Monday, March 25, 2013

"Mixed Orientation" Relationships

There are a number of controversial topics related to homosexuality, some of which I have addressed in previous posts, such as change and misconceptions on bisexuality. As the title of this post shows, today's post will address another controversial topic, mixed orientation relationships.

I first came across the terms mixed orientation marriage and mixed orientation relationship about five or six years ago. Just reading the terms at the time, I didn't completely understand what they meant (even though I know many people that these terms described). Though many in mixed orientation relationships do not use and some even dislike the term, as I have yet to come across a better term, for the purposes of this blog post, it is the term I will use.

In this post, I will largely refrain from using terms to describe identity, such as gay, lesbian, SSA or straight, as those in mixed orientation relationships may use a variety of sexual identities or none at all. Instead, I will primarally use terms that describe sexual orientation. This may make this post more wordy than seems necessary, though since my series on terminology, I have a desire to "practice what I preach," and use the correct terms. If there in any confusion or lack of clarity about the terminology I am using, please read my series on Terminology:
Terminology -Part 1
Terminology -Part 2
Terminology -Part 3

Quite simply, a mixed orientation relationship is defined as a romantic or sexual relationship between people of different sexual orientations, and a mixed orientation marriage is a marriage of people of different sexual orientations. It is most often used to refer to a couple consisting of one person that has a heterosexual orientation and another that has a homosexual orientation. Though it can refer to any relationship in which the individuals do not have the same sexual orientation.

Individuals that enter into such relationships and marriages may do so for a variety of reasons. In some cases the heterosexual partner is aware of the other's orientation, while in other cases, he or she is not (or at least is not at the start of the relationship or marriage).

In the last few years, many have become much more aware of mixed orientation relationships. Most of the media attention on such relationships has been negative, and as such, these types of relationships have become very controversial, with a number of people universally condemning them.

The stereotypical mixed orientation marriage that is often portrayed in the media is that of a man with a homosexual orientation marrying a woman of a heterosexual orientation without her knowledge of his orientation. The man's motives for marrying are often portrayed as being to either hide or try to change his orientation. These marriages are usually portrayed as ending in divorce as the man will invariably cheat on his wife with another man or men, or if not, be unable to live with hiding his sexuality, and the marriage will end in divorce, creating a broken family.

But that is only the stereotype that is dominant. While it is true for a number of mixed orientation marriages, it is far from being universally true. Not every mixed orientation marriage begins with one spouse hiding their orientation from the other. Not every partner that is homosexual enters the relationship to try to hide or change their orientation. And not every mixed orientation marriage results in adultery, betrayal, divorce, and a broken family.

Though no research has been reported that I'm aware of, just my personal experience with those I know in mixed orientation marriages has shown that their relationships can be just as happy and successful as those in same orientation marriages. Some do claim that mixed orientation marriages are more likely to fail. That may or may not be true. Until there is scientific research reported, however, that is just individual observation or opinion.

It is true that there are many mixed orientation marriages that fail. It is also true, however, that there are many same orientation marriages that fail. And just as there are also many same orientation marriages that are successful, the same is true of mixed orientation marriages.

This is not to say that I universally support mixed orientation marriages, as I do not. I see the decision to enter into a mixed orientation relationship or marriage as being very personal. And I do not support mixed orientation marriages unless there is full disclosure between the spouses about sexual orientation and sexual history before the wedding. Though I do know of marriages that have survived in which a spouse hid their sexual orientation at first, it is still dishonest, does not give the other spouse an opportunity to make an informed decision, and it places an obstacle that may be very difficult to overcome in the marriage.

Another factor that I see as important is for anyone that is exclusively homosexual (or anyone considering a relationship with someone that is) is putting plenty of thought (and prayer, if appropriate) into such a relationship before deciding to enter into one. Mixed orientation relationships often have challenges that same orientation relationships do not have, although that does not necessarily make them insurmountable.

So, although I do not universally support mixed orientation marriages, I do support them when there is honesty (both with oneself and one's potential spouse), certainty about one's true motives and intentions, and when it is an informed decision. Even of those that are exclusively homosexual that do not want to enter a same sex relationship (whether for personal or religious reasons), not all will feel that a mixed orientation relationship is right for them, nor should they be pressured or coerced into entering one. And on the other side of the coin, any person that is heterosexual also has the right to decide whether being in a relationship or marriage with someone who has an exclusively homosexual orientation is right for them or something they are willing and ready to do.

