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Will I ever get married?

At 19, I would’ve called myself a 6 on the Kinsey scale; at 29, I’m more like a 4.5. Does that mean I’m basically heterosexual with severe homosexual tendencies? Or basically homosexual1 with slight heterosexual tendencies?

Could I ever get married to a woman if I were only, say, 35% attracted to her? Or what if it were somehow 90%? Would I want to get married, even then? Who has time for that? And is the priesthood really off the table, or do I still need to think about that?

What’s the difference between a cross and an obstacle?

Is there any difference? Do some things remain crosses until they are overcome, at which point they turn out to have been obstacles? Do you miss the point of a cross by thinking of it as an obstacle? Or do you miss the chance to overcome obstacles if you only think of them as crosses? How do you divide your energy between improving the quality of your life — therapy, exercise, support groups, self-help books — and just plain living?

Or do you just stop thinking about it and do the best you can?

What’s the deal with Catholic guilt?

Is it something that shows up in people who would’ve been neurotic anyway, or is there something about Catholicism that actually produces neurosis? And if so, is that what Vatican II was supposed to fix? And if so, did it work? Or is it something else?

What if Catholic guilt is just an occupational hazard of having something as strange and wonderful as the Sacraments, which God decided was worth it even if it’d make us a little nuts, just like He decided it was worth it to give us the book of Revelation, even though He knew what kind of crazies would get ahold of it?

What does it mean to be a Gershom?

Which parts of me are me and which parts are my family? Does that question even make any sense? Could I have had the good bits of Gershomhood without all the crazy bits, or are they so closely intertwined that you can’t uproot one without killing the other, like wheat and tares?

Just what the hell is going on here?

Is it because it’s Lent and all manner of forces are at large, within and without my poor embattled brain? Is it because I’m doing something wrong? Is it because I’m doing something right? Do I need more sleep? Less exercise? More omega-3? Less TV? More prayer? How long has it been like this, and how long will it continue?

Or am I doing just fine?

1 Is that even a thing?

48 thoughts on “Some Questions I Have No answer To

  1. Tammy

    You are fine Steve! These are a few of the things that just bang around the brain of all of us. It can be overwhelming to think of it all sometimes. Peace to you my friend.

    Reply
  2. Gabriel

    This is so much like the last five years of my life it’s spooky.

    Well done! You sound fine to me; if I may trust my own (neurotic) experience and my observation of (normal) others, mild angst is quite normal and very chic.

    Reply
  3. Melinda Selmys

    Hey Steve. You’re doing at least as fine as me :) I can, however, answer the marriage thing. Since reading this I’ve been trying to quantify my attraction to my husband. I would say that when he’s just given me a lovely back-rub, and we’ve shared some good red wine, and the kids are sleeping, and Nightwish is playing “Slow Love” in the background, I’m about 96% attracted. When he’s a stupid drunken lout who forgot to change the baby and I want to garrotte him with his own intestines, I’m about 3% attracted…How this averages out over the course of my marriage depends on whether you ask me on a day when I have PMS, or one where I got a good night’s sleep (and enough omega-3 :)
    Seriously, if you meet someone who you are called to marry, these questions will only occur to you in moments of craziness — if at all.

    Reply
  4. Momtomany

    Melinda hit this on the head. Attraction is like happiness–a constant moving target which is why the commitment to the end goal is the biggie. Watching NCAA basketball tonight and wanted to kill my husband for annoyingly encouraging all his “buddies” on the team playing of whom he knows none. :) all your questions that you ask seem so normal of someone who is introspective. I enjoy your blog and, thought I’m not gay, I have struggled with sexual issues that are disordered in ways and for that I see those with ssa as my brothers and sisters in The Lord.

    Reply
  5. Rivka

    I found this post on a different blog and loved it. I’m basically gay (a woman,) but the one person I really fell for is a guy. I don’t usually like being around men. (Though for me, the real issues aren’t sexual, but emotional, on account of probable aspergers. He is the only adult I am happy to be around.) When I see masculinity incarnate in him, it’s different, it’s beautiful. Because he’s different. (We’re just really good friends, if anyone’s wondering. Which is wonderful.)
    It’s possible that there could be that one girl about whom you can say the same.

