Everyone has questions, and sometimes you might be afraid to ask them. It’s important to keep in mind that there may not be concrete or definite answers given in mortality for every question we face. However, the gospel and many personal experiences and feelings gathered here shed light on some of those things each of us has pondered about at one point.
A lot of the most frequent questions folks ask as they come to terms with their attractions to others of the same sex have been gathered here with general responses from the North Star community collectively as well as additional personal responses from other youth here in our community.
Can I stay married?
Don’t think just because you have same-sex attractions you should get a divorce. Many people with same-sex attractions have been able to make successful marriages. There is so much more to you and to your marriage than same-sex attraction.
Same-sex attraction is rarely the only issue in the marriage. There is more than likely other related issues. You might not be attracted to your spouse. You may yearn for a relationship with someone of the same sex. You may not have kept your marital vows. You might not have been totally honest when you got married. You may have addictions you have not been able to conquer. Your spouse might not want to try any harder. All of these things have been overcome. With God’s help, people have been able to take their marriages from the brink of disaster to a strong and solid relationship. Remember Ether 12:27
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
You and your spouse should be willing to submit your marriage to the Lord and let Him take control. The two of you should be willing to do what He asks you to do, even if it is hard or embarrassing. With God, nothing is impossible, but both people have to be willing to put God first. Many people have found this to be a great recipe for success. Marriage can be a wonderful, fulfilling thing, even when one partner has same-sex attraction.
Others have found that even after all they can do, their marriage does not work. Be willing to listen to God’s direction for you, regardless of what He tells you to do.
The success rate for marriages where one spouse is attracted to the same sex is very low. One study indicated that 85% of marriages where the husband did not tell his wife about his SSA before marriage ended shortly after he came out. Coming out after marriage puts a lot of stress on a marriage. This is one reason why we are encouraged to tell our spouse before marriage. However, in the majority of these cases, the couple did not try to make their marriage work. In many of them, the husband already had a same-sex partner. The study made this observation:
“The significant finding is that about half of those who tried to make their marriages work succeeded, an important figure for couples who are dismayed by the fifteen percent figure to keep in mind. This low figure is based on all marriages where the husband came out.”
Studies show that some couples who aim for emotional and sexual fidelity “report having a highly satisfying and stable relationship, similar to that of heterosexual marriages.” Jill L. Kays & Mark A. Yarhouse, Resilient Factors in Mixed Orientation Couples: Current State of the Research, The American Journal of Family Therapy, Volume 38, Issue 4, 2010, pages 334-343
It is not impossible. Marriages can be made strong even with same-sex attraction, and even with complicating factors like addiction, infidelity, and dishonesty. Christ can help you overcome these, if it is His will. We still need to be willing submit to the will of the Lord if our marriage does not work out. If you turn your will over to God He will make all things work for your good.
Should I tell my spouse about my attractions?
Openness and honesty are essential parts of a healthy marriage relationship. Elder Oaks has said:
“We are not going to stand still to put at risk daughters [or sons] of God who would enter into such marriages under false pretenses or under a cloud unknown to them. Persons who have this kind of challenge that they cannot control could not enter marriage in good faith.”
If you are thinking about getting married, we strongly encourage you to be open and honest with your potential spouse before they make any commitments. You want someone who loves you for who you are, not for a facade that could easily come crashing down later in the marriage. Help them understand the full ramifications of your attractions. Make sure they feel free to take whatever course of action is in their best interest. You do not want them marrying you because of guilt, pity or because they already sent out the invitations. You want them to marry you because they love the real you, for all your shortcomings. Ultimately, this will be just as much for your benefit as it is for theirs.
If you are already married but have not yet told your spouse about your attractions, realize this is very common. Having an open and honest relationship with your spouse is the goal, but it takes time and few people are there. Focus on going towards the ideal, not on beating yourself up for the past.
Talking to your spouse will probably change the relationship. Hopefully, this change is for the better, but you and your spouse will probably have to go through a difficult period of readjustment. Many spouses report having a sense of betrayal, a loss of trust, insecurity, and a feeling of failure. It will take time to rebuild that trust, and some may never recover. However, many spouses also report having a sense of relief for finally understanding what is going on, and express hope that understanding the problem will help them address some issues they have been having in the marriage. While many may feel that they missed out on getting to know, many also look forward to getting to know you better.
