“I really like you, and I really like dating you, but there’s something I think you should know before any more time passes. I’m attracted to men.”

Early into our dating, I told my eventual wife I experience exclusive attraction to other men. Telling her was something I felt I needed to do and wanted to do — and also dreaded doing.

It happened less than a year after I’d “come out” to a select group of friends at college, and I was still trying to figure out what my sexuality was supposed to look like. If I didn’t know, how could I not warn her what she might be getting herself into?

At the same time, I worried that when I told her, it might be the end to our relatively young relationship.

Marie came from a somewhat legalistic and traditional church background. Her dad had grilled me on piercings and tattoos before allowing me permission to date her.

I couldn’t even imagine what he’d think if he knew about my sexuality.

Would Marie be like her father?

Nonetheless, I felt like she needed to know before she grew any more attached to me and before I grew (or didn’t grow) more attached to her. It felt unfair to Marie not to warn her that I might not be able to be attracted to her.

I was concerned this relationship would follow the pattern of my previous relationships with women.

When I was a teenager, I dated several girls in my church — enough of them that my youth pastor joked that I’d dated half the girls in the youth group. It was more like a third, but I didn’t contradict him.

Why did I date so many girls? I was desperate to be “normal,” and normal guys dated girls, got married, had 2.5 kids, etc. Plus, I wanted to be a pastor — and where I grew up, being a single pastor was unheard of.

My sophomore year of high school, I dated and broke up with a girl who many guys declared as one of the most attractive girls in school. She was a junior, a cheerleader who owned a Corvette and was on the homecoming court.

We dated for around a month, but try as I might, I couldn’t make myself be attracted to her. The longer we dated, the more she wanted physically than I was willing to give her.

Things finally came to a head when we were at her house, alone. She reminded me several times that we were alone and that her parents weren’t coming home any time soon. I kept getting annoyed, because I just wanted to chill and watch a movie while she wanted to cuddle and make out — and, in hindsight, probably more.

We broke up shortly afterward, and I finally allowed myself to wonder if I were gay, really and truly. That I wasn’t just curious about other guys and what they looked like — but really and truly flaming gay.

I’d tried for years to push aside that thought, to be normal and straight, but I couldn’t deny the pattern that seemed so prevalent: I’d date a girl for a while, enjoy the companionship, but ultimately not feel any genuine physical or sexual attraction when she wanted things to go further than I did, or I’d grow frustrated I couldn’t feel more.

Throughout high school, I continued trying to make things work with various girls, but nothing changed. If I didn’t warn Marie of this doomed possibility in our relationship, what kind of man was I?

I remember talking to some of my closest friends in undergrad, asking them to pray for me as I prepared to talk to Marie. I also remember being incredibly nervous and praying often during the lead-up to the conversation. I felt like God had brought us together, and I asked the Holy Spirit to calm my anxiety as I bore my soul to Marie.

And so, as we walked through a local park, barely past our first month of dating, I told her about my same-sex attraction (SSA). I told her of my failed dating history, that I wasn’t sure I could be attracted to women, that most men who were SSA, despite years of prayer and trying to make things work, would not be attracted to women and that my SSA would possibly never go away.

Keep in mind I was still new to the topic and, at the time, I did still wonder if God would change my attractions.

Despite my fear, Marie met me with love and acceptance. She was glad that I’d told her, and she said it didn’t change how she viewed me. If anything, it bonded her heart more to mine because I’d trusted her and cared enough about her well-being to be so vulnerable with her.

The conversation wasn’t perfect, and we both wish we’d talked about certain things more fully before we married. Her family sin is avoiding uncomfortable things in hoping they go away, and we ignored the topic of SSA for a long time after our wedding.

However, that initial acceptance of me and my story set the tone for the rest of our relationship. Because of Marie’s love and acceptance, my heart was joined more firmly to hers as well.

I felt so loved and cared for! I felt we could face anything together. She saw me, and she did not flinch, did not shrink away.

And so I found myself loving my wife more deeply than anyone who had come before, and my attraction to her blossomed and grew. That is part of what still makes us walk so well with each other: she still sees me, and I see her, and we are in this wonderful, messy life together.

Being married isn’t always easy, and “mixed-orientation marriage” is not for everyone. After 10+ years of marriage, I am still attracted to other men and acknowledge that while God can change my attractions, it isn’t something I pray for.

Aside from Marie, I am attracted to no other women. Our love is real and strong, and Jesus is using us to minister to others. Instead of praying for change, I pray that God would grant me the fullest measure of what he has for me in this life, that I would honor him in how I walk with Marie, my sexuality, and our married witness before a watching world.

