Megan and her same-sex attracted husband have been married since April of 2006. They don?t have any children yet, but according to her, ?it won?t be too much longer.? If you don’t know Megan (and even if you do), this interview is your chance to hear what she has to say about marriage, communication, religion, and sex.
BEN: When and how did you find out about your husband’s attraction to the same sex? How did this revelation affect your decision to marry or stay married to him?
MEGAN: I was very fortunate in this situation. My husband “came out” to his parents a little over 2 years ago, when we were seriously dating. He immediately started getting professional help and about two months later attended his first Evergreen Conference. There he saw married people and those who really wanted to change and those who had and realized there was hope. After talking to his parents and other married friends, he decided to tell me.
He asked if we could talk one night. I knew something had been going on after overhearing some conversations he had with his parents, but NEVER would have guess what it was. In fact, when he told me, I didn’t even know what SSA was! He started out well, by telling me that he loved me and then explained what it was he struggled with. He told me a little bit about some of the experiences he had had, but NOTHING in detail. I was most upset at first about his pornography addiction, but that is because it took me a week to realize that he was looking at men, not women! (I really am not that dumb, my husband is just very “manly” from all physical appearances and most interests…)
I will also let you know up front that I grew up in a pretty liberal (although strong LDS) home. I have an aunt who lives the lifestyle (although not flamboyantly) and parents who are accepting of all people. With this background, and a well established friendship, personal relationship, and even love for my husband, this didn’t change the way that I felt about him AT ALL!! It explained a lot of things, but most of all, I realized that it was because of what he had struggled with for so long that he was the person that I loved. We pretty much decided that night that we would get married because now I knew about his “dirty little secret” and loved him anyway.
Now after being married to him for 20 months, I feel that it was the best decision I could have made. There have been some downs, but many more ups, and most of all, I have a husband who loves me for who I am because he has a wife who loves him for who he is!
You sound relieved to have realized that your husband was looking at men instead of women. :) Given that virtually all married men and women feel attractions to people other than their spouse from time to time, and a very high percentage of men view pornography at some point during their lives, how does the fact that your husband looks (or wants to look) at men make your experience like or unlike that of other married women?
I am not sure that it does make it different. I don’t think it makes him different than ANY OTHER MAN or WOMAN in the world. Everyone has a weakness, and it just so happens that pornography or some other sexual addiction is my husband’s weakness. I know, from my husband and others who struggle with heterosexual pornography, that there is so much more than just getting excited looking at pictures. If that is happening, then something is out of balance: not enough “man” time, not enough wife time, stress from school, stress from work, stress from callings, etc. That is the time that we need to sit down together and figure out what needs to change.
I don’t know if this is jumping ahead, but I have gotten upset in the past when I have noticed him trying to sneak glances at other guys. We have talked about it, and I like it better when he comments on it and involves me. That way I know he is present with me. We also have to take into account how I am feeling, because there are sometimes when I am not in the mood to have anything to do with it or it will bother me unnecessarily. I hope that makes sense…
You actually are jumping ahead to a question I was going to ask later about whether you notice when he’s attracted to other guys, but that’s okay. I’m flexible. :) I do find it interesting that you notice, as I’m not sure my wife notices when I’m sneaking glances (we’ll find out when I get to that question in her interview). It seems healthy for him to involve you in the process by talking to you about it. How do the two of you talk about it when you do? What do you say? How do you communicate that you are just not in the mood to talk about it?
I think I am mostly in the mood to talk about it—I haven’t been able to find a trigger or a specific time/mood when I am not, so we usually just play it by ear and it is usually non-verbal clues that we both have to pick up on to realize that I am not in the mood. I can really only think of a handful of situations when I have not been in the mood to have him share with me and I haven’t really found anything common in any of the situations.