Do not assume just because your spouse knows you have same-sex attraction, that they really understand what all of the implications are for you. Some spouses have been left with the impression that it was just a phase, or it didn’t have a major impact on your life. Some assume if you don’t bring it up, you are over it. People often talk about coming out as if it is a single event, but it is often a process. Certain revelations take time to digest. You may need to prepare your spouse for different revelations. You may need to prepare yourself to be a support for your spouse. Don’t rush it, but don’t delay it either. There is never a “perfect” time to tell your spouse. In general, the earlier in the marriage that you tell your spouse, the better your marriage will fare. Pray and seek guidance from the Lord on how best to proceed. Do not be afraid, but trust in Him. He will take care of you. Many spouses are ready to hear the news. Other spouses will need preparation. Others may never be ready.
It may be difficult to talk to your spouse if you are still struggling with addictive behaviors, but it is an important step in repentance. Addictions thrive in secrecy. You can’t and shouldn’t keep lying forever. Excluding your spouse from your trials cuts you off from one of your best sources of support. Besides, it is much better for your spouse to find out about your addictions directly from you than to discover them some other way. Do not expose your spouse to a sexually transmitted disease, which you can contract even with protective barriers. Your spouse deserves to know if they are at risk.
Many couples have been made their marriages stronger through open and honest communication. However, this is not always the case. There is a real danger of losing your family if you come out. One study concluded that 85% of marriages end within three years after the husband comes out. However, the biggest reason for the divorce was that the husband did not want to stay married. Of the marriages where both partners wanted the marriage to work, 50% were still married after three years. There are many factors that you have control over, which will give you an even higher success rate.
Talking to your spouse is difficult, but if they are ready, it can result in a stronger and happier relationship. You may be surprised at how many benefits you receive from including your spouse with you on your journey in dealing with same-sex attraction.
I feel guilty for not having told my spouse before I got married
The Church teaches that we should be open and honest with our spouse before marriage, including telling them about same-sex attractions. This has been particularly stressed in recent years. While you should strive to be open and honest with your spouse now, don’t beat yourself up too badly if you did not tell them previously. You are in the company of many good people who have made a similar mistake.
Very few people completely understand themselves before they get married, regardless of their sexual orientation. It is difficult to openly and accurately tell your spouse about your attractions if you do not completely understand them yourself. Many people have thought it was a phase that would go away when they got married. Other people have thought it was something that they had under control and wouldn’t cause any problems. Some didn’t really understand what was going on in the first place or hadn’t come to terms with it themselves. You might have been scared. You might not have had the words to tell them. You might have been afraid of losing your spouse. You might have been acting under faulty counsel given by a well-meaning friend or leader. Whatever the reason, understand that this is a difficult issue and have enough charity to give yourself a little bit of slack. Maybe take some time to think about the many things that you have learned about your spouse that you did not know before you got married that you have accepted. Often people change significantly during their marriage and the spouse is accepting of this change. If you did the best you could with what you knew at the time then there is no reason to focus on guilt. Work on going forward rather than getting hung up on the past. Focus on having open and healthy conversations now.
Am I alone?
One of our purposes in putting together this web site was so that you realize that you are not alone. Behind each of the demographics there is a host of other latter-day saints who are in similar situations. In the married demographic, there is a great range of experiences. No matter what the length of your marriage, future prospects, level of openness, level of faithfulness, or level of fulfillment, there are many other people in your situation.
By the numbers, the people who are married and attracted to the same sex are far more than most people realize. According to The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior, approximately 20% of men and 40% of women with same-sex attraction will be heterosexually married at some point in their life. Another survey, done by the Social Organization of Sexuality, found that 3.5% of married men and 2.1% of married women reported same-sex attractions.
You are not alone. There are people here who have been where you are and are anxious to help you
How much should I tell my spouse about my problems?
How much you tell is a very personal decision, and should be made between you and your spouse with prayerful consideration. There is no answer that fits everyone, but we there are some things we feel are important:
This is the ideal for any marriage. It is important for your spouse to know where you are at in the relationship. There is never a “perfect” time to talk about things. There will always be something coming up. The timing will probably be inconvenient and the conversation will be awkward. It can also be hard when you have made a mistake, but by knowing what is going on, your spouse can help you learn and grow. You shouldn’t expect this process to be easy. Growth hurts, but openness and honesty can produce a bond that can make your marriage stronger.