    We don’t have to know what God wills, to be united with His Will.

    http://wisepurpose.blogspot.com/2013/01/it-only-takes-one.html

    Reply
  6. Sarah

    Yay, a Steve post! Where ya been? :)

    Believe it or not, even I, a solid zero on the Kinsey scale, have trouble with #1. The “Who has time for that?” part, anyway. Sometimes I’m like, “Waaa, I just want companionship and love and something solid and a HOME.” and then at the same time I’m like, “Yeah, but what if I would rather move to Alaska on a moment’s notice? What if I’d be a bad mom, anyway?”

    Also looking for answers to #2.

    Reply
  7. Tyler

    Hey Steve,

    As a married guy with SSA, I can say there are ups and downs in attraction and romance, but that’s more a consequence of being human and living with another sinner than inherent sexuality. If God calls you to marry, that’s great, if he doesn’t that’s great too. All God’s callings are good. Email me if you want to talk about that more.

    As for the rest, it sounds like you’re doing fine to me. You know as well as anyone that having questions isn’t bad. Hard, maybe—but not bad.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      Thanks, Tyler! Hey, let me know if you ever maybe wanna write an anonymous guest post about being a married guy with SSA. I bet people would be interested to hear what that’s like.

      Reply
      1. Mark from PA

        As someone who is married and somewhat gay, I think it poses a challenge. I think it is different for people now than it was years ago as people are more open about this and gay people are more accepted in society. Even though I am somewhat gay in a biological sense when I was a young person I didn’t think about it a lot and didn’t really identify with it. I think I was stuck between denial and acceptance. Not totally in denial but not totally accepting either. But as someone with very little experience I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about some things. I think when I got married I made a choice to be straight but it is more complex than that. I thought the gay part would gradually fade away with time. Steve, you talk about being married to a woman but I don’t see that you really have any attraction to women from the way that you write. It seems that you like the idea of marriage but if you don’t really have any attraction to women it would be better not to marry a woman.

        Reply
        1. Maria T

          Marriage is a vocation as well, and if it is not the vocation God wants for a person, only they will knoe for sure. I admire your courage Mark. Choosing family life is not easy, and having the additional challenge of conflicting sexuality makes it even more challenging but I am certain your courage inspires others as well.

          In the end, I suspect the real question will be how unselfishly we loved others, in whatever way that plays out.

          Reply
  8. Zach

    I used to consider myself also about a 3-4 on the Kinsey. I had a girlfriend for two years, and I loved her completely and never quantified how my attraction was dealt out. When asked how my “bisexuality work, whether it was like 50/50″, I always told people that it was more like “100/100″. Because when you fall in love with someone, you’re in love with them completely.

    Even though I consider myself a…. 5 now? (UGH I am so over the Kinsey scale!! I hope our sexuality is a bit more complex that a 6-numbered line!), and I’m engaged, if for any reason I was single again, I would never rule out dating girls. I realize you’re not as open to just dating a person regardless of gender as I am, but I hope you’ll stop trying to quantify your attractions.

    Reply
    1. Maria T

      If you are called to the vocation of marriage and family life , God will give you the grace to endure, and the reward will be the smiles on your future children’s faces! God bless and keep you strong to run this race.

      My daughter confessed her feelings of being bisexual, and while I want to be supportive of her journey, I know it is her path to choose. I pray she can see with clarity and choose the path God desires for her. If she makes a wrong choice, I pray she remembers God loves her beyond any sin and is infinitely merciful. That is a safety net with a very wide berth!

      Reply
  9. Josee

    Just know that what ever it is you are madly loved. You know the Good Shepherd and you hear His voice. He is with you.

    Reply
  10. Brad

    I think it’s best not to obsess over questions we have no answer to. If we spend all our time trying to figure out the nitty-gritty questions pertaining to God’s plan for us, especially if it is with things beyond our understanding, will we actually end up doing God’s will at all?