As far as talking, it is all random. I know that some people have suggested having “companionship” inventory, and I am not going against that, but we are not the most structured people, so that doesn’t work really well for us. What works better is just asking, “how are you doing,” and then going from there. We usually have good discussions about things right before or after we hang out with friends and are able to talk things through with them first, or get other ideas. We are completely honest with each other, but not as a confessional or judgment thing, because that is not the role that either of us play for each other. And I don’t expect my husband to tell me every little thing he has/has not done. But if it does affect me, I would like to know about it so that I can be prepared for what might happen in the future or how it affects our time together (like if he masturbated earlier, we probably won’t have sex that night…). Just last night we sat down to talk about our day and it just kind of led to things. Other times, I get in a down mood and I need to talk, so we talk about my issues and things that we need to work on together to support each other.
I think the most important thing is not to do/say anything in a judgmental or accusing way. And definitely avoiding “you” statements and focusing on “I” statements (I assume you know what I mean with these). Also, something my husband has recently taught me is to analyze the data before you put in a reaction/emotion. What are really the facts/data, and then when you weigh those out, it is easier to realize if your reaction is “rational” or not. That is hard and it really hurts when you know that the facts tell you that things should be ok, but you still hurt.
You mentioned talking about your issues in addition to his. When your husband has such identifiable, ongoing, and perhaps overwhelming issues as same-sex attraction and a pornography habit, do you ever feel that your issues are dwarfed by his? A friend of mine is married to a woman who has been diagnosed with OCD, and he says he’s actually grateful for that because it ensures that his SSA doesn’t dominate their discussions—they both have relatively big hurdles to deal with, so neither is put in the position of being the “problem spouse.” How do you maintain a balance, ensuring that both yours and your husband’s concerns and needs are met adequately?
Again, I think the important thing here is honest and open communication. We both need to share our concerns and needs. There are times when I need something, whether it be time, support, help, talking, sex, etc. I need to go back on the fact that we know he has issues, so why can’t I have them too? He has been extremely supportive in this area. I will admit that I am much worse about communicating when I am struggling and it often ends in a cry session for me, but we still have a good talk.
You’ve touched on the topic of sex a couple times now. I think that’s a very important issue in any marriage, but can also be a particularly complicated one in mixed-orientation marriages. What expectations about sex did you have going into the marriage? How have those expectations been met, disappointed, or adjusted?
Now this is an interesting subject. We have actually presented on a couple intimacy panels, both of which his mother was sitting on the front row, so we aren’t scared of this question, but the answer is still interesting.
Sex was something we were very open about from the beginning (can you tell we are a pretty open couple?!?!). I know I was worried about it, always having been self-conscious of my body, and then to add that he wasn’t attracted to women’s “sex parts,” that wasn’t going to make it any easier. But knowing that he was worried about it, we knew that we would work together. Because I wanted it to happen at some point, I didn’t want to be too pushy about it. We agreed that we would see how it all went and if it happened that year, great; if it happened that month, wonderful; if it happened that week, fabulous; and if it happened that night, hallelujah! As it happened, it didn’t take too long to get things figured out and to get the hormones going. But as my husband has said, just knowing that my expectations were low kept him wanting to go further to please me.
Since then, things have still been great. We run into a snag here and there, but for the most part, problems with sex are not problems we experience or let interfere with our marriage. The biggest problem is with me, in that I have an EXTREMELY high sex drive (it runs in my family :-)…) and my husband’s isn’t that high, at least not for women. ;-) But that could be the case with any couple. There are the few times here and there when masturbation plays into it because he “got it all out” already, so isn’t in the mood or “ready” for more, yet. Speaking of that, one thing that he has really stressed for himself since the beginning and explained to me so I understand when it happens—he won’t turn to thoughts of men to get through sex. If he feels himself doing that, we STOP immediately because he knows that it is not fair to me and that it will not help him as he tries to “re-train” his mind toward women.
The other thing, that does get a little hard to talk about, is that my husband was pretty familiar with his body and what turned him on, so it was easy for me to please him, and not uncomfortable for me to do what he wanted/needed. But because of his unattraction to women’s bodies, it is hard for him to do what I need, if you know what I mean. On those lines, I still love sex, because it means we are together and he wants to be with me and I still definitely get excited. Things have definitely gotten better since we were first married, and I know that they will continue to get better as time goes on. There are also times when we fool around enough for him to release some of his pent-up feelings/stress/temptation, etc., but it doesn’t lead to sex all the time. Those are times when I can still be close to him and know that he is turning to me for help rather than other ways… I feel it is a charitable service, in all of its spiritual terms.
