Things You Should Know When Watching TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay,” Joining North Star, or Considering a Mixed-Orientation Marriage

Due to the significant controversy surrounding the upcoming TLC show entitled, “My Husband’s Not Gay,” and (more importantly) due to the very high stakes surrounding the topic of LDS Mixed-Orientation Marriages (defined in this case as a gay, lesbian or bisexual person marrying a heterosexual person), I would like to share a few of our findings from our study of 1,612 LGBT/Same-Sex Attracted Mormons.  These findings relate directly to the central point of the “My Husband’s Not Gay” show, which is that many believing LGBT Mormons continue to seek out mixed-orientation marriages primarily based on their devotion to the LDS church, and/or based on their association with Ty Mansfield’s North Star organization (both of which encourage either celibacy or mixed-orientation marriage as the two viable options for active, believing LGBT/SSA Mormons).

Study Background: In 2011 Dr. William Bradshaw (BYU, Biology), Dr. Renee Galliher (USU, Psychology),  Dr. Katie Crowell (PLU, Psychology), and I (John Dehlin — USU, Psychology) obtained approval from Utah State University’s Institutional Review Board to administer a survey to LGBT/same-sex attracted Mormons with the intent of better understanding their life experiences.  This study was advertised primarily through: 1) the Associated Press (over 100 newspapers worldwide), 2) every known Mormon LGBT Support group (over 20 in all, with particular attention paid to pro-reparative therapy and mixed-orientation marriage-affirming organizations such as North Star and Evergreen), and 3) social media including blogs, podcasts, and Internet forums.  In total, 1,612 Mormons and former Mormons completed the survey, which on average took between 1 and 1.5 hours to complete per participant.

Researchers

Two Disclaimers:

1) Our Sample: We openly acknowledge that our findings are not based on a random sample. Although random samples are generally better, they are prohibitively complicated and expensive in this kind of research.  Social scientists are often required to rely on less random sources of information, doing our best to get as broad a range of responses as possible, with the largest sample size that we can muster. To our knowledge, this study utilizes the best dataset (as in largest, and most representative) of LGBT Mormons (and possibly LGBT individuals of any religious group) ever assembled to address topics such as mixed-orientation marriages, celibacy, reparative therapy, religiosity, etc.

And while some people who are uncomfortable with the results of this study have attempted to dismiss it for its non-randomness, I would like to offer two pre-emptive responses: a) journal articles from our study have now been accepted in at least six respected, scientific, peer reviewed journals including the Journal of Counseling Psychology (one of the American Psychological Association’s flagship journals), the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Journal of Homosexuality, the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, and Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research. We feel like this broad endorsement speaks very well to the quality of our sample. In addition, b) To my knowledge, there has been no better sample ever assembled (Mormon or otherwise) that deals directly with the issues of LGBT religiosity, reparative therapy, mixed-orientation marriages, celibacy, etc. In reviewing the data we present you will find that we have included numerous active, believing Mormons (a full third of the sample) as well as inactive and former Mormons. This allows us to compare the outcomes of those who have chosen paths that are more approved by the church at present (celibacy and mixed-orientation marriages) with those who chose same-sex relationships. When helping young people make decisions that will have such huge consequences, we should give them the best information available. The experiences of 1600+ people is far more valid than the anecdotal experiences of a few acquaintances or a few high-profile individuals. Any health professional knows that it is better to rely on broader research than on anecdotes, even if these anecdotes are very famous, or come from cases they are personally familiar with. This is a basic premise of both modern medicine and modern psychology.  

Consequently, while we do not expect people to make blind choices based on these data, we do feel as though it is irresponsible to dismiss these data out of hand, or to intentionally withhold this information from people who are trying to determine what choices they should make with regards to MOMs, celibacy, and same-sex relationships.

2) Self-Determination: While I absolutely affirm any individual’s inherent right to enter into a mixed-orientation marriage or celibacy, and believe that these individuals deserve only love, support, and compassion once this decision is made, I feel very strongly that young, impressionable Mormons should not be pressured to make choices having been unduly influenced or manipulated by emotion, social pressure, or by select anecdotes that can inspire false hope. Instead, I believe that these individuals should be given as much information as possible when making such crucial life decisions. I do worry that mixed-orientation marriages and celibacy are still being held up as a standard for young LGBT Mormons, and that this will contribute to people entering into marriages or celibacy based on social coercion and/or low self esteem.

