I want to introduce you to “Cori,” an acquaintance I met through The Marriage Bed forums. Her story has touched my heart so in my preparation for this series on Same Sex Attraction (SSA) I contacted her and she agreed to participate in an interview so that our readers could hear how this issue has touched a Christian marriage. You will also see that in Christ, Cori and her husband are finding victory in their journey. Please feel free to read the introduction to this series that was published last week if you have not had a chance to do so yet.
Please share with our readers how SSA has had an influence in your marriage.
My marriage would not be what it is today without the influence of SSA and the redemption of this issue in our lives. I am utterly re-defined in terms of my walk with Jesus, my marriage to my husband, and how I live my life in compassion and truth because of SSA.
Did you both enter your marriage unaware that this was an issue? If so, how did you each come to realize that this was a problem?
My husband knew of his struggle (he was acting out while we were engaged, unbeknownst to me), but was unable to admit it to me, for fear that I would bolt. I had no idea – he presented as a straight man. I knew he had a porn issue, but I thought it wouldn’t be an issue once we got married and had sex. I was that naive.
It was in Year Two of our marriage that this issue came to the surface – we had just gotten online and after an unexpected slowdown in the computer’s performance and learning about the “temporary internet files,” I discovered my husband’s secret. It was porn, for sure, but it was gay porn. This sent me in a tailspin – I didn’t expect gay images on the computer and didn’t know what to do with it. Additionally, my husband was reading “muscle magazines,” but didn’t workout.
I ended up writing him a letter explaining how much I was hurt and putting it in his suitcase when he travelled for work. He was gone for the better part of a month on that trip and I had time to calm down and he had time to think. I honestly thought we were headed for divorce, but that was one of many times when God told me to stay in the marriage. When my husband returned home, we talked. He threw out his muscle magazines and promised not to go to porn sites on the computer, but that didn’t solve his problems.
What was the initial transition like to accepting that this was going to be a battle you would have to fight? Did it take a long time to accept that SSA was a problem?
I honestly stuck my head in the sand initially, preferring to trust my husband’s promises. It soon became clear that he wasn’t able to “stay on the wagon” with regard to the computer, and we began a cycle of renewing our relationship, having him fall away (or step away intentionally) to self-medicate, and then finally confrontation/tears & apologies/promises to stop self-medicating.
I think I accepted that SSA would be a part of our life somewhere around Year Five – it never seemed to end, and I was firmly in the closet, because we didn’t have a safe place to be real.
What do you mean when you use the phrase “self-medicate?”
Using porn, masturbating to images that were not *me*, etc. It’s a euphemistic phrase that covers any sort of undesirable behaviour and numbs whatever pain the user is experiencing. It’s commonly used in recovery circles and in that case, can be any number of addictive behaviour cycles – drinking, using drugs, acting out sexually, etc.
Do you both view his struggle as something to get free from and healed of? Or is it something you accept as part of him that can not and should not be changed?
My husband’s journey within SSA has been unusual and is morphing even now. His actual attraction to men (the level of that attraction) has gone from a high of about 90% attracted to men to a current low of about 15%. He reports that it continues to diminish as he gets healthier and closer to the Lord, dealing with his brokenness as he goes.
But in the same vein, we both recognize that this “thorn in his flesh” is one to be embraced and not prayed-away. This issue has done multiple things that are damaging in our lives and stems from his horrible past of childhood sexual abuse, but has been redeemed to a point where he is more dependent upon the Lord than ever, which is a good thing. His walk with God is more vibrant than it has ever been and although his actual attraction to men has lessened, we both see the struggle as a sort of ‘tether’ to Jesus.
Elizabeth Moberly, PhD, said that the struggle of SSA is based in legitimate needs and that those needs shouldn’t be prayed away – that instead, the struggler should focus on praying that those needs are met in a healthy, God-honouring way.
We recently went to a conference for married couples impacted by SSA and the overwhelming message of the weekend was that if our struggle keeps us dependent upon God, then He will keep that struggle in our lives. He wants us to depend on Him in everything, and if the struggle does that, then it’s a blessing and not a curse. So we can attempt to “pray it away” or “rebuke it away” or use any number of spiritual techniques to relieve the pressure of the attraction, but God might just be keeping us in the midst of it in order to redirect our focus to Him, not the struggle. That idea radically changed how I viewed my husband’s struggle and our marriage within the context of his struggle. It brought new meaning to 1 Thes. 5:18 (Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus).
Do you believe that certain aspects of your husband’s past influenced the struggle he now has with SSA? If so, can you give us insights into those things?
Absolutely yes. My husband’s story isn’t identical to some with SSA, but it does reverberate loudly with many strugglers.
My husband was a “perfect storm” for sexual brokenness. He was sexually abused by his maternal grandfather beginning at the age of 3. He told his parents about the abuse directly, but they chose not to believe him. They also chose not to get him any help or protect him from his abuser, which permitted the abuse to continue.