There may be things your spouse does not want to know. Graphic or even specific details may only serve to “have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.” (Jacob 2:9) Discuss with your spouse how much he or she feels is appropriate. Some spouses want to know every time you are attracted to someone, while others just want to know a brief synopsis of what is going on. You should give enough information so your spouse knows where you are at, is able to help you, and that both of you feel your relationship is open and honest. You should avoid giving so much information that you are focusing on the negative. Don’t be afraid to readjust the boundaries. Some spouses ask for a lot of information up front, only later to wish they didn’t know some things.
Some people may blurt everything out all at once. Some people may take time to prepare their spouse and only talk about one thing at a time. What works best might be different for each person. Do not think just because someone else is doing it a different way, that your way is wrong. While an open and honest relationship is the goal, it takes time and patience to get there. For some couples, especially if your spouse is emotionally unstable, that goal may not be achieved in this life. While it is okay to take some time, you should still be striving towards the goal of openness and honesty.
Having sex outside of marriage increases your risk for an STD, and if you are having sex with your spouse, they are also at higher risk. This is especially true for men who have sex with men. Condoms and other protective measures help, but they simply do not work as well for non-vaginal sex. Your spouse probably assumes they are in a monogamous relationship and are at a low risk for an STD. If that is not the case, you need to be pro-active in letting them know before having sex with them. Many spouses have contracted an STD from marriages that they thought were monogamous. Understand your risks of getting an STD and do not expose your spouse.
My spouse is not helping enough
It can be frustrating when our spouse is not helping the way we would like. Remember that your spouse needs your help too. Marriage is about coming together no matter what. We all have weaknesses, and we all need help.
It may be that you are expecting too much from your spouse. No matter how strong they may be, they cannot realistically meet all of your needs. Outside of God, your spouse should be your primary support, but they should not be your sole support. We should have a wide support system so we do not overwhelm any one person. Especially if you just recently came out, or revealed a transgression, your spouse may need time to regroup before offering support. Try to see how they are feeling and have charity for them.
It may be that your spouse has some issues that they are working through. Maybe they do not completely understand the give and take nature of the marriage relationship. Maybe they do not understand same-sex attraction. Maybe they have their own baggage they are working through. Maybe they are simply not willing to help. Ultimately, we need to take responsibility for ourselves. If a spouse chooses not to support you, you still need to respect their agency. Some spouses will not feel that they can offer support. God is our primary support, and we can always count on Him. While helping each other is certainly part of the marriage covenant, you should focus on making sure you are doing your part to be a good spouse. That being said, there are things you can do to change your relationship with your spouse to make sure you are both getting your needs met.
It is next to impossible to give when you feel you are empty. By focusing on your spouse and his or her needs, you take some of the attention off of yourself. It is surprising how often our needs seem to melt away when we find ourselves serving others. Once your spouse feels their needs have been met, they are more likely to help you with your needs.
We have all made mistakes in our marriage, and are all in need of repentance. Especially if you have been dishonest or unfaithful (including virtual infidelity) with your spouse, then more than likely your spouse has lost trust, feels betrayed, and may be angry over what happened. Realize that these wounds take time to heal. Do not expect them to be ready to give support right after being hurt. This can be especially hard since this is often when we need the most support. Realize as much as you are hurting, your spouse is hurting too. Part of the repentance process is restoring what you have taken away. It isn’t enough to forsake the sin, but you need to go out of your way to restore your spouse’s trust and make them feel loved.
It is hard enough for us to understand what our needs are, but it is even harder for someone else to guess what they are. If there is something you feel your spouse can change to help you, talk to them. Be willing to listen to their concerns and adjust your expectations so both of you can get your needs met. Be willing to compromise to reach a good solution.
We cannot use our spouse as an excuse to hold ourselves back. While we are supposed to help each other in marriage, it is not healthy to be completely dependant on any single person. By becoming more complete ourselves, we can help the marriage be more complete, and can avoid codependent or emotionally abusive relationships. By turning our needs over to Christ, He can take care of them. He has provided many resources to help us get our needs met. Find ways to get your needs met in safe environments.
