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What ex-gay men can teach us about marriage

"What ex-gay men can teach us about marriage" Continued...

One husband explained the dynamic at length:

“I need to dig down … more to be able to, as a man, to meet her needs as a woman, in a way that is very different than meeting the needs of a guy. … One man knows typically what another man desires or needs in many different ways. And women tend to know the same for other women. It’s that harder thing of … more of that mystery coming together and the unknown. … Yeah. I couldn’t say that enough … having to dig down deeper. … It’s impossible for two men to be challenged to the depth that opposite-sex relationships are going to challenge us. … I can actually become more than I ever thought I would be … to be more than I’ve ever been before, in relationship to her, to meet her needs, to be for her what she needs. …”

This is how it works: An intergendered relationship requires engagement with the otherness of woman, the demands and rewards of which engagement develop him into a more mature man, and so, paradoxically, more himself. This operation emotionally bonds him to the woman who brought it out. This may be why none of the husbands I interviewed would trade what they have now for what they had, in spite of being subject, now and again, to the temptation to check out a hot guy. Her comfort and confrontation called him to grow as a man.

These responses left no question that these happy husbands have found an intense intimacy through intergendered union, and that the womanhood of their partners has played a critical part in the depth of that intimacy—they would say an indispensable part. They speak of what she does, as well as who she is, as determinative in nurturing a securing, supportive unity, a trusting, sharing companionship, and an identity-forming interdependence. As one phrased it, “That’s not to say there … isn’t an ability to be compatible [with a man. But] I think in the deepest way … what I’ve experienced with her … I could never have had that, and didn’t have that [with a man].” This may all be seen as a way of saying what the Bible preaches, that gender is a gift given to build intimacy in relationships. It is probably no accident that the quintessential New Testament teaching on marital intimacy, Ephesians 5:22-33, is all about making gender distinctions in the relationship.

Seeing the heroes in our midst

From this brief sampling of their comparisons, it should be clear that those who self-consciously set up an intergendered house after years of monogendered ones have much to teach us. Married or not, faithful men (and women) with SSA should command our attention and respect. The church needs, not only to learn from, but also to laud these valiant souls as modern day heroes of the Christian faith. I say, “heroes” because they bear a burden in their discipleship that most of us will never know. They are being faithful where we are at ease. When the Lord hands out rewards in the end, these last shall be first. (Are they treated that way in your church?) Let us put them in places of honor, sit at their feet, and learn the meaning of gender in marriage.

____________

ENDNOTES

[i] In contrast to statistical research, this kind of research interviews a smaller number of people in great depth, hopefully granting a deep understanding of a particular experience.

[ii] The term is coined in Mark A. Yarhouse and others, “Characteristics of Mixed Orientation Couples: An Empirical Study,” Edification: The Transdisciplinary Journal of Christian Psychology 4, no. 2 (2011): 41, 42.

[iii] Ibid., 41.

[iv] Amity Pierce Buxton, “Writing Our Own Script: How Bisexual Men and Their Heterosexual Wives Maintain Their Marriages after Disclosure,” Journal of Bisexuality 1, no. 2-3 (2001): 155.

[v] Mark A. Yarhouse, Christine H. Gow, and Edward B. Davis, “Intact Marriages in Which One Partner Experiences Same-Sex Attraction: A 5-Year Follow-up Study,” Family Journal 17, no. 4 (2009), 330, found a lowering in the mean reported level of SSA from prior to the marriage to later times as the marriage continued.

[vi] In their extensive literature review, former Wheaton College professor of psychology Stanton L. Jones, along with Mark A. Yarhouse, the clinical psychologist who formed the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity at Regent University, find that “nearly every study ever conducted on change of [sexual] orientation [by SSA people] found some evidence of change,” especially if the attempts were religiously motivated: Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, Ex-Gays?: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007), 78, 94. Several dozen studies on change in orientation were published in the 1950s-1970s, but serious research disappeared when DSM removed homosexuality as a disorder from its pages in 1973. In the last ten years, there has been a resurgence of such studies, with more rigorous standards and similar results.

[vii] Sabino Kornrich, of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences at Juan March Institute of Madrid, and Julie Brines and Katrina Leupp of the University of Washington, show that American couples with more gender distinct housework arrangements have more (and more vigorous) sex, in Sabino Kornrich, Julie Brines, and Katrina Leupp, “Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” American Sociological Review 78, no. 1 (2013): 30, 42-43. To explain their results, they quote Pepper Schwartz to the effect that “introducing more distance or difference, rather than connection and similarity, helps to resurrect passion in long-term, stable relationships,” 30.

Sam A. Andreades
Sam A. Andreades

Sam has pastored a church in New York’s Greenwich Village and has completed his Doctor of Ministry work at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He is also the founder of G.A.M.E. (Gender Affirming Ministry Endeavor), which serves those with same-sex attraction who want to follow Christ.

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