Laurie Hall is the author of An Affair of the Mind , which was the first book on sex addiction written from a partner’s perspective. It broke ground in a world that saw the partner as a codependent, just as sick in her own way as the addict, which we know is not true. Laurie knew at the time, it wasn’t true and she refused to accept that view. She advocated strongly for partners, saying that they had been betrayed and traumatized and that they were victims, which, of course, we know that we are.
Laurie has used her book and experience to become a voice for partners. She’s been a guest on over 200 radio and television shows, including Focus on the Family, Moody, and The 700 Club. She’s also done television and radio, including being interviewed by Laura Ingraham, Extra, Leeza Gibbons, Diane Rehm, and many others.
In addition, she’s spoken to many colleagues and a wide variety of churches across the country and Canada. She was the first woman to speak at a Promise Keepers event, because porn was the number one reason that men went forward for prayer at Promise Keepers events.
Laurie is APSATS trained, a member of the International Coaches Federation, and a licensed spiritual coach. She facilitates partner groups and does individual coaching as well. She’s currently revising and updating An Affair of the Mind for re-release early next year.
Discovering a Husband’s Addiction Through Spiritual Crisis
Anne: I am honored to have you on the show today. Welcome, Laurie.
Laurie: Oh, I’m honored to be with you. This is a really exciting thing that you’re doing here at Betrayal Trauma Recovery. It’s awesome!
Anne: We met in person a few weeks ago, and that was an honor. We’ve been having this discussion around a crisis of faith that many partners experience, when they find out about their husband’s sexual addiction, and the abusive behaviors surrounding that. We are going to explore this further. Laurie, in your book, you write about how prayer helped you discover your husband’s addiction. Can you tell us about that?
Laurie: Yes. This is a great place to start the discussion of how this whole issue can lead to a spiritual crisis because I knew there were problems in my marriage but I didn’t know what it was that I was dealing with. My ex-husband grew up on the mission field. He had a White House security clearance when I met him. Everyone who knew him said, “Oh, he’s a super nice, squeaky clean guy.”
Something Wasn’t Right In My Marriage
I really thought that I was marrying a Boy Scout, but there was just this sense that something wasn’t right. I kept trying to figure out what it was. I went to my church for help, because, as a young Christian woman, I wanted to know how to do marriage God’s way. I was told that I just needed to submit more, that I needed to support him more, that I needed to pray for him more.
Every remedy that they gave me put me further, and further under. At one point, I thought, “Well, they said you’re too strong. If you were not as strong, he would be stronger.” I just kept thinking, “Well, wait a minute, I’ve read all the books. I’ve become a fascinating woman. I’ve become a total woman. I’ve become the ‘He’s from Home Depot, she’s from Walmart’ woman.”
Nothing was working. It was still just the sense that something was wrong. I decided that I was going to put all the outside advice outside, and spend time back in scripture, which I already was a student of the Bible, but I was reading the Bible based on what other people told me it meant.
I began to really go into the Word. I really started to pray, “You know, Lord, if in anything I’m otherwise minded in Christ Jesus, show me what it is, and show me what’s going on in my marriage, because I know there’s something, and I don’t know what it is. I know you know what it is, because you are the God of all truth, so show me what the truth is.”
God Can Lead You To The Truth
I prayed this for years, actually, and part of what had to happen for me was I had to come to a different understanding of who God is, before I could even grasp the truth of what was going on in my relationship. I began to see God in a bigger, more empowering, more loving way as I studied the Word. Then I decided I would start fasting.
The first time I fasted, I got this impression in my head that was almost like a voice saying to me, “There’s three problems in your marriage. The first one is your husband’s taken $350.00 that doesn’t belong to him. The second one is he’s committing adultery, and the third is he has a lot of pride.” At that point, I was like, “Okay, this is what comes of trying to fast and pray. You’ve now gone completely nuts because you’re hearing a voice.”
I was like, “Why did you do this to yourself, because, obviously, none of that can be true. I married a Boy Scout.” Sure enough, shortly after that, I found out about the $350.00, he confessed that he had a lot of pride, and that left this little nasty thing in the middle, which was the adultery.
I said, “I think you’re committing adultery.” He said, “Oh no, I would never do that. You’re a horrible person for believing that. Why would you even accuse me of that? You’re probably the one doing it.” I continued to pray, and seek the Lord.
Dreams Can Inform And Warn You Of Infidelity
Eventually, I started having dreams. I started having dreams where I would see exactly what was going on. Then, I decided that what I was going to do was accept that this was the truth, whether I had any evidence of it, or not, because my husband hid everything. Even his best friend, who worked with him, didn’t know what he was doing.
