Steven knew he was hiding something, but it took years before he told his wife


Christian Life

Michiel Bakker, RD

Photo Unsplash

She loves him, and he loves her. Heidi and Steven both say they are “happily married”. Their marriage, however, went through a deep crisis. For years, Steven led a secret life with homosexual contacts.

It is a happy couple on the wedding photo on the wall in the living room. A bright day marked the beginning of Heidi and Steven’s marriage. They are in their thirties now.

They meet each other for the first time at a Reformed secondary school. They start liking each other and hang out regularly. After a few years, however, their friendship fades.

Meanwhile, around the age of fourteen, Steven has discovered that he is attracted to boys. “I read about it in a biology book. When I later saw that the text had the title ‘homosexuality’, I thought: That’s not about me. I tucked it away. It was a theme that we did not talk about at home.”

Quick contacts

Over time, Steven noticed that his feelings for boys regularly return. “In the end, I went down the wrong path. I started visiting porn sites and meeting guys in secret places. Those contacts were always shallow and quick.”

After living consciously without God for some time, Steven becomes involved in the faith and the church again. He realises that he is on a non-biblical path and feels guilty about it. A few years after graduating from high school, he meets Heidi again and falls in love. The feelings are mutual, and the two start a relationship. Meanwhile, Steven continues to visit gay sites.

During their relationship, Steven mentions that he is attracted to boys also. Heidi: “I knew he had those feelings but thought it was something small and that he didn’t do anything about it. I loved him and found that he loved me, so I wasn’t worried.”

Two worlds made me desperate

After a few years, they get married. Soon their first child was born. Meanwhile, Steven continues to visit porn sites and regularly has secret dates with men. “Sometimes I didn’t do it for a few months, for example in the time around my profession of faith in the church, and around my marriage. But then it came back. I lived in two worlds that grew apart further and further. My guilt grew, but I continued anyway. It made me desperate at times.”

Heidi has a job with irregular shifts and fails to notice that Steven struggles silently with a significant problem. “We talked openly about many things. It never occurred to me that he was living a life in darkness.”

Eventually, Steven loses hope that he will ever be able to break away from seeking satisfaction from his homosexual desires. “I thought: it didn’t work out after my profession of faith; it didn’t work after my marriage and not after the birth of our child. There is nothing that can stop this.”

Intervention from God

In 2018, God caused a break from his hidden life, says Steven, when he is in the church and notices Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” “When I heard that message, I knew this is for me. If I continue the way that I live now, the Holy Spirit cannot work in me. I experienced it as an intervention from God. It was clear that I had to tell Heidi what I was doing, but I didn’t know how to. I gave it a place in my prayer and knew that God would help me.”

In the weeks that follow, Steven “with God’s help” puts his story on paper. “One night, I said to Heidi: I have something to tell you, but I can’t, so I wrote it down. I let her read that story. An exciting moment because I realised that her world would collapse because of this.”

For Heidi, Steven’s story comes completely out of the blue. When she reads it, she first experiences an “intense sadness.” “I have experienced it as the grace of God that I did not burst out in anger. I thought: How lonely have you been. We envisioned a beautiful and harmonious life. How is it possible that you were so much under the devil’s power all those years at the same time? Very sad.”

As difficult as it is, both experience the moment when Steven started sharing his feelings as special. Steven: “After a few minutes, Heidi asked me: Do you love me? I could wholeheartedly say ‘yes’ to that. At that time, we did not experience a distance between us, but a lot of connection. We cried together for a while and then prayed.” Heidi: “In all our brokenness, we have sought our support with God.”

Able to forgive

Both Heidi and Steven fear that the other will not maintain the marriage. Steven: “I did take that scenario into account, but Heidi just asked me: You’re not leaving me now, are you?”

Later on, there are still moments when Heidi’s feelings of anger, disbelief or incomprehension surface, although they never predominate her. “The fact that I have always experienced that Steven loved me contributes to that. We experience a strong emotional connection, and we also have a good sexual relationship. The homosexual contacts that Steven had were not intended as a substitute for our relationship, no matter how bad it is that he sought it. I was able to forgive him.”

The night Steven shares his story with Heidi, the couple decides to seek help right away. The next day, Steven contacts the Dutch organisation De Vluchtheuvel (the refuge hill). The trajectory they go through at this institution for Christian social work helps both Steven and Heidi.

One of the things they discuss is the distinction between feelings and behaviour. “Steven sometimes has feelings for men. I cannot say to him: You have to change that because those feelings are there. What matters is whether he then chooses to do something with it or not. I may find something about that. I can be angry about his wrong choices, and I can also set boundaries. Things like that help me.”

Being on a crowded beach

Together they agree that Steven will let her know if he is triggered in the wrong way. Heidi: “Then he says what he saw and what that did to him. It’s often not about big, heavy things, but he shares them anyway. For example, when we were on a crowded beach, he said that this was a place of temptation for him. Then we went to a quieter part because you shouldn’t go to places where you feel extra vulnerable. Speaking out these things prevents him from building walls around himself, behind which he could keep secrets again.”

For Heidi, regaining trust is a process. Sometimes she fears that her husband will revert to his old behaviour. “I have learned to say that right away. That openness is very important.”

Steven says he never revisited porn sites after confiding in Heidi about his secret life. “I radically stopped from one moment to the next. According to my care provider, this time, it worked because I had been open. This makes the step to do something in secret again much greater. We also received very practical advice, such as spending enough time together. We both have to be careful not to be too busy.”

Help from above

Above all, Steven experiences God’s help. “The Lord said to me: “I will not let your foot be shaken.” That is also a matter of daily prayer for me because I still have my responsibility.”

After completing their therapy process, Heidi and Steven share the difficulties they have experienced with two office bearers during the so-called home visit. Heidi: “We told that there was a sexual sin that was confessed among themselves and before God. The elders handled that with care.”

They experience a later conversation with the pastor as less positive. “He mainly asked questions about details that we didn’t want to tell, while we especially needed someone with a listening ear who would pray with us. Also, because much had already been expressed and confessed during that support programme, in retrospect, we would have preferred to have limited the pastoral contact to that one home visit.”

Not alone

In general, there is virtually no attention within the church for married members who have homosexual or bisexual feelings, note Heidi and Steven. With their story, they hope to offer hope to people who are in a similar situation to the one they have experienced.

Heidi: “There will be more people who have to deal with this. As drastic as it is, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage. We have a really good and nice family life, with all the ups and downs that go with it, but everyone has them. When I look back, I see how great the grace of God is, who has helped us through a difficult period and is now doing well.”

Heidi and Steven are actually called different. Their real names are known to the editors.

This article was previously published in the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad



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