Editor’s Note: Mature content
This edition of When His Secret Sin Breaks Your Heart is newly revised from the 2003 edition. I have grown in my convictions about how to survive the devastation of an unfaithful spouse and have continued to hold to the Ancient Truths as the pathway God desires for us. As difficult as this subject is, God is still, and will always be, not just the One with the answers but is Himself the answer that we long for.
I have chosen to use a unique format for this book –answering letters from various hurting wives I have encountered. Over the span of the 25 years that I have been dealing with the wives of sexual addicts, I have yet to run into two women whose circumstances were exactly the same. With that in mind, I have attempted to handle a variety of issues that women experience, although I know I haven’t touched on them all.
While this book does not provide formula about changing your husband, it does address practical situations you probably deal with on a regular basis. This is definitely not a one-sized-fits-all kind of book so you may find yourself looking for those pieces that apply to your situation. The main think I want to emphasize throughout the book is how IMPORTANT it is that you see Jesus in your situation. Having practical answers is secondary to this.
One of the subjects woven throughout the pages of this book is true biblical love — how to respond to pain with love rather than hate; how to replace bitterness with compassion; how to intercede rather than fret, and so on. Of course the earnest believer wants to be purged of ungodly attitudes and desires nothing more than to act in a way that both honors and pleases God.
Another prevalent theme you will find in these pages is the importance of suffering in the believer’s life. As you come to see the precious work it is producing in you, you will begin to appreciate it–even embrace it! This is the sublime truth Paul the Apostle alluded to when he wrote, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory.” (II Corinthians 4:17) Paul experienced far more suffering than any of us and he knew what he was talking about!
Over the years I have run across books that express in great detail the suffering of the women married to a sexual addict. My concern over those books has been that they haven’t offered the anguished wife anything other than shallow empathy. The overriding message spun by these authors is: “You are a victim and your husband is a perpetrator! God wants to bless you! Get rid of the loser so you can get on with your life!”
But the Bible teaches something that unbelievers and worldly-minded Christians cannot comprehend: Life is deeper and more meaningful than temporal happiness. Even suffering plays an important role in God’s economy.
My experience has been that those who gravitate toward the easier solutions and prefer pat answer offered by popular psychology over biblical solutions usually suffer most in the end. Dealing with life’s problems God’s way may often seem difficult, but those who choose to do so always reap the benefits in the end. A new person emerges, not because of any self-esteem revival, but as a result of having found the presence of the Lord to be sufficient through every trial and every struggle.
Ultimately, we are all on a journey and while this trial might seem like a huge detour to you, I want to assure you that it is the Lord’s desire to use all of this to bring forth an inner joy that transcends outward circumstances. I want to encourage you to let the Master Architect of the freeway system you find yourself on guide you safely through to the end.
In January of 1979 after several years of physical abuse, being married to a prospect of the Hells Angels, the interest in another man was the farthest thing from my mind. I finally felt free–free from the tyranny of a controlling husband, free from the fear in which I had constantly lived, and free from the abuse. I had a job, my own car, and most importantly, my own life.
But a few months prior to this, I had to flee for my life when I left my husband. He was a ruthless man and I was terrified of him. I remained incognito until things had calmed down with him enough so that I could resume my friendship with his older brother, Gale, and his wife, Joanne.
It was at their home in Sacramento one day that I first met Steve Gallagher. I was warming myself by the heater when he came waltzing through the front door of their little shack. My first impression of his was that he seemed out of place in that environment. Steve was a real estate agent and had come to Gale’s house because he was interested in buying a home. Steve and Gale had done drugs and crime together in their earlier years but had not kept in touch with each other.
It never crossed my mind that I would some day become involved with this man. He was twenty-four, and I was only eighteen. He seemed so old to me. At any rate, as I began running into him at their house over the next few weeks, he began to pursue an interest in me. Steve later told me that, from the first time we met, he knew we were meant for each other. I didn’t share this feeling and really had no desire to go out with him. Nevertheless, at Gale and Joanne’s insistence, I finally agreed to a date.
He picked me up in his spacious Ford LTD and whisked me off to a drive-in movie. Before we had even gotten to the movie, he expressed his desire that I sit next to him. I informed him right off the bat that I felt no obligation to cuddle up beside a perfect stranger. So, our first date ended in an argument, with me angrily storming out of his car when he finally took me home. He yelled for me to come back, which I did, and after he humbled himself, and politely suggested we start all over again, I reluctantly agreed.
We continued to go out together over the next few weeks. One day he asked me to go with him to a beach side resort in Santa Cruz for a weekend–just the two of us. I knew what that meant: we would be in the same hotel room together for an entire weekend. This was heavy–duty. To me, it meant commitment; it meant that I was giving myself to him–I had to drop my guard and give my heart to him I was very uneasy and unsure that I was ready to take that plunge. I think I even asked him, “Will we stay in the same room together?” I just wanted to make sure we understood each other.
