Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gay vs. Ex-Gay Christians 2: What Wives Do

The most interesting feature to me of Michelle Wolkomir's Be Not Deceived is the role of the ex-gay men's wives. The gay men, many of whom had been married, left their wives and girlfriends when they decided to accept being gay as a defining identity. For most of the ex-gay men, on the other hand, what motivated them to continue to struggle against their homosexual desires was that they loved their wives and wanted to stay married to them.

Wolkomir's initial study worked just with the men in gay and ex-gay support ministries. When she realized how important the wives were to the ex-gay men, she wanted to interview the women, too. To her surprise, though, the leader of the ex-gay group was very reluctant to connect Wolkomir with the wives of the men in that group, and the women themselves, when the leader asked them, did not want to be interviewed. I think I understand this. For all of these women, the fact that their husbands sexually desired other men – and often did not have much sexual desire for their wives – was a shocking discovery and a painful ongoing fact of their lives. Talking to another woman who probably knew their husband's sexual experiences and desires even better than the wives knew it themselves would be, I think, more than most people would want to bear.

Fortunately for us, Wolkomir was resourceful and persistent. Eventually, through an internet query to a national network of ex-gay men's wives, she was able to interview 15 of them.

Here is the crucial thing these wives said: they stayed committed to their husbands because they were first committed to God. They did love their husbands, and did work with them in dealing with the men's struggles and inevitable setbacks. But their marriage was not simply for their own satisfaction, or even for their kids' sake. The ex-gay men and their wives regarded their marriage as part of their commitment to God.

Setting their struggle within their larger, deeper, and prior commitment to God made the struggle seem winnable, and really did strengthen them to succeed.


Anonymous said...

Having been a wife of a gay man (now divorced) and having had three kids, I wanted with all my heart to stay together both for my husband and my children. My ex-husband wanted none of it and left. It is so sad to give up the friendship and family solidarity that comes with a marriage. But twelve years later, I am just movin' on in life to the best of my ability.

Gruntled said...

Thank you, Shannon. The crucial difference for the ex-gay men Wolkomir got to know was that they wanted to stay married, as well as Christian.