Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Married Homosexuals Can Stay That Way

Children do better if their parents stay married. Sometimes a married parent discovers or decides that he or she (more likely he) has a primarily homosexual orientation. Obviously, we are not talking here about people who have an exclusively homosexual orientation, or they wouldn't have gotten married and had kids in the first place. Rather, we are talking about the dilemma of those who feel torn between their love and duty toward their spouse and children, on the one hand, and their newly estimated sexual orientation.

A pastor recently told me of a discussion in his church about homosexuality. The talk was stopped dead by the stories told by two women whose ex-husbands discovered that they were gay. In this pastor's mind, that case settled the issue: gay men can't be married to women, so they should be free to divorce their wives and, if they want to, marry other men. And the same would go for married lesbians.

I think, though, that these sad cases do not settle the issue at all. There are many married men and women with a homosexual orientation, who nonetheless remain effective and contented spouses and parents. This situation is not ideal, but it is good enough. Michele Wolkomir's studies of effective ex-gay ministries found that the men in these groups (her study did not include lesbians) were not trying to change their orientation. Rather, they were getting all kinds of help in disciplining their actions because they loved their wives and children.

I am not saying that married parents who discern their own homosexual desires must stay married, and I am certainly not saying they should be forbidden to divorce. Rather, I have noted that there are success stories and supportive resources for men (and women, though I know this less well) who wish to stay married.

There is a peculiar tendency on the liberal side of the aisle to regard sexual identity as a mere social construction, a "gender," – whereas sexual orientation is imperious biological identity that we must always bow to. This is odd, if not upside down. At the least, I think it would be safer to think of both sex/gender and sexual orientation/preference as composed by both nature and nurture. Personally I think of both of them as 50/50 propositions.

When married parents discern a homosexual orientation in themselves, they are not obliged to drop everything and respond. Married parents have other identities, orientation, preferences, and duties that call at least as forcefully.


Anonymous said...

I agree with this idea completely. I found out my husband was bisexual 3 years into our marriage. At first I was horrified. Why did this man decieve me like this? I don't deserve this! Then, after the initial shock wore off, we sat down and talked. We had a child and one on the way and both felt they needed mom AND dad there to help them grow up properly. I never really even liked sex with my husband so it wasn't initially that-it was the betrayal. Then, we agreed that my husband could have extramarital affairs on the side as long as he was honest and forthright with me about it and above all safe. Well, this went on for about 6 months and I started to feel left out and, well, curious. So my husband invited me to watch him and his boyfriend from the closet as they engaged in sexual activities. Well, I cannot say how surprised I was that this actually turned me on! I had no idea that I had it in me. As things evolved, my watching became my participating with the two of them and from there on my, our sex life has been nothing short of wonderful. I know it is not every woman's cup of tea, but for me being a woman ivolved with males having sex with eachother and then myself was fabulous. To this day, my husband and I love eachother and raise our children in a secure and safe environment, while engaging in our "fun" with other men as much as we can. It has brought us closer in fact and I wouldn't have thought I could be so happy.

José Solano said...

"I agree with this idea completely." (Anonymous)

Well, Gruntled, can you now see the huge can of worms that compromising with sin opens up?

LMR said...

And what about the spouse of a homosexual who wants to stay married? Should that person feel obligated to stay in such a marriage? Basically in your scenario, the homosexual person is saying, ok, I will suppress this part of myself because I feel other things about my life are more important than my sexuality, which is a fair decision on their part. But then is the spouse, who has already been betrayed or misled, forced to make the same decision or be the bad person who breaks up a family?

Gruntled said...

Hmm. I am skeptical about the sincerity of the first anonymous comment, but in the interests of free speech, I will leave it there.

To LMR, I say it always takes two to make a marriage. Many a betrayed spouse has found the reason and grace to forgive a repentant partner, though some don't. I don't see why this kind of betrayal is any different in that respect.

Mark said...

Gruntled - no argument with your post.

lmr - I agree with you as well. I don't think Gruntled precluded the end of marriage due to lack of sexual attraction.

In the case that you describe, there are two possibilities:
1. The gay/bi partner was lying to the straight spouse when they got married.
2. The gay/bi partner realized their sexuality sometime after the wedding.

In case #1 the betrayal is evident and cause for divorce in my mind (if the spouse wants divorce). Case #2 is a bit different as it's not really a betrayal but rather a realization by the gay/bi spouse. However, I can easily see divorce happening there.

Either way, that straight spouse is not solely responsible for making that decision. Sometimes stuff happens. When stuff happens, sometimes the marriage won't survive.

Alan said...