So, what does our marriage look like? How do we make that work? How did we get to 10+ years of marriage? Haven’t there been hard times? You’ll have to wait for future posts and the rest of this story . . .

What was the defining moment in recognizing your own sexuality, and how did that make you feel? If you’re married, how did you share your sexuality with your spouse, and how was it received?

  • Hi Ben!
    Thanks for sharing your story! I’m in a mixed orientation marriage and recently came out to my wife. It was the hardest conversation I’ve ever had, but also (like your bride) she has said that it has brought us closer together. I’m not exclusively same sex attracted and so part of my delay in telling her was just figuring out what the heck these feelings for men were and also struggling with internalized shame. I want to encourage other men who are married that struggle with SSA who’s spouse may not know, to pray for guidance and direction on if/when is the right time to tell them. It wasn’t easy and we are still processing through this, but I know it was in Gods time for us.
    – Landon

    • Landon, thanks for sharing. I, too, just came out to my wife. Exhilarating after 38 years! I wish I had told her earlier, but maybe in God’s timing?

      • That’s wonderful Michael! I pray she was understanding and that you continue to have conversations reconciling your faith and sexuality!

    • Landon,
      That takes bravery. I’m happy for you that she has handled it so well.
      How long were you married before you told her?
      I think there are likely many others like us who have not told their wives for whatever reason, and I am hopeful that by more people sharing, more people will feel safe so share with their spouses and churches.

      • Hi Ben!
        I told her after 5 years of marriage! I agree, I want to be open with my church, but being from the “Bible belt” of the southern United States makes it sometimes difficult to share the nuances of faiths and sexuality. Thankfully I go to a church that shares a Side B sexual ethic, but I’m not sure if anyone is openly discussing this.
        Thankful for your blog post!

  • Oh man! I cannot say enough about my wife of 38 years. I finally told her my little dirty secret, prompted by God, two months ago. She loves me to the moon. She struggled at first and then she said, “I will walk with you”. I am crying as I write this, because I could not hope for a better friend, my one-flesh. She is the kindest, gentlest, most beautiful, and most loving person I know, and we have had the most amazing sex life on the planet—even though I struggled secretly with SSA. She does understand how I got here. It was my choice-I don’t believe this was ultimately God’s plan for me, but I masturbated my brains out as a teen and created deep grooves. He is healing me since confession. Don’t wait-find a friend-confess, and you will find a His healing!

  • Thanks for sharing this story, man! I went through a similar experience sharing with my first and, to date, only girlfriend my nascent understanding of my sexuality. I was nineteen. I think doing so was the right thing to do, but it produced significant anxiety on her part that I wasn’t “really” attracted to her—which wasn’t unwarranted: my lack of true interest in her became clearer to me over time for reasons including, adjacent to, and wholly independent of my sexuality. I broke it off. To her credit, she was never hostile regarding my sexuality, and I now consider her one of my closest friends. While I don’t regret taking a shot at having a girlfriend, I feel bad that she played the role of Guinea pig in my mid-adolescent emotional experimentation. It’s a poor scientist who draws conclusions based solely upon one trial, and I don’t want one relationship to serve as the litmus test for my entire sexual self-concept, but I think that experience and the dramatic fallout from it has had a profound if not indelible effect and may be the defining moment in recognizing my own sexuality. I was homeschooled in an ultra-fundamentalist Christian church and conservative culture, and the possibility that I was gay never crossed my mind until that point. Sure I was addicted to gay porn from the beginning of my adolescence, but I remember as late as seventeen vehemently denying that I had any romantic feelings for other guys. But that year it all fell apart. The fact that I hadn’t (nor have) ever had the smallest inkling of romantic desire for a woman coupled with my increasing desperation for intimacy with men forced me to realize that my atypical sexuality might be larger than my sinful habits. I was crushed. I’m twenty-two now, and my parents still refuse to accept that I’m gay, and because of blatant homophobia and careless polemics against anything LGBT from both them and my church and the associated university I was attending at the time, I was not in a place where it was safe to talk about such things. Even amongst those I considered my closest friends, my desperate emotional and mental state combined with their inexperience led to feelings of total abandonment. When I was happy to let a fellow student take advantage of me sexually, my college’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual immorality put me in a position where my only options were struggling alone or getting expelled. Near the end of the year, I had had enough, so I approached the dean of students prepared to make a full confession. I prefaced it by telling him I expected to be expelled for what I was about to admit to, and he stopped me in an act of grace, wisdom, or cowardice. (I’m not sure which—perhaps all three.) One of the members of the school’s disciplinary board was a pastor at the church I was attending, and the dean had me take it up with him to get out of being forced to enforce a merciless policy. The good-hearted but ill-equipped pastor was of little more help than my utterly useless friends, so I finished the semester alternating between nights in the guy’s bed and nights on my third-story windowsill wondering if the concrete below would be enough to end it. Your Other Brothers was the near-exclusive means through which God gave me hope apropos of my sexuality at the time, and I’m very grateful to Him and to the authors here. He is a faithful God who provided a new future for His son, and if He could bring me through that, what can’t I trust Him through?
    I now live grateful for my atypical sexuality, and aspire to daily subject it and the rest of myself to His ridiculously patient and merciful hand, knowing that nothing—not even my gayness—can separate me from His love through our Lord Jesus Christ. The “purity culture” in which I grew up raped me of my trust in God’s grace and set me up for a life trying to establish my own righteousness, but with the help of YOB and the larger Side-B community, I’m finally able to begin to pursue righteousness *from* God instead of *to* Him.
    Not sure why I felt compelled to share all that, but there you go.