Ty

 

Major Findings from our Study that Relate to TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay”

Very Low Long-Term Activity Rates for LDS LGBT Mormons: One important finding from our study has to do with church activity rates of LGBT Mormons.  Our study found that over two thirds of LGBT/Same-Sex Attracted Mormons from our sample had either stopped attending church, resigned from the church, been excommunicated, or been disfellowshipped at the time of survey completion.  This finding is significant since many of the well-intended LGBT Mormons (such as those on the TLC show and in North Star) who enter into Mixed-Orientation Marriages and/or celibacy do so out of devotion to their LDS faith — and this religious devotion naturally becomes the foundation for these relationships/decisions.  If these findings hold for modern-day samples, up to 70% or more of these newly-forming mixed-orientation marriages are at high risk of destabilization at some future point, if/when the LGBT partner decides that they are not able to remain faithful to the LDS church.

LDSChurchActivity

Divorce Rates for Mixed-Orientation Marriages: Our review of the literature found that in the United States, the overall “ever-divorced rate” rate is 23.3% for males and 27.8% for females — meaning that between 24% and 28% of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce.  U.S. Mormons have similar divorce rates — males = 22.0%, females 28.1% (Heaton, Goodman, & Holman, 2001).

Studies of divorce rates for Mixed-Orientation Marriages (MOMs) range between 50% and 85% (Buxton, 1994; Buxton, 2001; Wolkomir, 2004) — meaning that MOMs in the U.S. are up to three times more likely to end in divorce than are heterosexual marriages.

In our study, of the 1,612 individuals who completed our survey, 31% (500) reported entering into mixed-orientation marriages at some point in their lives, with 240 reporting to still be in a MOM at the time of the survey.  This represented a minimum MOM divorce rate of 51% for our sample. However, since the average duration of these persistent MOMs from our study was 16.6 years, it is reasonable to expect that at least some additional MOM divorces will occur in the future. For example, since 37% (n = 99) of the MOM divorces in our sample occurred after the 16 year mark, a flat projection based on the entire sample would estimate the eventual divorce reach to reach at least 69% for our study.  We have noticed, for example, that many mixed-orientation marriages end after the children have left home (often at the 20-25 year mark).

In summary, consistent findings from our study, and from broader studies seem to indicate that those who enter into MOMs are up to 300% more likely to get divorced than the U.S. average.

MOM Divorces

Bisexuality is Essential in Preserving a Mixed-Orientation Marriage:  An even starker finding from our study is that 85% of the men who rated themselves as exclusively homosexual on the Kinsey scale reported MOM divorces.  In addition, when comparing Kinsey sexual attraction ratings (0 = Exclusively attracted to the opposite sex, 3 = Equally attracted to the opposite and same sexes or bisexual, 6 = Exclusively attracted to the same sex) of those who were able to maintain their mixed-orientation marriages vs. not — our study found that those who remained in a mixed-orientation marriage reported an average Kinsey attraction rating of 3.75, while those who were not in a mixed-orietntaion marriage reported an average Kinsey rating of 5.1.  This strongly suggests that bisexuality is an essential ingredient to preserving a mixed-orientation marriage, while those with exclusive or nearly exclusive same-sex attractions are highly unlikely to be able to make a mixed-orientation marriage work in the long term.

BiMOM

Mental Health and Quality of Life for Mixed-Orientation Marriages: Using an empirically supported Quality of Life Measure (Burckhardt & Aderson, 2003), we measured the overall reported quality of life for single individuals, those in mixed-orientation marriages, and those in same-sex relationships from our study.  We found that those who were single, or who entered into mixed-orientation marriages reported quality of life ratings worse than those who have lupus — a debilitating illness which includes symptoms such as fatigue and fever, joint pain, stiffness and swelling, skin lesions, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, confusion and memory loss.  Those who were single or in mixed-orientation marriages also reported significantly higher rates of depression, sexual identity distress, and internalized homophobia, and significantly lower rates of self-esteem.

