Focus on the Family

My Spouse Struggles with Homosexuality

by Amy Tracy

One of seven children, Paula was raised on the mission field. She witnessed her parents live by faith and sacrifice a normal family life and worldly possessions for the sake of the gospel. She grew up following their example of loving Jesus and committing her life to Him in service. In Bible College she met Steven. He, too, had a fervent and growing faith. The two of them fell in love and embarked on a life-long journey together in ministry.

Paula never saw it coming. At the time, Steven was the beloved senior pastor of a 1,000 member church. They had a 7 year-old daughter. Paula says there were no outward signs that pointed to a homosexual struggle in Steven, just a growing uneasy feeling inside of her. Paula held Steven up before the Lord and prayed fervently that God would reveal what was wrong with her husband. She believes that God told her through prayer that Steven struggled with homosexuality.

Her worst fears were confirmed when Steven was spotted in a gay bar. Paula's world collapsed.

Perhaps you have an uneasy, sick feeling that something is wrong with your marriage. Perhaps communication has broken down between the two of you and you suspect infidelity. And perhaps you have discovered questionable e-mail, or sexually explicit ads pop up when you're surfing the internet.

Pam Burnett realized something was amiss when her husband began spending more and more time away from home, distancing himself from her and the kids. She says he also took up running and started to pay an inordinate amount of attention to his physical appearance.

But for Pam, Paula and others there could have been red flags all along. In his book When Homosexuality Hits Home, Joe Dallas says that many women are attracted to the sensitivity, astute communication skills, vulnerability and easily expressed emotions that often embody temperament commonly found in homosexual men. And that the lack of sexual aggression first seen as a desirable trait may just be a lack of normal sexual interest.

A homosexual struggle may take years to manifest within a marriage. Dallas casts the final stages as absence, secrecy and final discovery. He says that most often the spouse is exposed in response to the prayers of a confused partner or family member.

Not Just Husbands

At Focus on the Family we regularly hear from women who fall into lesbianism when emotionally unhealthy relationships with other women become sexualized.

Mike knows the pain involved in finding his wife involved with another woman. "Jane still lived in the house with me and the kids, but she became someone I didn't know. The sweet girl I married became a creature of deep, seething, unpredictable rage. We fought loud and often. She worked long hours and often didn't come home. She began a 'ministry' at the gay bar three blocks from the hospital where she was charge nurse." Jane's unrest at home, and unresolved issues from her past, deteriorated into submersion into the gay lifestyle.

Final Discovery: Tangible Signs

In addition to the ominous feeling that something is wrong, there are a number of telltale signs that your partner might be struggling with same-sex attraction or having a homosexual affair:

  1. Growing emotional distance between you and your spouse
  2. Decreased sexual interest in you over time
  3. Behavior that does not add up; inconsistencies in details
  4. Withdrawn, depressed, moody, outbursts of anger
  5. Spend late nights or great amounts of time on the internet
  6. Internet web browser history lists unusual sites
  7. Preoccupation with physical appearance that has nothing to do with you
  8. Eyes meet with those of strangers in public
  9. Claims of working long hours at work or periods of unaccounted time
  10. Secretive with the cell phone. Looks for incoming calls at odd hours.
  11. Becomes defensive when you ask questions about time or whereabouts
  12. Unexplained payments on bank statements.
  13. Asks about your schedule more than usual
  14. Phone records disappear, bank and credit card statements redirected to work address

Now that you've hung a label on your suspicions, you may be feeling a deep sense of betrayal, sorrow, and fear. It's time to confront your spouse and find out the truth.


Confronting Your Spouse

After spending considerable time in prayer and perhaps with trusted friends and family, you need to present the evidence and express your feelings openly with your spouse.

by Amy Tracy

You've just found out your spouse may be struggling with homosexuality. Waves of crippling emotions including shock, fear, and panic are washing over you, and you're not certain where to turn or who to confide in. It's important at that time, to obtain the truth as swiftly as possible, and take the next steps toward healing.

The Conversation

After spending considerable time in prayer and perhaps with trusted friends and family, you need to present the evidence and express your feelings openly with your spouse. You may choose to do this with him alone or with your pastor or counselor.