I began to journal, using the 12 steps. I said, “I admit that my life is out of control, because my husband is cheating on me, and I don’t know what to do about it, but I’m turning it all over to God.” One day as I was praying and just sobbing, the phone rang. It was a woman I barely knew. She said, “God has heard your prayers, and seen your tears, and he’s going to heal you.”
Within an hour, there was a phone call from a credit card company that I did not know my husband had a credit card with, and there was a past due payment. That’s how the truth came out.
Anne: Wow! I am so impressed, because I was having dreams, nightmares, and I just thought I was crazy, and I had this super intense sense of dread that I told my husband about. I was like, “I have the worst sense of dread. I really think something bad is going to happen.”
Then, in the same breath, without listening to him, or without waiting for his response, I said, “Ugh, I just must be crazy, right.” I just dismissed it, so I am so impressed that you were able to accept your dreams and feelings as the truth. That is gutsy!
Trust Your Intuition Before You Trust That You’re Crazy
Laurie: Well, let me back up, and tell you how not gutsy I was, and what actually forced me to that position. Because, just like you, I thought I was going nuts. One day, I actually climbed into bed, put the covers over my head, and started running my finger up and down my mouth like, “Bluh-bluh-bluh.”
I said, “I am going crazy, because part of me is saying there’s something wrong and this is what it is. The other part of me doesn’t know how that could possibly be true. Therefore, I’m choosing to ignore what I’ve asked God to show me. I’m going to have to take a giant leap of faith, and say, ‘This is the truth. And if I’m wrong, hey, I’ll own it, but from here on out, I’m not second-guessing myself anymore.’” I get it, girlfriend. I was there. It was that fear that I was going to go crazy that made me say, “Yes, I’m accepting the truth.”
Anne: That is amazing. If every woman did that, this world would be so different. Not that we can blame ourselves, because obviously, we’re doing the best we can in the situation. I just think, if every woman would say, “You know what, I’m going to trust myself, and I’m going to trust God,” that would be a huge breakthrough for humanity. If every woman listening can be like, “You know what, I’m going to be willing to learn what the truth is from God, straight from God, and then trust it,” holy cow. That’s big.
Accepting Your Worst Nightmare As Truth
Laurie: Anne, I completely agree with you on that. Part of the reason why women have a difficult time accepting truth—aside from the fact that, can we say it? How awful is it that your worst nightmare is actually true? Okay, this is not the thing that you can wake up to, and accept. It’s an awful, awful thing. The ground drops underneath your feet. On the one hand, you’re really happy to know you weren’t nuts. On the other hand, you’re like, “I really wish I would’ve been nuts, because this new reality is something I don’t want to deal with.”
We are not trained how to live in the Spirit. This was a really big Ah-ha for me, because, when I came to realize I have a body that has senses in it. It has the sense of touch, sight, taste, hearing, smell. Through those senses, I experience the physical world. I have a soul, which allows me to know my internal world. Those senses are my mind, my will, and my emotions.
I also have a spirit. It is through my spirit that I know God, and that I experience others in a transcendent way, where deep connects to deep. This has nothing to do with what I can see with my eyes. It is an inner-knowing that we have, and our spirit’s senses are conscience, intuition, and communion. We’re designed to operate from the spirit into the soul, and out into the body. When we intuit something, it is really God speaking to us, the absolute truth.
The idea, if we’re operating in a healthy way, is then we take that information into our mind and provide instructions for our mind based on what our conscience tells us; this is a good situation or this is not a good situation. Then, the will tells the body what to do in response, and as the body follows these instructions, our emotions are at peace because we’re in integrity.
Integrity Is Key To Discovering The Truth And Finding Peace Amidst The Storm
We can know that we’re not in integrity, and I don’t mean this in the sense of we’re intentionally doing something we know is wrong, but where we are second-guessing our spirit. Because when our mind doesn’t have the facts, we argue, the spirit and the mind argue with each other. You know what I mean? It’s like, “No, that can’t be true, I have no evidence.”
Yes, it is true, because God sees it as it really is, but our mind doesn’t see it. I only saw porn in our home one time, and we were married for 33 years. It was one time. I had no physical evidence. As you know, with this particular addiction, there’s no needle marks, there’s no tell-tale breath. It’s very easy to hide.
What I tell women is, when your emotions are a mess, it is a sign that you’re spirit is arguing with your soul because your soul doesn’t have any facts to back up what your spirit is sensing, so you’re second-guessing yourself. If you will say, “I’m going to accept what I’m sensing as true until proven otherwise,” and then start lining your actions up with that, you will find peace amidst the storm.