This was a huge decision for me, one of the biggest of my adult life. In my mind, consenting to go was the same as saying “yes” to a marriage proposal. If I gave myself to him, it meant that I was his and he was mine. This wasn’t just a date or a fun weekend with some guy that I liked. I had never done anything like this with anyone. Yet, in some way, I felt as though I was being pulled helplessly into this relationship which I couldn’t resist. I finally agreed.
We were both full of excitement and had an absolutely wonderful time. You guessed it: I had fallen in love with “Prince Charming.” Actually, I think I had loved Steve long before that weekend, but it was in Santa Cruz that I knew for sure I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.
When we returned home on Sunday, we immediately moved in together. I was on cloud nine at first, but soon I began to see what Steve was really like. Full of ambition, he worked night and day in real estate. He was bent on becoming successful, but because of his great expectations he put undue pressure upon himself. This resulted in his short temper at home. I attributed his impatience with me to the stress of his real estate business and hoped that he would change eventually.
Despite all of this, a very interesting thing began to happen between us: Steve started to talk to me about God. He shared with me that he had come to the Lord when he was doing jail time as a sixteen year-old but had backslidden shortly thereafter. He said that one day he wanted to get right with God again.
This was all new to me, but I immediately came under conviction because we had been living in sin together. Over the next few months, I lived with a sense of condemnation–that I was in trouble with God. But I didn’t really know what to do about it.
Then, one day, I met Brother Jess at my sister’s house. He was a sweet, Southern Baptist pastor who told me that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. The Lord had thoroughly prepared me for this divine appointment, and I made Jesus the Lord and Master of my life that day. The next, day, I packed up all my belongings and left Steve.
Well, I fell in love with the Lord. I was on fire for Jesus. He became the center of my life. I spent hours reading the Word, awestruck by its profound wisdom and revelation of future events. I was in church whenever the doors opened and almost single-handedly turned that little church upside-down, infecting everyone with my new found joy. Everywhere I went I talked to others about God. People couldn’t believe the change that had come over me–I was a different person.
One day, zealous to see people come to know the Lord, I called Steve to try to witness to him. I wanted him to have what I had, but the years of being backslidden had made him hard-hearted toward God. When I had left him “for the Lord,” he felt betrayed by God. At the end of our conversation, completely out of the blue, he told me to pray about whether we should be married. This was unthinkable! He was dead to spiritual realities, while I was completely happy serving God as a single Christian. Nevertheless, his words kept ringing in my ears over the next couple weeks. I couldn’t seem to escape them.
A month later, in January 1980, we were married. I had been a Christian for about five months. At first, he began attending church with me. Little by little though, he drifted away from God, once again, unwilling to surrender to the Lord.
Even though Steve was far more refined than my first husband, he was more difficult to live with. He never physically abused me, but I feared him more than my ex-husband who as I mentioned before was very abusive. Steve had a seething, violent anger that was always contained just under the surface. I saw him as the sort of person who could snap and just start killing people at random.
His anger–always directed at me–came through his sharp, cutting tongue. He as extremely critical and sarcastic. He would ridicule me whenever I did things wrong. I could never seem to satisfy him or do anything right. This, of course, left deep, emotional wounds that hurt far more than my first husband’s fists.
Nevertheless, I tried to hope for the best. I knew that much of his frustration was due in part to the fact that the real estate market had suffered a tremendous blow with escalating interest rates. As a result Steve’s career, which he had worked so hard to establish, began to crumble. No longer able to continue in real estate, he began looking for job opportunities in law enforcement.
This took us to Los Angeles where Steve began the long, excruciating process to become a deputy sheriff. Instead of things getting better, the stress of being on the Department made things even worse. He became more abusive to me. Unfortunately, I sought Steve’s approval, rather than God’s. I became weaker and more dependent on him. Gradually, I too backslid. I would make feeble attempts to read my Bible and pray, but I had no strength or hunger inside. I had long since quit going to church.
Not long after we moved to Los Angeles, I found out about his addiction to pornography. According to Steve, it made him enjoy sex more. He gently let me know that I wasn’t enough, but if we introduced porn into our marriage bed, he would be satisfied. Needless to say I was crushed. I had to compete with women in the pornographic movies and magazines. This was devastating to me, but instead of turning to God, I tried even harder to please Steve.
I intensely pursued his affection and love more than ever. I would have days when I felt like my heart would literally burst from the pain and rejection I felt. Other days, usually when he was sweet to me, I held out hope that he would change. I decided to allow the pornography into our lives when he assured me that it would only enhance our sex lives and makes things better between us.
What happened, instead, was that the porn only drove him to demand more. To keep up with his insatiable appetite for sex, we eventually began getting involved with other people. The only way I could handle the complete loss of my own dignity and self-respect was to drown them in drugs. I became addicted to methamphetamine.
