Today Gayle is releasing her memoir concerning her husband’s (Megachurch and National Leader, Ted Haggard ) sexual fall and resulting highly publicized aftermath titled Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour. …Gayle Haggard has been through a proverbial trial by fire for the past few years. I have been impressed with the grace, wisdom and humble boldness she obviously abides in. You can tell the Lord is her comfort and shield.
For a response, we turned to trusted leader (of WifeBoat blog and online support) and dear friend, Renee Dallas, for a personal perspective. As you will read in this interview, she has sound, practical and hopeful message for women who (like Gayle) found out their husband has been having an affair.
1. How did you get interested in launching WifeBoat?
There were two reasons I started WifeBoat. First, my husband Joe has worked for over 20 years with men who struggle against sexual brokenness—whether it be pornography, adultery or homosexuality—and almost always there’s a hurting, confused and shattered wife who’s left to pick up her own pieces and needs support.
Secondly, my own story. Before I even met Joe I was impacted by adultery in my first marriage. I was a Christian who thought something like that would never happen to me. It left me very wounded and broken, but then I experienced great healing and grace from God. So I wanted to use what God gave me to help facilitate it for other wives in crisis.
WifeBoat is a place where women hurting from the pain of their husband’s sexual sin can find direction, clarity and support from a Biblical worldview. The blog and support groups offer a place where they can get teaching on issues that are important to them such as forgiveness, anger or boundaries. And they have a chance to share with other women in similar situations, which is so important.
2. How do you think Gayle Haggard’s situation mirrors what you hear from other women who discover their husband is dealing with homosexual feelings?
Gayle’s book gives us an opportunity to talk about a huge problem in the church. Just like her, there are many Christian women married to men who’ve been leading secret lives. Sometimes they’re involved in homosexual sin; sometimes in adultery; sometimes porn. But in all cases there’s the shock of finding out your husband is being unfaithful, along with humiliation and embarrassment. On top of all that, they struggle with who to turn to for help—how do you speak about this in your own church community when so many of your important relationships could be jeopardized or lost?
3. What is one of the most common things you hear from women who have just found out their husband struggles with same-sex attraction?
Among the most common things I hear is that they experience a loss of confidence – their whole identity is challenged. It becomes very surreal and they question their own ability to discern reality from the truth. They often ask how they could have been married to this person and not have known.
I think there’s also a struggle with the difference between forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness can be given–God’s grace enables us to do that—-but trust has to be earned. Depending on the husband’s attitude about all this, she may be able to trust him again as he shows consistency in his own recovery over time. At WifeBoat we try to help women clarify and articulate what they need to see from their husbands in order to rebuild trust. And that helps gives the marriage some direction.
4. How do you think the church is doing when it comes to ministering to women whose husbands struggle with sexual sin?
Many churches have made progress by admitting that Christians struggle with sexual sin, including homosexuality, and are offering recovery type groups to help the men. But I’m afraid we sometimes think if the husband is getting help, the wife will automatically forgive, go back to “normal” and all will be right with the world. I’d like to see all of us–pastors, lay leaders, counselors—-be more willing to walk with these women in their pain, coming along side them offering comfort and guidance without rushing them to “get over it”.
5. What advice can you give to a woman who finds herself in this situation?
First, if at all possible, avoid immediate, knee jerk reactions (jumping into divorce court; demanding he leave the home; etc.) As soon as you can, work with an experienced counselor, pastor, or Exodus ministry to determine the best course of action to take to stabilize your situation. These should include what boundaries to set, determining your husband’s attitude about the marriage, and possibly getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Don’t let yourself make a quick, poorly thought out decision.
My husband often compares it to being in a serious car accident and ending up in traction. A wife in this situation has been seriously wounded and needs to take care of herself. So, she should look for a safe place to go for comfort and reassurance. A support group of women in similar situations or a trusted friend can help you during this time.
And most of all, don’t forget your relationship with God, who loves you so much. He will never turn you away and He is a very present help in time of trouble. His thoughts towards you are of peace and to give you a hope and a future.
6. What advice can you give to friends who are on the outside looking in?
Sometimes friends don’t know what to do because they don’t feel qualified or it just feels too messy. But the Bible tells us to weep with those who weep and to bear one another’s burdens, so fulfilling the law of Christ. We can do this without offering advice, making judgments or being unkind to the offending spouse. We can pray, visit and help in practical ways. Even if we don’t understand, we can love because the love of Christ has been poured out into our hearts. (Romans 5:5)