I thought the piece Rod Dreher linked to about a gay Mormon man happily married to a woman very engaging. It behooves all of us – on whatever side of the various debates about marriage currently raging – to recognize the great variety of ways humans can make lives for themselves that work.
that regard, I’d just like to point out that, inasmuch as what distinguishes this fellow is, primarily, that he is married to a woman to whom he is not sexually attracted, and that he is sexually attracted to other people (he doesn’t lack a libido), this doesn’t really distinguish him terribly much from the norm through human history. Most marriages in human history were arranged ones, in which neither party had the freedom to choose their partner. While I’m sure in many such marriages some degree of sexual compatibility is achieved, it’s very hard for me to believe that any significant number of such marriages were characterized by what we would recognize as “falling in love with” or even “having a crush on” or “having the hots for” somebody. That doesn’t mean such emotions were unknown, just that they weren’t particularly associated with marriage. The radicalism of modern Western marriage is the assertion that these feelings should have something to do with marriage – indeed, should have primacy over the far more traditional bases of marriage, namely property and eugenics.
Noah Millman. I tried to post a comment on Noah’s post, but it didn’t seem to work, so I’ll add it here:
Noah, you write, “The radicalism of modern Western marriage is the assertion that these feelings [of passion] should have something to do with marriage – indeed, should have primacy over the far more traditional bases of marriage, namely property and eugenics.” I think you’re leaving out the other possibilities that are key to the story. It’s not just passion on the one side and property and eugenics on the other. What this story is pointing to is the possibility of personally chosen, not arranged, marriages built around a kind of regard for one another that is not primarily erotic, in the narrower sense. Here the key word is “intimacy.” These people married each other because they loved each other and wanted to share deep intimacy, but that intimacy was not characterized primarily by sexual passion. And yet the couple insists that they have a strong sexual relationship. The really interesting thing about the story has nothing to do with homosexuality, but with the possibility that our society has the logic of attraction all backwards: we start with sexual desire and hope to generate other forms of intimacy from that, but this model suggests that it could make more sense to start with the kind of intimacy that is more like friendship than anything else, and to trust that sexual satisfaction will arise from that.
I don’t think this is a new idea, but it feels new. When we read Jane Austen novels we think that the attraction between the protagonist and her beau had to have been primarily sexual but the topic just couldn’t be broached in those prudish days, but what if that’s just our narrowly sexual cultural formation talking? Maybe we need to think more seriously about the Weed family as a model for others — and not just for people who, as we Christians often say, “struggle with same-sex attraction.”