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RDIAG

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RDIAG

One of the things that’s made living in a mixed allo/ace marriage challenging is the fact that I’ve spent my career working for a church, making sex a loaded issue in some particular ways.  It’s alienating to be in a community that emphasizes a particular view of family, with “complementary” heteronormative views of gender, treating marriage as if its main goal is the production of children.  Over the years, I’ve felt furious about the homophobia that occasionally appears – mostly, of course, because it’s just plain wrong – but also because, even though I’m a cis hetero white male, I’ve had this invisible identity as a partner in a sexless marriage.  The parish where I work is a liberal enclave in comparison with most, but there’s still this undercurrent of procreation-normativity.  And I’ve *wanted* to procreate, more than I can say. So I get very angry, and my anger is always suppressed, mostly out of respect for the privacy of my wife. 

 

When I learned of the concept of ethical nonmonogamy, it was a great revelation.  I had always been sexually faithful (and frustrated), but now I had a concept of a way to be more ethical than ever, and also get to have sex.  To be respectful of myself and to be more respectful of my partner by being open and honest.  But this isn’t the sort of ethics you talk about in a mainstream church, even a moderately liberal one.

 

So now I’m in a poly relationship, and in addition to being completely open with my wife, I’m “out” with some family members and one coworker/friend.  But if I were to be seen in public with my girlfriend, would my job be in jeopardy?  We went out to lunch in a town an hour away, and even at that distance I was still scanning the street for any sign of a parishioner.  It’s ridiculous.  I don’t want to treat my girlfriend like a dirty little secret. I’ve tried to do right by the people in my life.

 

I don’t know quite where I’m going with this post….  I’ve always been alienated from my religious community because of hidden sexual challenges, and now I’m alienated because of different hidden sexual challenges.  I don’t like secrets. They make me feel lonely.  Even when I’m so extravagantly lucky as to have two loving relationships in my life.  And if religion exists to support ethical living, I feel like I’m living out my values -- yet in so doing risking my job. 

 

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SithApprentice

If you find yourself in conflict with your religion, why stay in the religion? I guess working there makes it a bit harder, but could you look for another job? 

 

The Bible has instances of polygamy in it, so if you wanted to try and defend your relationship in terms of polygamy, you could probably look for those situations. But I don't know how effective that would be since our modern society has moved towards polygamy being illegal and polyamory being socially frowned upon. 

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RDIAG
15 hours ago, SithEmpress said:

If you find yourself in conflict with your religion, why stay in the religion? I guess working there makes it a bit harder, but could you look for another job? 

Yes, I keep the job for entirely mercenary reasons.  It pays well and lets me pursue my passion full-time, which is a rarity.  At this point I don't feel like I have other marketable skills.  I have this glorious vision of a "retirement job" in a few years, where I can work at some fabulous liberal and sexually diverse little church that presumably would pay much less.   That's my dream.

 

15 hours ago, SithEmpress said:

The Bible has instances of polygamy in it, so if you wanted to try and defend your relationship in terms of polygamy, you could probably look for those situations. But I don't know how effective that would be since our modern society has moved towards polygamy being illegal and polyamory being socially frowned upon. 

Polygamy is entirely different because of the power imbalance.  It was more of a property sort of attitude, and I certainly don't want to be associated with that.
If it comes down to it, I'll be forthright about my situation. 

Actually my favorite polyamory-theology connection is defining the trinity as a relationship triad. 🙂   

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nanogretchen4

Are you Catholic? Does your job require you to be Catholic? Also, would you be fired if you divorced and remarried?

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SithApprentice
7 minutes ago, RDIAG said:

Yes, I keep the job for entirely mercenary reasons.  It pays well and lets me do music full time, which is a rarity.  At this point I don't like I have other marketable skills.  I have this glorious vision of a "retirement job" in a few years, where I can play at some fabulous liberal and sexually diverse little church that presumably would pay much less.   That's my dream.

I hope your dream works out then. I'm sorry your current situation is so inflexible.