QOLRelationship

Mental Health and Quality of Life for Same-Sex Relationships: Conversely, our study found that LGBT Mormons who entered into legal, committed, same-sex marriages reported the highest quality of life and self-esteem scores, and the lowest scores for depression, sexual identity distress, and internalized homophobia — by a large statistical margin.

Celibacy: Though slightly tangential, I felt it would be important to include information about celibacy, since both the LDS church and North Star support celibacy as the only possible alternative to mixed-orientation marriages for believing, active LGBT/SSA Mormons.  Our findings indicate that those who were celibate had the lowest quality of life and self-esteem ratings of any major group in our study, along with the highest levels of depression, sexual identity distress, and internalized homophobia (again, worse than for those who have lupus).  In short, it appears as though choosing celibacy is perhaps one of the worst major life choices that an LGBT person can make from a mental health/quality of life perspective.

QOLSexualActivity

Mental Health and Quality of Life of Straight Spouses?: While it is appropriate to consider the mental health and well-being of the LGBT/SSA partners in MOMs, it is also essential to not overlook the experiences of the straight spouses in these relationship.  A current study is being conducted on the mental health and quality of life of straight spouses in mixed-orientation marriages.  Results to-be-released soon.

Correlates to Well-Being for LGBT Mormons and Former Mormons: For LGBT Mormons and former Mormons who are trying to determine which life decisions will have the highest probability of leading to the optimal outcomes (from a quality of life and mental health perspective), the data from our survey suggest that the following choices are associated with optimal quality of life and mental health outcomes for LGBT Mormons and Former Mormons.

Wellbeing

Conclusion: While we fully acknowledge that Mormon LGBT/SSA individuals and their partners are free to choose mixed-orientation marriages or celibacy (and affirm their right to self-determination), we believe it essential that individuals considering these “lifestyles” are made aware of the best available statistics that underly these decision. Based on our research, we have found the following:

  • It appears as though approximately 70% of LDS LGBT/SSA individuals end up leaving the LDS church at some point in their lives.
  • While the U.S. divorce rate for first marriages is around 25%, mixed-orientation marriages appear to have somewhere between a 50% and an 80% divorce rate.  LDS mixed-orientation marriages appear to follow a similar trend, and by our research, have an estimated 70% divorce rate. This means that mixed-orientation marriages are somewhere between 200% and 300% more likely to end in divorce than are heterosexual marriages.
  • Bisexuality appears to be an essential ingredient to preserving an LDS mixed-orientation marriage.  Those who are exclusively or near-exclusively attracted to the same sex have extremely high (upwards of 85%) probabilities of eventual divorce.
  • Self-reported quality of life scores for LDS LGBT/SSA individuals who enter into mixed-orientation marriages are lower than for those who have lupus (a debilitating disease). Rates of depression, sexual identity distress, and internalized homophobia are also significantly higher, and rates of self-esteem are significantly lower.  Outcomes for celibacy are even worse.
  • Celibacy is possibly the single worst decision that an LGBT/SSA person could make from a mental health and well-being standpoint, based on our analysis of the data so far.
  • The health/happiness/well-being of the straight spouses of LDS mixed-orientation marriages should not be overlooked, and are currently under study.
  • LDS LGBT/SSA individuals who enter into legal, committed, same-sex relationships report the highest levels of quality of life and self-esteem, and the lowest levels of depression, sexual identity distress, and internalized homophobia.
  • The decisions that appear to correlate with optimal quality of life and mental health outcomes for LGBT/SSA Mormons are the following:
    • Believing that their same-sex attraction is biological, not a choice, and not a product of familial, social, environmental, or experiential factors.
    • Accepting one’s same-sex sexuality.
    • Coming out to family, friends, and community once one feels safe to do so.
    • Becoming sexually active, preferably in a long term, committed, same-sex relationship (especially when exclusively same-sex attracted).
    • Leaving the LDS church, either through resignation, disfellowshipment, or excommunication.  We have found important exceptions to this correlate, and we hope that someday most LGBT people in the LDS church will be as happy as those who have left, but currently this is clearly not the case.

