Ted Haggard's Wife: Marriage Stronger After Scandal

Ted and Gayle Haggard i i

hide captionThe marriage troubles of Ted and Gayle Haggard, pictured in 2009, made national headlines in 2006 when then-evangelical leader Ted Haggard admitted to a gay extramarital affair with a male prostitute.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Ted and Gayle Haggard

The marriage troubles of Ted and Gayle Haggard, pictured in 2009, made national headlines in 2006 when then-evangelical leader Ted Haggard admitted to a gay extramarital affair with a male prostitute.

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Gayle Haggard was living the life of her dreams. She was married to the senior pastor of a thriving church with thousands of members, a mother of five, and a faith leader in her own right.

Until it all came crashing down.

In 2006, her husband, Ted Haggard, made national headlines when he stunned members of his Colorado megachurch by admitting he was "guilty of sexual immorality" after a male prostitute went public with claims that he and Haggard had been in a years-long sexual relationship. The details painted a sharp contrast to Haggard's public persona as an evangelical heavyweight who aggressively advocated against same-sex marriage.

The Haggards soon became a symbol of disgrace within conservative evangelical circles and were derided as hypocrites by liberals opposed to Haggard's faith-driven political ideals.

Why I Stayed
By Gayle Haggard with Angela Hunt
Hardcover, 368 pages
Tyndale House Publishers
List price: $25.99
Read An Excerpt

Now, four years after her troubled marriage was thrust into the public spotlight, Gayle Haggard has ended her silence on the scandal and why she chose to stay by her husband's side, as chronicled in her new book, Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made In My Darkest Hour.

In a recent interview, Haggard told host Michel Martin that she never considered leaving her husband.

"I thought about who am I going to be in this story. What do I really believe and what do I really value, and what's worth fighting for for me?" she recalled. "My marriage, as I had known it, was definitely being challenged but it was worth the fight."

Still, she acknowledged that her husband's sexual deceit put their marriage in serious jeopardy.

"He was unfaithful to his marriage vows to me and he did lie to me. And so on many levels there was a breakdown," she said. "There was moral failure in our marriage."

As a result of the scandal, the Haggards were swiftly ousted from their New Life Church. In an agreement with church leaders, they promised to uproot their family and leave their Colorado Springs community.

Haggard is still disappointed about how their former partners in ministry responded to their crisis, saying they seemed more interested in pushing them away than rallying around them with support when they needed it most.

"I found it to be a very corporate approach and disrespectful of the relationships that were involved," she explained. "I felt that it wasn't representative of what the church is created to do — to represent Jesus who is forgiving and understanding of our human condition."

The Haggards have since returned to Colorado Springs but with far different realities than when they were whisked away four years ago. Instead of being spiritual guides to the 14,000 members who attended New Life Church under their leadership, they now host much smaller prayer meetings at their home.

And Ted Haggard has since undergone therapy to help him address what Gayle describes as "same-sex temptations," which she says stems from his childhood sexual abuse.

"They [the temptations] were troublesome to him because they didn't fit what he felt was him. He [has] felt as though he was heterosexual," she said.

As for her intimacy with Ted, Gayle says her marriage now is stronger than ever.

"I am thankful that we walked through this because we're the better for it," she said.

When asked what advice she would offer to other couples struggling through problems of hurt and betrayal, she emphasized the value of forgiveness.

"As much as you're able — for the sake of your own heart — try to forgive and try to love," she said.

"But your results may not be the same [as mine]."

Reported by Michel Martin. Web material written/produced by Lee Hill.

Excerpt: 'Why I Stayed'

By Gayle Haggard

'Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made In My Darkest Hour' by Gayle Haggard
Tyndale House Publishers

We didn't talk much on the drive home from the lawyer's office.

Before we arrived, our children called and said, "Don't come home. The front of the house is crammed with reporters and camera crews. We've had to tack blankets over the windows to keep them from shining lights into the house."

As we neared the drive, we saw that the kids were right. Hordes of reporters clustered at the entrance to our driveway, so we didn't pull in. Instead, we kept going until we reached the home of our friends Adam and Julie Taylor. They quickly ushered us in and provided a safe haven from the media.

Not long after we arrived, our kids came by, one by one. A news van pursued our boys, who considered outrunning the media an adventure. Christy, however, was not amused. She was deeply concerned and protective of us.

As we waited for the news vans to leave, we moved to the Taylors' basement. From there, I called my parents and my sisters to give them the awful news. After absorbing the shock, they promised to pray for us. I promised to keep in touch about further developments.

When we finally went home, around midnight, the reporters had gone. After I cleared the kitchen counters and locked the doors, I stood in the middle of the house and realized I was exhausted and needed to go upstairs to bed — to the bed I shared with Ted.