The purpose of this intervention is to:

  1. Find out if indeed a homosexual struggle exists.
  2. Determine whether or not there's infidelity.
  3. Ask if he or she is willing to submit to an HIV test (you should get one as well) and other tests to determine if there are STDs.
  4. Assess whether or not your spouse is repentant or unrepentant
  5. Plan the next steps, including finding counseling, accountability and discipleship.

Prior to asking these questions, educate yourself on the root causes of homosexuality. As Glenn Stanton, director of cultural trends at Focus on the Family, and a frequent debater on same-sex marriage says, "Do not take for granted that just because your spouse claims he or she is gay that it's true. Sexual identity crises can mask a lot of different sorts of things such as a midlife crisis, reemerging feelings from childhood sexual abuse, disappointment with God, stress, and very real unmet emotional needs."

"The offending, and the offended, spouse need to have a clear understanding of the dynamic at work here … it's a lot more complicated then 'this is the card I got dealt with in life,'" says Stanton. "What's valid and true is the knowledge that this person was once sexually attracted to you. You can't throw off the scent of original passion. We know within the sexual union whether our partner is tracking or not! Therefore it's important to shake this tree and see what falls out. Make them explain their feelings to you."

Emotions at Work

It is important to note that this kind of conversation won't be easy. Disclosure can trigger feelings of great loss. It is, as Joe Dallas, author of When Homosexuality Hits Home, says, "the death of assumptions."

"We hold specific assumptions based on the sort of relationship we have with our spouse," says Dallas. "If we're married, we assume our spouses are, and will continue to be, faithful; that they will always be our partners; that we are safe in our marriages. And in most cases, since homosexuality is more the exception than the rule, we assume our loved one is heterosexual. Suddenly, we find out that we don't know our loved one as well as we thought. We realize he or she has had a secret problem – a secret life, perhaps – that we've known nothing about. We may have been lied to, directly or indirectly, shattering the assumption that our relationship was founded on honesty."

Dallas goes on to explain that the destruction of these assumptions is similar to any death or major loss. And that the offended party may experience a traditional grieving process including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

While this meeting will most likely be heart wrenching, it's vital that you come out with the start of a plan, goals, and at the very least, a second time to sit down and discuss the complexities involved in this disclosure.

Finding a Christian counselor to help you navigate these waters and walk through the grieving process are key, as is intentional prayer, accountability for both parties, and communication. And give yourself permission to grieve!


Collateral Damage? Talking to Your Children

Children must negotiate their own feelings in difficult family matters, yet they don't have the advantage of maturity to make sense of the world they've been thrust in to.

by Amy Tracy

The day Sally found out her dad was gay, her parents called a family meeting. From her sister's phone call, she knew something was very wrong. Sally said, "The house had a quiet eeriness about it. Mom and dad were both at the kitchen table. Coffee cups were on the table and while it appeared normal, it wasn't. After this revelation I tried to make sense of my father's sexual preference but there were still so many unanswered questions. How many people knew? Why hadn't we been told earlier? Dad indicated that homosexuality was hereditary – was that true? Were we potential homosexuals? Did people think we were gay? What about AIDS? What else had he lied about? My brother and sisters and I were young, innocent bystanders. Death would have been easier."

Children must negotiate their own feelings in difficult family matters, yet they don't have the advantage of maturity to make sense of the world they've been thrust in to.

Considerations

To begin with, if you have school-age children and you and your spouse are committed to the healing process, it is not be necessary to involve them. It's important to seek wise counsel and exercise great discernment in what, when (and even if) to disclose information.

This conversation will always be individualized given the extent of the situation, your unique family system, and your own prayerful decisions. The children's age and maturity needs to be taken into consideration. Best advice: Keep it simple!

You must also consider whether or not there is infidelity involved and if the offending spouse is repentant or unrepentant. For example, if the spouse falls headlong into a homosexual affair, it's vital that healthy, biblically based dialogue takes place. If the child is going to spend any time alone with your spouse and his or her partner, boundaries must be set.

As Mike Haley, author of 101 Frequently Asked Questions about Homosexuality says, "Children need their dad [or mom]. The pain of his absence can far outweigh the pain of his lifestyle. Remember that 'homosexuality is not 'caught' from a gay parent. In fact, an affectionate father decreases a boy's vulnerability to homosexuality."

