Finding Myself So I Can See Others With My Heart

By Leah Thompson

Leah loves to feel joy. She finds that joy in her marriage to Chad, who has same-sex attraction. Through the struggles of life, she has learned that nothing is impossible with the Lord. Though her current life is different from what she anticipated, she is so grateful for the life she chose. A life filled with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and refereeing growing children isnít what most would consider glamorous, but it is what brings her the most joy. She is an amateur glass blower and shaved-ice connoisseur, and she has goals to someday sleep through the night. As a teenager, Leah discovered that putting a bendy-straw beneath her glasses made an excellent microphone for her concerts in the kitchen. Membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has helped guide Leah to the joyous life she experiences. She has learned to rely more on the Lord, and to face trials with faith.




Beginnings



I grew up in a great family. As the youngest of eight, with nieces and nephews older than me, family events were always exciting. I often felt a struggle to find my place in my family. I sometimes felt like I was invisible with all of the grandkids running around. I struggled a lot to find confidence in myself.

Through my school years I had a fairly easy time making friends. I pretended to be this super confident person, but inside I really struggled. I didnít want people to know my true self. My family is mostly girls, and trying to relate to boys was a bit of a challenge. I put a lot of my self-worth in how I thought boys perceived me. I didnít really date in high school. I attended a lot of dances, but all of the dates I went on were purely for fun, not to start a relationship.

As I grew I became more independent. I developed traits that I liked and worked hard on getting rid of habits that I felt were dragging me down. I worked hard to surround myself with good, honest people. Far too often I learned the hard way that people arenít always honest and each time I discovered this I was hurt pretty bad. While painful, these experiences gave me opportunities to question myself and work on things in my life. By the time I graduated with my associateís degree, I felt I had a good understanding of myself. I was often told I had a strong personality. That wasnít always meant as a compliment, but I was glad that I could be confident and self-aware.

I was blessed to serve a mission in western New York, where my character was challenged almost every day. But I liked who I was, and I felt confidence in that. How grateful I am now for the opportunity I had to stand up every day for what I believe!

Before my mission I never had a serious boyfriend. I had quite a few guys that wanted the job, but I was very open about my desire to serve a mission, and nothing was going to get in the way of that. After my mission when I did get my first serious boyfriend, I thought life was perfect. But the longer we dated, the more I changed. I tried so hard to make him happy that I kind of lost who I was. I didnít love myself anymore.

It was while I was dating this guy that I first met Chad. We became friends and one night he asked my boyfriend to help give him a blessing. I was girlfriend and chauffer, so I gave my ex a ride. It was that night that I found out that Chad dealt with same-sex attraction. He seemed really nervous to tell me, but I didnít think too much about it. I was dating another guy, so what did I care? We continued to be friends, and Chad was there for me when my boyfriend and I broke up. That was an interesting time for me. I had begun to realize that I didnít know who I was. I had lost a lot of confidence because I had worried more about what man thought about me than what God and I thought.

As I worked hard on myself, it became clear to me that Chad was interested in a serious relationship. I didnít know if I was okay with that. I had ideas about my married life, and none of those included a man who was more attracted to other men than he was to me. But there was something amazing about my friendship with Chad. The more time we spent together the more I felt like my old self. I became more confident and more sure of who I was. Instead of questioning everything and using Chad as a litmus test of my self-worth, I loved myself no matter what.

We were in a stake performance together and on the day of the dress rehearsal Chad had to leave early to go to work. After he left, I was suddenly hit with an almost overwhelming feeling of missing him. I realized at that moment that I liked him a lot more than I cared to admit. Yes, I still had fears and concerns, but I knew that I wanted Chad in my life forever.

Around this time my sister, Lisa, came to visit from out of town. We had a big sleepover with our family and her in-laws. In a small-world experience, we found out that Lisaís sister-in-law worked with one of Chadís ex-girlfriends who knew about Chadís same-gender attraction. This became apparent when the sister-in-law felt it was important to tell Lisa after the rest of us had gone to bed. The next morning, I went to run a quick errand and I was surprised to have Lisa join me. Bless her, but she didnít think I knew. I canít imagine meeting a guy that your sister is serious with, only to find out he deals with same-sex attraction, and you donít think she knows. Once she realized that I did know, she questioned me a lot. Is that really something I wanted in my marriage? Women often have a hard time feeling attractive to their husbands, but if your husband is actually attracted to men it would feel almost impossible! We talked quite a bit and at the end she told me that she liked Chad, and she loved me. Whatever I chose she would support me.

I decided that I could pursue a relationship with Chad. Sure, I knew we would have our problems; I knew his same-sex attraction would influence our relationship. But I also knew that he gave me the desire to be my best self, and he supported me in that. Our dating relationship was short but fun. We ended up deciding to tell my parents about Chadís same-sex attraction. They were much more accepting than I thought they would be. With my dadís permission, we became engaged. I had so much fun being with Chad.

Dreams change



When I was a kid I had a lot of dreams about my adult life. I wasnít really into the idea of a handsome prince whisking me off into the sunset. I figured I would have a calm, normal life, with a handsome, silly, 9-to-5 working man. We would have a whole bunch of kids, sometimes struggle to pay bills, but overall have a simple, predictable life. That sounded about perfect to me.