Overall, though, as my husband announced to the entire room of our presentation/panel at the last Evergreen Conference, “SEX IS GREAT!” and I would have to agree with him. It is a time when I know that he is with me 100% and loves me and loves my body. We love sex and look forward to it, and participate in it often.
Well now that you’ve been kind enough to address one taboo of polite conversation with such candor, let’s tackle another: What role does religion play in your marriage? How does it complicate or strengthen your relationship with your husband?
Religion is everything in our marriage. Being LDS, my husband knew that marriage was the only option for him in sticking with his faith, which is ultimately what has kept him in the “straight” life.
As we go through everything, we have made the agreement that Christ is first in our lives, then each other is next in the line of priority. My husband has told me (as hard as it is, it makes perfect sense knowing him and the faith that he has) that he is not working on changing “for me” and nothing he does that he is “supposed to do” is done for me. It is all done to please Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and keep the commandments and honor the covenants that he has made with them.
We do everything that we can to support one another in our callings, going to church and going to the temple together. We pray together as often as we can and have “religious” discussions quite frequently.
We put our faith in Christ to the test often, with paying tithing, the decisions we make about everything (our educations, buying a house, when to have children, etc.). You ask us both and we will say that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father are number one on our list. If that were to change for either of us, things would change in our marriage, so we really hope that it doesn’t happen for us.
Taking your husband’s religious devotion as well as his same-sex attraction into account, do you feel that you worry more or less about your husband’s longterm fidelity than the average married woman does?
Ben, this is probably the hardest one to answer, just because of the uncertainty. In the end, no, because I have faith in our relationship and the covenants that we have made and the efforts that we both put into making our relationship work.
My husband has never promised me that he will NEVER cheat on me and I have never threatened him with leaving him if he does. What we have both said is that we will do our best to honor the covenants we have made. We also know that neither of us is going to just go out and “cheat” on the other on a whim. If either of us is to that point, there have probably been other things going on in our relationship leading up to it. As I have mentioned before, we have great communication, so that would probably be the first thing to go and then we would know that nothing was/is for sure.
I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but I guess I might be a little more worried about it than the average wife, but no more worried than any other wife who has a husband with some kind of sexual addiction.
You seem to have a very mature and reasonable approach to your husband’s sexuality—and your own. How has your experience being married to a man with same-sex attraction affected your general understanding of homosexuality? If a friend were to come out to you as a lesbian today, for example, would your attitude toward her and the way you interact with her be any different than it would have been five years ago?
It has made me much more understanding, especially as far as the LDS Church goes. I can’t say that I would treat him/her that much differently, but that is more to be attributed to my parents than my marriage to my husband. I was raised very liberally (in an active LDS family, but by two very staunch Democrats who are even then pretty liberal), so I have always been taught to love and accept everyone. Growing up my favorite show was “Life Goes On” (I don’t know if you are familiar with that, but one of the main characters was Gay and ended up getting AIDS) and my family would all watch it together every week.
Anyway, I think that as far as someone “coming out” to me, I think that this experience has made me aware of the ways that I can help/support and provide resources to him/her.
What are five of the most important qualities in a husband? How does your husband measure up to these criteria? How can he improve?
I think that is a very personal (not invasive personal, but just individual) answer. I guess these were the things that I was looking for: (not in any other order than what I thought of them in…)
1. Someone that treats me with respect and makes me happy—laughing, wanting to please me, do things that I enjoy, etc.
This is something that my husband does very well at. He has always been respectful of me and praises me often, both to my face and to other people. I always feel good when he tells me that he was talking about me to someone else. It makes me think twice about what I am saying about him and make sure that I am always giving a positive if there happens to be a negative to go with it. He will also surprise me with flowers or cleaning the house, etc. every once in a while and it makes me happy as I know that he is aware of my needs AND wants.
We have fun together a lot. We have a give and take relationship as far as pleasing each other and doing what the other enjoys. My husband could go out to eat and to a movie or watch one at home every week for our date if I would let him. When I suggest something else, though, he is very good about compromising or letting me pick a different activity.
