Restoring a Christian Marriage
Paul and Janis Wegner are involved with the ministry of Liberty Inc. which operates in Brisbane, Queensland.
Liberty Inc. aims to extend Christ’s unconditional love, support and acceptance to anyone struggling with sexual and relational woundedness. They offer a range of help which includes telephone counselling, and they also provide support and accountability groups.
Paul and Janis share their stories and the process they went through in restoring their marriage after Paul’s disclosure of his homosexuality.
For Paul and Janis, it was like starting out afresh in the relationship. For Janis, the person she had been married to for 16 years was not the person she thought he was. For Paul, the shame and cover-up was a barrier to true intimacy.
When Paul's homosexuality came out into the open, they both committed to talk about their feelings openly and honestly. They also permitted each other to speak with other people including professionals. Being completely open and honest was awkward at first, however, it became much easier and eventually drew Paul and Janis closer together.
First off, let me say, I never knew life could be as good as it is now. For many years I struggled with my secret homosexuality. My life was controlled by this. I can now say that this no longer controls my life. I might also mention, that my wife and I now relate intimately in all areas of our lives and from that share a very mutually fulfilling sex life. Where once Janis’ "little red nightie” didn’t do the trick, it certainly does now!
I’m over 50 years old, and have been married for over 27 years, with two grown up children.
When I was 45 years old, I was charged with homosexual behaviour in a public toilet. This attracted a non-recorded conviction, no fine but 18 months probation. I was suspended from my job because of it and later was asked to resign. At the time, my wife and I were in our sixteenth year of marriage and were members of an evangelical church and leaders of the Church Kid’s Club. I was devastated that I had been found out. I had never told anyone I was close to, that I had a homosexual orientation. The night I was arrested, I thought the only way out for me was by committing suicide, to spare my family’s humiliation. I had written a note and decided how I would do it. However, as you can see, I didn’t. Instead I went home and told my wife.
I had been acting out in this way since my early teens. I had experienced sexual abuse by males from the ages of 11 to 13; regularly from a close relative and from a shop attendant in the men’s clothing store. When I was nine years old, I became a Christian. I always wondered why I was not like others. I thought that the homosexual feelings I had were my "thorn in the flesh”. Each time I acted out I was extremely sorry and would try very hard not to do so again. On the occasions when I was on the verge of speaking to someone of my struggle, some snide remark or joke would be made about homosexuals and I’d keep my struggle to myself. At no time did I believe I was not a Christian, and made a Christian marriage to my wife Janis, believing my longing for male sex would go away. It did not and I continued my cycle of acting out and being sorry. I believe the earlier encounters of sexual abuse did not make me have homosexual tendencies, but did contribute to my acting out. My recovery started once it was out in the open.
The night I was arrested, we called the elders of our church and I was released from my leadership role in the church. We asked the elders to pray according to James 5:16,"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”.
Being out of work and emotionally unable to look for work, (my double life that I had worked so hard at covering up had been exposed and I was a mess), I sought out Christian counsellors. This is when I met up with the people from Liberty Inc. Out of this, I undertook the 20 week Living Waters programme,Pursuing Sexual Wholenessby Andrew Comiskey. I also sought professional counselling by a qualified Christian counsellor specialising in sexual brokenness. God began His healing in me during this time. Having this period out of work, allowed me the time to look at my life. At last I was able to understand why I had homosexual tendencies. I stopped acting out, even though at that time I still had the attraction and desire for same sex. Perhaps the best thing was that it was no longer a secret. It had lost some of its power over my life.
I came to understand that there were a number of factors involved in my development of a homosexual orientation. Among them was the feeling of abandonment when I was little. (I was in hospital with hernia, at a very early age and in those days parents were not allowed to stay). I thought I had been left there to die. Another was that I perceived (though this was not true), my Dad was annoyed with me being around because I was not a well child. My wanting to be affirmed sexually by a male was my attempt to meet the masculine identity vacuum from the perceived need in my relationship with my father. Healing continued with the undertaking of the Sy Roger’s 'Living and Loving at Risk' course facilitated through Liberty Inc. Knowing God more intimately took the place of wanting affirmation from men. Renewing my mind and changing thought patterns was a lot of hard work but played a major role in my journey of recovery and change in my sexual orientation.
In one counselling session, I confessed each and every sexual encounter that I had experienced which was outside of my marriage to Janis, and asked God to give back to me what others had taken and to give back to others what I had taken from them, thus severing any connection between those persons and myself. This brought about tremendous freedom. Where once I was drawn to recognise homosexuality in others, this was no longer the case.
I believe God has said to me, "I allowed these things to happen to you, so you can help others”. For this reason I completed at the age of 50, a degree in Social Science with a double major in counselling from Christian Heritage College and now work with Liberty Inc. responsible for counselling and recovery groups. Together with my wife, we want to bless others as we have been blessed.
Some Suggestions from Paul and Janis
Recognise that there is no formula for restoration.
There needs to be a recognition and admittance of brokenness.
Both persons need to be open and willing to work at restoration.
The depth and truth of the behaviour need to be faced willingly, openly and honestly.
There has to be a willingness by both parties to acknowledge openly the pain, the hurt and the disappointment of the betrayal.
Recognise that it is hard and there is a need for space and time to process