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Ted Haggard's Wife: Marriage Stronger After Scandal

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.
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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.

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.

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.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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