Creating a healthy and mutually beneficial marriage relationship is a long and difficult process, and few couples can do it on their own. There is no shame in seeking out counseling. Talking to a third party helps us process our feelings and gives us a new perspective to better understand both ourselves and our spouse.
What do I tell my kids?
Much of this depends on your situation. How old are they? How open are you outside your home? How much do your kids already know? How did they find out? Do you go to group meetings or are involved in other ways? How comfortable is your spouse with talking about your attractions? This is a decision you and your spouse should make together. The relationship with your children is not as close as it is with your spouse, and does not need the same amount of openness and honesty. Still, children are perceptive, and will often know when you are trying to hide something from them. It is important that they do not think that this is something that you are ashamed of. Be confident, but appropriate if you decide to talk to them. Be aware that they may be insecure, and need assurance of your love for them and the future of their family.
Am I exposing my wife to an STD?
The Center for Disease Control states that the best defense against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is celibacy or being in a mutually monogamous relationship. Other methods may help, but they still have an increased risk of infection. If you are not being sexually faithful to your wife, and you are still having sex with her, you are putting her at an increased risk for an STD. She deserves to know what her risks are so she can make an informed decision to protect her health.
Protective barriers, such as condoms can decrease the risks of STDs. Often they are not used properly, but even if they are, they can still transmit STDs. The risk is increased when having anal sex, because condoms were designed for vaginal sex. Among other things, they tear more easily with anal sex. There are also other STDs, like genital herpes, that can be transmitted through contact with an area not covered by a condom. Herpes creates sores, which can transmit other STDs, like HIV, through contact with an area not covered by a condom.
If you have had sex with someone besides your spouse, you should get tested. Testing can help you better understand your risks so you can better respond. Because the risks are greater, the Center for Disease Control recommends men who have sex with men get tested more frequently than other people, even if they are using protective barriers. Be aware there is no single test that will cover all STDs. Some people have made the mistake of getting tested for one disease, only to find out later that they had another disease that they were not being tested for. Getting tested may be expensive, but it will be worth it. Many jurisdictions have reduced or no cost program for getting tested for STDs for those who are income eligible.
If the testing does not show any STDs in your system, do not assume that you are in the clear. There is often a lag time between when you contract a disease and when it shows up. Chlamydia can be asymptomatic for a long time and may even have false negative tests, during which time you could infect your wife. This is one reason why they ask about your sexual history when you are donating blood even though they do thorough testing. You do not want to expose your wife to an STD while you are waiting for a test to show up positive. It is recommended that barrier protection be used for six months after the last incident of unprotected sex.
If testing does show that you have an STD, there are things you can do to take care of the problem. Proper medical treatment can eradicate some STDs, and can decrease your chances of spreading other STDs. If you and your wife are careful, you can reduce your risk of spreading it to her. However, she needs to understand the risk, so she can take proper precautions and knows what to do in an emergency, such as when the condom rips.
Repentance after having an affair is a difficult process. It is a very rocky road full of pitfalls and slip ups, but you can make it through. Many people from the North Star community have been able to recover their marriages after having an affair. Others have lost their marriages, but have gained a greater understanding of the atonement and the love of God. However, you need to be as safe as possible along the way, and if you have been exposed you need to make sure not pass an STD onto your spouse. If you have had an affair, you should not have sex with your wife until you know you do not have an STD.
My spouse wants sex, but I don't. What should I do?
Sex is a powerful gift given from God, but can be very dangerous if used incorrectly. If used lovingly and in a committed relationship, it can build feelings of love and commitment. However, if intimacy brings up negative emotions, then sex can exasperate those feelings as well. It isn’t just the act of sex, but the related emotions and hormones that come with it. Couples do best when they have a healthy sex life, but if sex is not healthy, then it can be very detrimental to the couple. On the other hand, it can also be harmful for your spouse if their sexual needs go unmet. Paul reminds us that we have given our bodies to our spouse.
