- How long have you been married? What was your marriage like before your husband disclosed this information to you? Specifically what was your sex life like? I assume you have children? What if anything is still good about your marriage?
- Are you involved in the counseling that he is undergoing? What type of counseling is it and with what type of therapist?
- How do you define addiction to pornography? Is this something he indulges in every day, every week, once a month? Does it affect his ability to work or time spent with family?
- Has he been unfaithful in the marriage by acting out sexually with other men?
- Has he or you confided in your bishop? In other words, are you leading a “double life” at church where no one is aware of your circumstances? If you have gone to your bishop, was this a positive and helpful experience or not?
- What are your joint beliefs about homosexuality? What information have you both sought out?
Communication about the issue seems to be your number one problem. It seems like after the initial disclosure there has been no further discussion or even steps taken towards any type of resolution. Maybe through patterns you saw in your families of origin, you are conflict-avoiders. Which means you would rather avoid conflict at all cost – including the cost of your marital relationship and personal mental health. It is “easier” to suffer in silence and avoid each other than face each other directly. Maybe you are afraid of what the resolution would look like? What are you afraid of? Is this a marriage that you both want to salvage? Are you terrified of divorce, fantasize about it or both? Have you discussed this openly? If so, what are the parameters and boundaries that you are both comfortable with? In order to start rebuilding the trust in this relationship you both need to find the courage to address these questions openly, honestly and respectfully.
I know what I’m about to say next is probably very difficult to swallow. But you need to know that your husband’s sexual orientation and his problems with pornography are NOT about you. This is NOT about you! It FEELS personal because it affects your direct relationship with him, your shared trust & intimacy, and because he has possibly broken vows he made to you. However, if you can somehow embrace this position of not taking it personal long enough to take a step back, it can help you find enough compassion for what he is dealing with to begin the process of communication I am speaking of above. I know it is extremely difficult to find compassion when you are justifiably hurt and angry. But it will truly be the key to finding the ability to move past the rut you find yourself currently in. You are in no better position, unfortunately, to begin to understand the concepts of mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
You mention affection and it seems like there are times that your husband reaches out for you in an affectionate way which you reject because of your own pain and confusion. Affection at this stage of your relationship is probably nonsexual. Which is fine. Connecting emotionally, even through physical touch, should be the priority. Your husband’s affection attempts are an important measure of your his desire to reach out to you. It is hard at times to seperate physical touch from sexual touch. But I encourage you to try to meet his affection with an open heart. What is it he is trying to communicate at these times?
My suggestions are mostly applicable if your goal is to stay married to your husband. But even if you are not wanting to salvage your marriage, the lines of communication have to be opened for the two of you to be able to resolve the complicated situation you find yourselves in- especially if you are parents. You need to have an open discussion of what your lives would look like if you stayed together and what your lives would look like if you separate. You also need to be honest with each other and with yourself about what the “deal breakers” are – what in your mind would mean the relationship was over.
I would also encourage you to find ways to care for yourself. You may find yourself depressed, in “a fog,” etc. Do you have hobbies you enjoy? Even taking a bubble bath, going to a movie by yourself, anything that feels like “me” time. I would hope your husband would be supportive in helping you do this. Regardless, do it anyway.
My heart goes out to you both. This is an extremely difficult challenge you’re being required to bear. Please seek professional help from a qualified therapist. Don’t do this alone. There are no easy answers and you will find that in many ways your perceptions of the world and even the gospel have or will completely change. This will most definitely stretch you. However, there is hope for growth, renewed trust, friendship and peace. And this is true whether or not your course will stay on the married path or not. Take the leap of faith, and start talking.
Are you by chance in a similar situation? If so, would you be comfortable sharing anonymously your advice or parts of your story that may be useful to others. Did you stay married or eventually divorce?
Even if this is not a personal struggle, do you know of others who are dealing with homosexuality within a heterosexual marriage? What insights can you share?
If you’ve never heard of anyone in this situation before, would you be surprised to find out that one of the active families in your ward are dealing with such issue? Because, in my experience, this has been the case (if not more).
What are your thoughts about couples trying to stay married in this situation? Under what conditions?
Is celibacy a deal breaker for marriage?
This is a sensitive topic, so I encourage all who would comment to do so carefully, respectfully and with the understanding that what is right in one situation is many times not right in another. I expect and welcome opposing positions. I expect us all to be able to handle being disagreed with in a mature way. Thank you.
Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist. She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.