I Choose Ethan

By Allison Tenney

Be sure to also listen to Allison and her husband Ethan share their story. Watch video here.
Allison is a student at BYU hoping to be accepted into a program with the Department of Visual Arts.† She enjoys art, reading, and poking fun at her SSA fiancť, Ethan (he pokes back).† While she never expected that the issues surrounding same-sex attraction would impact her life, she's been pleasantly surprised to find peace and hope with the North Star community.† Her faith in her Father in Heaven and the atonement of Jesus Christ help her understand and love Ethan and his same-sex attraction.† She is excited to be married to him for time and all eternity.

My story with Ethan really starts with myself.†Looking back, I can see that God has always been preparing me and giving me the experiences I need. I donít always see the end or the reason I go through the things I do, but Iím so grateful that Father is in charge and not me.

Past Relationship Experience



I had only one serious relationship before Ethan. I didnít realize just how unhealthy it was until it was over, but it was bad. My ex-boyfriend was extremely depressed and addicted to pornography and masturbation. I tried to be the special girl who sticks it out and ďsavesĒ her love, but really there was just a lot of codependent and enabling behavior. I donít think either of us realized it, but there was a lot of emotional abuse and manipulating. Whenever he messed up heíd completely destroy himself over it, and I would always be there because if I werenít, heíd kill himself. In return, he loved me as best he knew how and I gained my self-worth from that.

This was a recipe for disaster. But after (long after) disaster finally did strike, I got over it. While I donít recommend this kind of relationship to anyone, Iím incredibly grateful for what it taught me. I never could have known how valuable this experience would be in the future.

The Lordís Timing



Ethan and I lived in the same ward a year before he first asked me out. I wasnít in a place where I could be in a healthy relationship. I was a little depressed and fed up with boys and trying to date them. I realized that I had little self-worth because I wasnít gaining my worth from the knowledge that Iím a daughter of God; I was trying to value myself based on my own worldly standards. I set these standards impossibly high and thought that meeting them would bring me dates and happiness.

I didnít need a boyfriend to feel better; I needed a closer relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior. So I decided I would focus on that. I made a goal to prepare to go through the temple, not because I thought I would go anytime soon but because it seemed like a good way to get me going in the right direction.

Looking back, Ethan and I could have started dating then. We had all the similar personality traits and things in common that attracted us to each other. But it wouldnít have been good for either of us at that time. I was still on a self-esteem adventure and Ethan was still super closeted. I know the Lord was guiding our lives and Iím grateful we were both willing to submit to his timing.

Dating and Coming Out



Fast forward to April 2014. I barely knew Ethan. He was just some guy in my ward that I had spoken to, probably twice. Then one day he was waiting outside my class to ask me on a date. I was more excited about seeing Divine Comedy than sitting though the awkwardness I knew this first date would be, but at least he was nice. The day after that first date (which didnít suck as bad as I thought it was going to), he came to my apartment to ask me to go on a walk with him ďbecause it was such a nice day.Ē This made it apparent to me that he was interestedóat least a little bit. I decided to reciprocate interest. I had picked up small signals in what he said and did that suggested to me we could get along well. So I asked him to get frozen yogurt with me. After that we were hanging out every day.

On our fourth date, we were walking home from lunch, and Ethan started talking about the Voices of Hope Project. He said he was submitting an essay for it. He explained that he didnít identify as gay, but he experienced same-sex attraction. He was then quick to explain that he was interested in a relationship with a woman, ďhence, our dating,Ē and nervously added, ďand I can tell youíre beautiful.Ē

Several things ran through my mind:

Oh my goodness, Iím dating Josh Weed.

Am I okay with this? I feel like Iím okay with this.

Why am I okay with this?

I was very aware at that point I was infatuated with him, so I wasnít sure if I could trust my feelings. I told him I wished people were more okay with talking about this kind of thing. At that point I knew that if we went further we would have some very interesting discussions. Oddly enough, part of me was excited about that. I didnít press him for details that day. We werenít all that close yet, so I wasnít going to force him to tell me his life storyóespecially since there might be a lot of pain involved.

We kept going out but we didnít talk about his attraction to men for a while. I wasnít sure how to bring it up so I put off asking about it. After a date I finally asked, ďSoÖ you are attracted to girls?Ē He quickly suggested we go for a walk. He told me more about his experiences and asked me to read the essay heíd drafted for Voices of Hope. I was excited that he trusted me so much.

I read it that night and had a massive anxiety attack. In his essay, Ethan talks about his struggles with pornography and masturbation. I couldnít find a place in which he specifically said he didnít have a problem with those things anymore, and I stopped breathing. Painful memories rushed back into my head and I started praying. Father, this is not fair. I canít do this again. You know I canít. I donít know how to handle this in a healthy way. Dang it, Father, Iím going to love him soon. Itís fine if heís gay, but I canít do this again.

I decided that if it were still a major problem for him, I would have to somehow find the strength to break it off with him. I didnít make this decision because I felt addiction made him unworthy of my love and affection; I did it because I had learned that I donít know how to be a healthy support in a serious relationship with someone struggling with addiction.