 

7 minutes ago, RDIAG said:

Polygamy is entirely different because of the power imbalance.  It was more of a property sort of attitude, and I certainly don't want to be associated with that.
If it comes down to it, I'll be forthright about my situation. 

 

Actually my favorite polyamory-theology connection is defining the trinity as a relationship triad. 🙂

I understand that polygamy is different because of the past power imbalances. I think it has the possibility of not being so in the future, but that many societies would still have a problem of that kind of imbalance today. 

 

I hope your church and those around you do not react too poorly if such a thing does happen. I'm not sure how more progressive Christians would handle the news. I know some would be fine with it, and fundamentalists would freak out, so I can only hope you have more accepting and less strict believers around. 

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Memento1

Hey RDIAG,

 

That is a painful conundrum.  I grew up going to church, and my local parish is pretty liberal (I never heard a word against homosexuality while I was there, and it was an open secret our music director was lesbian), but yeah, I feel nonmonogamy (even ethical) is still a step too far for that crowd to accept.  My mother used to work at that church, and still goes there, but as her spirituality grew more unconventional over time, she joined a lovely little contemplative prayer community from all different denominations.  I wish there were more open-minded spiritual communities like that.  If you ever find that dream church, I will definitely come and check it out!  in the meantime, I'm sorry it's creating a schism in your life, though I'm also glad you're able to make a living pursuing your passion.

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Traveler40

@RDIAG it’s tough. I’ve had similar thoughts and feelings. We are contemplating how to ultimately incorporate families within our families, and it seems impossible. 🤷🏻‍♀️
 

Even on AVEN there’s such closed mindedness at times. In fact, I read a post by a regular today spewing nonsense due to lack of perspective. Judgment is a tough one to sort out when dealing with the closed minded for sure. It is important to shield yourselves though. I think back on early days with my lover and how stupid we were. We’d never do today what we did then. it’s not worth it. 
 

Anyhow, I think you have too much here on AVEN. Maybe go back through your post and cull. Too many identifiers, and it’s just not worth it to lose a job. You have relative calm and freedoms to pursue this balance. There’s no need to add upheaval just because you have legitimate angst. There are no protections. It may even be in your contract. Anyhow, think on it. I worry about that in my very conservative world. 
 

Considerations: Remove state of residence, denomination and specific job. That ought to do the trick and at least make it that much harder...ahem, safer! 😬🙄

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RDIAG

@Traveler40 You're right.  I'll do a little cleaning up.  It's sad, though, because secrecy is exactly what bothers me.  But no need for me to complicate the lives of the people I care about.

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nanogretchen4

So, it occurs to me that if your lover is single, there might be a way to make your current arrangements lawful and socially acceptable. If you are not having sex with your wife at all and never plan to again, and you are not going to have children with her, it is not entirely necessary to be legally married to her. If you were not married by a Catholic priest your marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church, so maybe they won't care if you divorce and remarry. If you were married by a Catholic priest, you would need an annulment. No consummation and no intent to procreate are two grounds for annulment that may apply here. Then you could marry your lover, after which you could be seen with her in public and sleep at her house all you want, and also have children if that is something you want that's not going to happen with your current wife. But you could still be really good friends with your current wife and mostly maintain your current platonic relationship, except maybe not spending the night at her house. Since the law only allows you to be married to one person, it really streamlines things if you are married to the same one you have sex with, especially if there is any chance of children.

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anisotrophic

@RDIAG well, there's secrecy, but also some value in having your story straight if it ever goes pear shaped. If your employer has contractually obligated you to a certain lifestyle (is that even possible?), then secrecy for sure.

But otherwise, you're in the territory of "are you a good employee when you don't personally live & believe the mission of a mission-driven employer, and are private about that?"

I think it's about you the employee, not you the member & believer in their community. I prefer not to think about an employer in an adversarial way – IMHO from the perspective of a mission-driven employer, if you're doing the job you're paid for and are trying not to undermine their mission & advocacy, you've done your best. That framing would imply secrecy, but the motivation isn't that you believe it to be "wrong" – rather that you recognize it would undermine the employer's work to be public about your own choices and life. They're your private business, not illegal, and you're not trying to undermine them.