Anne: Wow. This is cool. I love you. I’m so glad you’re here!
Laurie: I love you. It only took me 20 years to figure that out.
Anne: When did you write your book? What year was it?
Laurie: It came out in 1996.
Anne: 1996, man, and how old are you?
Laurie: 66. I’m not a teenager anymore, girlfriend.
You’re My Shero!
Anne: I know so many women who are your age, or older, who went through this. They, of no fault of their own, didn’t know what was going on, didn’t understand it, were abused for years. I am just in awe that you’re part of this generation of women who were caught in all the cultural issues, all of the misogynistic-type things that, at the time were very common, that you couldn’t even see, and you have this head on your shoulders to see this thing straight.
You’re like a hero. You’re my shero, good job. Way to go! I think a lot of other women saw it, but they didn’t write a book. A lot of women figured out what was going on, but then it was super scary to speak out about it back then. It still is now. Sometimes even now, people think I’m crazy. Once you knew about your husband’s addiction, did you go to your church for help? If you did, what happened?
Coping With Pornography Addiction As A Woman Of Faith
Laurie: Yes, I did. I was a woman of faith. I wanted to handle this God’s way. I can remember saying, “What are the rules? What are the rules? What are the rules?” I went to my church, I entered a buzz saw when I did that. I was told things like, I needed to pray for him.
I was the more spiritually mature, and therefore it was my responsibility to pray for my husband, and that if I would just pray for him and trust God, that he would become a man who would stand at the gates. They quoted Proverbs for me, that it was my job to create that in him.
I was told that I needed to be more sexually available. I was told that I had to be more submissive, that no matter what he said or did, I needed to trust God in the middle of all of that. I can remember sitting there in my church leader’s office, and I just wanted him to say, “Adultery is wrong.”
Addicts Often Get Away With Lies, Theft, and Damaging Family Relationships
That’s all I wanted him to say. He didn’t have to give any magic solutions. I just wanted him to say to me, “What has happened to you is wrong.” Instead, he was telling me that it was obvious why my husband was doing this, because I was such a strong woman, and was totally lined up with my husband.
I can remember going to a Christian counselor, and my husband had taken some money from one of our children. As part of his making amends, he was supposed to apologize and return the money. Just before we went to see the therapist the next time, this child came to me and said, “You know, Dad still hasn’t dealt with this issue.”
This child was sobbing. It’s breaking my mother’s heart to see my child suffer like that. We went to see the therapist and my ex-husband went in first. When I got in, the therapist was thrilled because my husband had cooked up this story about how he had gone to the child and apologized, given the money back, and everything was great. I sat there with my mouth open, and I said, “Um, no, that’s not what happened.” He’s like, “What?” I said, “No, none of that happened.” This is where the church is so naïve, and, believe me, I’m not trying to slam Christianity—and this therapist said, “Well, he wouldn’t lie to me.”
Pornography Users Spin The Truth To Avoid Being Accountable – In The Process You Get Blamed
What he was really saying is, “The reason why he lies to you is because you’re too hard on him, you’re not on his team, and if you would just be on his team, he wouldn’t need to lie to you. I’m on his team, and he knows I’m on his team, so he wouldn’t lie to me.”
Anne: Right, like you’re the problem, you caused his lying, right?
Laurie: Exactly, that’s it. I have worked with hundreds of women, and I’ve received so many letters, and so many of them tell similar stories. I’ve had women who were suicidal, because their church disciplined them, because they dared to go and try to get help.
I’ve heard from women who were excommunicated and shamed. They’re made to be accountable to another woman in the church for whether they’re properly submitting, praying for their husband, and giving their husband sex. Because of course, that’s the woman’s responsibility; don’t withhold yourself.
I want to believe these people are well-intentioned, although, at some point, I began to doubt, especially when I saw the size of the problem in the leadership at the church, because many, many, many church leaders have this issue. They’re so naïve about how real life operates that they have this fantasy that if we just do A, B, and C, then everything is going to be okay, and that marriage is all about roles, instead of relationships. They teach marriage as roles, and therefore the husband is the head of the home, the wife is to submit to him, the children are to obey the parents. What it does is it creates dysfunction, because you don’t learn how to be in a real relationship.