I sent him a text the next morning telling him we needed to go for a walk. ďGo for a walkĒ is code for ďwe need to talk about something heavy without roommates around.Ē Looking back, that probably freaked him out more than necessary, but one short, semi-awkward conversation later, I was happy to return to exploring the implications of dating this nice gay man.

I didnít freak out because of his same-sex attraction. The existence of trials and mistakes isnít important to me, itís how people respond to them that matters. I freaked out because I was afraid of being a crutch for a guy who couldnít handle his problems again. However, it quickly became clear to me that Ethan deals with things in a way that is fundamentally different from my ex-boyfriend. That, for me, is the only difference between someone I should date and someone I shouldnít. Ethan has a deep understanding of how the Atonement works and a strong testimony of the gospel. Heís a worthy priesthood holder, and thatís more important to me than anything.

Becoming a Couple



We decided to officially become a couple. We had never even held hands. I didnít know how comfortable he was with the idea of kissing or holding hands with a girl, so I decided to let him take the lead on that. I didnít mind waiting. The Sunday after we became official, I made my hand available and he took it.

I had concerns, naturally, but they were only indirectly related to his same-gender attraction. I needed to know that he was comfortable with himself and that he felt worthy of love. Serious romantic relationships are not a viable solution for a lack of self-esteem. I wanted to know if his attraction affected his feeling of worth as a son of God.

When I donít love myself, I donít love anybody. I can only use people to build a weak faÁade of self-worth. I did this for a long time. Iíd give them anything they wanted if theyíd scaffold my sense of value. This is not what I wanted for my relationship with Ethan. I needed to make sure that Ethan didnít have this mindset that I used to have. I really liked this guy and I wanted us to make something healthyósomething that would last. Maybe something that would last forever. So I made sure he knew that he was worthy of love and belonging with or without me or anybody else.

I also needed to make sure he understood that being with me wouldnít change his attractions or make them go away. I was under no delusions that even if we got married it would make him straight. We went on a lot of walks, had a lot of good conversations, and had a lot of fun. Once my concerns had been cleared, I had no problem hearing him say, ďIs it too early to drop the L-bomb? I think I love you.Ē

The Nature of Our Relationship



Generally, I get close to people very slowly. It takes me a long time to build trust because I get so anxious. I think because Ethan came out to me early on, and we started having those important conversations about the nature of intimacy and attraction, it was easier for me to trust him earlier. And because of his understanding of those things I was able to talk to him about things I thought Iíd never be able to talk about with anyone. We just spring-boarded into this really close relationship. I started to rethink my idea of dating somebody for a year before I decided I wanted to marry him.

Going into this relationship, I decided very quickly that I was okay with Ethanís same-sex attraction. I think human sexuality is infinitely more complicated than just gay, bi, or straight. With all the different facets of human attraction I refuse to believe that God would make one of them more important than all the others, then not give it to some people, and then make marriage necessary to obtain the highest degree of celestial glory. I understood that while Ethan isnít inherently sexually attracted to women, his attraction to me could be based off of something more important. We both love this gospel and love God. Thatís what really made me think that Ethan and I could work. He loves God more than anything or anyone, and so do I.

I had a hypothetical question at one point. What if I could have a straight version of Ethan? It really wasnít very hard for me to decide. God gives everyone trials and different things to help strengthen them. Our perceived weaknesses are what God uses to teach us what we need to know to become like Him. If Ethan didnít have same-sex attraction heíd have something else, but honestly I have a hard time seeing the capacity to love another human being as a weakness. Ethanís struggles have helped him become who he is today and I would never wish to take that away from him.

Marriage



Everything makes me nervous. I get anxious easily, especially when it comes to important life decisions. When God has something really important to tell me, He uses that to my advantage. Iíll feel a strange sense of peace where I know Iíd typically have anxiety. I always assumed that when I found the person I wanted to marry, Iíd be really unsure about it the whole time I was engaged. With Ethan, Iíve felt none of that. Even as we decided that we were going to get married, I knew it was right. I also knew that I still had a choice. I could have backed out had I not wanted to deal with these issues. I would have found somebody else. I also could have stayed with my ex-boyfriend and married him and maybe someday we would have figured stuff out. But I chose not to. I choose Ethan.





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Cola
3 Nov, 2014

I love your story, I'm sure sharing your experience will help others understand how relationships can work when it's meant to be. Thanks for sharing 💜💚


David
9 Nov, 2014

Thank you for sharing your story! You have some great insights and you demonstrate a remarkable maturity and clarity about relationships - on many levels. Kudos to you for deciding you would not carry someone else's baggage and for your bravery to ask the right questions ahead of marriage.


Alex
17 Dec, 2014

Thank you for sharing, Allison. I love that you described how your past experiences helped prepare you for your experiences with Ethan. Thank you for emphasizing the importance of love for God, and letting Him come first in your life and in your relationships with others. That's where it's at. I look up to both you and Ethan.



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