I also support mixed orientation relationships because of another possible aspect of them. I stated earlier that mixed orientation relationships are most often used to refer to a couple with one individual of a heterosexual orientation and another of a homosexual orientation. But a mixed orientation relationship also refers to couples in which one individual has a bisexual orientation and the other has either a heterosexual or a homosexual orientation.

For example, I am bisexual. And if I were to enter a relationship with anyone, man or woman, unless they were also bisexual, it would be a mixed orientation relationship, since my orientation would be different than that of the man or woman I was in a relationship with.

One of the criticisms of mixed orientation relationships is that it is not fair to an individual to be in a relationship with someone that does not fully love them, most often referring to a man of a homosexual orientation being in a relationship with a woman of a heterosexual orientation. But cases in which one individual is bisexual show the flaw in this argument. If I should not be in a relationship with a woman because I supposedly cannot fully love her because I am attracted to men, then how would it be any more right for me to be in a relationship with a man, since following the same logic, I would not be able to fully love him because I am attracted to women? Unless those that are bisexual are supposed to just remain single, it does not make sense to universally condemn mixed orientation relationships for this reason.

As I stated earlier, I do know a number of couples in mixed orientation relationships, many of whom I consider friends. Many of them live private lives, and I have no desire to put them in the public eye without their permission. But I will reference two such friends that are public about their relationships, and provide a link to others.

The first couple is Ty and Danielle Mansfield. Ty has been in the public eye about his sexuality for close to ten years (and I've also known him almost that long), through both public speaking and books he has published. Ty is also a co-founder and currently a vice president for North Star International. Their story was told on LDS Living last year, and can also be found on the Mormons and Gays website.

The second couple is Josh and Lolly Weed. They went public in a post on Josh's blog last year, which went viral, and Josh has written and spoken on the topic at a number of firesides, conferences and conventions since that time. I've had the privilege of meeting Josh and Lolly several times that they've been in Utah to speak.

Both the Mansfields and the Weeds have participated in the Voices of Hope project, which has a website scheduled to launch this month. Ty and the Weeds both have videos in the preview, and many more individuals and couples in mixed orientation marriages will be featured on the website once it launches and more videos are recorded, edited and posted.

In closing, I do want to acknowledge that my opinion on mixed orientation relationships is a lot stronger than my opinion on many of the other things I have written about. This is in part that nearly any relationship I hope to be in (or have ever hoped to be in) would be a mixed orientation relationship. In stating my opinion, I do welcome more dialogue on the topic, particularly with those of differing opinions.

As always, feel free to continue the dialogue by commenting on this post.


  1. Thank you! Beautifully written. There are so many people who can relate and navigating relationships is so difficult anyway. Whether I find men, women or both attractive does not take away from my commitment to my relationship.

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  2. I discovered last year that without knowing it, I have been in a MOM for the last 33 years. We're still together, but it's hell, as a str8 man, to discover that my partner has absolutely no desire whatever for me, because she's a lesbian, even if she's not looking for a lover outside our marriage. The VAST majority of what is out on the Web about MOM's are str8 women with gay husbands. I have yet to find one happy, long-term example of a str8 man married to a lesbian.

  3. The majority of the mixed orientation relationships that I am aware of are the same (the woman is heterosexual, while the man is not). I do know of at least one couple in which the man is heterosexual, while the woman is not, that I would describe as happy and long term. But I only personally know of a handful of these types of couples as is. I believe the chances of a happy, long term relationship are about the same for either type of couple.

  4. I am in a mixed orientation marriage. In my case, though, my husband is the heterosexual while I am bisexual. He knows that I am bisexual and has told me that he doesn't have a problem if I wanted to have a girlfriend. In the past he has lived in communal households and is very open-minded to the situation. But, obviously our "situation," is very unusual. In trying to do research, I've run into nothing but road blocks. The most common I keep finding is that just because someone is bisexual does not mean that they cannot commit to an either hetero or homosexual relationship. I've been married for 7 1/2 years to my husband and we have 3 kids. I Love my husband very much and have no desire to leave him. However, that does not mean that I'm not willing... and in fact do desire... to have a relationship with a woman, too, preferably separate from my relationship with my husband. I like the way my husband described it, and how he understands it. He "cannot see it as cheating because a women may be able to do something for me that he can't." Unfortunately, I've yet to find anyone else who has the same understanding.

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