    We should be content with faith in the Lord for things we cannot understand, for if we do not can we really say we have faith?

    Trust in Jesus. :)

    Reply
  11. Nayhee

    This sounds like me, but a few years’ back. I don’t fret so much these days about the questions and I couldn’t really say how that changed, but it did somehow (through normal life stuff, or suffering if you want to call it that..?). Learned St. Paul’s secret to contentment, or something.
    Dunno if that helps, but I guess I mean: maybe it won’t always be like this for you. Or maybe it will. The trick is to be content with either scenario. Julian of Norwich says it will all be well.

    Reply
  12. Rivka

    This is an interesting post, because it’s different for this blog. I’ve been starting to get curious, recently, about how you relate to women, because you’ve never really written about it.

    Reply
  13. California Jack

    is it weird that the more of your posts i read, the more I wish i knew you and could be your friend?

    Reply
  14. Ysabelle

    So glad Lent is treating someone else this way, too. I have spent a lot of time answering my own questions. Especially now that I have started to tell my friends and not just my husband about my SSA. Although, I an starting to get weary of my secular friends being standoffish now like I am some sort of monster. My Catholic friends don’t really seem to care. Not exactly the way I planned it would go. Thanks for sharing all that you do. Such a great feeling to not feel alone.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      I’ve had the same experience, Ysabelle — Catholics just go “Oh, okay, that’s something you deal with” and then carry on — whereas secular friends kind of go “Oh! Well, I have to reevaluate you from the ground up, then!” I know that’s not everybody’s experience, but it’s usually been mine.

      Reply
  15. Owen

    Wow. If i had a dollar for every time these questions went through my head. Tyler I would be interested in reading about your experience with marriage. I have been to-ing and fro-ing about that for a long time now. I’ve not been reading this blog for a long time and have somewhat derailed but people really do put good stuff on here. Happy Easter everyone. Blessings of the risen Christ on you all.

    Reply
  16. Abigail

    I’m a woman who had a long lesbian relationship in grad school. I’m now married to my husband for almost 12 years. I converted to Catholicism 11 years ago. (Go Easter Vigil!) I am amazed at how easy marriage is. Seriously.

    We have 5 kids under the age of 10. Our life should not seem easy, but inside my marriage–its easy. My husband is different from me–but we compliment each other, instead of compete with each other. I’m attracted to him. I love him. I’m constantly in awe of how much God fixes “us” so that we can love each other better and love our children even more.

    I’m constantly amazed that married love is easy, and gentle, and encouraging. I really appreciate the relationship I have with my husband. I was a Christian long before we met, but I didn’t “get” how much God loved me personally until after my marriage.

    Reply
  17. R

    I’m not sure there is a definitive answer to the Catholic guilt thing, but from a lapsed Catholic perspective: I definitely don’t think Catholicism “makes” people neurotic – there are plenty of non-neurotic Catholics – and plenty of neurotic non-Catholics. And some non-Catholics become Catholic, and feel less neurotic. But some Catholics, like me, become non-Catholic and become less neurotic.
    So, maybe – working hypothesis here – false guilt, or neurosis, has to do with the gap between what you believe in your heart of hearts and what you feel like you are “supposed” to believe. And, maybe, the “freer” someone feels to be who they actually are, the less neurotic they become. So, that might explain why some atheists become Catholic and are like, “Phew! That scientific materialism was making me bonkers.” And some Catholics might feel the exact same freedom when they admit that they are really, say, secular humanists at heart.

    Reply
    1. Steve Gershom

      …I think you’re right, too, at least partly. In my case, I am still learning which bits of Catholicism can be jettisoned without making me any less Catholic. Like wearing a scapular: I stopped wearing one because I realized that I felt neurotically guilty when I didn’t wear it, and because, even though it’s a perfectly lovely thing if you can wear it without being superstitious, I found that I couldn’t.