I completely agree with Gruntled's idea that gay people, who for one reason or another end up married to a member of the opposite sex, should stay married if possible. But, obviously both partners need to agree. Is it ideal? No, but no marriage is completely "ideal." But people should, whenever possible, keep their promises to each other. The underlying assumption of Gruntled's position is a recognition that marriage is not fundamentally about sex, which is what I've been saying all along in this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I can speak from experience about this. I found out after my father died that he had been gay. Nearly fifty years of marriage!

Let me tell you, it was a painful fifty years. I now understand so much that was just incomprehensible before. There's way too much to say, so I'll limit it to this: I have seen the powerful, redemptive love of God in my family's life. This subject simply isn't neat. My father, from what I can tell, was faithful to my mother, sexually. But he must have been confused and scared and frequently in denial. It was painful for him and painful for her and painful for the children.

Still, I wouldn't have wanted divorce. What I have received is another example of God's faithful love in the complicated, fallen world of human relationships.

José Solano said...

If a married man or woman discovers his/her concupiscence is for the same sex or for a sibling, or for more than one person, whatever, and then acts on that desire he/she is an adulterer. The innocent spouse has a Christian right but not an obligation to divorce that person. There is some legitimate question as to whether or not the injured spouse may remarry. My interpretation is that he or she may remarry but not the adulterer. If the adulterer remarries he makes the person he has married an adulterer also.

Mere difficulties in a marriage are never grounds for divorce, separation perhaps but not divorce. A person joined with an adulterer lives in sin perpetually.

Adultery, like homosexual practice is an enormously serious sin. Remember that in the Old Covenant both were capital offences. The pacifist Jesus just says "go and sin no more." The consequences come later.

This is not a question of "discerning" one's concupiscence and then imagining some justification for divorce. We must all wrestle with our urges and not act them out.

I therefore fully agree with you Gruntled that "When married parents discern a homosexual orientation in themselves, they are not obliged to drop everything and respond. Married parents have other identities, orientation, preferences, and duties that call at least as forcefully."

I would just broaden the statement to say "married persons," parents or not. Rather than say "they are not obliged" I would say "must not."

Among too many wanna-be Christians there is too much emphasis on what they want rather than on what God demands.


Angela said...

Whatever happened to marriage symbolizing a loving union between two people? I agree with some of the statements, but as a woman who has chosen not to have children I view this as another example of marriage used as a sacred institution for child-rearing. Myself and others are involved in loving, familial relationships with our spouses and our extended families. It is a bit absurd to me to imagine remaining married to somebody I was not in complete love with for the sake of children.

How will the children form an opinion of what a loving couple is? At least if the couple is separate there is a renewed chance for love, or at the very least the absence of what essentially amounts to an ethical business relationship.

Gruntled said...

I know this is a contentious issue, but I do believe that it is better to stay together for the children, even if the parents are not perfectly in love right now. Fortunately, most of them will be more in love later if they stick it out. But, yes, I think the primary (not exclusive, but primary) social (social, not personal) purpose of marriage is childrearing.

Anonymous said...

First of all, any decision that the betrayed spouse makes should be between him/her and God. Unless you have walked that path, you have no right to judge. I am newly betrayed by my spouse of 10 years. He confessed to being homosexual 4 1/2 months ago, and has been unfaithful for 9 out of 10 years of marriage. We have two very young children, and I prefer to have them out of an environment where love is not going to thrive. There would be so much suspicion, doubt, guilt, fear and shame from both parties. It would not be at all fair to subject children to that experience. Instead, I have full custody of my children, and we spend a good deal of time with their father. My children have adapted beautifully, but I know there will be many hard times ahead. I confess, I do sometimes get really, really, incredibly PISSED at my husband for not trying to stick it out. If he enjoyed a woman enough to have sex with her and produce two children, he should be able to remain married. But then I think again about what that life would be like, and it wouldn't be happy.

Anonymous said...

Trough out my marriage with my husband we have explored our sexuality by try new and exciting things sexually. During our exploration my husband discovered that he enjoyed bi-sexual tendencies. Although he says he has no sexual attraction to men it still makes me think that deep inside he might be bi-sexual and possibly uncomfortable expressing this desire. Lately i have been thinking about this possibility a lot. I'm not sure how to feel about this. Reading some of the other postings have helped me a lot. I hope that this wont come between myself and my husband in any way but its hard to say what may happen. If he is feeling desires to be with a man i want to know about it and i hope that i am able to deal with this in a similar way as the first anonymous person did. It gives me hope that there are ways to make it work as long as both persons are willing to try. Thanks..............