For questions, please email:

Key References:

 

31 comments for “Things You Should Know When Watching TLC’s “My Husband’s Not Gay,” Joining North Star, or Considering a Mixed-Orientation Marriage

  1. Laura Skaggs Dulin
    January 9, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Thank you John for offering such a useful and accessible synopsis of this study.

  2. January 9, 2015 at 8:52 am

    Thank you for summarizing this important study. It is a very important component of the broader discussion about mixed orientation marriage. While every study has limitations, and people’s preferences and life experiences can vary substantially, your data suggest that mixed orientation marriages are generally a high risk choice for many gay and lesbian Mormons.

  3. David
    January 9, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for the summary of these studies. This is important data.

    One observation regarding this quote:
    “newly-forming mixed-orientation marriages are at high risk of destabilization at some future point, if/when the LGBT partner inevitably decides that they are not able to remain faithful to the LDS church.”

    The conjunction “if/when” (suggesting two possible outcomes) is immediately undermined by “inevitably decides.” If you really believe that self-determining individuals can make this decision (as you say you do), it would probably be best to not suggest in the very next section that you think it’s inevitable that LGBT Mormons in MOMs will find they must leave the church. Even though the study shows (and I believe it!) that individuals are happier when they DO leave the church, its editorializing to say they inevitably will.

    • January 9, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Great feedback, David. I removed the word “inevitably” – and should have done so earlier. Let me know if that fixes it for you. And thanks so much for the suggestion.

  4. Dave
    January 9, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Interesting essay, thanks for sharing. I hope not to offend by bringing my decidedly heterosexual views into this LGBT forum, but I have found this area of discussion very fruitful in trying to understand my own heterosexuality. For background, I am a lifelong active member of the LDS church in a sexless marriage.

    1) I doubt TLC’s treatment of the topic will be adequate, but I have recently become intrigued by what can be learned from the few successful MOM’s out there. How do successful MOM’s navigate the sexual relationship? The very few anecdotes I have come across seem to suggest that most successful MOM’s at least claim to have worked out something mutually agreeable for both and are not completely sexless. What do successful MOM’s have to teach us about the importance of the sexual relationship to overall relationship health and longevity? Is there anything that the couples sex therapist can use to help other couples struggling in sexless marriages and with other sexual dysfunctions? What can we as a church community learn about the role of sexuality in marriage relationships?

    You mentioned one aspect — the “degree” of homosexuality/heterosexuality/bisexuality. Even that little statistic seems a bit suggestive of the importance of the sexual relationship to the overall success/failure of the marriage.

    2) One thought on the divorce statistics. As I encounter discussions among LDS on sexless marriages around the internet, many times I encounter the idea that the sexual struggles in heterosexual marriages are purely “symptoms” of some other problem in the marriage, not “the problem” itself. (I personally disagree with this). If we assume that MOM’s are similar to heterosexual couples in terms of relationship skills and other metrics (which seems reasonable to me), it would suggest that much of the increased divorce rate is rooted specifically the sexual relationship, or something related to the sexual relationship. Is that reasonable, or is there more to this?

    3) I am reminded of a recent LDS Living article entitled ‘My New Husband: “I was Never Attracted to You.”‘ The tone of this article seemed to be mostly about body image issues. However, as I read the article, it seems to that the principle underlying questions of “attractiveness” is a sexual motivation. It seems like part of the dynamic within a MOM will be how each spouse deals with “my spouse does not find me attractive (sexually)”. Overall, it makes me wonder if we need to better understand the role of “attraction” to marital success.

    • January 9, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      David you know the solution To a Mormon marriage, where your wife is less Than enthusiastic, about sex…… Polygamy….. 🙂

    • Daniel Parkinson
      January 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      Nice thoughts David. I personally think that good sex is not essential to a good marriage but it is an excellent starting point. You don’t explain why your marriage is sexless, but the situation would be very different if it was always sexless, or if it became sexless at some later point.

      My marriage started out with a very strong sexual attraction. Even though the attraction isn’t as important now as it was then, it did give us a foundation and an intimacy that I can’t imagine I would have been able to achieve in some other way. We also both know that we came into a relationship that we both really wanted and craved, and I don’t have a lingering doubt that I should have held out for somebody that I could fall more in love with, because I was totally in love. Obviously that love has evolved, but it had that amazing base, that wouldn’t be there in a marriage where there was no attraction, no desire, no excitement. I might have different criteria if I had to enter another marriage in my 50’s or 60’s but in my 30’s it gave me a base that we built on and made it last until my early 50’s now, even though the attraction is different, the sex has decreased, and the excitement has abated (as it does with every couple).