      Reply
      1. R

        It sounds like what you’re saying is that when you found like you had an unhealthy relationship to a particular thing – and overly scrupulous about it; you decided it wasn’t healthy for you to keep doing it. I think that’s a really smart and healthy thing to do. And I think that most Catholics – and clearly the Church itself – would encourage you to to *not* participate in those accidental elements of the faith that are harmful for you to continue in. Because the Church is pretty cool that way.
        But I think what I’m saying is a little subversive-r than what you are. I’m totally not sure if this applies to anyone but me, and this is something I’m only seeing in hindsight: but I’m starting to notice that there is a correlation in the things I felt most scrupulous about and the things that I actually *never fully believed in.* Like, I wasn’t consciously aware of the fact that I didn’t fully believe in them – I would just be like, “For some reason I feel super scrupulous about this. I guess I’m nuts.” – but, in hindsight, I realize that I had to sort of *force* myself to believe in those things. I didn’t feel free. And I’m wondering if there isn’t some causation at the root of that correlation. I’m not *sure* there is, but it’s something I wonder about.

        Reply
  18. lilbird

    This is my first post on here, and I come through a different door from the rest of you. But equally fraught with double binds, outside judgments, and moral uncertainties. On the topic of guilt, I normally see myself, and am seen by others, as closer to scrupulous than comfortably centered where sin and guilt are concerned. Which I personally feel safer with than moral complacency or presumption on the other side. But tonight I just had a horrible experience of trying to confess some real sins to a priest, showing deep remorse, who did not believe I felt guilty enough. The more I told him how truly contrite I was, the more he pressed harder, until I finally ran out in tears, without absolution, vowing not to take communion or make another confession again. The whole thing was shattering, especially during Holy Week, and totally cut off from the only Voice I know inside as God’s. Sorry this has nothing to do with sex, but I sensed this a safe place to share serious issues that have no real simple solutions. Thanks for being here. I love everything Gershom has to say on his spiritual journey.

    Reply
    1. Christine

      Is there a priest you’ve confessed to before that you trust? You could try to make an appointment with him for confession. I did that once when I had a bad experience in the confessional (not nearly as bad as yours), and it was very healing to confess the same sins and get a better response.

      Reply
    2. Gerdy

      I’m sorry u had a bad experience in confession.Please go to some other priest and confess. As reconciliation is one of the greatest sacraments the church is given us.As a catholic receiving communion is a greatest gift.Its a beautiful experience.I ll keep u in my prayers

      Reply
  19. lilbird

    Wow, I am touched by both your responses, Steve and Christine, and feeling almost free now to go back to mass Sunday without condemnation. After 30 years as a Catholic convert, and 32 as a believing Christian (now 62), I was on my way out the door to seek the Lord elsewhere. Where I had no idea. Now I hear His mercy through you and gentle calling to stay, and will just have to wait prayerfully for discernment and guidance. Steve’s article on “Catholic Exchange” (where I went last night looking for “online confession,” which I learned was not valid, and led me to this blog) ended with the same encouragement to go back to mass if we feel misunderstood, and find someone who gets us. So I will take that as God’s “rehma” to me, which I begged Him for coming home, and thank you again too, Christine, for making it “two (or three)” in His name. This site feels more healing right now than divine absolution. Though I will definitely pursue that next week. Many heartfelt thanks again!

    Reply
  20. lilbird

    P.S. I hope the last round did not close this discussion thread. I am well aware I came in on wrong grounds and did not mean to divert the focus or clear the room. I just needed to vent last night and never expected the feedback. Having been so helped I will now bow out and let the rest of you have your own place back. No more reply needed and God bless you all!

    Reply
  21. Melissa

    Steve, I have found that for me, the “unanswerable questions” (of which I have had MANY) do indeed need to be asked; but then I have to leave them unanswered! They always are, but sometimes it’s taken years. That’s why I find it helpful to journal; I can look back and see that so many of my questions have actually been answered. The trick for me, of course, is being able to let go of the questions once I ask them.

    Reply
  22. Michael

    Melissa’s comment reminds me of that famous quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers which cannot be given, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything now. And perhaps one day, without realizing it, you will live your way into the answers.”

