About a third of the men who attend Journey Into Manhood are already married to women. That means that about a third of the time when men come to Brothers Road for support, there is a wife at home who — whether she likes it or not, whether she “signed up” for this challenge or not — may be in distress over her relationship with her husband and the future of their marriage.
- Will our marriage make it?
- Do I even want it to?
- Does he love me? Or even want me?
- Can I trust him?
- How can I possibly understand him or what he’s going through?
- Does he understand what this is doing to me? Does he even care?
This Is Your Journey Too
Ideally, a husband would have shared about his same-sex attraction with his wife before they married, and allowed her to make an eyes-wide-open decision about whether to join him on this journey. But too many times, he didn’t — either out of shame or denial or the false belief that marriage to a woman would somehow make his SSA go away.
Maybe you’ve known about his SSA for years, but never fully dealt with the reality of how it affects you. Or maybe you just recently found out – either because he willingly disclosed it to you – or, sometimes tragically, you “caught him” in some betrayal that brought his issues to the surface in a moment of crisis.
Either way, this is your journey too. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Telling yourself it’s his “problem” to deal with on his own isn’t enough. Like it or not, when one partner is going through something as big as this, you both are. And sooner or later, you will have to face your feelings, boundaries and choices.
You Are Not Alone
If it’s any comfort (and it is, for most women), know that you are not alone. Just in the Brothers Road community alone, hundreds of women are walking this road too.
Some are finding great success and relief, with this challenge ultimately (and surprisingly!) bringing the couple closer together than ever before. Other wives ride a years-long roller coaster of emotions, reacting to their husbands’ every success and fall. Still other women find that at some point they have to move on, with him or without him.
Even while we as an organization focus primarily on the men who are addressing unresolved SSA issues, Brothers on a Road Less traveled is here for the wives of these men as well. Their families are our families too.
So few people in the world can really understand what you’re going through. We can.
“For a long time, I didn’t think his SSA really affected me. But I now realize that it has really done a number on my self-esteem. I have to build up my self of self-worth and learn some basic self-nurturing skills.”
“I feel strongly that God is directing me to stay and fight for this marriage. I love my husband dearly and I want to stay married, but I also have to find and hold healthy boundaries for myself — and for us.”
“My husband and I are working on rebuilding our friendship for now. Since that’s how we were able to fall in love in the first place, my hope is that as we rebuild our friendship and as I learn how to understand him, that we can have a stronger, happier marriage.”
“I feel so alone. I can’t imagine telling any of my family or friends that I’m living with this secret. Who could possibly understand?”
“My husband just went through Journey Into Manhood and had a fantastic experience. But suddenly he has 20 new ‘best friends’ that he’s talking to and texting all day. It’s like he’s putting his needs and his friendships first, at the exclusion of our marriage. I want to grab him and cry, ‘What about me? I thought you were doing this for us, to rebuild our marriage. And now I feel more excluded than ever!’”
“I know I can get through this, one way or another. I am a strong woman. I was single for a long time before we got married. I know I can stand on my own if I have to. Still, my heart is breaking for him. He’s such a good man, and I love him dearly.”
What Every Wife Should Know
- It’s not your fault. And it’s not about you.
His SSA developed long before you two ever met. It’s not about you. His issues, whatever they are, most likely are primarily about men and how he sees himself as a man. And that gender insecurity, envy, longing, or whatever it is probably goes back to the early years of his life.
- You can’t “fix” him.
You can’t change him. Some women tell themselves that if they were only prettier or thinner or blonder or darker or more shapely or something else that he would be more attracted to you. Don’t believe those thoughts! You didn’t “cause” his SSA. And you can’t take it away, either.
- There really is hope.
Secular society may try to tell you and your husband that the only way he can be happy is to leave his wife and family and find a male romantic partner. The stories of so many couples in the Brothers Road community reveal a much different reality.
When husbands and wives both do their own personal-growth and inner-healing work – around this issue, yes, but any others as well – the couple oftentimes grows closer together than ever before.
- Get support for yourself, independent of your husband.
You need to talk out your own feelings, too. There may be too much tension or sensitive feelings between you and your husband for him to listen as objectively as you would like, and vice versa.
- Love him as unconditionally as you can.
You may be able to express your anger, hurt and fear, but be sure he knows that you still love him and will stand by him as long as it is healthy for you to do so.
- But set healthy boundaries for yourself and your marriage.
Unconditional love doesn’t mean unlimited acceptance of every behavior. Without criticism or condemnation, make it clear to your husband that you still expect faithful monogamy from him. Know your own personal limits of tolerance for his behavior, and don’t allow them to be violated again and again without taking action.
