Wisdom and Comfort for Hurting Wives
Kathy Gallagher draws on personal experience and discusses common issues that hurting wives face when they are seeking help for their husbands' sexual sin.
Kathy, you've had a 30-year ministry of helping wives whose husbands have been dealing with sexual sin. But for those who don't know, how did it all begin? What led you and Steve to start Pure Life Ministries?
We started Pure Life Ministries because our lives had fallen apart because of sexual sin. Steve was out of control—terribly addicted to pornography and illicit sex with other people. And I finally got to the place where I just couldn't handle it anymore, and I filed for divorce. Through a series of events, I realized that that was not the path God had called me to. I was to stay and work through it. And Steve went through tremendous repentance...and eventually I did, too. And God just started working in both of us as a couple and individually. Steve felt like he needed to start a support group, and it started in our living room and expanded from there with Steve's writing and preaching.
When a couple considers whether the husband should get help for his addiction through a program like the 9-month Pure Life Ministries Residential Program, there have to be a lot of fears and questions that the wife would face during that decision, right?
Yeah, there's there are a lot of issues. By the time they've sat down to have this discussion, things are pretty bad. A lot of times for both the wife and the husband, they feel like this is the end of the road. So that's scary. And the way things are at home are unbearable...but at least you're together. It seems like doing a 9-month program might be the thing that pushes it over the edge. I know that's a fear for a lot of women. They're afraid that it's not going to work. He's going to go away for nine months...and then he’s going to come back and he may not have changed. That's huge, and it's a real concern, because we don't send graduates out with guarantees. Nobody can do that, obviously. It really does depend on the heart of the man.
And generally speaking, the wife knows her husband has been a deceiver; he's lied, and he's snuck around in many cases. So she won't know when he comes back if he's just the same old guy with a different cloak on...or if he's the real deal. So there are so many questions. Even if a couple is close and still in love, there's still the other fears about the money situation and handling the kids while he's gone...as well as her loneliness. And some wives can't wait for him to be gone, so they can get a nine month reprieve from dealing with his sin. They're just hoping against hope that something will happen for him and they can get restored.
You mentioned two kinds of approaches wives typically have to a husband coming to Pure Life Ministries to get help—some being closer to their husbands and others being ready for him to be gone for a while. Regardless of where a wife finds herself emotionally, what would you say is a basic need wives have during a time of separation like that?
What both kinds of wives desperately need is a lot more faith and a lot more trust in the Lord. And having your husband away at Pure Life Ministries helps out a lot, because you don't have anybody else. You have to depend on the Lord. As painful as it is, that's one of the beautiful things that comes out of him leaving. And you're not looking over your shoulder wondering where he's at. He's here, and you're there. Some women take about a month to adjust, but if your heart is in the right place, what's going to happen is that your faith is going to grow. You're going to learn to trust the Lord, and you're going to learn to cry out to the Lord—in faith, not in despair. So it's a rough thing to deal with, but it's a blessed thing. God will give you the grace to go through anything. It's almost like the wife is going through her own "program" while he's away. God is going to work on her life. He's going to cause her to come closer to Christ than she’s ever been before. It's powerful.
I am so grateful for what I went through with Steve. I remember the feelings I had...and all that stuff. It's not far from me….it's not like it's in the distant past. I have a great marriage, and I have a great husband...but I have not forgotten what it was like. But I'll tell you, I don't have any regrets! Because what God did for me going through that fiery, fiery trial was what brought me to Christ in a very real way—and I wouldn't trade it for anything. And I would go through it all again to have what I have now.
Do you have some final words of advice to a wife who's very overwhelmed as she struggles through her situation?
There are a few things. The first thing is: this did not take the Lord by surprise at all. He knew exactly who you were marrying and what would end up happening. He knew all about it. So, he is sovereign, and he is in control. You have to wrap your arms around that and really embrace that. The other thing is: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don't lean on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths." Trusting the Lord is such a huge thing. And a lot of the reason that so many wives are confused, despairing, and just losing it mentally is that they've gotten so far away from the Lord, in a sense. I know this is what I was doing, when I was young and I was going through this. I was losing my mind. Because all I could think about was, "What is he doing? Who is he with? Where is he going?" It just consumed me, and I was backslidden, because I was so so obsessed and focused on Steve that I couldn't see the Lord anymore—even though I was calling him "Lord." And what God did for me very, very sweetly was to help me get my eyes off of Steve Gallagher and get my eyes on Jesus.
What I want to say to you ladies is: that is where you need to have your focus. That is the power that you need to go through what you're going through. And there is victory in it! My testimony is that it was in the throes of sexual sin—when Steve was just out of control—that God came to me. And I came to God, and I finally surrendered myself to him. And I'm telling you, I finally threw up the white flag, took my hand off the control panel, and said, "Lord, this is yours! I can't do this! I don't want to do this! I give up! I just want Jesus!" And when I did that, I had peace like I have never had it before. I had such sweetness with the Lord. Steve and I were still together, and he was still doing what he was doing. But I wasn't worried about it. I wasn't looking at it. I wasn't concerned about it. It was upsetting, because I knew what was going on. But there was just such a strength inside of me not to look at it. I was looking at Jesus. And that's what I want to encourage you ladies to do: just keep pushing back on the fear. Keep pushing back on the temptation to look at those things and to go figure out what he's doing. You just have to take your hands off of everything and trust the Lord to get you through this. He will give you the power and the grace to follow Jesus and to trust in Him...and not to live in this constant fear and obsession with what he's doing.
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