Before his entire world was turned upside down, Ted Haggard was a preacher, a husband and father of five. In 2006, he made headlines when a former male escort alleged that Ted paid him for sex and crystal meth. Ted admitted to sexual immorality and buying drugs and was prohibited from preaching and exiled from his church and the state of Colorado.
In January 2009, when Ted and his wife, Gayle, appeared on The Oprah Show, Ted told Oprah that he was a "heterosexual with homosexual attachments."
When Oprah asked Gayle why she stayed with Ted after the scandal broke, Gayle said she realized that Ted's struggles were only one aspect of him and that they didn't take away from the life they had built together. "I choose to forgive him, and I choose to love him. I made the decision. Then I had to work it out. And that was the painful process for me."
Gayle's new book, Why I Stayed, answers the question that everyone asks. "I think my book is a love story," Gayle says. "I'm a strong woman and I take care of myself, and these were my choices. I feel as though the betrayal had the potential to lead us toward greater health in our marriage, and that was the perspective I was willing to take because I do deeply love this man."
One critical moment Gayle writes about is when she questioned herself after learning of her husband's infidelity. "After I asked myself those questions, I asked Ted those questions, "she says. "'Did I fail you somehow? Was I not appealing enough to you or attractive enough or sexual enough or fun enough? Where did I fail?'"
Gayle says that even though she knew Ted had had relationships with other men in the past, when the allegations were made against him in 2006, she truly believed Ted's denial. "I was too naive and didn't understand the gravity enough to really understand what was going on there," she says. "After Jonathan was born, he came to me and he said that approximately a year and a half prior there had been an incident in his life that he hadn't shared with me that he felt he needed to. It did involve another man. It wasn't a sexual relationship or anything like that, but there was a semisexual encounter that he had. ... He was in graduate school at the time and had gone to a bookstore and it was a city some distance from us, and so he determined that day to get out of grad school and never to go back."
Ted told Gayle about his encounter more than 25 years ago, Gayle says. "I think now that would be a huge, huge sign for me," she says. "But at that time, I felt as though I understand the fact that we all have struggles. We're all going to mess up in different areas of our life."
In her book, Gayle writes about finding herself at a crossroad one night and consciously making the decision to stay with her husband. "That was the night that Ted had confessed to me that parts of the allegations were true," Gayle says. "There was a sense of betrayal, revulsion, 'How can I do this?' But what I fell back on were the things that I really believed about our marriage and what I really believed about my husband. That I knew: 'Okay, this was something that was a secret from me. I hate that. I hate secrets. I want to know the truth. I want to know my husband. This is all very painful, but I also know what kind of man he is and the good that he's done and the really wonderful parts of our marriage. and I'm not willing to let go of it.' So I was processing all of that."
Ted says that after reading Gayle's book and getting greater insight into why she stayed with him, he also got a true look at how much she loves him. "That is an incredible thing. I mean, this woman is deeply...she's infatuated with me," he says. "And I am so grateful. I think it's an incredible thing for a woman to love a man the way she loves me, and I don't deserve it."
Ted says that after being so deceitful to his wife and family, he is working to rebuild trust by being accountable for his whereabouts at all times. "I took lie detector tests," he says. "I call her constantly. I try to think through anything that would cause her to have any doubt with my schedule for the last three years."
Gayle says the process of earning trust has been slow but steady. "I know trust is important. I've been hugely betrayed here," she says. "So where do I start? And I thought, 'The things that I can trust today are that I know he really loves me, and I know he's committed to going through the process with me.' Then beyond that, when he came to me and said: 'Gayle, it falls on me to re-earn your trust. This isn't your job. This is mine,' that was huge."
Ted says he lives by the rules of open communication these days. "I Tweet and Facebook my schedule because I feel like not only did I violate Gayle's trust but the public's trust," he says. "But whenever I go anywhere alone, which is very seldom, I'll call Gayle when I arrive. If there's any adjustment to schedule, I call Gayle. ... It would feel very different if Gayle was harshly imposing things on me, but I stepped up and I said, 'I'm going to do this.'"
Ted says he trusts himself to not make more mistakes, but he is always aware of the possibility. "Step number one in the 12-step program encourages us to never think we're immune," he says. "So I like staying in the pastor's home or the host's home of the event that I'm speaking at if Gayle's not there. "
Gayle and Ted both say that going through hardship and coming out the other side has made their relationship stronger. "I love him more now after we've walked through these difficulties together and I know his weaknesses," Gayle says. "I think before I always felt like I couldn't get close enough to him. That there was a wall I couldn't get past. Once the huge lights were shown on my husband, we were able to really get behind that wall and walk through that, and that actually gave me more love for him."
Printed from Oprah.com on Sunday, December 8, 2013