"Still," Haley says, "an openly homosexual father's presence in the life of his children must be carefully evaluated. Openly and frequently address their father's homosexuality. How are they feeling? Are they overwhelmed? Are daddy's actions making them uncomfortable? To get truthful answers notice what they aren't talking about. If they're having an obviously hard time being around their father and his new partner, then they probably need to be shielded – at least in certain situations and for a time."

One family's decision may look different from another's. However, protecting the innocence and trust of children – as much as possible in these cases – should be the utmost priority for both spouses.

"If you determine that the children shouldn't spend unsupervised time with their father, explain the situation to him forthrightly as a non-negotiable reality," says Haley

Talk with your children about biblical truth and human sexuality – and about why God put certain boundaries in place for our own safety and well-being. Be careful not to talk negatively about the spouse. This person is still your child's mother or father!


Collateral Damage? Children With a Gay Parent Speak Out

In addition to feeling a sense of loss, especially if a parent has left the home, children may experience shame, humiliation, fear, instability, and confusion.

by Amy Tracy

In addition to feeling a sense of loss, especially if a parent has left the home, children may experience shame, humiliation, fear, instability, and confusion. This may manifest in any number of ways, including behavioral problems at home and school, nightmares, even alcohol and drug use. Parents are urged to keep the lines of communication open with their children and seek the help of a Christian counselor specializing in children's needs and issues.

Setting Boundaries: Some Children Don't Have the Luxury
"Those weekends were a nightmare for my sister and me. Not only were we forced to leave our mother and friends, but we were placed in a culture we knew nothing about. It was not just a foreign culture; it was one which was anathema to the community in which we were raised. It was as if I had fallen asleep and woken up in a bizarre alternate reality. At the end of the day, my father would not walk into the bedroom with my mom, like he had done before. Instead, he headed off to bed with a man I had met only days before." -- Jeremy, age 23

Shock and Humiliation Impacts Kids Too
"It all came out of the blue … I hadn't thought about the issue before. I don't know what to say when people ask why my parents got divorced. I don't want to answer them. You don't want people to know. You don't want to answer them. You don't know what they'll think of you and your family." -- Bryce, age 16

The Opposite Sex Parent Caught in Homosexuality Can Lead to Insecurity
"It was a big shock when my dad came out to me. I started crying. I didn't say anything. I tried to brush it away, but I knew what it meant. I knew it wasn't something approved of … that God didn't approve of it. I wanted it to all go away. I love my dad, no doubt; however, I get worried that the same thing that happened to my mom might also happen to me." -- Taylor, age 18

If a spouse refuses to seek help and refuses to change, it is almost impossible that your child will escape their youth without some scars and bruises. But take heart, every one of the children and adult children we interviewed have deep, solid relationships with Jesus, relationships forged through fire and grace. The children interviewed also talk of being more compassionate and loving to the outcast. Here are some of their words:

The Resilient Love of Children
"After many attempts, I mustered up the courage to talk with my dad. I sat on a chair and he sat on a stool in his workshop in the garage. My dad knew that this was personal and he was afraid - and my heart broke. He had lived his entire life in fear …fear of himself, fear of exposure, fear of rejection. It's a blur how the conversation started, but in the end, I knew what I needed to say. I told him that I loved him and forgave him – the same way he had loved and forgiven me over the years. Relief washed over him and he softly said, 'Thank you. You're the only person that's ever told me that.' To this day, his response breaks my heart. God was teaching me to love my father." -- Sally, age 25

A Mature Understanding of Faith

"I may or may not see my dad whole and redeemed, but I know that I'll be healed. I'm learning to quiet myself more and more. This has put me in a place where the Lord says to me, 'Am I enough for you, or are you still trying to find hope within your family?' My prayer life has changed from the laundry list to 'Lord, What do you want of me?'" -- Lyndsey, age 23

Finally, we encourage parents to stay involved with and close to their church family. It's important that your children have mentors, role models and godly friends during this trying time for your family.


Developing a Plan, Finding Support

After the initial shock of finding out about your spouse's homosexuality, it's important to establish a plan for yourself, your family and a plan for reconciliation with your spouse.

by Amy Tracy

After the initial shock of finding out about your spouse's homosexuality, it's important to establish a plan for yourself, your family and a plan for reconciliation with your spouse. God's tells us in Scripture that He wants us to have abundant life and help us fulfill our commitments to one another. He cares deeply about the sanctity of the marital union.

