“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?