Rewriting the Fantasy of an Ideal Marriage
She knew before she married him that he struggled with homosexuality. She thought she could help him through it. He thought marriage was his ticket to a quick cure.
Nancy: Tye and I met through church. It all started when I broke my foot at a retreat for young adults in Central Manitoba. Tye knew the area so he was part of the entourage that escorted me to the hospital to get casted. He was different from the other guys. Tye was interested in me as a person, not for my body, and I felt respected. I began to love this guy who was so conversational, interested, impulsive and excitable.
Tye: The first time I noticed Nancy was when she walked into a meeting of church college and career people at my apartment, late, in a large fur coat that she had purchased at a second hand shop. I thought, "Here is someone I would like to get to know.Ē I had a long distance relationship with a girl in Alberta that was falling apart. I was frustrated with my roommate. Nancy became a confidante and a listening heart for my relational grief.
Nancy: As we spent more time together and I began to fall in love, it became apparent that Tye was simply not picking up on these vibes. He talked about going off to India on another mission assignment, and I was very aware that I was not part of these plans. Finally, I determined that I would have to be blunt if he was going to get the message. By this time we had become very close. "I would like to go to India with you, but I will not go as a single person.Ē All of a sudden the lights went on for him.
Tye: This revelation that Nancy wanted to marry me was a total shock. I slowed up on my plans for India. I was thrilled at the prospect of marriage, something that I had always wanted. However, one nagging hurdle had to be overcome. I had determined that anyone I married would know of my struggle with homosexuality. I had to find a way to tell Nancy before our relationship progressed too far. It was a few weeks before I could summon the courage to tell her.
Nancy: I wondered why Tye was taking so long to follow up on our conversation about marriage. When he finally told me of his struggle, I was surprised but not shocked. The information did not change how I felt about him. I was honoured that he would confide this in me. I was filled with hope for our relationship. According to my personal values and faith, I believed that living out homosexual feelings was not Godís intent. Consequently, I correctly concluded there must be a way out, although I was very naive as to how this could take place and how it would impact our relationship. I incorrectly assumed that marriage would give him the sexual outlet that he needed to go straight, and that I could be the one to help him through this.
Tye: I did not know how much information Nancy needed about homosexuality. What she didnít know was that I was still having occasional sexual encounters. Each time, I told myself it would be the last. I thought marriage would be the quick cure for my sexual struggles. Just before our wedding on December 28,1981, my fears momentarily flooded over me. "I hope I can do thisĒ, I thought , not at all confidently. Then I put it out of my mind and went ahead.
Nancy: As I walked down the aisle my knees were shaking. I thought I was going to faint. "I hope Iím making the right decision to marry Tye. Itís too late to turn back nowĒ. My stomach was in knots. "If people only knew what I was doing, they would think I was nuts.Ē But I was in love.
Tye: Three months after we were married I had a sexual fall and I knew I had to tell Nancy. When I told her, she was devastated. "This is too much for me to handle, I canít talk about thisĒ was her response. I was hurt. Here was the woman I was supposed to share everything with and she was not there when I needed support. Things changed between us and we became silent on the subject of homosexuality.
Nancy: I felt like my insides were being ripped to shreds and that I could lose my mind. I could hardly keep my mind on my work. All my life I had been taught that if I was living a victorious Christian life, I shouldnít have problems. Because he had been unfaithful, I thought there was something wrong with me. I wasnít a good enough wife to keep him sexually faithful. I needed Tye to be overcoming this problem. I needed Tye to be loyal to me for me to feel whole as a person. The pain was so overwhelming for me that I went into denial, telling myself that if
I just tried harder, prayed more, and trusted God more, everything would be okay. For the next five years, which included a three year mission term overseas, I convinced things were getting better, and looked for signs in Tye that showed me he was healing. On the outside we looked like the perfect couple. On the inside, things were eating away at me. I was tense and at times thought I was going crazy. I would get angry at the drop of a hat and deep down, although I was not aware of it, I did not trust Tye.
Tye: I had nowhere to run with my struggle. Now I was really alone. Not even Nancy wanted to hear me. On the mission field I continued to have occasional encounters. Each time I vowed that it would never happen again. Nancy had reason not to trust me, but I didnít know where to go for help. I felt trapped. When we returned to Canada we made preparations to go overseas for a more permanent assignment. That took us to the Bible College campus for further training where counselling was available. By this time, Nancy was very emotionally distraught and insisted we go for counselling. It was in the context of counselling, in the fall of 1986, that the truth of the previous five years began to unfold.
Nancy: I began facing the truth of his sexual activities over the past five years of our marriage. I also began separating my identity from his struggle. I realized that no matter how good a wife I was, I could not keep Tye from going out and having a sexual encounter. This was difficult for me because a large part of my identity and self worth had come from the idea that I could love Tye enough to help him. Over the course of three to four years after that, I grew enough personally to face the possibility of continued unfaithfulness, the repercussions of it, and know I could live through it: the rejection, the shame, the stigma of sexual sin, the failure of a broken marriage.