Be willing to walk away rather than have him drag you down with him, if he is going to go that way. He needs to know that he has to make choices, but so do you. He needs to know that his choices have consequences, as do yours. He needs to know that your self-respect will not allow you to be party to an “open” marriage.
You can convey this message lovingly but assertively. Let him know that you want him to stay in the marriage with you, but that you have limits to what you can tolerate. Your own self-respect demands it.
- Be willing to talk about it. Just not all the time.
Some wives think if they ignore the situation it will go away. It won’t.
Or at the other extreme, some wives can’t stop talking about it. They assume his SSA must be at the root of every problem in their marriage. It isn’t. Just because he experiences same-sex attractions doesn’t mean your marriage would be perfect in every other way if only he didn’t have this “problem.”
- Give him space to do his work.
If he chooses to address his SSA in ways that affirm his faith, values and marriage commitments over his homosexual attractions, he can’t do it through willpower or prayer alone. He’s going to need room to spend quality time with healthy male friends and mentors, support groups, masculinizing activities and “guy time.”
- Ask for what you need.
Don’t expect him to read your mind. Ask for what you need. Remind him (gently, perhaps) that your needs are real, too. Let him know, in an inviting way, that you want to spend time with him and to be there for each other.
- Respect his confidentiality.
You need to talk out your feelings, but your husband also needs to trust you and others. He’s sure to appreciate it and trust your confidence more if you check with him before discussing the issue with anyone else.
- Remember, it’s a journey.
Working through this, independently and together – this is your life now. And it may be your life for a long while. Be patient. Do your own inner-healing and personal-growth work. Get support. Try to find joy in the journey.
Where Do You Turn For Support?
Here are the programs and support currently offered by Brothers on a Road Less Traveled. See Support for Wives for more resources, including from Christian ministries, Twelve Step programs for co-dependent partners, and Twelve Step programs for the wives of sex addicts, among others.
A Woman Who Loves: Healing Loss, Empowering Wholeness — An experiential weekend intensive
Formerly called “A Wife’s Healing Journey,” this experiential-healing and personal-growth retreat is designed primarily for women who are working through hurt, betrayal, fear, anger, and grief related to issues with the men in their lives.
A Woman Who Loves is also intended for women who simply want to better understand themselves and the men they love. Or who want to strengthen themselves and their relationships. Or women who want to open their hearts to loving again.
This weekend is for women who are committed to their own personal growth — and who are ready to experience breakthrough emotional shifts and insights, regardless of some of the choices that their husbands or others in their lives may have made.
The program is staffed by women and men whose marriages have survived and even (ultimately) thrived as the husband addressed the root causes of his issues, the wife confronted her own anger, fear, betrayal, sadness or shame, and the couple, together, worked towards a more rewarding and intimate relationship as husband and wife.
A Woman’s Heart — A weekly coaching group (by phone or web)
This is is our ongoing, weekly coaching and support group for women who are affected by a loved one’s same-sex attractions, sex addictions, betrayal or other loss. We create a warm, supportive environment for women to share deeply, be vulnerable, and experience sisterly connection — even across time zones and international boundaries.
The group is professionally co-facilitated by Tanya Bennion, wife of a man who deals with same-sex attractions, and Rich Wyler, a married man with an SSA background who is the founder of Brothers on a Road Less Traveled and co-creator of our “A Woman Who Loves” experiential, personal-growth weekend. Both are highly experienced and skilled facilitators of deep personal work, especially in group settings. Together, Tanya and Rich provide a balance of experience and perspective from both the woman’s pain and healing and the man’s SSA or other struggles. The cost is US$75 for 4 sessions a month, renewable monthly.
Married to an SSA Man — “Secret” (confidential) Facebook group
This is a SECRET support and discussion group for women who are married to men who experience same-sex attraction, whether those men identify as gay or are pursuing a path of change or resolution of their SSA feelings.
Marriage, SSA, Real Life and Real Love — “Secret” (confidential) Facebook group
This is a SECRET support and discussion group for heterosexually married men or women or couples who deal with one partner’s same-sex attraction in their marriage. Wives or husbands are welcome to join separately or together. We strive to create a safe place for men and women to get support for the special challenges of marriage in general — and in particular marriages in which SSA is or has been an issue.
Can Sexual Attractions Sometimes Change? — Public Facebook group
This is a public Facebook group for people who sincerely want to better understand the research and personal stories related to sexual fluidity and the possibility of sexual orientation change. Perspectives from all sides of the issue are welcome. Only civil discourse is tolerated.