Compounding that abuse was his father’s outright rejection of my husband – my father-in-law poured his affection, time, and attention on my husband’s younger brother, who was (we think) “clean” in the mind of my father-in-law. The rejection by his father compounded the confusion my husband felt as a young boy – why he “felt different” and his body responded to the abuse he was subjected to. The gender confusion was cemented in adolescence when his emotions became sexualized and as an awkward teen, he was ostracized for being “different.”
And adding more confusion to the mix, my mother-in-law is a very unhealthy woman who had an emotionally-incestuous relationship with my husband, making him her confidante when my father-in-law was emotionally and physically unavailable.
What has the journey with this struggle been like for your husband? How have you been able to support him in it?
It has honestly been excruciating for my beloved. He has fought his attraction for so many years and felt like such a failure because of his inability to “stay on the wagon” and not self-medicate. He has been porn-clean since January 2008, which has been amazing, but he still struggled with his mind and eyes roaming where he didn’t want them to roam and where he knew God didn’t want them to roam. He’s had more freedom in the last 18 months, but is still on his guard.
I began our journey (post-revelation) as his “accountability,” which I now call “being his cop.” It wasn’t pleasant for either of us, mostly because it put me in an awkward position of policing the computer and his reading material and it put him in the role of trying to live up to the “policing,” and when he failed to do so, hiding his “crime.”
We’ve left that stage behind and I am now able to walk with him in this – we are a team and it’s not a matter of “his struggle” as much as it is “our life together, impacted by his struggle.” We do a lot of talking and decompressing, but I make sure that even with my educational background in counseling, I don’t become his therapist. I’m his wife and he needs me in that position. We have a therapist for a reason, and I’m not that person.
I am my husband’s cheerleader, his support, his lover, and his Shield-maiden. I pray with him, for him, and for myself and our family – and when he’s tired or war-wounded from his battles, I hold up the shield for him and he has a place to rest and heal.
Every so often we do a “status check” where I ask and he tells me how his journey is going on an internal level. It’s for my healing of trust issues as well as to enhance our marriage and communication levels. He knows that no matter what he says, I will love him and accept him. I am a safe place for him.
How has his struggle influenced your own emotional and spiritual wellness? What resources have you utilized to get support for yourself?
I had no idea how my spiritual and emotional life would be changed by marrying my husband. I expected a fairly “normal” life with him; this journey has been anything but.
I had my own issues of self-esteem and trust. After discovering my husband’s “secret,” my self-esteem and trust issues became front and center. It took me a while to separate myself from my the struggle and realize that although it affected me deeply, it wasn’t about me. I didn’t “make him gay” and nothing I did caused his attraction. Once that became clear to me, I was able to look to the Lord to heal my issues and help me heal on with my husband’s journey.
Things came to a head for me in the spring of 2008, when I very clearly heard the Lord (audibly) speak to me. He said, “Your husband is about to become the man that I have called him to be. You need to match him.” YIKES. That began a path to healing in my own life that allowed me to more actively be a help to my husband and focus on his pain and past, not clouding the issues with my own. The Lord removed thorns from my heart from past events that were poisoning my life, and when the process was over, we were able to focus on my husband and his healing.
Resources which have helped me include The Marriage Bed, private counseling, Cross Power Ministries, Intimate Issues by Pintus & Dillow, hours of girl-talk with other women who understand intimacy-issues, and referring back to a bevy of books on homosexuality, emotional healing, sexual abuse, and emotional incest.
How has your husband’s battle with SSA affected your intimacy with one another, both sexually and in emotional oneness?
It’s a huge issue for most couples impacted by SSA, and we were not excluded from the struggle. My husband grew up understanding sex to be bad, secret, and twisted, and I had terrible messages about sex from my upbringing, in addition to having sexual trauma that took place in college but that I neglected to deal with.
We also made mistakes in our engagement in the name of “purity” that set us off on the wrong foot; we opted not to have any physical contact (touching, kissing, petting, etc.) until we were married. We actually had our first kiss on the altar during our marriage ceremony! We did it for multiple reasons, all of which were Godly, but all of which were devoid of God’s leading. We decided to do this without consulting the Lord, and ended up making things very difficult for me in later years. I had to go from 0-100mph in the course of about 3 hours – from kissing to “I’m supposed to do WHAT?!” It was a recipe for disaster and didn’t help me develop trust and intimacy with my husband.
When you combined that decision, our backgrounds, and my husband’s SSA, we were more like roommates for the first 13 years of our marriage than anything else. He would self-medicate with porn & masturbation, have nothing left for me, and then I would take his rejection of my advances as “he doesn’t want me” or “he doesn’t like my body.” I also transferred a subconscious anger at him because of my un-healed sexual trauma, which was entirely unfair to him.