And boy can my husband make me laugh. Those are some of my favorite times—when we are laughing and just having fun together.
2. Someone who honors his Priesthood and temple covenants and tries his best at all times (and yes, there is a continuum of what your best is…). Also, someone who will be a good Patriarch in our home. I can easily wear the pants, but I don’t want to!
I feel that I have the perfect husband in this area. He is always willing to do what he can to do what he should be doing. He stays up on his Home Teaching, is worthy to give blessings to those in need, attends the temple with me and on his own, and fully understands the Atonement and how to apply it in his life. I know that I can look to him for anything in a role of leadership and Gospel understanding and application of everything.
3. Someone who makes me want to be a better person.
I think this is one of the things that I like the best—I don’t think I would have been willing to admit many of my weaknesses if I didn’t have someone who I knew had weaknesses too. I am much too proud! But seeing my husband fail in things makes it ok for me to fail. But more importantly, seeing him improving himself to be a better person, better Son of God, and better husband makes me want to do better in all of those areas, respectively. And seeing the relationship that he has with his Savior makes me want to have that same kind of relationship.
4. Someone who has knowledge and wisdom—willing to get an education and constantly be learning and the desire to apply that knowledge in the workplace and in our home with our children.
My husband is well on his way to getting an education and won’t stop until he has done as much as he can. And the knowledge that he does have, he puts to good use. He has many skills and talents and is anxious to use them. I love seeing him talk with people about what he knows and even more, I love that I can ask him questions and he knows the answer!
5. Someone who is honest and willing to communicate.
I feel like I have beat this one to the ground, but it is so important! I love to talk and I need to be able to talk about how I feel and know and understand how the other person is feeling. I am glad that I have a husband who is willing to share with me. Although there are times when he may not want to talk about something at that time, he does let me know that he is willing and wants to share when he feels more ready.
Now, I know that my husband can improve in all of those areas, but so can I!! There are so many times when I look at the relationships of my friends and siblings and think of all the people that they are married to and I am so grateful that I am married to my husband. As one of my friends has said, “If you take all the husbands of your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc., and put them up on a stage, who would you pick? 99/100 would pick her own husband!” I know I would!
Last question: If a friend of yours were to tell you that the guy she is dating is attracted to men but she’s still thinking about marrying him, what advice would you give her? What are the questions she should be asking herself and her boyfriend before getting into a mixed-orientation marriage?
I would let her first of all know that if she is in love with him and willing to support him, it is all worth it and go right ahead! I know that seems really generic, but that is pretty much what I thought to myself and it has worked out so far.
I would make sure that they set up guidelines for communication and time differentiation. She needs to ask herself if she is ok with all the time that he will need to work things out: one-on-one counseling, groups, guy time, individual time for whatever he does to release, etc. It is a big sacrifice and much harder to adjust to if you are not expecting it ahead of time.
She also needs to be certain that he is working on “changing,” but also to know that this is something that he will/may struggle with for the rest of his life. What I mean by changing, “Is he doing anything to work on any addictions that he has (negative self-talk, pornography, masturbation, acting-out, etc.)” and “What are your motivations for changing?” As I discussed earlier, the girl should not be the main motivation to change—that should be wanting to please Our Heavenly Father, although he should be doing everything he can to please you!
I would advise against asking for details about what he has done in the past. You may know basics (I have problems with porn “this often,” I have acted-out with “this many” guys, I lost my recommend “when and for how long” but have had it back for “this long” or expect to get it back “when,” etc.) but you are not his judge or his record keeper, so don’t stress about the nitty-gritty (you probably don’t want to hear about it anyway!!)
Also, as stated earlier, DO NOT EVER threaten to leave if/when he messes up. The guys do not need a “threat” to motivate their actions, they need love! Let them know that you are going to do everything you can to support and love them!
I can’t think of any other specifics right now—it seems like a lot of the advice I would give is in the answers to my questions.
I hope everything has made sense. I have really enjoyed answering these questions. If any others come up, please don’t hesitate to ask me! Thanks for doing this—I know that it will benefit many people.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and experiences. I really do think a lot of people will appreciate hearing from your perspective.