      • Dave
        January 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm

        Daniel: Like you, our marriage started out quite passionately. Then it faded to essentially nothing over those first several years. Early on, I would have agreed that sex is not essential, and should easily be “cast aside” if and when a couple is ready put such “carnal” thinks aside. Part of my struggle as our marriage devolved into sexlessness has been trying to understand how God and the Church view sex and sexuality in and out of marriage (sometimes I’m not sure God’s and the Church’s view are one and the same). Perhaps I should not lean on science, but I like to think that studies like this might harbor nuggets of truth that will help me understand God’s views on sex and sexuality.

        Daniel said: “I personally think that good sex is not essential to a good marriage but it is an excellent starting point.”

        I think, for me, this might be part of the interest in the success and failure rates of MOM’s — to, perhaps, challenge and understand this “sex is not essential” claim.

        As I suggested before, if we assume that people entering MOM’s and people entering normal heterosexual marriages are about the same in terms of “non-sexual” metrics that predict divorce. (I don’t know if that is a good assumption or not). To the extent that that assumption holds true, it suggests to me that it is something about the sexual relationship (or “perpetual problems”/”gridlock” around the sexual relationship as Dr. Gottman might put it) that is driving the 3 fold increase in divorce rate/risk. I don’t know how you like to define “essential”. I personally tend to take a cost/risk/benefit type approach. I don’t know what the cutoff should be for something to be “essential” vs “important” vs “inconsequential” in this kind of analysis. It seems to me that something that potentially has a factor of 3 impact on the rate/risk of divorce/failure has to be counted in our list of important and/or essential factors. I sometimes feel like we have treated sex as if it were a “disposable” aspect of marriage, and I think statistics like this show that it is almost certainly not “disposable.”

        • Daniel Parkinson
          January 9, 2015 at 6:24 pm

          Don’t get me wrong David, I am not proposing sexless marriages as a model. When I say that it is not essential, I am not saying that it is not essential for anybody. I mean to say that there may be some people for whom it may not be essential (including people who are not able for physical reasons), or else is no longer essential (because of age or acquired physical condition).

          There are plenty of people for whom a good sexual relationship is absolutely essential.

          I think the 300% higher divorce rate is due to a variety of factors that may or may not apply to other couple. I will list here factors that I think are pretty obvious, and some of them have nothing to do with sex.

          1) Many people have a faith crisis at some time in their life. If their main reason for marrying a person was religious, then they are highly likely to rethink it when they question their faith.

          2) Some gay people have trouble falling in love with a person of the opposite sex, so even if they can perform sexually, they may never feel the same kind of attachment/connection.

          3) Some LGBT people start to resent being forced into a situation that is uncomfortable to them and this can increase with time.

          4) Some LGBT start to romanticize the possibility of true love that they always feel like they might have missed.

          5) Some LGBT people start to feel suicidal with the chronic stress of feeling that they are repressing their true selves, and their true desires around same-sex companionship and/or sex.

          I personally am not against mixed-orientation marriages. I am against people entering these marriages for the wrong reasons. For me the biggest and most common wrong reasons are that they feel pressure from their church or family to enter this kind of marriage, or that they believe that this is the only way they can have a family, or if they feel that they will lose the love of family, or of their church community or even of God if they choose a same-sex relationship.

          Meanwhile, I want to support couples who are in these marriages and help them succeed. I also want to support those who can’t make these marriages succeed, and help them separate in a way that is less damaging to them and their children.

  5. John
    January 9, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    Great write up. I don’t suppose you have any data that would compare the typical Quality of Life for hetero LDS couples to those shown here?

    • January 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      John – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to gather that data over the past few years! For heterosexual singles too.

  6. YetAnotherDave
    January 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    The results of this study seem to me to be pretty intuiative.

    My guess is results for hetero’s would also indicate a “single/celibate life” would score lower than “single S.A. non-commited” life, which in turn would score lower than “married S.A. committed, legally married” life.