    • Your story is almost the mirror image of mine 40 years ago. I went to a Christian college, but it’s amazing what subcultures existed in that environment. I knew of 15 guys that were gay at that school. I’m sure there were more. The only boyfriend I ever had I met there. We split when I graduated. Been celibate ever since with the help of Jesus. And I agree, YOB is a wonderful place. There is understanding and compassion here. It’s a good place to be.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Joshua! I feel the pain in your writing. I know this journey hasn’t been easy for you and I will pray for your parents to have understanding! You’ve clearly got a beautiful understanding of Gods faithfulness and that’s so encouraging!

    • Josh,
      That is a hard story. I ache that you didn’t have the people to love you and walk with you through that. There were times I also thought of taking my own life. Isolation is a terrible torture.
      This phrase “The “purity culture” in which I grew up raped me of my trust in God’s grace and set me up for a life trying to establish my own righteousness…” makes me think of my own experience with church in High School. God demands perfection. If you screw up, particularly sexually, God will not accept you and cannot love you. I believed that lie for so long, which is partially why I didn’t really process or acknowledge my sexuality until I was in undergrad.
      The other part, “I’m finally able to begin to pursue righteousness *from* God instead of *to* Him,” I also resonate with. If it were up to me and my performance, I have no hope. But it’s Christ’s righteousness, not my own. I am glad you are cultivating that understanding as well.

    • Joshua, I’m so sorry you had to go through that kind of torment! I also had to deal with my SSA in secret for years, and I was in constant fear of bullying if anyone found out.
      I am glad that both you and I found genuine friends and loving support!
      Both straight and SSA male Chrstian friends have helped me immensely. We need both!

  • Thanks for sharing Ben! Our stories have a lot of common threads. My wife found out about my SSA early in our dating journey and it turned out world upside down. I’m so grateful for her willingness to love me through my hardest moments and support me in becoming the man God is shaping me into. She has been Jesus to me in so many ways and our relationship has been the most sanctifying experience of my life.

  • I love this! Thank you for sharing. I’m not married, and I’m currently considering celibate companionship with a man (although I’m leaving the door wide-open to God if He really wants me to marry a woman!) But I consider all this as part of our Side B family.
    I am inspired by many of my friends who are married. Some of them have even stronger marriages because of the level of communication and vulnerability that is needed. I always think…If I were to marry a woman, she would be marrying ME, and not some fake version of myself. So it’s no use to try and make myself “straight” in order to be married (natural fluidity aside).

    • Alex,
      I can appreciate not going in with the mindset to make yourself! Definitely anyone who goes into this should know that while their might be some fluidity in attraction, for the vast majority of us, our attraction to the same sex remains. Any potential spouse needs to know that, and know it has almost nothing to do with them.
      I am intrigued by celibate partnerships. I have a group of pastor friends . and we’ve thrown that idea around and talked about the possible benefits and drawbacks. I like to think it would work well for some people. I love the idea of having a brother to walk through life with in such a close way! For Marie and I, that might play out in thee future as part of a more intentional community. That might be us living in close proximity with other couples in a mixed-orientation marriages, single people, straight, sexual minority, etc.
      We like the idea of a close spiritual family. And we pray for all of God’s fullness there.
      I would be interested to hear how the potential celibate partnership plays out, and what some of your thoughts are approaching it.

