Dear Rabbi Boteach,
I was wondering if you could provide some help and inspiration for someone like me. After 7 years of marriage, my husband recently came out of the closet. He is gay! What should I do?
--Shocked and Confused

Dear Shocked,
I’m sorry to hear of your predicament. This subject has come up many times in my work as a counselor. In fact, I advised very dear friends of mine when they went through a similar situation.

After having three children together, my friend's husband suddenly confessed that he was gay. Of course she was devastated, and she came to me for advice. I told her to tell him that it made no difference if he was straight or gay, because he had children and when he got married he took an oath before G-d to remain faithful. She had to demand his faithfulness. And as long as he could guarantee his faithfulness, then she should remain with him.

My point to her was that where our sexual predilections lead us is not the issue, so long as we can bring them under control. For example, most heterosexual men are not naturally monogamous. As scores of evolutionary biologists have reminded us, the human male has a predisposition toward inseminating as many females as possible, thereby guaranteeing the continuity of his gene pool.

But that which is natural is not necessarily right. It’s natural, for example, to wake up at 10 o'clock in the morning. But we habituate ourselves to wake up earlier in order to be productive. It’s natural for us to shove our faces into bowls to eat. But instead we civilize ourselves by using utensils to become refined. I said to my friend, who your husband is attracted to should have no bearing on the marriage, so long as he does not submit to his urges, and instead directs his libido toward his wife.

The same thing is true for you—you should demand your husband's fidelity and faithfulness. Clearly 7 years of marriage demonstrate that he is capable of being attracted to you, even if his preference is for men. Because you and your husband have been married for 7 years, and it took him to confess he was gay and you did not see it yourself, I can only assume that he was doing things with you as a husband that a heterosexual husband generally does. Therefore, I would make his attraction to men an issue of no consequence.

I assume you’re asking what you should do because you love him and wonder what's to become of your marriage. I say, the marriage should continue and he should remain completely faithful. He will just have to battle his urges toward men just as he would have to battle his urges toward other women if he were a heterosexual male. The fact is, human sexuality is pretty malleable, and we can direct ourselves to be attracted to the target of our choice. There is instinctual attraction and then there is habituated attraction. Let your husband work on becoming habitually attracted to you and channeling his attraction towards you.

The situation would be different if your husband were one of the small percentage of gay men who has absolutely no attraction to women, because studies show that approximately 90% of gay men have had sex with women. If he were part of the 10% who could never be attracted to a woman, I would tell you the marriage is over and divorce must sadly follow. But clearly your husband can perform with and be attracted to women, so your marriage should not be thrown away.

I wish you G-d’s blessings,
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