Another way to look at it is: always act as if what you do & say may eventually may become public, and you tried to treat all involved as well as you could manage with the conflicting needs & interests.

I don't expect that this framing would mean you can keep a job in the face of the employer learning about it (I suppose it depends), but I think it would be generally less scandalous (and a better story all around) to say "I kept it private because I respect your mission and wasn't seeking to undermine it".

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Traveler40
1 hour ago, anisotrophic said:

. If your employer has contractually obligated you to a certain lifestyle (is that even possible?),

A friend was fired when they moved in with a partner before marriage. It was in their employment contract that they live by and uphold the values and virtues of the faith while employees of the church.

 

A co-worker ratted then out to “management” and they were fired not 24 hours later.

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SithApprentice
4 hours ago, anisotrophic said:

If your employer has contractually obligated you to a certain lifestyle (is that even possible?)

It's a religious organization so no doubt it's either in their contracts to abide by the morality of their religion or the employers would likely begin looking for a reason to fire them legally. 

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RDIAG

I’ve been trying to figure out why I wanted to talk about this specifically on AVEN. Part of it is that when I first joined, I did keyword searches for church and religion and didn’t find much.  So I want there to be some breadcrumbs for the next person. 
 

But also I’m interested in what other people’s experiences have been when dealing with sexless relationships (massive oversimplifying there — anything in the realm of what we talk about here) in communities that emphasize procreation or “traditional” (so-called) gender roles.  Has anyone else experienced secret shame or anger in these contexts, like I did for years? 


Sorry I got a little side-tracked by my employment worries - but thanks for all your creative suggestions. 

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Memento1
2 hours ago, RDIAG said:

Has anyone else experienced secret shame or anger in these contexts, like I did for years? 

 

May not be what you're looking for, but a lot of asexuals normally hold shame and anger for these things at some point.  For different reasons, for sure, though it feels similar - excluded and invalidated.  For a brief time as a teen I considered becoming a nun - not because I wanted to, but because I thought it was the only way to be validated and embraced as a sexless adult.

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Traveler40
9 hours ago, RDIAG said:

Has anyone else experienced secret shame or anger in these contexts, like I did for years? 

Absolutely, and it’s part of the resentment held for a long time, “the keeping of an inconceivable and abnormal secret” and its associated shame.  
 

In our home, I didn’t experience it so much in a religious setting as I did in a medical setting. Frankly, I wanted kids, and he only ever disappointed in this area. Thank God he was able to produce for the doctor, alone, with a magazine and a cup. If not, we would never have had our children. 
 

The wasted time and broken promises were one thing, but then facing doctors and not being able to explain through it was another level altogether. At that time, I didn’t know or understand, and it was all shame, anger and resentment. There are so many questions to answer before landing at an infertility clinic. 
 

Sometimes, when I stop and think about the process and resulting cancer (still believe it’s tied to IVF) which ended in hysterectomy,  I still feel some angst. Sure, I made the decision to stay, but the price paid was dear. There were my trusted doctors who believed we’d tried, but that I just couldn’t get pregnant. I felt incapable of fully explaining to them. Yes, it was shame, unintelligible at the time and medically a nightmare in that context.
 

It’s not the asexuality as I now understand it, but the weakness I saw that is so hard to articulate. I see the inability to face things and deal with them as weakness in general I suppose. All of the years in darkness and being unable to talk to anyone about it honestly, including my husband (who was only happy to keep the delusion going), was a dear price to pay: The having to cover up and “fix” it alone was a tangible cross. There was no one to talk to, turn to or comprehend it with until AVEN. There wasn’t even a word for it at that time.

 

My oldest and dearest friend has no idea about my lover. I eventually came clean and explained what was not happening within our marriage a few years ago, right before looking for a lover. She is a devout Christian and couldn’t wrap her head around it. She loves us and has the best of intentions, but still believes we just need couples therapy or to consult a pastor and pray. So yeah, there’s that. 
 