Healthy Marriages Use Healthy Emotional Skills – Not Just A List Of Roles About What Men & Women Are “Supposed” To Do
When marriage is all about power and who has the most power, there’s no training in communication skills, listening skills, negotiation skills, conflict resolution skills, how to be truly intimate with each other, how to really recognize and celebrate each other’s strengths, and how to support each other in weakness. Because if somebody’s weak, especially if they’re at the top, everybody’s going to be scared, because they’re going to be vulnerable, instead of, “This is a team effort…let’s pool our resources here.”
Anne: I always felt like I was on the same team with my husband, my ex now, but that he was always in competition with me. I couldn’t understand that. I thought, “Well, we’re on the same team. I’m trying to solve a problem, let’s solve it together.” He didn’t like the resolution of the problem, if it wasn’t his idea, or he didn’t do it, or if he didn’t get credit for it.
Sex Addicts Can Exhibit Narcissistic Traits
Anne: Then, I found him taking credit for the things I had done, instead of saying, “Oh, my wife did this. She’s amazing.” He took credit for it himself. I started to be really bothered, “We’re not on a team. He sees me as some kind of minion,” like to set him up higher and higher, or the better I look the better he looks, not the better we look. Does that make sense?
Laurie: It totally does. You can see how that worldview feeds into the narcissism of the addict. His whole goal is to be admired, right?
Anne: Right, and the more you love them, and forgive them, and submit, and serve, and all of those things, the more their abusive behaviors are getting them what they want. Lundy Bancroft talks over and over again about how the reason why men use these abusive behaviors, manipulation, lying, etcetera, is because they get stuff out of it. If they didn’t get anything out of it, then they wouldn’t do it, number one. Number two, unless they stop getting something out of it, they’re not going to stop.
Laurie: That’s right.
Anne: Yeah, it’s working for them. The whole love, forgiveness, service-type stuff—which are all wonderful values, but when misused as a way to get someone to love you, or to stop abuse, or to stop adultery, it does not work. The abuser just continues to get all of the things that they want and need, and they have none of the accountability. In fact, the women are held accountable, like what you said.
Laurie: Yes, and that’s the sad thing. These women are going into a church with all male leadership. This is really hard to talk about, Anne, because my relationship with God is very important to me, and I don’t want to needlessly put the church in a bad light. I’m just saying, talking to hundreds of women—and there are some church leaders who do a fabulous job, fabulous job of supporting wives, but there are some institutional things that happen in the church that make it harder for the wife to get the support she needs and for the addict to get the help he deserves, and the freedom.
Lying, Porn Use, Infidelity And Manipulation Are Forms Of Abuse
Then, you couple that with the fact that a recent Barna Group survey showed that 57% of church leaders, and 64% of youth church leaders struggle with porn, or have struggled with porn, she could actually be talking to somebody who has the very same problem her husband has, and not know it. It becomes like clubbing baby seals. These women are so vulnerable. It just breaks my heart, what happens to them.
Anne: They get further abused by their church leadership. Yeah, it is painful, and it’s wrong.
Anne: It is wrong. I am so excited about the time we’re in right now, though, with the rash of sexual harassment allegations and men being held accountable for their actions.
Women Are Starting To Be Believed – You Can Believe Yourself
Laurie: Oh, yeah, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.
Anne: All these women who are all of a sudden feeling like, “I can speak up,” and women who are being taken seriously and women who, before, people maybe said they were crazy, now it’s coming out. No, all the things this “crazy woman” said were true. It’s an exciting time!
Laurie: That’s right.
Anne: It’s really exciting because women are becoming more, and more healthy, and that will enable and help the men to become more healthy too. Because I envision a time where men are accountable for their behaviors, where they are responsible and fantastic husbands and fathers. That is what everyone wants, right? It’s not like we want the demise of the male sex, we just want them to step up to the plate, and become men.
Laurie: And we want to be women. I love the idea of being loved. I love the idea of being in a close relationship with a strong man. That just makes me feel all kinds of feminine. When I’m with a man who has really good character, who knows how to treat me, who I can sense is genuine. Now genuine, not perfect, because if he’s trying to look like he’s perfect there’s probably a problem.
Anne: I know. It’s like, “Oh, scary, scary.”
Laurie: Yeah, so this is how we grow together. This is the beauty that God wants for us. You’re right, we are living in a very exciting time, because the cover is being pulled off of this stuff. More and more’s going to come out. I really believe that. This is the time where God is going to pull the cover back, and give us opportunities to become who He truly created us to be, which is loving beings.
That is what the whole purpose of being here is, it’s about loving one another. Those who love are living in God. That’s one of the teachings of scripture. If we’re not really loving each other, we’re really not even experiencing God in any real way.