Exercising grace for yourself and others in the face of this trial is a first – and last step. But figuring out the particulars of what you'll need to get you through will look different for everyone. We recommend including the following:

  1. Educate yourself on the issue of homosexuality. Contact us at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) for a list of recommended resources.
  2. Confide in trusted family or friends. Ask for confidentiality. Continue to spell out your physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
  3. Seek immediate counsel from your pastor and, whenever possible, a licensed Christian counselor. Don't bottle up your suffering. Don't isolate yourself.
  4. Work with your pastor and counselor to draw up boundaries involving your spouse or parent. These may include matters involving custody / visitation, separation, and financial considerations.
  5. Discern what to tell your school-age and older children. This will be individualized given the extent of the situation and your own prayerful decisions. The children's age and maturity need also be taken into consideration. Keep it simple.
  6. Intentionally set aside chunks of time to seek God through prayer and His Word. Those who've walked this path have taken advantage of all six of these steps. Most importantly, however, they've cited their faith in Christ as the source of their strength and healing. Across the board, all mentioned that this trial was a "gift in disguise," something that gave them a depth with Jesus they wouldn't have had otherwise.

Finding a Christian Counselor, Support from Family and Friends

In the wake of disclosure, it's important to seek out help from a licensed Christian psychologist or counselor or a pastor trained in addiction or marital counseling. "Don't let your criteria be, 'I'm going to trust this person because he or she is a good Christian,'' says Glenn Stanton, an expert on marriage at Focus on the Family. "What will be of the most help in the long run will come from those that truly understand what happens in the human heart. Find those with true humility and recognition of their own brokenness (sometimes manifested by feeling inadequate to help)."

Stanton also recommends searching for a counselor by finding a Christian trained in sexual addiction. He says that even if the issue isn't sexual addiction, these counselors often have contacts for those involved in the world of sexual and relational brokenness.

All of us need friends and family to walk alongside us during crisis. The fear leading up to sharing your secret is often the worst feeling … disclosure leads to relief and freedom. Yet who should you trust?

You want to confide in the small circle of folks that know you and your family best. These same individuals may be shocked that this kind of crisis could have happened in your family. They may even say ignorant things at first. Yet these are the people that will share in your joy, pray with you, and weep when you weep. They are necessary part of the journey.

Setting Boundaries

This is another part of facing life with a homosexual spouse, especially if they refuse to seek help.

Pam's children were ages eleven, thirteen, and fifteen when her husband left her for another man. She recalls the first time they ran into him with his partner. "A few months after the divorce was final my children and I saw them in Walmart. I could not bear to see my children standing in line with tears in their eyes. We don't mind seeing him … but not with his partner."

Under Pam's guidance and supervision – and with the help of a Christian counselor – the children decided that they didn't want their father's partner involved in their lives. Every Tuesday evening and every other weekend are spent with just their father.

Each family's limits will look different. Developing a plan, complete with boundaries, is necessary to address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of you, your spouse and your children.


Understanding What’s Going On

Coming to terms with your spouse's "double life," it's important to realize that, almost always, homosexuality roots are born in childhood.

by Amy Tracy

"Love is essentially a movement of grace to embrace those who have sinned against us (Matthew 5:43-48). It is the offer of restoration to those who have done harm, for the purpose of destroying evil and enhancing life." -- Dan Allender, author of The Wounded Heart

You'll eventually need to deal with the inevitable weight of guilt over your spouse's or parent's actions – and other challenges such as forgiveness and the relinquishment of a loved one , in order to move forward. "You are not the problem; you did not create the problem; you are not responsible for the problem. But you've inherited all the same" says Joe Dallas, author of When Homosexuality Hits Home. "You've got work to do to protect both you and your family."

Coming to terms with your spouse's "double life," it's important to realize that, almost always, homosexuality roots are born in childhood. Many Christians marry believing that homosexual inclinations can be eradicated by time and the love of a family. The shame that accompanies homosexual struggles keeps many from facing them, so they remain hidden and unconfessed. Often it is years before the struggles are exposed.