After several years of doing everything I could to win Steve, I finally gave up. I had loved him to much and had been willing to do literally anything to keep him, but his obsession with illicit sex had become insane. Having lost all hope, I left him and filed for divorce. I was devastated. Not only had I lost the battle to win him, but I had completely given up all my morals and self-respect in the meantime. I had to face what I had become.
It was then, almost like a miracle from God, that I met a guy named Tim. After years of emotion abuse, he was like a breath of fresh air! Immediately I forgot all the pain. Being with him helped me to stick my head in the sand and forget the loss I had suffered.
Tim was so good to me. He opened car doors for me, treated me with kindness and respect, and made me laugh a lot. Unlike Steve, he was very sensitive and considerate. Another think I really appreciated was the way he would open up to me. This never happened with either of my husbands. My involvement with Tim lasted for several weeks. Almost immediately I began sleeping with him, deceiving myself into believing that God would understand, because we really loved each other. His continuous drinking and quick willingness to be in adultery should have caused me to doubt his sincerity as a Christian, but I was so enthralled with him that I stifled my nagging doubts.
I had no contact with Steve during this time, so I didn’t know that when I left he had gone back to his old ways of chasing girls. One morning, unbeknownst to me, he woke up in the apartment of one of his girlfriends, feeling the emptiness of his life. All that day he was miserable. That afternoon he went to work at the jail, but it was busy evening so he didn’t get back to eat his supper in the deputy chow hall until late. There were no other deputies there when he finally arrived. As he sat there, eating in miserable silence, a deputy named Willy strolled in. He, too, was late arriving and somehow the conversion got around to Steve’s struggles. Upon hearing that Willy was a Christian, he poured out his heart to him, telling him how empty and unhappy he felt in life. Willy suggested that Steve give his heart to the Lord, which he did.
“I felt like a thousand pounds lifted off my back!” Steve exclaims. “But it didn’t last long. When I got home that night, all I could think about was getting my wife back. I tossed and turned all night, upset about Kathy. In the middle of the night I heard a voice tell me that she would call in the morning. I didn’t know if I was hearing things or what!”
The very next morning I had taken Tim to work, but after I dropped him off, I did a very strange thing: I started driving north on the freeway toward the San Fernando Valley where Steve and I had lived. I had no idea why I was doing this; it seemed like someone else was steering the car. When I got to Van Nuys, I stopped at a phone booth and called Steve.
He was very excited to hear from me, telling me what had happened the night before. I was glad to hear of his new life, but I had no intention of going back to him. My feeling for him were dead. I now had what I had wanted for so long. I was convinced that God had brought Tim into my life and I had no desire to go back to Steve. As far as I was concerned, he had lost his opportunity and now the Lord was restoring to me “all the years that the locust had eaten.” By this time I was becoming accustomed to being treated like a princess. Tim was giving me the love that I had wanted from Steve; I would be a fool to return to him.
Finally, in desperation, Steve challenged me to call my parents for their advice. This I was more than happy to do, knowing how furious they had become with him when I told them all that he had been doing. I agree and called them. My dad answered the phone, and when I explained the situation, to my surprise, he told me that the Lord had spoken to them about me, and clearly told them that I should return to my husband. I just sat down in the phone booth and cried. I didn’t want to go back to him. I finally pulled myself together and went to his apartment.
The next morning I told Steve that I needed to go get my stuff from Tim’s house. He reluctantly agreed to let me go after I called Tim’s number and nobody answered. I went there that day and Tim’s car was gone. When I let myself in the house, though, I discovered him sitting on the bed. All the charm was gone now; he was furious.
For the next two hours he angrily tried to convince me of what a mistake it would be to go back to Steve. He kept badgering me and I became confused. I know full well what Steve was like and I didn’t want to go back. Tim would vacillate between calm, reasonable arguements and tirades of anger. Finally, in a rage, he ripped off my blouse and forced himself on me. I was so weak and mousey at the time that I let him have his way. In some strange way, it was the things that brought he back over to Tim.
At his insistence, I finally called Steve. “I don’t love you anymore, I love Tim, and I’m not coming back,” I coldly told him. When he heard that, he grabbed his off-duty revolver and spun the cylinder around in the mouthpiece so that I could hear it. “All right, then you can listen to me blow my brains out!” he shouted.
“Steve, don’t do it!” I yelled. When I said that, Tim grabbed my arm. I looked up at him to see the most evil look I had ever seen on anybody’s face in all my life. “Kathy, if he wants to kill himself, let him do it. It’s not your fault!” It was then I realized that this man I had taken for such a prince was full of the devil.