I climbed the stairs to our room with mixed emotions. Our bedroom had been our private place, the room devoted to marital intimacy, but now it felt like an empty mockery.

How could I sleep with the man who'd been unfaithful to me? Ted had taken something that was mine alone — the right to physically enjoy his body — and shared it with a so-called escort. A male escort.

I quickly closed the lid on those thoughts; I wasn't ready to consider all the implications. Instead, I slipped into the bathroom to brush my teeth. As I ran the water over my toothbrush, I couldn't avoid my reflection in the mirror. My face looked worn, my eyes empty. All traces of my mascara were long gone, wept away in a flood of tears.

I bent over the sink and rinsed my mouth, then froze as a rogue thought slammed into my mind. What if this man in Denver has AIDS? What if Ted has picked up some other sexually transmitted disease and infected me? How could I face our family doctor and explain that I needed to be tested for AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea and whatever other venereal diseases were making the rounds?

The thought made me sick to my stomach.

Ted had already climbed into bed by the time I came out of the bathroom. I slid between the sheets and let my head fall to the pillow.

And then I felt Ted reach for me.

My heart broke in that instant. I knew the importance of physical touch in a marriage. I knew its power to bring comfort, healing, and validation. And I knew the damage rejection could cause. Broken people need to be touched, and by reaching out, Ted was pleading for my help. I wanted to help him; I didn't want to reject him — but what was I supposed to do with the anger, revulsion, and pain that were warring in my heart?

I had coached other women through this. Now it was my turn. I would have to press through my feelings and not lose this important opportunity, because it might not come again.

And so that night I began my journey of choosing ... choosing to love. I chose to press through my feelings of anger. I pressed through my feelings of revulsion and took the hand I had held so many times, the hand that had brought me such comfort in the past. And in that moment, I realized how much I still loved my husband.

I turned and slid into his arms, but a fresh wave of sorrow overwhelmed me. I sobbed so loudly that I was sure the children could hear me. Waves of anger and sadness swept through me, and within seconds I felt Ted's shuddering sobs as well. I didn't stop to comfort him; I let my tears flow. I needed to cry, because I was terrified. I didn't know what Ted's confession meant, and I didn't know what I was going to discover about him now that he'd opened the door to the sealed-off place in his life. I didn't know what the impact of any of this was going to be on our future or our children. I was afraid of losing everything we loved at the church. I knew Ted had lost his position, but what would that look like? How would we relate to the people of New Life now?

And what effect would Ted's sin have on the body of Christ at large? So many Christian brothers and sisters were scattered throughout the world; how many would be mocked and scorned because of Ted's sin?

As the storm raged all around us, Ted and I clung to what little we had. We drew nearer, each of us sobbing out our sorrow while we held each other tight. Somehow, I felt closer than ever to Ted; and even in my pain, I found comfort in the strength of his arms around me.

I don't know how long we clung to each other and wept. Eventually, wrapped in a heavy blanket of grief and exhaustion, Ted rolled over and went to sleep, but I remained awake. Finally I could sort through my thoughts without worrying about what others might read on my face.

Though I was shocked, heartbroken, and afraid, I felt as though I had spent my entire life training for that moment. I thought about my faith in God and my belief in the Bible. I considered my convictions about marriage and family, friendship, and the body of Christ — concepts I had taught to the women of our church. I remembered how I had learned to stretch in order to love Jonathan more.

I realized that everything I believed was being tested. Now I had to determine whether I had the strength to pass the test. Everything I valued was at stake — my marriage, my children, my church, and my understanding of God.

In those quiet moments, I decided to rise to the challenge. I was going to demonstrate my love by fighting for the dignity and honor of everyone and everything I held dear.

I had no idea how the battle would take shape; I had no idea how the opposition would present itself; but that night I settled the question within my own mind: My faith and the people I loved were worth fighting for. So fight I would, no matter how difficult the battle.

LORD, don't hold back your tender mercies from me.

Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.

For troubles surround me —

too many to count!

My sins pile up so high

I can't see my way out.

They outnumber the hairs on my head.

I have lost all courage.

Please, LORD, rescue me!

Come quickly, LORD, and help me ...

May all who search for you

be filled with joy and gladness in you.

May those who love your salvation

repeatedly shout, "The LORD is great!"

As for me, since I am poor and needy,

let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.

You are my helper and my savior.

O my God, do not delay.

Psalm 40:11-13, 16-17

Excerpted from Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made In My Darkest Hour by Gayle Haggard with Angela Hunt. Copyright 2010 by Gayle Haggard and Angela Hunt. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Books Featured In This Story

Why I Stayed
Why I Stayed

The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour

by Gayle Haggard and Angela Elwell Hunt

Hardcover, 354 pages | purchase

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