  7. Nancy
    January 10, 2015 at 2:27 am

    I can in no way see myself happy in a sexless marriage and I have been married 37 years. It would devastate me if my spouse didn’t find me attractive in that way. I can’t imagine being in the a MOM marriage as either the straight or gay partner. They’re a recipe for misery in m opinion.

  8. Justin
    January 10, 2015 at 7:22 am

    It’s great you were able to get such a large sample and the different groupings as well. Definitely the best sample out there on this.

    The one issue that really plagues this type of research is that it’s all based on self-reports. Self-reports aren’t always a major problem but with this topic it’s particularly an issue since there is a strong social desirability component. Those who have a strong reason to be validated often (without meaning to) can bias their answers in a more positive direction. It’s enough to make someone choose a 6 rather than a 5 on a scale.

    Did you include a measure of social desirability? Controlling for that would at least partially alleviate this.

    Also, you likely shouldn’t be using the 25% as your baseline divorce rate (if you could explain the rational for that that would be great). That rate will be more for your higher income/higher educated marriages. Also, anytime you have some kind of non-congruence in marriage (whether by race, religion, sexual orientation) you find higher divorce rates. That is likely your better comparison.

  9. Just thought
    January 10, 2015 at 9:59 am

    John Dehlin: “I absolutely affirm any individual’s inherent right to enter into a mixed-orientation marriage or celibacy, and believe that these individuals deserve only love, support, and compassion once this decision is made”
    I agree with John, the author of this article, that individuals involved in mixed orientation marriages deserve love, support and compassion. Just as he expects love support and compassion to be offered to the LGBT community.

  10. YetAnotherDave
    January 10, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I don’t get the comparison of the quality of life measure to that of people with Lupus…unless it’s intended to “sensationalize” the results.

    I would prefer to see a comparison to various other types of marriages…various forms of hetero, mixed race, mixed cultural marriages…and to various other forms of celibacy and singleness.

    I think that would provide a much better perspective for someone who might actually want to use any data from this study as a basis for decision making…which John alludes to in his write-up of the study.

    • January 10, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      YetAnotherDave,

      I understand why you might feel that way, but Lupus wasn’t chosen to sensationalize. The QOLS measure was developed primarily for medical patients, and so specific illnesses were the only means of interpretation offered by those who designed it. See here to understand what I’m saying.

      How are the QOLS’ scores interpreted?
      The QOLS scores are summed so that a higher score indi- cates higher quality of life. Average total score for healthy populations is about 90. For rheumatic disease groups, the average score ranges are 83 for rheumatoid arthritis, 84 for systemic lupus erythematosus, 87 for osteoarthritis, and 92 for young adults with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Average total scores for other conditions range from 61 for Israeli patients with posttraumatic stress disorder, to 70 for fibromyalgia, to 82 for psoriasis, urinary incontinence and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. All of these means come from descriptive studies or experimental pretest data. And like many QOL instruments, the means tend to be quite negatively skewed with most patients reporting some degree of satisfaction with most domains of their lives.

      And yes…it would have been awesome to survey heterosexual marriages and singles, but unfortunately that was outside the scope of the original study. It would be a fantastic follow-up study, though!

  11. Holly
    January 10, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    I am a mother of 3 heterosexual daughters who have chosen to be celibate until marriage which seems more and more unlikely the older they get. …I’m curious as to how mental health issues compare to those with SSA who choose to be celebate. I know they all struggle with wanting to be in loving relationships and wanting to have families. But is seems to me that These days celebacy can be an issue for those of any sexual orientation…

  12. Nathan
    January 11, 2015 at 5:55 am

    There is always a question with any research as to how applicable the data is. If you were counseling a young person today who was choosing to enter into a MOM today, would it really be correct to say that they have a (projected) 70% chance of divorce based on this data? I think it would be misleading, mainly because you point out that there were many long term marriages lasting 16 years or even 20-25 years (until the children are out of the home). I would guess that all of these divorces didn’t happen the year of the survey (2011 right?), so we are looking back at decisions that were made 15, 20, even 30 years ago. How many MOM were entered into at that time with the same openness about sexual orientation that would be entered into today (at least any reasonable counselor would encourage that openness)? How many couples knew the truth of the sexual orientation? How many people even came to terms with their own sexual orientation at the time of marriage? Interesting research would be to see how well MOM last when both spouses know the sexual orientation prior to the marriage and when sexual orientation is not known prior to the marriage. That information would likely yield more reliable results to counsel someone facing the question today. I think overall, a MOM has potentially more positive supports to make that divorce rate go down.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      January 11, 2015 at 9:43 am

