
Not by any fault of his own. It’s just because he’s a man.
As I’m allowing myself to be gay, I’m able to love what I’m reading and watching and geeking out over. I’m able to be passionate about what I’m writing and growing and cooking and planning. I’m able to snuggle my kitty and spoil him with petting and treats.* I don’t have this guilt hanging over me when I do. I’m not wondering whether I’m loving my husband enough by comparison – worrying I need to tone down my excitement so he won’t feel overshadowed.
My husband once said, It feels sometimes like you love your cat more than me. While that’s not exactly true, I think he was getting at something: that my love for my kitty doesn’t have any restrictions – it’s a normal pet-owner love. Whereas my husband’s and my relationship is inherently broken. It is not the fullest thing a marriage can be.
(*He thinks they are treats. They are actually supplements flavored with chicken liver oil. Someone out there is a genius.)
Our relationship cannot work. It cannot be fixed. Because neither of us is broken: we are simply the wrong people for each other.
I didn’t used to think that was possible. After all, soulmates don’t exist, so you can hypothetically be married to anyone, right?
Church, this is why a heterosexual-only view when teaching can be so harmful. It can lead us to closet ourselves without even knowing it. To think we’re straight when we’re not.
To accidentally hurt people we love.
Because if I’d known I was gay before I married my husband, I wouldn’t have married him. I would not have hurt both him and me like this.
But I just. didn’t. know.
I don’t blame the church. I don’t blame me. I don’t blame him. I blame the concept of homophobia. I blame the evil that infects our world and causes us to fear and revile without cause.
I blame the lies.
And I am breaking free.