Homosexuality is a complex problem that's largely about identity and unmet childhood needs. It's a form of brokenness that often has deep roots. While it can take some time to overcome, many have found healing – and when marriages survive, they're stronger than ever. The goal is to not come out of homosexuality per se, but to grow closer to Christ and be changed into His image.

"I've learned that it's not my fault. That it's not my sin to carry. I've come to the realization that I cannot protect my parents. To love them is to be real, but not to own their stuff. There are days I still cry. There are moments that are still painful and hard. The last two and half years the Lord has said, 'Wait for me! I have control over this.' Jesus is the one loving my family when I can't do so." -- Lyndsey

At the same time, Stephanie, whose marriage weathered the storm, says, "Part of the healing process involved me being willing to deal with my own issues. Why would I be attracted to a man who wouldn't be attracted to me? If he was going to have to change, I was going to change along with him."Joe Dallas, author of When Homosexuality Hits Home, has great advice for the spouse who has been hit with the revelation that their partner struggles with sexual identity:

What is my role in my husband's [or wife's] recovery? 'Your role remains what it has always been: To be a life partner, lover and co-parent — all the roles wrapped up in the concept of 'spouse.' You are not, however, your spouse's counselor, pastor, parent, accountability partner, or official nag. In other words, let your spouse use the proper resources for recovery: a godly accountability group, a pastor, a counselor, and so forth. You be what you agreed to from the beginning — nothing more, nothing less. That's enough work for anyone.


Divorce… Separation… What's Okay?

In all of these decisions, it's vital to be in ceaseless prayer and to be receiving wisdom from a pastor or professional Christian counselor.

by Amy Tracy

Infidelity is pervasive in our culture, and it's no longer rare in Christian marriages. On a regular basis, news of pastoral affairs (even homosexual ones) comes to light — and the impact on the church is devastating. Surely infidelity is a contributing factor in the 50 percent of marriages that end in divorce. The Barna Research Group reported in a 2004 study that the likelihood of divorce among born again Christians was identical to that of the general population. The study also cited attitudinal data showing that most Americans reject the notion that divorce is a sin.

God is very clear, however, that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He also says, "So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate" (Matthew 19:6). According to the New Testament, there are two justifications for divorce: infidelity (Matthew 5:32) and desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Divorce also means losing the security of an intact family. It can destroy the network of family and friends. For the custodial parent (often the wife) it can mean a loss of financial stability; and for the non-custodial parent (typically the father) it means much less time with the children.

It's easy to see why God has set certain boundaries and prohibitions in Scripture. God will provide couples great help in sustaining this holy covenant.

Separation is also a drastic step. It may, however, be necessary in the healing process. A deep sense of betrayal and humiliation may make it difficult to live under the same roof with a spouse who has recently announced their battle with homosexuality, especially if infidelity is involved. In the book Someone I Love is Gay, Anita Worthen and Bob Davies outline reasons to temporarily separate:

  1. The gay spouse is spending major unaccounted time away from family.
  2. The gay spouse appears to have given up trying to solve the homosexual problem. Or he or she is unrepentant for his or her actions.
  3. The gay spouse (especially in the case of a husband) shows a constant disregard for his partner's physical and sexual health. Both men and women can bring incurable diseases into a marriage from another sexual partner.
  4. The gay spouse blames his or her partner for all the problems occurring in the marriage and refuses rational discussion.
  5. The gay spouse is engaging in other destructive behavior, such as heavy drinking or illicit drug use.
  6. The gay spouse continues to exhibit a pattern of habitual deception.

Joe Dallas, in his book When Homosexuality Hits Home, urges that separation not be used as punishment, but to determine the future and direction of your marriage. He says of separation, "Do so with a redemptive purpose in mind, not a knee-jerk reaction."

Dallas also suggests enlisting the help of a counselor or pastor to determine on what terms you're willing to stay in the marriage. He's not suggesting divorce, but for you to draw up boundaries and then determine what you'll do when they're not honored. He encourages including the following:

In all of these decisions, it's vital to be in ceaseless prayer and to be receiving wisdom from a pastor or professional Christian counselor.


Next Steps and Related Information

Additional resources addressing crisis in marriage

Popular questions on this topic: