By Rich Wyler, Founder & Director of Brothers Road —
What do men who are married to women but who also experience varying degrees of same-sex attractions wish their wives understood about them and their SSA?
As head of a non-profit, international community of men who experience unwanted same-sex attractions (www.brothersroad.org), I recently posed that question to married men in two of our community’s private Facebook groups. Dozens of men responded.
(I also posted the complement to this question to one of our private Facebook groups for the wives of these men. I asked them to complete the sentence, “What I wish my husband understood about how his SSA affects me is…” (See the wives’ responses here.)
How Men Responded: Key Highlights
An unedited download of the men’s raw responses is in the next section below, but here are a few key highlights of some of the main themes that emerged:
- It’s not her fault that they experience same-sex attraction. It’s not any result of a shortcoming of hers. Their SSA existed before her and continues apart from their relationship with her.
- Yes, they do love their wives and no, they don’t wish they were partnered with a man instead.
- They often see their SSA as largely the result of some unmet needs or unhealed emotional wounds, especially around childhood issues or insufficient bonding and inclusion with other males.
- They welcome and even long for support and understanding from their wives as they seek to address these unresolved issues in healthy, healing ways.
- They don’t want to cause her pain, but they can’t just suppress and ignore the SSA feelings either. They need to do healing work — including sometimes taking significant time for platonic male-bonding activities — in order to be at their best.
- When they feel good about themselves as men, grounded in their masculinity, having a healthy bond with communities of men who support them — that’s when they are their best selves as husbands, fathers and just as men. That’s when they are most attracted to their wives and most emotionally available and engaged as husbands.
What Men Say: Their Complete Responses
Below are the husbands’ raw responses, in their own words, when asked to complete the sentence, “What I wish my wife understood about my same-sex attraction is…
I wish my wife understood … that my SSA isn’t about her
- … that my SSA does not, in any way, mean that I am not attracted to her or that I find our physical relationship lacking
- … that my SSA has nothing to do with her; I had this long before I met her. I didn’t choose it. I will likely have this my whole life. It doesn’t mean I love her less.
- … that my SSA is not a factor of her attractiveness. It’s a psychological reaction to my perception of my masculinity and how I’m responding to stresses.
- … that although I realize my SSA affects my wife and her life, I wish she knew that she really has nothing to do with the cause, continuation or mitigation of my ssa.
- … that I can have SSA and still love my wife tremendously
- … that I love her body and the intimacy with her despite my SSA.
- … that I love her deeply despite my SSA.
- … that I want to make love to HER.
- … that it does not mean there is something wrong with her or her body
- … that it has nothing to do with my love for her.
- … that my SSA is not a matter of choice but a deeply rooted part of my feelings. Nevertheless, I love her with all my heart.
- … that my SSA is not about her. No matter what she does it will NOT change that.
- … that my SSA is not because of her (or the “stories” she tells herself… if only she would have done better)
- … that she did not, in any way, cause my SSA. My SSA came from repeated childhood trauma.
- … that she is completely loved and valued, despite my issues.
- … that she is not “less than.”
- … that she understood nothing is wrong with her and she is enough for me.
- … that you are my friend, second only to God. He is the one changing me from the inside so sometimes my actions won’t always meet your expectations.
- … what a struggle it is to be a man with SSA. She needs to understand that it has absolutely nothing to do with her. Through childhood circumstances, my wires were crossed and the attraction to men developed.
- … that (my ex-wife) knew how much I cared for her and how hard I tried to make her happy.
- … that it is not your problem to fix.
I wish my wife understood … that I don’t want this either, and I don’t want to act on it
- … that that I am not gay and I will never leave her for a man.
- … that this not a desire I wish for or would ever act on.
- … that when I look at a man, I feel guilty for having that attraction, even though I can’t stop it.
- … that I don’t want to sleep with every gay guy out there and actually a stereotypical gay guy is a turn off. I actually don’t want to sleep with any guy. It’s connection that I long for.
- … that I absolutely DO NOT want this burden. That if I could get rid of my SSA, I would. I wasn’t choosing SSA over her. I didn’t choose this, it was handed to me.
- … how humiliated I feel when I’m struggling with SSA or when she perceives I have SSA towards a guy
- … that I do not want to be like that.
- … that I don’t like it any more than she does.
- … that I feel embarrassed when she sees me checking out another guy. I know it hurts her and I wish I could stop the desire and urges that come along with SSA.
- … that I wouldn’t wish my same-sex attraction on anyone, but I also wouldn’t trade our marriage for anything.
- … that my attraction to some guys doesn’t mean I need to act on it (particularly knowing that the SSA I’ve experienced is just a result of childhood bullying by other males, a controlling and suffocating mother, and a cold and distant father).
I wish my wife understood … what I am going through
- … that I have deep unfulfilled needs.
- … that I have to differentiate SSA from sex addiction. I can’t change my SSA, but I can work on overcoming sex addictive behavior.
- … that it doesn’t automatically mean I’m cheating on her or that I’m struggling with an addiction.
- … that my need to be around male friends is an important part of my healing and not a threat to our marriage.
- … that I am afraid that whenever you catch me looking at another man, you will think I’m lusting after him. But in reality, I’m admiring him, or thinking about some quality he has, or longing for another male friend, a connection that is healthy and necessary.
- … that my SSA is about wounds from emotional traumas related to the male gender, not really about sex.
… what helps and what doesn’t
I wish my wife understood … what helps and what doesn’t
- … that even though she didn’t cause my SSA, her responses to it have certainly exacerbated it and made it worse.
- … how powerful I feel when I’m able to give her love, protection, and pleasure.
- … how much her rejection hurts and deepens my wounds
- … that her nonchalant attitude about fulfilling my needs actually perpetuates the cause of the enemy of our souls to destroy our blessed union and encourages infidelity on my part.
I wish my wife understood … what I want from her now
- … that she appreciated that this part of me is part of what made me the man she fell in love with.
- … that when I meet my core same-sex needs, I can approach her as the man she wants me to be.
- … that I don’t need to be fixed.
- … that although I am not sexually attracted to her, I still want to be sexual with her.
- … that I am a work in progress. Love the man that I am each day!
- … that I need acceptance from others and myself in order to thrive.
- … that I need her to be as understanding as possible and not to think this means that I love someone else or want anyone else in our relationship.
- … that I need you to be patient with me.
- … that I really need a safe place. I don’t need someone to fix me or correct me or tell me what to do. I need a safe place to feel emotions I don’t understand and figure it out for myself.
- … that I want her to help me fight against it.
- … that I want her to help me see that I’m not “too far gone” for help.
- … that I want you to have faith in God first and then me.
- … that I want you to help me and support me and encourage me to be true to my manhood and what God wants me to be(come).
- … that I wish I could have shared my struggles with her. I hid them from my first wife until the end, and by then she was not interested (and I could not risk being open for fear of how she might use the information against me). I opened up to my second wife before our marriage, but then she just told herself that I was “cured,” and she had no interest in discussing my ongoing struggles.
- … that it’s a problem that I need help figuring out, and the shame is already unbearable. I don’t want her to feel it with me.
- … that my SSA came out of a deep need for intimacy and that the lack of intimacy in our marriage doesn’t help my journey out from SSA.
- … that she could see me for me, the true me, not what I’ve done.
- … that she didn’t try to fix me. I wish she would listen and accept that I have feelings and they aren’t always “joy” and that’s okay.
- … that she makes the struggle worse when she refuses to be wholeheartedly involved with me sexually.
- … that support from my wife is a priceless gift.
- … that the idea of a couple potentially having such a close and open relationship that you can talk together and even joke about SSA—like I’ve heard some married Journey Into Manhood brothers say they have with their wives—that kind of open, close relationship makes me jealous.
- … that you can’t believe everything you read when you Google “Brothers Road.”
- … that when some gay or other LGBT news or event is talked about on TV news, and I see or hear you react with disgust, strong disapproval, or even anger, it makes it harder for me to trust you and confide in you. I don’t want you to approve of the gay or LGBT messages. But I see their woundedness and brokenness, because I have it too. And I try to see them with eyes of compassion. When you are disgusted by them, I feel like you are also disgusted by me. And that is one of my biggest fears—that I may disgust you.
- … that when you don’t reach out to me frequently emotionally, or with touch, or sometimes even invite me to be sexual with you, it discourages me, and makes it harder for me to reach out to you, emotionally or sexually. And when that happens, I feel less connected to you, and it becomes much easier to notice the SSA attractions.
- … that women in my childhood world were not safe, but extraordinarily dangerous for me then. And I love you very much. I need to be reminded often that you accept me, that you are glad I’m your husband, that you are proud of something I do for you. (A hug and a smile can go a long way to delivering that message to me). That helps me to remember that you are my wife, not my mother, that you are the one I trust and confide in, not the one I had to fear and avoid.