An unusual (unusual for the forum) conversation got started the other day in a Brethren group I follow on Facebook when a member posted a warning for Christians dating same-sex attracted people: marriage doesn’t fix gay.
Quite a few people participated, and not just straight, married Christians, which was good because we got perspectives from people in different situations – gay & celibate, gay & in mixed-orientation marriages, heterosexual & single, and heterosexual & married. Missing, however, was the perspective of straight spouses in a mixed-orientation marriage, and (not surprisingly) the perspective that is most representative of gay spouses in mixed-orientation marriages.
To give these a voice in the conversation, I shared a quote from Kathy Baldock’s book, Walking the Bridgeless Canyon (a must-read if you are concerned about LGTBQ Christians):
“A person with a homosexual orientation decides to enter a mixed-orientation marriage for a variety of reasons. Some believe their ‘homosexual struggles’ are temporary, a curiosity, or a phase they are going through, and that it will not be permanent. Many gays and lesbians in the past, especially during their younger years, lacked the language or understanding to acknowledge their attractions even to themselves, much less to others. This is particularly applicable to people over forty. They believed, and were often directly told by religious and ministry leaders, that their ‘homosexual struggles’ would disappear when they entered into heterosexual marriage. Gay Christians believed these lies by the hundreds of thousands.
Believing they might be able to suppress their natural orientation, gays have married straight people. The overwhelming majority of gays who married straight spouses genuinely did feel sincere love for their spouse when they got married. Because sexual orientation has three components – sexual identity, sexual behavior, and sexual attraction – people can sometimes juggle two of those balls in the air for a time, but not for long. The romantic high early in a relationship and the sexual behavior masquerade can help one turn a blind eye to natural orientation, but it can rarely be sustained.
Most gay people I know who have been, or are, in mixed-orientation marriages care for their spouses deeply. The potential of eventually hurting them can keep gay spouses in the marriage even though the straight spouse suffers in other ways. A spouse in a mixed-orientation marriage rarely gets the appropriate romantic, emotional, and sexual care he or she deserves.
Gay spouses quite often elect to come out when their children are raised and the partners are empty nesters. It is then that the sense of lifelong, profound emptiness and longing to be with a person of the same sex can be overwhelming and even crushing to the gay spouse. Contemplating the life they’ve robbed their spouse of, along with their own loneliness and deception, slowly destroys them from the inside. Most gay spouses eventually experience a life-or-death urgency to come out. Many times, freedom for the gay spouse becomes a gift for his or her straight spouse as well.
Bruce Strine, 62, from Westminster, Maryland, knew he was same-sex attracted from an early age, yet he married a woman when he was twenty-four years old.
‘Before we got married, I shared with my wife that I struggled with same-sex attraction. We both naïvely thought that once we got married, those desires would go away. If anything, it confirmed to me that I was gay. Sexual intimacy with my wife felt awkward and unnatural. During the last twenty of our thirty years of marriage, there was no sexual intimacy.
We are separated now and will eventually divorce. After we separated, I told my wife that my deepest regret is that I was unable to meet her emotional and sexual needs. My question for anyone who is gay and thinking about marriage to someone of the opposite sex is: “Will you be able to meet his or her emotional and sexual needs?” If the answer is “no,” it would be unfair to the other person to pursue marriage.’”