Tye: I learned that the roots of my uncontrollable sexual behaviour was in sexual abuse and peer reinforcement, resulting in poor personal boundaries and poor self-esteem. I had never known how to fill my relational emptiness with men other than though sex. I had to learn how to get past barriers of intimacy with men and learn how to get my same sex emotional needs met in healthy ways. I had to learn how to build friendships with heterosexual men, something that was very frightening to me. My sexual falls became less frequent, more under control. As time went on, I came to believe that six months of sexual sobriety was quite an accomplishment, the best I could hope for. Through counselling, Nancy and I became more honest about my sexual falls. One day after sharing with Nancy that I had had yet another fall, her response was different. She didnít cry as usual. I told her it seemed as though she didnít care. She said "If I didnít care, it wouldnít hurt so much. I just donít know how much more of this I can take.Ē I was stunned. Suddenly, I realized that I could lose my wife and my children. My denial broke. I realized that it was really up to me. I had to do my part. Six months wasnít good enough. This was the beginning of a long period of sexual sobriety.
Nancy: It was June 1990. We sat on the lawn of the university campus in beautiful San Antonio, Texas. Close by in the stroller slept our five-week-old baby. We were at our first Exodus Conference, overwhelmed and excited. I felt that God was calling us to launch a ministry to homosexual strugglers in Winnipeg and Manitoba. This conference, I dreamed, would give us the final jump-start that we needed. We were touched by the level of honesty and transparency with which so many here shared their personal lives and struggles. There was an atmosphere of gratitude and awe for the grace of God hovering over so much sexual brokenness.
Tye: Two weeks before the conference I had a sexual fall. Immediately I had felt intense remorse and knew I had to tell my accountability group of two men from the church. Nancy also needed to know but I waited until we were at the conference. On the second day, with much fear of her rejection, I sat down with her and told her what had happened. At that moment, I knew I could lose her, but I also knew I had to face the truth of her response whatever it was. Facing her was part of the relational consequence of my actions. Here was a place where Nancy could find the support she would need to handle this information. Not telling her would mean I would never know if she would choose to be with me if she knew everything about me.
Nancy: When he told me I went numb. My mind was reeling. Was this really happening to me?Where was God? Had I been wrong in thinking He had been leading us into this ministry? Had I been wrong in thinking God had wanted me to stay in the marriage and work things out? In the following days I reached the lowest point that I had ever been in my marriage. However, I had grown to the point in my personal life where I was no longer so emotionally desperate that I needed our marriage to work to feel good about myself and as a Christian. I had grown in my self identity so that it was no longer absorbed in Tye and in my marriage to him. I told God, "I donít know what you want from me anymore. I am confused, I feel like a fool for having stayed, for having dreamed about ministry, I feel like it was all my agenda. If You want me to leave him I will. I donít know how Iíll make it with three small children, but if thatís what you want me to do then I know Youíll be enough for me. If You want me to stay then Youíll have to see me through, because I have nothing left to give. Make it clear what You want me to do, because I donít trust myself to discern direction from You on my own anymore.Ē
Tye: The rest of the week was turmoil. Through the guidance of several people who helped us carry our pain that week, Nancy decided to stay with me. However, we both knew if we were going to go on from here, things had to change.
Nancy: The next year was another year of re-construction; a long period of celibacy as more issues related to sexual abuse surfaced, new emerging patterns in our sexual relationship, further deepening of communication, and learning a new definition of intimacy. I know that it is only my relationship with God that gave me the will to continue in marriage and forgive Tye. If I had to do it over, I would not trade what I have gone through for anything in the world. I have learned things about myself and God that I couldnít have learned otherwise. My relationship with Tye is deeper and more honest than I ever could have imagined with any marriage. I am convinced that God has brought us together and has something for us that He could never have accomplished if we were apart.
Tye: I am not proud of my history, but it is evidence of Godís awesome goodness, grace, and ability to heal and change a life. Nancy and I continue to struggle with inherent weaknesses in our individual selves and in our relationship. However, the week at the Exodus conference in San Antonio was pivotal for us. While I still struggle with lust sometimes when I am tired or stressed, weeks go by when I donít even think homosexual thoughts or experience temptations. I am in love with Nancy and sexually attracted to her. That is healing for me.
God is using the hope and healing we have found to give the same to others through our story. We thank God for our Christian counsellor who believed change was possible, for our supportive church and friends, and for Exodus and their specialized ministry.
Editor's note: In June 1993, Tye and Nancy founded New Direction for Life Ministries Winnipeg to equip the church and to minister to the sexually broken in Manitoba. In 2008 the ministry became Living Waters Canada Central with Tye as its director.