“The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:4)
Both of these concerns are very real and should not be taken lightly. Learning to balance the needs of both partners is one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding, parts of marriage. The right answer depends on each couple and their circumstances, and should be sought prayerfully and with the help of the Lord. Many members of the North Star community have overcome their aversion for sex with their spouse and have gone on to create a healthy and active sex life. Others have worked together with their spouse and have developed a close and rewarding relationship that doesn’t involve sex.
It is important to be on the same page as your spouse. Talk about it with your spouse and try to come to a mutual understanding. Be honest with your feelings. Listen to their feelings. There will likely be compromise on both sides. There is no one right answer, but here are some solutions that have worked for other people:
There is no one right answer. Go to the Lord together as a couple and seek his guidance. Help your spouse understand that this is a work in progress, and your struggles with sexuality is not a reflection on how much you love them.
What if I am not attracted to my spouse/fiance(e)?
If you are not married, North Star strongly encourages you to not get married unless you have an attraction to your potential spouse. Regarding men with SSA, Elder Oaks taught:
“On the other hand, persons who have cleansed themselves of any transgression and who have shown their ability to deal with these feelings or inclinations and put them in the background, and feel a great attraction for a daughter of God and therefore desire to enter marriage and have children and enjoy the blessings of eternity — that’s a situation when marriage would be appropriate.” (emphasis added)
The same applies to women who are looking to get married. Their desire to marry should come in part from a great attraction to a son of God. While a desire to have an eternal family here on Earth is praiseworthy, it not sufficient reason to get married. Marriage is one of the most important decisions of your life and should be made prayerfully.
If you are already married, realize that there is hope. The past does not matter. What matters is where you go from here. The covenants you made are sacred, whether or not you were married in the temple. You will find many people in the North Star community who were married without being attracted to their spouse, or lost that attraction after being married. Some have been able to develop a sexual attraction for their spouse, including those who have never had an attraction for the opposite sex. Others have made their marriage successful despite a lack of sexual attraction. All of us are on a journey to improve ourselves and come closer to Christ. Wherever you are at, you are in good company.
It is easy to focus on sexual attractions, but there are different types of attractions. You must have some level of attraction, or you wouldn’t be interested in staying together. Alma teaches that faith can begin with a desire to believe. Likewise, attraction can begin with a desire to stay together. That desire can be key to overcoming any desire to be with someone besides your spouse. Be optimistic and give yourself credit for what you have.
There are many people of all sexual orientations who are not currently physically attracted to their spouse, but still have a strong relationship. Imagine a straight person marrying the person of their dreams, only to have them horribly disfigured through an accident, a disease or even age. Although they may no longer find them sexually attractive, they can still have a deep love for the person that transcends the physical. President Harold B. Lee taught:
“Faults and failings and the superficiality of mere physical attractions are as nothing compared with the genuineness of good character that endures and grows more beautiful with the years.” (Harold B. Lee)
Focus on loving your spouse. Love is a choice that we can all make. Elder Robbins gave a talk entitled Agency and Love in Marriage, where he talked about how we can choose to love our spouse. He quotes the Proclamation to the Family in saying that husbands and wives “have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other”. He says that God would not give us that command without providing a way for us to accomplish it.
This can prove difficult if we are sexually incompatible, whether that is because of same-sex attractions or some other reason. Elder Oaks gave this advice to husbands and wives:
To avoid so-called “incompatibility,” they should be best friends, kind and considerate, sensitive to each other’s needs, always seeking to make each other happy. They should be partners in family finances, working together to regulate their desires for temporal things.” (Oaks, Dallin, “Divorce” General Conference April 2007)
Talk with your spouse about how you feel. Ask them how you can show your love for them in a way that would not make you feel uncomfortable. Let them know how they can show love for you. You do not have to fake an attraction for them. You do not have to force yourself to have sex if you do not want to. Sexless marriages are more common than most people think. One study indicated the 15% of married couples have not have sex within the last six months. Despite not having sex, a few of them have created a close and intimate relationship. It is okay to not have sex in your marriage.
While we may not choose our attractions, we can choose to love our spouse. Some people report that after being open and honest with their spouse and making a conscious effort to love and serve them, attractions have developed. Other people have done all they can and still are not sexually attracted, but nevertheless love their spouse. Either way, marriage can be wonderful experience if both people are working together with the Lord to honor marital covenants.