      We won’t be able to know for another 10 years how many of these marriages are surviving, but it is quite possible that the divorce rate will be even higher in these couples. Many of the marriages that lasted 16 or more years in the past only lasted that long because they didn’t see any other alternatives. These newer, more transparent marriages are going to be confronted with a different world with a different narratives. They are going to see gay people all around them in happy stable same-sex marriages. They are going to see them advancing in their careers. They are going to see them raising children. And they are going to see much sooner that they can have a great life with everything they want available to them. My guess is that the divorce rate will go even higher with these new influences in spite of the more open approach.

    • January 11, 2015 at 10:17 am

      LDS disaffection rates in the U.S. appear to be increasing as well…which could affect LGBT individuals disproportionately, since they seem to have a 70%+ chance of disaffection already at present.

      But Nathan – I completely agree that individuals should not look at these data and conclude: “I should not enter into a mixed-orientation marriage based on these data.”

      What I believe should happen is:

      1) These individuals are made aware of Affirmation.
      2) These individuals are made aware of North Star, Ty Mansfield, and Josh Weed.
      3) These individuals are made aware of the data from our study.
      4) These individuals are made aware of Kendall Wilcox’s Far Between videos. And then,
      5) These individuals are given an affirming, non-pressured environment to make a decision based on what feels right to them….and not based on religious, ecclesiastical, familial, anecdotal, celebrity, or even secular pressures.

      • Tom
        January 13, 2015 at 3:06 am

        Where 5 may be most important..

        Consider adding the following somewhere in your list:

        6) Given the opportunity to determine where they might fall on the Kinsey scale and how that might be congruent with the term SSA.

        7) Given the opportunity to hear from folks that have been in mixed orientation marriages that later failed and why.

  13. Nick
    January 11, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    As a young (25-year-old) LDS man trying to sort out these questions with regard to my own experience of SSA, thanks for publishing these results! I’m an active member of the church and have always had a strong desire to marry in the temple and have children, so I have hoped to be able to make a MOM work at some point in my future.

    I’d be curious to know if the sample size is large enough to disaggregate the data on MOM’s further. Is there a difference between marriages that began with the heterosexual spouse having a full understanding of his/her homosexual partner’s sexual orientation and those where it was something that came out later in the marriage? (I imagine few couples embarking on MOMs had those conversations 20 years ago when there were no models and society’s/the church’s view on LGBT relationships was dramatically harsher).

    I also know divorce rates are different for Mormons who are married in the temple vs. Mormons who are not sealed. Does this hold true for MOMs as well?

    • Tom
      January 13, 2015 at 3:26 am

      Nick, not that my experience should be generalized to anyone else. For young people to have the depth required for a full understanding of his/her partners sexual orientation is a challenge. In my view, simply knowing your partner is “gay” or SSA is not enough. Are they somewhat bi-sexual or exclusively homosexual in orientation?
      Even though my spouse knew about my sexual orientation, it was easily dismissed as a manageable issue. Even then there was denial. “Sure was I was attracted to men, but I told myself I was not one of those “homosexuals.”

      After 10 years shortly before the marriage ended, I rated my marriage on a scale of (1 to 10) an 8 or 9 in terms of being happily married. Then boom, my spouse and her long yearning need to be ravished by a man that was 100% into her, finally took its toll and she left the marriage. I didn’t fully come out until a few years later.

  14. Elle
    January 11, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    The graphs showing differences in quality of life are interesting. Do you have confidence intervals for those averages? Are the differences statistically significant?

    • January 12, 2015 at 9:27 am

      Elle – Yes. Differences were statistically significant, and the effect sizes were generally large.

  15. Deeds
    January 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Any chance a study like this can be done with asexuality in the church?