A pastor had arrived at Steve’s apartment and got on the phone with me and asked if he could pray for me. I was terrified and just wanted to get out of that house, but was afraid to say anything. I told the pastor that I would meet him and Steve at his church and got off the phone. At first, Tim was adamant that I couldn’t go, but he could see that I just wanted out of there and, Finally, he relented. By the time I made it to where Steve was, It had been over six hours; six hours of hell for both of us.
It took this experience to see what Tim was really like, but it didn’t make going back to Steve any easier. It was very difficult for a long time. For the first several months I felt like I had made a huge mistake and I was absolutely broken: broken over my sinfulness and the shame of being an adulteress, but also because my feelings for Steve were dead. I often felt I would rather be alone than to be with him. I could hardly take it when he would touch me.
To make matters worse, Steve was having a revival in his heart. He was on fire for the Lord and had now fallen deeply in love with me. The affection that I had wanted for so long was now mine in abundance. He was constantly wanting to hold my hand and hug and kiss me–and I was sick. “Why couldn’t you have been like this five years ago?” I would silently exclaim. There were many night that I cried when we went to bed. I would make sure he didn’t know because I didn’t want to hurt him, but the truth was, I just didn’t want him anymore. I constantly had to fight feelings of disgust.
Gradually, over the months, things got better. We both had so much to overcome. He still had some of the same old attitudes. There were times he would still blame-shift and manipulate, and sometimes even lash out in anger. In spite of his new-found passion for Jesus, he was also still struggling with pornography. But there was a brokenness in Steve now that had never been there before. God was winning in his life.
It took some times for my “feelings” to return. But, gradually they did. Actually, I think God destroyed the old foundation and built a new one, because, when the Lord restored the love and respect that I had lost for Steve, it came back in a brand new way. I started to respect and admire him more than I ever had before. There were times that my love for him became overwhelming; not in the idolatrous way it had been before, but in the love of the Lord. Over the years since we got back together, I have watched Steve allow God to humble him, correct him, and even crush him. Now he truly has become the man of my dreams.
But he wasn’t the only one who needed to change. I had to learn to truly put God first in my life also. I came to realize that I had been just as consumed with Steve as he had been with sex. In my own self-centeredness, I had turned to one man after another, looking for fulfillment in life. I gradually learned to turn to God as the center of my life. This didn’t make me love Steve less; it simply purified my love for him. Rather than a self-centered “love” which was given with the idea of having my own need met, I learned to give my husband the unselfish love of the Lord. Our marriage grew stronger and stronger.
Almost immediately, Steve and I began spending time with the Lord every morning. This set a pattern that has lasted for many years. Being in touch with God every day gave me a strength I had never known before. At first, as Steve continued struggling with his addiction to pornography, I became obsessed with his deliverance. God quietly began convicting me of this and kept lead me back to Himself. I soon discovered that the more connected I was with God, the more strength I had to help Steve with his problems.
As I continued to grow in the Lord, I was able to recognize the good that came of failure, instead of seeing it as a catastrophe. Because Steve was serious about his life with God, each fall back into sin served as a blessing in disguise. It deepened the hatred of his sin. Instead of falling apart when he would fail, I became an encouragement to him through those failures. The desire to be supportive of his efforts in this struggle and to keep him accountable in a loving way grew stronger. There was a time when I did not have the maturity or emotional strength to bear him in this way, but the closer I got to the Lord, the more I was able to handle. I came to realize that as long as Steve (or his victory) held the center-stage of my heart, my joy as a person would fall to pieces every time he would fail. But, as I increasingly allowed God the throne of my heart, I found that I had the strength to help my husband through his failures.
A fling Steve took in May 1985, proved to be his last one. It took us some time to realize it, but he was free! Now things really began to change. He started becoming the strong one, spiritually. I could actually start leaning on him and confessing my faults to him. We reversed roles: he became my spiritual head and I became a wife who could submit to hear “leader” with joy.
What a relief it was when I realized I no longer had to look over my shoulder. I still had to continue to repent of my own suspicious nature, but in my heart I knew we had crossed the deep waters of sexual addiction. Now we had a depth in our relationship that very few enjoy. Trusting God in going back to Steve was a turning point in my life, but it was also only the beginning of my own restoration. The restoration of our marriage came about because we both wanted God more than we wanted our own desires.
As I am writing this book (in 2011), it has now been 26 years since that fall on Steve’s part, 29 since I reluctantly went back to him, and 31 since I married him. It was only a year after Steve’s last fall in sin that God laid the burden on his heart the begin Pure Life Ministries. Since that time our love for God has intensified and or love for each other has deepened. What God has given me has been worth all of the grief I have endured through the years: not because of my happy marriage, but because of what I have in the Lord.
Writing this down in a book doesn’t mean the story is over. I only see things getting better and better for both Steve and me, as we both continue to surrender ourselves to God, looking to Him to bring us the fulfillment we desire.
It certainly is true, that there is no pit so deep that the love of God isn’t yet deeper.
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