Living with Same-sex Attraction: Our Story
Ty and Danielle Mansfield - May 22, 2012
During my freshman year at BYU, the year before my mission, I sang in the BYU Men’s Chorus with Danielle’s brother Clint. We got to be friends, and he would invite me to sing with him and his brothers on various occasions. On one occasion he asked if I’d sing with them at the mission farewell of his twin sister, Olivia.
That was when I met the whole family. I remember being briefly introduced to Danielle, but that was about it. More than anything, there was this overwhelming impression of the goodness of that family. I loved all of them.
I left on my mission shortly after that, and eventually I lost touch with their family. After graduating and spending a few years in D.C., I decided to change careers and go back to graduate school. I felt impressed to move back to Utah to do my prereqs at BYU. I was also dating a girl from Salt Lake at the time, and I knew if anything were going to happen, we needed to live in proximity. Within weeks of my moving back to Utah, that relationship ended. Around the same time, I was running some errands, and, while waiting in a checkout line, I heard, “Are you Ty Mansfield?” I looked over and there was Danielle.
Excited to get a Palmer family update, I chatted with Danielle for a few minutes, and she told me what her family members were up to. That was our only contact until we reconnected again a couple years later via Facebook and would occasionally write on each other’s Facebook wall for birthdays and such. She always had cute, witty things to say. After a handful of brief, friendly Facebook exchanges over the next year or two, I thought a date couldn’t hurt.
It had been a long time since I’d had a desire to take anyone out. There was something this time that was different for me. I still don’t know if I can put my finger on what was happening, but I felt this sense of the Spirit working on my heart, preparing me for the possibility of marriage.
Living in Texas, however, I knew the only opportunity to take Danielle out would be when I came home to visit for Christmas break. So during that break between semesters, I took her out several times.
It was interesting because dating and nurturing a relationship had never felt so easy for me. I felt this distinct spiritual undercurrent through every step of the process. I was drawn to Danielle in multiple ways, but the spiritual feeling of “rightness” seemed to be the driving force during this formative period. There wasn’t any talk, though, of a long-term relationship. I was leaving to go back to Texas, and she lived in Utah. A few days before I left, we talked about our mutual interest but ultimately didn’t know what to do other than to leave it an open question. However, I had a strong feeling this courtship was moving toward marriage.
A few weeks later, Danielle had a business trip close to where I was living in Texas, so she stopped over to visit me for several days. It was during that time that the unmistakable confirmation came. It wasn’t long before we were engaged, and we married a few months later. The day after our first wedding anniversary, we welcomed our first, beautiful little boy into our family: Gabriel Tanielu.
On the Response
There was a pretty negative response in the media when we announced our engagement, but it was through that experience that I realized just how good of a woman I was getting. I mean, I knew Danielle was a high-caliber woman, but her response to the scrutiny and criticism was inspiring to me. After I read one particular statement posted online, I just felt sad for her. I had gotten used to criticism from various camps and had developed a pretty thick skin. But I felt sad that she was being brought into the mix.
One statement in particular came out during a weekend when Danielle had flown back to Utah for wedding preparations while I was in school in Texas. The statement was aimed at discrediting me and our relationship and alluded to some things I had written a few years prior. After reading the statement, Danielle wrote me an e-mail. I already felt we had a pretty solid foundation for our relationship, but some of the things Danielle wrote confirmed that. It also confirmed to me that my efforts to cultivate the pure love I’d felt during my spiritual experience years earlier during that Saturday morning general conference session had borne fruit. She wrote:
“The one nice thing about looking at all of this stuff was that as I relooked at some of the things you had written, I felt that you love me now more than many people ever love their partners or spouses. Your love for me existed long before we ever went on our first date, because it was a love you were trying to cultivate with Christ as your example, before you even felt that marriage to a woman would be possible in this life. It was who you were trying to be.
“I think so many people rely on their hormones and/or their emotions to drive them that they get stuck feeling for their spouse whatever those things tell them to feel. And then if they try to feel otherwise, to love their spouse more than what hormones or emotions tell them to, they feel like they’re doing their spouse a favor rather than recognizing that they hadn’t understood how to truly love in the first place.
“I think that us coming into each other’s lives, feeling drawn to each other and attracted to who the other person was and is, and then deciding that we want to unite our lives and continue to care for and love each other and to build our love together all while striving to become more like Christ, as a team with Christ. . . . I feel sad for people who don’t get it and who have reduced love and marriage to a mere shadow of what it was intended to be and how beautiful it can be.”
© LDS Living, May/June 2012.