Though I knew my dream life had changed, there were some things I never expected. I didnít think that a few months into our marriage I would find evidence of Chad sexting with another man. I never dreamed that before our six-month anniversary he would be diagnosed with PTSD. My heart broke when our oldest was three months old and Chad was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As I learned about each problem and did more research, I learned that the numbers are against us. If I add up the probability of divorce for same-sex attraction, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, we face some really crappy odds. If I listen to ďexpertsĒ I really should just give up. But I donít. We donít. I donít care about experts or what you learn in school. I care about hearts, motivations, and love.

We have had a lot of hard times. But through all of the hard times, my happy times have been the greatest in my life. We have grown closer than I could have imagined.

Working through things



Talking about Chadís same-sex attraction used to be so awkward. I didnít want to hear about him finding someone else attractive. There was a lot of shame on his end, so I didnít want to bring it up and hurt him. The whole thing was a giant mess. I knew it was serious. Chad allowed me to help him with his bipolar disorder and the PTSD, but he didnít let me do anything with the same-gender attraction.

Honestly, I often wanted to ignore it. We were married; he was staying with me, so maybe it was all ok? But it wasnít. We both knew what the Church said about same-gender attraction, but there was still so much shame associated with it. If I ever dared to bring it up it normally ended in a fight. This was such a dividing topic. There were times I really wondered if we could make it.

Chad would often say, ďThe devil hides in secretsĒ, and I felt that this was true. But here was this topic that we were almost keeping secret from each other. We both knew it was there. We both knew it was serious, but we kept it secret. I knew we needed to talk, but I didnít know how. The few times we tried ended so badly I didnít want to go there again.

So, I spent a lot of time in our marriage not really worrying about Chadís same-sex attraction. It was his problem, he was married to me, and I was fine. True, things werenít always perfect, but I was strong, and I could deal with whatever happened. However, there were some times when I was truly honest with myself that I knew I needed help. I wasnít sure what I needed help with, but part of me was drowning.

Growing up, I never really felt like I could talk about problems. I didnít want to be a burden and I was taught to be self-sufficient. But here I was, dealing with more than I ever knew I could, and struggling. I would put on my happy face and tell people it was hard, but life is hard, so it was fine.

One day, I realized that I was doing it again. I was basing my self-worth on the opinion of a man. That is particularly dangerous when that man is attracted to other men. So I worked on myself again. And the more I worked on myself, the happier I became.

As I spend time working on myself and my struggles, I am a happier person. My marriage is more fulfilling and joyful. We deal with a lot, and asking for help has been scary. How my life has been blessed by sharing my struggles with others! I am so grateful for the support system I have now. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who has guided my steps and helped me soften my own heart. I think I had some pride before this. I felt that this was Chadís problem, and my job was to be the happy, serving, dutiful wife. As I have worked through my pride and worked to take care of myself, I have been made better. I am a better mom, wife, sister, friend, and child of God.

After seeking help Chad and I fought less and I felt like I could talk to him again. I knew that Chad loved me. Chad being attracted to other men didnít change that. But this was hurting our marriage. We had to talk about it.

The first few times we tried to talk about it were messy. These conversations didnít always go the way I hoped and there was a lot of misunderstanding. We were determined, though, and each time it got easier. I am not about to pretend every conversation is perfect. However, now our conversations end with feelings of love and support.

I helped Chad find a counselor that supported our marriage. I knew as I talked to Chad that he wanted a wife and children. However, he had often been told that those desires werenít realistic or healthy. The more Chad pondered and studied on how to be ďtrue to himselfĒ as others suggested, the more he knew he wanted a wife and kids, and finding a counselor who supported that made a huge difference in our marriage.

I am still figuring out what it means to help Chad with his same-sex attraction. But I have learned that communication is key. As I support him, encourage him, love him, and talk with him, he is happier and more successful.

Conclusion



Itís amazing to me how things that we are sure are going to break us can end up being the biggest blessings. It is hard for me to put in words the sharpness of pain that I have felt at times in my marriage. I remember one day when I was feeling so alone, one of my sisters posted a music video on Facebook. It was ďBeautiful HeartbreakĒ by Hillary Weeks.

I had it all mapped out in front of me
Knew just where I wanted to go
But life decided to change my plans
And I found a mountain in the middle of my road
I knew there was no way to move it
So I searched for a way around
Broken-hearted I started climbing
And at the top I found

Every fear, every doubt, all the pain I went through
Was the price that I paid to see this view
Now that I'm here I would never trade
The grace that I feel and the faith that I find
Through the bittersweet tears and the sleepless nights
I used to pray He'd take it all away
But instead it became
A beautiful heartbreak

I never dreamed my heart would make it
And I thought about turning around
But Heaven has shown me miracles
I never would have seen from the ground
Now I take the rain with the sunshine
Cause there's one thing that I know
He picks up the pieces
Along each broken road

Every fear, every doubt, all the pain I went through
Was the price that I paid to see this view
Now that I'm here I would never trade
The grace that I feel and the faith that I find
Through the bittersweet tears and the sleepless nights
I used to pray He'd take it all away
But instead it became
A beautiful heartbreak


As I listened, I couldnít stop tears from running down my face. There were times when I thought my heart was broken. There were times that I wanted this to be taken away. There were times I was sure my marriage couldnít last. But He guided me, changed me, and healed me.

There are things that seem impossible. A happy, healthy, fulfilling marriage to a man with same-sex attraction, bipolar disorder, and PTSD would seem impossible to most. I have learned that with the help of Heavenly Father, our righteous, seemingly impossible desires can be realized. And I am grateful for the life I have had to teach me that.






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