I'm finding it hard to write the next part of our story. I've tried several times over the past few days, but I keep hitting a wall. I don't know if it's because of the deep pain that is interwoven over this part of our story. Maybe it's that I don't think I can actually explain it in a way that makes sense. But the truth of the matter is that after Rachel and I put "Same Sex Attraction" on the table (see here and here), the next several years were spent living a life with two competing and antagonistic parts.
During our final months at BYU we spent countless hours talking about how to reconcile SSA and our belief in the gospel. I dated a guy that I genuinely cared for and Rachel played the part of the ever supportive best friend. At the same time, her jealousy and confusion caused deep pain for both of us. Looking back, it's clear that she felt on some level that I was being unfaithful to our relationship, even though we both genuinely believed that we wanted the other to find our Prince Charming and get whisked away to an eternal marriage. But neither of us really realized that at the time. Friends looked at my relationship with Rachel with jealousy which I also didn't understand at the time. Taken altogether, that last year at BYU was the most difficult time of my life in many ways. At the end of the year, Rachel and I decided to move to different states, remaining friends but exploring life in different parts of the country.
After I moved to Arizona, I struggled to start a new life. Things ended with the guy I'd been dating on and off over the previous months. I talked on the phone with Rachel nearly every day. Eventually, we decided that it was madness for us to live apart, and Rachel moved to Arizona. We were committed to supporting each other in overcoming our challenges and living the life we'd always hoped for. Over the next several years we constantly tried to balance these two competing inner agendas. We attended singles wards and would go through a cycle of diligently trying to date, then taking a break from dating. There were moments of expressing physical affection, then deep guilt and self-loathing for "messing up." We both threw ourselves into our work, each of us seeking fulfillment in working for a cause. As our lives became more and more entwined- we bought a condo together, bought furniture together, lost track of who owed what money to who and for what, we would *joke* about the upcoming "divorce" when we would have to separate our stuff in order to move forward with our lives with a new partner. Looking back, there was always an underlying sense of uncertainty and confusion about our relationship and our future together, and this insecurity would burst to the surface in really volatile ways. When we fought, our fights would explode into epic events.
Throughout all of this, we always thought that we were the only ones who felt this way. I know now how egocentric and naive that sounds, but that's really what we thought. We never thought to look on the internet to see others stories. At church, all we saw were our fellow "LDS single adults" who were striving to (and obsessing over) getting married. After getting worn out by several years of hearing "I just can't wait to overcome this struggle and finally be married" over the pulpit, we transitioned to a "family ward". Imagine our surprise when we started to hear, from married people no less, about the constant struggles that these people were facing as well. Surrounded by people *struggling*, I believed that this was just the way life was, and that the struggles Rachel and I were facing just needed to be borne and overcome like anyone else's. As the years passed I knew a few things: that I loved Rachel, that I was committed to my testimony, that to remain Mormon meant remaining celibate, and that dating held little allure for me.
Cracks in these tightly held beliefs started in 2008. The year of Proposition 8 in California was also the year that a similar bill came before the voters of Arizona. I was shocked by the outright hysteria I heard at church and from my family in California about gays and gay rights. Now, to be clear, I had never identified myself as gay, nor even taken that under consideration. Neither had Rachel. That was not a term that we had ever considered for ourselves. And yet, as I heard the rhetoric it seemed overblown, hysterical, and hypocritical. Those months made me start questioning the church's stance in a way I never thought I would. The next crack was the infamous President Packer talk in October, 2010. Rachel had been attending church more and more infrequently as she struggled to feel comfortable in a church centered on families as a single woman (I could go on and on about this, but I won't). So, we settled in together to listen to the living prophets. And then, President Packer said this: "Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and the unnatural. Not so. Why would our Heavenly Father do that to anyone?" Upon hearing that, Rachel picked up the remote control, turned the TV off, and threw the remote onto the ground. That was the last moment of General Conference that I've seen. My heart broke in that moment as she yelled at the TV and hurled unanswerable questions to a distant "apostle". This was indefensible. I didn't know about those gay rights protesters shown on TV in flamboyant costumes, but I did know about Rachel. I knew how believing and sincere she was. I knew how invested she was in the church. And I knew that she knew she had been attracted to girls since her early teen years. I had to come to terms with the fact that the church just didn't have an answer for her questions.
I kept holding on to both the church and my love for Rachel for the next several months. After nearly 10 years of battling though, I have to admit that my belief that God would answer my prayers and show us a way to lay claim to the life of a faithful Mormon as I understood it (temple marriage, kids, happily ever after into the eternities) was fading to say the least. Then, one day a simple misunderstanding between us blew up into a huge argument, and something in me snapped. I decided I'd had enough. I'd had enough of feeling myself pulled into two. I'd had enough of waiting around for someone to appear in my life. I'd had enough of acting like my relationship with Rachel wasn't a truly significant and defining relationship in my life. I'd had enough of trying to figure something out that wasn't figure-out-able. Most of all, I'd had enough of focusing on what it was that I was lacking. I had a great job which I enjoyed, good health, a nice house, was financially stable, had the luxury of being able to travel. More importantly, I already had someone in my life who loved me unconditionally, and who I loved and adored. What in the world was I waiting for? How selfish and ungrateful was I for feeling like my life was somehow incomplete.
I told Rachel that I was done *struggling*. I just wanted to be with her. I wasn't going to sit around waiting for something else and beating myself up when we just love each other. She said something to the effect of, "um, okay!" We didn't know where that left the church in our lives, but in that moment I just stopped worrying about it. My hand which had been holding onto the church so tightly just let go and I wondered what the future would hold. But the most amazing thing happened: in the moment since making the decision to just love each other, the underlying angst, depressions, anxiety, worry, insecurity, and anger have virtually disappeared. I never expected that. I never thought that would be possible. I never thought that just allowing myself to love and be loved would be such a freeing experience.