I guess, if WE can’t wrap our minds or hearts around it within our own relationships, how can we expect anyone else to either?  Now that we understand it, I find it’s still almost impossible to explain. It truly is inconceivable to the majority of the world.
 

Now that I understand, the resentment no longer exists. Writing this out and feeling through it as I type brings up the old angst I normally don’t revisit, but I understand what you’re getting at. Yes, I have kept the secret for years, and now there’s another facet to that having taken a lover. 
 

It is what it is. You have made choices, embrace them. The world neither knows nor cares really. Why explain anything to anyone? If you reframe it, believe that and live in that manner, there is no shame. Now, it’s more of a wistful desire to share this Incredible journey.
 

Now that the curtain has been pulled back, and understanding is had, perhaps focus on what you have as opposed to how you must cope. You have a choice, and there are far worse secrets to keep than this.

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nanogretchen4

Oh, wow. I am so sorry you went through unnecessary IVF because you felt like you had to keep your husband's secret even from the doctor.

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ryn2
2 hours ago, Traveler40 said:

My oldest and dearest friend has no idea about my lover. I eventually came clean and explained what was not happening within our marriage a few years ago, right before looking for a lover. She is a devout Christian and couldn’t wrap her head around it. She loves us and has the best of intentions, but still believes we just need couples therapy or to consult a pastor and pray. So yeah, there’s that. 

I have a (somewhat different situation, but) similar problem with a longstanding dear friend who is just on a totally different page from a religious standpoint. It’s hard when you have to lock a whole topic away and keep it out of a close friendship, not only because you can’t share your own  experiences and pain but also because you can’t expose your own experiences as part of helping the friend through something.  It sucks for sure!

 

2 hours ago, Traveler40 said:

I see the inability to face things and deal with them as weakness in general I suppose.

Sometimes it’s just about picking battles but, yes, it stings to learn that... you’re not quite important enough to someone to justify a particular battle?  Something like that.  I’m not sure how to best word it.

 

18 hours ago, anisotrophic said:

If your employer has contractually obligated you to a certain lifestyle (is that even possible?), then secrecy for sure.

While my employer is not a religious institution, it is the product of numerous mergers and some of the prior entities were.  There is still some residual language around comporting ourselves in a manner - on and off the job - that aligns with the goals and mission of the organization in our conditions of employment.  I’ve seen much stricter requirements placed on the lay employees of religious employers.  That said, there may be some variation from state to state.

 

I’d be careful, though, regardless. Once someone sees a need, they can find a reason to fire or “force out” most anyone.

 

 

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RDIAG

@Traveler40 It's both heartbreaking and validating to hear such a similar story to ours, with the genders reversed.  When you describe your perspective of your husband not being willing or able to face reality--  that right there really hits home.  So familiar.  Thank you so much for sharing your story; it really helps.

 

I've never been able to figure out, despite talking about it, what my wife's shame felt like.  I mean, she clearly felt shame, didn't want to talk about sex, didn't want to address it -- but didn't experience anywhere near the same kind of pain as I did in community situations like church, extended family, friends having babies, etc.  Either her shame was buried really deeply, or not experiencing sexual attraction means not experiencing the emotional pain of not having sex.  I'm having trouble expressing that....  I've never known to what degree she was able to just shrug off the grief.  Over the years, I thought of it as denial  -- but maybe it was simply less pain. Which actually sounds healthy.
 

 

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RDIAG
11 hours ago, Memento1 said:

For a brief time as a teen I considered becoming a nun - not because I wanted to, but because I thought it was the only way to be validated and embraced as a sexless adult.

I've often wondered this about priests and nuns, even before I really had a concept of the asexual spectrum.  I often think that a church that places the celibate orientation on a pedestal is hypocritical to judge other minority sexual orientations.  I wish we could all just be open to the full variety of sexual attitudes and needs.

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