  16. Gilliam
    January 13, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Perhaps you can clarify something for me. I’m trying to understand the divorce rates cited from the Heaton, Goodman and Holman study. It seems to me that it under states the real divorce rates for first time marriages in the US and creates a starker image when compared to MOM divorce rates as identified in your study.

    You cite:

    Divorce Rates for Mixed-Orientation Marriages: Our review of the literature found that in the United States, the overall “ever-divorced rate” rate is 23.3% for males and 27.8% for females — meaning that between 24% and 28% of all first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. U.S. Mormons have similar divorce rates — males = 22.0%, females 28.1% (Heaton, Goodman, & Holman, 2001).

    Now that data is pulled from the University of Wisconsin’s “National Survey of Families and Households.” A more recent working paper using later data has demonstrated that the rates are not declining in intergenerational shifts.
    http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/cde/nsfhwp/nsfh94ab.htm

    So if rates are consistent according to the NSFH, what’s interesting is that the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 – from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a data set well recognized for providing a deeper level of insights into divorce and its causes, particularly related to education attainment and household income, shows a very different number. According to their research, actual divorce rates for 1st time marriages up to age 46 of the participants – from a 2010 study – are between 29% (if college educated) and 58% (less than high school diploma) with the average being 44.8 percent against the entire sample.

    http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/article/marriage-and-divorce-patterns-by-gender-race-and-educational-attainment.htm

    So what am I missing here? Why does the data Heaton uses appear to dramatically understate the divorce rate? The only determination I can make is that it appears to look at only a shortened time range of years of marriage as you explained in this discussion. If the divorce rate trends to 45% as range of years is expanded then a 50-70% divorce rate for MOM does not seem as stark.

  17. Michelle
    January 16, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    As I have read the study and all these comments, I am seeing to be the happiest for LGBT, is to leave the Mormon religion. I am an active member and have been all my life. I don’t understand this. Why is this the case? I have a friend who is a male that is in his 40’s and my sister is in her 50’s, that have never married and are very strong in the church. They also have been celibate all of their life. Yes, my sister wished she could have a companion and children, but never thought of leaving the church to do so.

    My sister has been made fun of from people in and out of the church. “There must be something wrong with her if she can’t get a man” Also, she’s a 56 yr. old “virgin”. Is there something wrong with her? There must be, if she’s that old and can’t find a husband. WRONG!!

    Why can’t LGBT be happy in the religion with just the way they are? They along with my sister can live the gospel day by day.

    • Daniel Parkinson
      January 16, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      This study doesn’t say that LGBT people can’t be happy in the church. It just says that LGBT people who are in the church are statistically less happy than LGBT people who have left the church. It also says that LGBT people who are celibate are much less happy that LGBT people in relationships. This doesn’t mean that every single/celibate LGBT person in the church is unhappy.

      People who study happiness try to identify trends that might contribute to happiness so that they can give people helpful advice.
      Most LGBT people really want to enter a same-sex marriage and this study shows that this is an excellent way to increase your chances of happiness. It is distressing to many LGBT people that their church or society wants to deny them this possibility.

      None of this is saying that same-sex marriage is the right choice for everybody.

      It would also be interesting to compare happiness levels of single people who are active in the church. There are a lot of things the church could do to improve the lives of people who stay single/celibate all their lives (straight or gay). I suspect a lot of single LDS people suffer from lower happiness levels as well, but I don’t know what the research shows.

    • LeAnn
      January 16, 2015 at 10:06 pm

      As someone who identifies as a lesbian and who formally left the Church about 6 months ago, I can only speak for myself. I left because I need to be open about this part of my life with my ward family. I’m just not strong enough to deal with my personal issues in my life AND deal with the levels of ignorance in the Church, especially in my ward.

      While I still have most of my testimony, I just have some issues with doctrine that I still have to work out. My biggest issue is not reconciling the idea of being gay, though celibate at this time, and faith in Christ. It is dealing with how to balance my understanding of myself and what I feel that the Lord taught me through His Spirit and what the Church practices. In other words, I’m trying to figure out how to balance everything and gain enough strength and courage to do what I need to do to be open about this part of me while helping others to get rid of the myths and lies that are spouted about gay folks.

      Hope this helps.

      LeAnn

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