Elizabeth knew Ricardo was the man she was supposed to marry. Their marriage hasn’t been perfect, but they are both better because of it. One of their struggles has been Ricardo’s experience with same-sex attraction. The difficult process of coming to understand how to best love and support each other has been excruciating at times, but by relying on the Atonement and keeping lines of communication open, they’ve grown together.
I was born and raised in California in an LDS family. I grew up with five brothers. When I was very young, I knew that when I married, I didn’t want to marry someone who reminded me of my brothers. Ricardo does not remind me of any of my brothers.
I met Ricardo in the summer of 1997. I was beginning my senior year in college with the goal of graduating the following spring in statistics. I was so focused on graduating that when I met Ricardo, I didn’t think anything, really. He was just my roommate’s friend. One night he came over to see my roommate, who was an international student just like Ricardo. I was in the kitchen preparing my dinner and working on my math homework at the kitchen table. Since we had conversed a few times, I felt comfortable with him staying, and I actually invited him to eat dinner with me that night. It was great talking and getting to know each other. That evening while Ricardo was talking, I had a very special experience.
I received personal revelation from our Father in Heaven that Ricardo was the man I was going to marry.
I had never experienced something so profound in my life! At the time, I did not say anything to anyone. That night, Ricardo asked me out for our first date. After that night I looked at him in a whole new way.
We slowly got to know each other over the course of that summer. By the start of fall semester, we became boyfriend and girlfriend. Shortly after it became official, Ricardo said he wanted to tell me something important as we were getting dinner ready together in my apartment. That was when he told me about the sexual abuse he experienced when he was a little boy between the ages of four and five. He did not get into any specifics at that time. All that he told me was that he had these thoughts and feelings and sometimes nightmares. I felt sad for him that this had happened. This did not change my feelings for him. I expressed my sympathy and assured him that sharing what happened to him did not change my feelings for him. He didn’t reveal any more details, and I did not ask.
I felt privileged that he felt comfortable enough to open up to me over a very tender and difficult subject.
Marriage quickly entered our conversations. Ricardo proposed to me one night late in January of 1998. We were engaged for about six and a half months. During that time, we took a marriage prep class together at BYU, I graduated, and he completed an internship for about two months in New York City. We were sealed in the Oakland California Temple late that summer.
We quickly started our family and now have six beautiful children. During these years, I still had no clue about his same-sex attractions, nor had I ever heard of that term. There were long stretches of time where he wouldn’t talk about those thoughts and feelings that he mentioned at the beginning of our relationship. He might occasionally mention that he had a bad dream, but that was it. I really had no clue how ashamed he felt during all those years. We were always active in church and busy raising our family. Whenever we went to the temple, he would say that I would make it to the celestial kingdom and he would not. I did not understand where those comments were coming from.
He’s loving and hardworking and has always fulfilled his duties as a husband and a father.
I had no idea about his same-sex attraction and how ashamed he felt because of those attractions.
I felt he should not feel so negative. Whenever he voiced that concern, I told him that the abuse was not his fault, so therefore, in my opinion, those thoughts and feelings were not his fault.
Over time, we tried labeling but never felt comfortable. The term gay has a negative connotation with most Christian faiths, as does the term bisexual. At the beginning of 2015, Ricardo met a coworker who was open about his SSA and happily married with four children. That was when Ricardo reached out to a support group and started making new friends. Through these associations, he has been able to feel the Atonement working in his life.
He no longer feels shame when it comes to his same-sex attractions.
I am so happy that he finally feels whole and he can see where he fits in God’s eternal plan for him and with us as a family.
Having said that, this new awakening in Ricardo also brought some conflict in our marriage. We both had a lot of questions and felt that we did not have all the answers. Ricardo started making new friends, especially those who deal with SSA. It started off well but has been a difficult journey for both of us.
One thing that has really helped me support Ricardo as he began this journey was my parents’ counsel, when I was growing up, to marry my best friend.
So when Ricardo and I talk about different issues related to his SSA, I try to listen as his best friend and not a jealous wife.
We also have tried to create a safe environment for us to talk about our thoughts and feelings.
I like to listen and not judge every single passing comment. I know that it is important for him to voice his opinions, experiences, frustrations, attractions, and thoughts with me so that he can move on to other topics. Many times he just needs me to listen, and I do not necessarily have to fix anything.
One thing I heard in our marriage prep class in college that I will always remember is that “a great spouse can only fulfill up to 80 percent of their partner’s needs.”
That helps me realize that I don’t have to be an expert or a therapist. I just need to show him love and respect.
For a while I felt included in Ricardo’s journey. But as time went on, I began to feel replaced. He was texting a lot when he came home at night after being gone 10 hours at work. Either I would have to leave after a quick dinner to fulfill my Church calling, or he would leave to fulfill his Church calling. For a couple of months he was going to a support group once a week. So by Friday, I was tired and ready for a break. It got to be hard for me with all the focus on his new SSA friends. I felt like he wasn’t present for me and for the kids when he was home. I sometimes felt like a single mom, having to get six kids up and ready for school—driving them where they needed to be, working on Cub Scouting and Faith in God, making sure their homework was getting done, doing the laundry, cooking and cleaning, and then getting them ready for bed. The cycle repeated itself constantly, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. So I did a lot of crying when everyone was at school and Ricardo was at work. One time he finally “got the message” because I emailed him while he was out with friends. We talked for hours, and he said he would drop everything for me. It took a lot of communication, understanding, educating ourselves, helping him to remove the shame he’d had all his life, making commitments, and most of all, always sharing everything with each other.
Eventually I finally felt like I was number one with him. When he agreed to put away his cell phone when he got home for a couple of hours and be present for the kids and me, that made a big difference. He also promised to give me 10 minutes of his undivided attention after the kids went to bed. He is still working on that. Life is very busy for the two of us, but I have seen that he has made an effort to make me feel safe, loved, attractive, and important in his life.
We constantly talk and communicate. We do not leave anything to guesswork.
On one occasion, while I was talking to a wife of an SSA man in the community, she mentioned to me that she would rather have her husband talking to her than to someone else about his SSA because he’ll find someone to talk to and get support from.
I think as wives of husbands who deal with SSA, we have a unique position. We can either be that good support and help our husbands find a solid foundation in Christ, or we can distance ourselves and lose out on an opportunity to draw our marriage, our spouse, and ourselves closer together and to our Savior.
It is truly a very humbling experience.
We are no better than our husbands, and they are no better than us.
It does not matter what circumstances or difficulties we face. No marriage will be able to thrive unless the couple can stand united with love and full commitment to those sacred obligations made in the temple.
Ricardo is very vocal in telling me on a daily basis how much he loves me. I never have to guess how he is feeling. I feel very blessed to have a husband like him.
I know that for me and for him, our marriage thrives when we have our one-on-one time and we keep our lines of communication open along with expressions of love. I love him!