      • Yeah, I have next to no clue about how to actually pursue celibate partnership. I only have a couple examples from my own church and then a few examples from what I’ve seen in the Side B community in general.
        It seems to be a headed topic, but I just see it as a form of intentional community, as you mentioned. I see it within the realms of friendship. While I maintain some strong perspectives on what I believe marriage is and it’s meaning to society, I view chaste companionship as a valid way to “do life” with connection and intimacy. I’m also a fan of the ideas of living in a community of brothers or a shared living space between couples and individuals. It’s a culture shift for sure.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Ben! As a married man myself, I really appreciate hearing the perspectives of other SSA married guys. Everyone’s experience is unique, of course, but I think that’s part of what makes it so encouraging. Different circumstances, but same faith and same God. I love the body of Christ in all its diversity.
    I confessed my same-sex attraction and addiction to porn first to my wife of 14 years and then to my pastor earlier this past summer. It was a move I’d been actively resisting for a while. I clearly had felt God leading me that direction, but there was so much fear and shame in my heart I just couldn’t bring myself to take that final step of faith. By what I can only describe as a merciful act of God, I stumbled upon this world of YOB and the 4 Ts and the Church in some FB link. I wasn’t looking for it, and I’ve seen nothing like it since. It was so out of the ordinary that God was able to use it to confirm to me again, it was time to move.
    God gave me the strength to step out into the unknown, and I’m so glad I did! I would say it is important to be prayerful about such things, as God knows the perfect time and can prepare the hearts of those who will be receiving the difficult information. My wife is simply amazing. If anyone in this world has shown me the love of Christ, it’s been her. The patience, mercy, and grace of God is more apparent to me now than ever.
    Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing more of your story!

    • Andrew,
      You are so welcome! I am thankful you listened to God’s direction for you.
      Definitely people need to approach sharing with discernment and prayer. Some people are (sadly) not safe people to share with, and I feel for those who go into marriage having never told anyone and then have to deal with it after the fact. I’ve seen it get messy.
      How did your pastor respond?

      • Hi, Ben,
        My pastor was full of grace and love. He listened and asked questions and prayed with me. My wife and I were able to meet with him and his wife a month or so later and it was very encouraging. With that said, I still think they and many church leaders are unsure of exactly how to handle the subject outside of private meetings. It’s a bit frustrating.

  • Thanks for sharing!
    I suppose I had not thought about the difference between masculinity and femininity playing a role . Certainly my wife is feminine, but I don’t necessarily feel like that played into my desire for her. You are correct, all marriages are hard, But I think ours is a different kind of hard, with different obstacles than the average person.
    I suppose I find the language of mixed-orientation marriage as useful, because it points to the idea that people have predominantly different attractions from both being heterosexual within a marriage. Certainly that’s not a strict binary. and of course, that is a man-made term, just as the Kinsey scale is a man-made tool to help give expression to people’s experiences.
    I understand the idea of carrying things pertaining to SSA by yourself as your struggle, and I think that is something every couple has to figure out for themselves. I know of couples who talk about every detail of every aspect, including what Temptation looks like in all arenas. I know of couples who don’t talk about it at all, and those who walk a Middle Road of talking about the big things, but leaving details like Temptation and accountability too there brothers in Christ.
    Ultimately, I think it comes back to the question of what does love look like in my situation. If my wife is completely overwhelmed by her own stuff and does not want to know, and would not be able to handle walking with me and my stuff, then love possibly looks like seeking outside counsel and support, and encouraging my wife in what she is dealing with.
    However, if my wife says she wants to know all the details of what this life looks like for me, part of loving her probably means letting her in to see my head and my heart, even the harder places, where I fear to let others see. And I think that is part of working towards healthy marriage, is being able to work towards the place where we can see one another in all of the pieces, even if we don’t always do so, knowing that we can if we need to. I also think that It’s can take a while to get to that place, if ever.
    I am grateful there are spaces like this, where people can find encouragement and support for walking this life together.