Our intimacy was probably down to once every 4-6 months at different points in our marriage, infrequently dotted with times of sexual connectedness. Things really began turning around for us sexually in 2008 as I dealt with my issues and sexual trauma – my husband was delighted to be a participant in my healing and my subsequent appetite for him.
It has been challenging to have this concept of SSA in our bedroom, but by working slowly and consistently and letting the Lord lead us, we have made huge progress. We now make time for each other and for sex by making it a ‘scheduled item’ on the calendar and have found tremendous satisfaction and emotional intimacy in that.
As our sex life turned around, our emotional oneness also grew deeper – we were no longer shy about praying together, reading the Bible together, and otherwise talking about the hard things. Sometimes it still takes me “screwing my courage to the sticking place” to talk about certain things, but it definitely has gotten easier to be emotionally vulnerable with him compared to what it once was.
As you have been processing through this struggle, what opinions and philosophies have you encountered in secular streams of thought? Have they been helpful or not? How so?
Most secular theories discount us as “freaks” or “religiously motivated nutjobs,” and unfortunately, many inside the Church believe the secular world’s take on the subject. “Once gay, always gay” is the prevalent belief outside the Church. There are some secular groups who marginally and begrudgingly accept where we are, but only because in order to be considered “inclusive,” they have to include people whose experiences and worldviews are different than theirs.
Most of the secular philosophies are not terribly helpful, with the exception of two: cognitive therapy (talk therapy) in the hands of a skilled Christian therapist can yield tremendous results. My husband has come to grips with the roots of his struggle in this way. EFT (emotional freedom technique, or “tapping”) used in a Christ-centered context is also very helpful in releasing pent-up emotions and wrong beliefs about oneself.
What about the Church? Has your local church been helpful? Are there people in the church who are aware of his struggle? What about the broader Church? What is the predominant sentiment expressed by the Church at large to people who struggle with SSA? Is there any shift in thinking that you have noticed?
The Church as a whole has flubbed much of this issue. There seems to be two main lines of thought/belief within the Faith about SSA: 1) the temptation (i.e., SSA) is sinful and the appropriate response is condemnation and isolation; or 2) everyone is loved by God, regardless, and the only appropriate responses are to be affirming and re-define Scripture.
Very few churches pick the middle path to acknowledge SSA and still hold to a Biblical belief that while the attraction isn’t wrong, acting out on the attraction is – although it is not a sin which is Greater Than Any Others.
My husband and I particularly appreciate this last approach – it creates a culture in which broken people can find healing in the presence of God and shuns the idea that some sins are somehow worse than others. All sins put Jesus on the cross – to then make some “more grievous” than others indicates that the blood of Christ is incapable of satisfactorily cleansing all sin, which is heresy.
Our local churches have been fantastic – we moved across country last year and our church where we used to attend was amazing. We were honest with them about our journey and they embraced us, trusted us with leadership positions, and encouraged us in our healing process. Our current church has been incredible – from the platform we hear compassion, Biblical truth, and see people live out God’s love in a way that touches us to the core.
Portions of the leadership in our current community are aware of our journey and have embraced us; we are telling staff as we build relationships with them and have a chance to bare our souls. We haven’t been rejected and indeed have been asked to lead small groups within our church’s marriage ministry. They recognize our journey and testimony and we have been accepted.
We see glimmers of hope across the country with different churches and how they handle this issue. We are hopeful that as the “changing of the guard” takes place and new leadership comes in with more of the compassion of Christ than a love for “clean churches,” the trend will continue. There is room for all sorts of brokenness in the Church, and the more we are changed by the love of Christ, the more we can pass along that love and compassion to others. If being real about our journey encourages others to deal with their “stuff” and find healing, then it’s all worth it.
Where are the two of you at right now? Are you in a good place?
We are in a good place! We are clinging to Jesus and to each other, and God is continuing to work out things in us. We know our next step is to meet with a new therapist and pursue more healing for my husband – that’s a scary step, but we’re willing to do it, knowing that the Lord is leading us.
Spiritually, emotionally, and sexually, we’re doing better now than we ever have. We have our ups and downs like everyone else, but we’re much quicker these days to ‘get back on track’ than in the past. We’re walking this out one day at a time, but I’m here to tell others who are impacted by SSA that there really IS freedom in Jesus and that His touch isn’t too weak to heal in this issue, either.
Thanks so much to “Cori” for sharing the journey she and her husband have been on. It is our hope that it will help those for whom this is a struggle. If you would like to read more from her about this topic feel free to visit her blog at My Heart | His Heart. Watch next week for my wrap up article in this series on SSA. Please remember that we would love to have you contribute to the discussion in the comment section below, but comments will be moderated if they are lacking in grace and compassion towards one another.