She was Blonde and She Wore a Hat
by Mallory Gaunt*
Editor’s Note: This article chronicles a ministry wife’s struggle with her pastor-husband’s sexual addiction. While this couple is still battling this huge and growing problem among clergy, she is hanging on to hope in the midst of it. Many of the emotions expressed here are still raw as freedom and healing haven’t yet happened in her husband’s life. In fact, it can take years to break free from sexual addiction.
By sharing her story, we hope that we can shed some light on one of the church’s best kept secrets and offer sexual addicts and the wives who love them a safe place where they can come and find the love, grace, and healing of Jesus Christ.
“Her hair was blond, and she wore a hat.” I wondered what had attracted my husband to this woman during his innocent shopping trek. Was this all it took? A hat and blond hair to tempt my husband towards moral failure? My mind flooded with painful memories of deception about sexual addiction, of years of denial and minimizing. What about all of the counseling and treatment, the prayer, the accountability and support, the times of deliverance and restoration? Even after all this time, work, and heartbreak, we were back at square one.
Soon after our wedding, my husband’s sexual interest in me declined. I wondered if it was my fault—my body, my lovemaking, my inadequacies—or, was there another woman?
Over time, I took the blame for our mechanical physical relationship. I tried all sorts of lures, I compared myself to other women, and I tried reading his mind. We were busy in ministry. The Lord’s work was always most important. Our children, my job, and our intense pastoral ministry kept us on overload. After ten years of marriage, during a crisis that required counseling, my husband revealed a “problem” with self-pleasuring that had plagued him since puberty. He felt great shame and remorse, and my heart welcomed him in grace. Over the next 15 years, there were many more discoveries that surfaced a secret life of fantasy, pornography, and masturbation. Each discovery caused my husband deep shame and remorse, but the cycle continued underground in stranger, darker, and subtler ways.
Let me share with you a few of the lessons of this journey that I would never have chosen for myself. I know that my husband and I are not alone in this battle!
- Surveys reveal that over 40 percent of pastors struggle with pornography and that on any given Sunday, 60 percent of the congregation will have visited pornographic Internet sites.
- Twenty percent of porn site visits are made by women, and this percentage is increasing.
- There is a split for many Christians between the sacred and the profane. Many believe that sexual drive belongs to the profane, and is associated with hidden thrill, shame, and darkness.
- Our children’s computer literacy exposes them to pornography and dangerous entanglements in chat rooms.
- Our highly stressed, overworked lifestyle puts us at risk for addictions as we medicate our feelings.
- Christian ministry puts us at risk for relationships of inappropriate intimacy.
- Sexual addiction is associated with inhibited sexual desire (ISD) in marriage, is progressive in nature, and is very difficult to treat.
Still, nothing is too difficult for God. It’s time to gather together and fight against a pervasive evil that is destroying our men, our marriages, our families, and our churches.
What can we do?
- Be informed. Initiate discussions with your husband and children. Read widely.
- Be prepared. Sex addiction is shrouded in secrecy and shame. Learn how to check temporary Internet files. Get a protective internet filter. Keep family computers in open living areas. Develop media and computer usage policies for your family and monitor them.
- Be prayerful. The discovery of sexual addiction will threaten your marriage and your sense of self. The journey to grace, forgiveness, and truth will take you through a desert of despair. The Lord and His Word of truth will be your anchor.
- Be faithful. You will be tempted in diverse ways—to be a detective, to be full of contempt, to find comfort in another’s arms, to reject the Lord, to give up on your marriage. Don’t.
- Be strong and courageous. This is a battle on many fronts. You will need to face your own co-addiction issues. You may need to enforce painful consequences in your marriage to facilitate change and get help.
- Be immersed in truth. There will be many lies that can only be counteracted by the living and powerful sword of truth. You are loved and created by God in beauty for the praise of His glory. Remember who you are and Whose you are.
- Be part of a support group. You will need sisters to carry you through. Develop your own confidential network, or join an online group.
God will use the pain of this betrayal to heal and grow you and your family as you remain open to Him. My husband continues in therapy and accountability with other men. We are closely connected with our own pastor/leaders. This year, we have entered into the painful healing of church discipline. Intimacy with God and one another is a relational journey that heals us and safeguards us from idolatries of every kind.
We are in marriage counseling—again. We are learning a new level of intimacy with each other. The process is very frightening. I have no assurance that it will “work.” The years of my youth that I longed to share with my husband cannot be recaptured. I learn daily to cling to the Lord and His love. I believe in resurrection hope. I believe in the covenant of marriage. Sometimes, I laugh derisively with Sarah, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the Lord responds, ‘Is anything too difficult for the Lord?’” (Gen. 18:12, 14).
*The author has used a pen name to protect privacy.