    • I hesitate to get into a long discussion about biblical gender rolls. However, when I look at Genesis 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him,” I see a helper that has all the same qualities and attributes as Adam himself possess. She is a fellow image-bearer, and the word “helper” is also later used of God himself.
      One could look at Proverbs 31 and draw many conclusions, but one I would take away is that the ideal woman is one who is able to be a support to her husband, whatever that happens to looks like. And in Ephesians 5, we see the idea of mutually submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. There are different kinds of strength, and different kinds of submission, and in the New Testament Church, I think we see love lived out more fully in marriage and the church as a whole as men and women are valued equally in the kingdom of God, and where the head of the house is told to give himself up for his bride, following Christ’s example.
      In short, I think it is less about “Is she leading me?” and more about “Is part of my role as a husband being humble and letting my wife serve me through helping carry my burdens, just as I at times humble myself and serve her by helping her carry her own?” Mutual love and mutual submission out of reverence for Christ.
      Concerning temptation, Marie and I talk about what temptation looks like for me, and when I am most likely to be tempted. Additionally, I can go to her when things are particularly difficult. I have also gone to her when I have sinned and confessed that to her. I also check in with her on what level of attraction I might be feeling with regards to friends. I also have her meet the people I interact with most. Then, these are not strangers who I am going off to hang out with, but known brothers in Christ she is entrusting me to.
      For the day-to-day accountability, I have a few different groups of people that I check in with on things pertaining to temptation, pornography, etc. And there is a good mix of people among the different groups. They get all the daily nitty-gritty details. And they challenge me to be accountable not only to them, but to God and Marie. Marie gets the broad overview. She wants to know when I am struggling, but doesn’t desire every last detail, unless I want to/need to give it.
      Keep in mind, that is descriptive. It’s our story. For other people, it will likely look different.

  • Every time I hear your story Dean it encourages me. I can only imagine what was going through your mind when you decided to tell your now-wife. Probably the same thing that would go through mine when I enter that arena. I constantly wonder if the woman I chose would look at me any differently when I tell her about my SSA. It’s not something I talk about that often to begin with, let alone someone I love. And congrats on 10 years!

  • This resonates so much. In my early teen years I was very much attracted to women, but after some same-sex physical contact, I found myself thinking about boys in my school too. As a new Christian I routinely felt the torment of both shame and fear, but I found comfort in knowing other guys had some of the same feelings. Still, I decided to repress any outward expression of homosexuality, and focus on the pursuit of girlfriends. I dated girls for 6 years after high school, and while very lightly and cautiously flirting with men, I never made an attempt to be physical with a man after age 18. Ironically, that changed once I met my wife. Only month after we began dating, it was clear to me that another Christian man was attracted to me. In what felt like a relapse, I gave in to lust and physical pleasure one single time with him. I was definitely addicted to gay porn, but I didn’t want to “be gay,” and suddenly, I was.
    It wasn’t until after we were engaged that I told my wife what had happened. Regret, remorse and shame overwhelmed the conversation. But she was full of grace and love. I offered to bow out of the engagement. She thought that was ridiculous. More than a decade passed by without another incident. I fell deeply in love with my wife and we never spoke of that moment again. Sure, I would watch the lifeguards as they passed by and occasionally find a friend attractive, but I never even hinted at doing more than looking. It was wrong. I committed to marriage and a righteous heterosexual life- or so I thought.
    I continued to wrestle with pornography, mainly gay porn. It wasn’t a constant struggle though. There were seasons where I wouldn’t even think of looking at the filth. I grew closer to God during those seasons. My wife had no idea that SSA was a struggle. Outwardly, I was repulsed by “the LGBT agenda,” but hear me out. Things changed when I met someone who was honest with me about his SSA. We connected over the commonality and the struggles that come with it. Within a few months, I knew that I loved this man. Long story shortened…I found myself “coming out” to my wife a second time. And this time was so much harder. She thought it was in the distant past. I thought it was the end of our marriage. To my surprise, God’s incredible, relentless, unfailing, perfect love flooded right through this woman’s heart onto me. She was incredibly hurt, but her heart hurt more for me and this other man than it did for herself.
    Since then, we’ve both come to accept that the longing for deep connection with a man is not something God is taking away from me, but it is something he can make beautiful once again. I’m no longer fooled by the thought that it’s impossible for me to fail and give in to unholy sexual desires. That awareness alone feels like a massive breakthrough. I believe healing will come for those who seek it. But when you are broken, true healing is not a painless process, and I’m so very thankful that my wife and my friend are both part of the process. Perhaps the best is yet to come.

  • This is such a beautiful story Ben; thank you so much for sharing. I too am seeking to get married despite my SSA and I have often worried about whether confessing my SSA would jeopardise a potential relationship. Hopefully if she is the right woman, she will love me and either way.

    Are you by any chance a Lutheran pastor. I notice the vestments and collar, and given your last name and that your a Midwesterner your probably a Lutheran (or maybe an Episcopalian).

  • Ben Rutkowski

    Call me Ben, or call me Beamer. I am in my early thirties, married, pastoring in the Midwest, and Jesus is my reason for living. I'm either an ENFJ or ENFP. My Enneagram is 2 or 6 depending on the day. I am a chameleon – being who I need to be to care for others. Most of my favorite activities center on being with people in any outdoors setting, whether hiking a mountain trail or simply lying in a hammock and drinking a beer.

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