    Reply
  23. Lizzy

    Hmm, I often wonder about marriage as well. I guess at this point I’m probably too young to know. I have a hard time with the Church’s teachings on celibacy for lgbt individuals (and a lot of Church teachings actually), so I suppose that I have a long journey ahead of me in terms of figuring out my relationship with the Church herself. But I do try.

    Reply
  24. Richard Kennedy

    I see where we had a lapse in time but your question of “maybe a priest” seems to be appropriate in light of Pope Francis this week. Have you give any more thought to it?

    Reply
  25. Gerdy

    Hey Steve, I too have the same questions mahn!!! I am also a gay catholic and celibate.
    I live in India and marriage is forced on you specially by the society by the time u are 27.I dunno what will I do. I m 24 now. I need to escape the knots of marriage as I cant really have one for 2 reasons, 1)I’m gay and catholic 2)I am celibate,chaste
    and have dedicated my celibacy to Jesus.
    I sometimes have nightmares as I am the only son, who will take moral supportive care of my parents if I dont marry(This is due to the patriarchal society in India). I have the same questions as U.But my dear friend I have the confidence that Our Good Lord will not forsake Us.Let us more in trust.He will definitely Caress us with His Love and take care of us as we are his spouses.

    God Bless U

    Reply
  26. Tiffany

    Footnotes on a blog post? I’ve been doing IT ALL WRONG. My obsessive parenthetical-izing makes me tired at times, though. Maybe I’ll try your way. It looks very elegant.

    Reply
  27. RB

    I’m a first time commenter… if that’s worth saying~ :)

    I was struck by the question about the difference between the cross and an obstacle. I was inspired once during Adoration by the idea that I have identified as a “cross” something that was really a “chain” all my life. This turned into prose and I jotted down an amateur poem. I have gone back to this several times as a point of reference necessary for me to discern my thoughts/temptations etc. Once I realize the difference, I have experienced freedom embracing what is the “cross” and rejecting what is the “chain”. Namely the cross is a gift from God, whereas chains are the effect of sin. The cross breaks the chain.

    Jesus (with the assistance of his “chain-breaking angels”) inspired me and is the One Who does the job of clearing away the chains, but He requires my participation to reject the chains, in order to break them and take them away. Maybe this insight can help articulate what’s going on for others. It helped me tremendously.

    Reply
  28. Maria T

    Such a delightful and thought filled piece of prose! Inspiring and brutally honest. I am entranced by your Lenten examination of self. It is so very existential of you! Viktor Frankl and Carl Jung would be impressed!

    Reply
  29. Mary Kochan

    Thank you for your honest and thoughtful writing all around. I want to respond to number one. I am a married woman nearly 60. In my life, several times, in high school and young adulthood, I had close male friends who were (although we didn’t call it that at the time) “gay”. I enjoyed them very much and we were very close. I wasn’t “in love” with any of them, but I did love them as friends. Since traveled in other circles, lost touch with them, married, raised kids, and now have grandchildren. My married life has taught me, as it has taught many, that friendship is the firmest basis for marriage. Years ago, it seems to me that many more “gay” men did marry women. I knew the occasional woman with a somewhat effeminate husband. I wonder if that option should not be considered more. From what I understand, most gay men are quite capable of sexual relations with a woman and they are certainly capable of deep friendships with women. Marriage gives a “gay” man the family structure and support that we all long for and need. And it allows him to participate in giving life (the ordained purpose of our sexuality) and raising children, which is a great blessing and incentive to live a virtuous life. I don’t understand why this option is not recommended more among Catholics.

    Reply
  30. Peggy Murphy

    Hey Joe,
    I always had the sense that God was going to work great things through you.
    Is there a way to contact you other than publicly on your blog? I have some
    challenging questions and maybe you can help.
    God bless you for all you are doing in His name! Many are benefitting by finding
    solid answers and a reminder of the happiness that exercising true freedom can bring into
    one’s life.
    Thank you for all you do.
    With the affection of many years,
    Peggy

    Reply

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