Anne: If we don’t have integrity, we’re not experiencing God in any real way either, the true living our truth, living in the truth, right?
Integrity Means That We Live A Life Consistent With Our Values
Laurie: Absolutely. You bring up such a fabulous point, because, recently, I’ve been going to a lot of church conferences, and I’m listening to church leaders say that the way we deal with this issue is we just draw closer to Jesus. We substitute the pleasure of porn for the pleasure of being with Jesus.
I want to say, “Okay. Hello, hello, we’re talking about the way. We’re talking about the truth. We’re talking about the light.” First of all, drawing closer to the Lord is about actually living in truth, as you just so brilliantly said, Anne. It’s about living in what is true. It’s about as we know, and rely on the love God has for us, and know that we live in love, then we’re made complete, so that we can love others.
Being Close To God Means That We Know How To Have Healthy Relationships With Other People
That it’s really about the “one another”, about being close to others. That’s how we truly express our spirituality. Jesus even said that. He said, when you feed the hungry, or the thirsty, or clothe the naked, or visit someone in prison, you’re doing that as if you were doing it to me.
This thing about a relationship with God that is some kind of—I want to have this come out right—and I’m just starting to see this in a bigger way. It’s almost like they’re teaching to replace the fantasy of porn with the fantasy of an imaginary relationship that happens in your mind.
Instead of how we treat each other, how we see God all around us, right here, right now, and rejoice in that, and love one another, and respect one another, instead of this checking out, where I’m having a magical relationship in my head with someone, as a substitute for actually having a real relationship with a real human being. I hope that doesn’t come across as being heretical, but I really think it’s part of the key girlfriend, because we’re still teaching men to dissociate.
Learning How To Be In Real Intimate Relationships I Learning To Be Whole
Laurie: To dissociate, because it all happens in their mind. Instead of this place of vulnerability, where we’re naked before each other, and loving each other, and feeling what it is to be truly loved.
Anne: That’s awesome, you’re very emphatic.
Laurie: I am. I feel it so strongly, because—I’m sitting here pounding.
Anne: I love it.
Laurie: Because, you know, here’s why, because I see the hunger and the thirst in these men, to want to be whole. They want to be whole. They’re looking for a way to make it happen. It’s really about learning how to be in real intimate relationships, that’s where the wholeness is.
Anne: Well, if you just respected him more, and if you just loved him more, and if you just did more laundry, right?
Laurie: If I had more sex, don’t forget that part.
Anne: Yeah. Oh, the sex. There’s a leader in our church that said—I’m going to mess this up, but he said, “True religion, undefiled before God, is helping the poor and the widows and the orphans.”
Porn Use Causes Men To Emotionally Abandon Their Families – Which Leaves Grieving Widows & Orphans
Anne: These men, through their actions, which are un-Godlike, are creating widows and orphans. They are leaving their wives, or their wives have to say, “You can’t be around us anymore,” because they’re so unhealthy. The opposite of that would be really taking care of a woman so she does not become a porn widow, making sure that you are a good husband and father so that you do not leave your children fatherless.
It’s based on action, not your ideal version of what you are like, based on all the scriptures you can quote, or all the prayers that you can say in church to make you look beautiful. It’s actually what your real relationship is like with your wife, and with your children. Women, who are truly loved and cherished, love and cherish their husbands.
Laurie: Yes, they do.
Anne: They love and cherish their husbands, even when they’re being abused by their husbands.
Laurie: Yes, they do.
Anne: They just want their family to work.
Laurie: In fairness, I’ve met some women who are real horror shows. It’s really about this whole thing of, faith without works is dead. We can talk a good talk, but how do we walk the walk. The church needs a theology of trauma that understands that the pursuit of justice is a godly pursuit, and one that allows us to reestablish trust where it’s been broken.
Because a theology of trauma understands that there’s a difference between forgiveness and restoration and between grace and calling a thing a thing, so that grace can much more abound. No, it says in Isaiah 1:17, to learn to do right, to seek justice, to defend the oppressed, to take up the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow.
Abuser Accountability Is The Key To A Widow’s Healing
Anne, you’re so right, we are porn widows, and the church is called to be salt and light in matters of justice. If the church would just do this, if they would just stand for living in truth, and support what is true, then I really, truly believe that we would be able to restore families because there would be a path forward.
Anne: Yeah, there is no path forward without accountability.
Anne: None. Well, I so appreciate you coming on today. Thank you so much for being here, Laurie.
Laurie: Oh, thank you, Anne, it’s been a real pleasure to talk with you.
Anne: You can find Laurie at www.afteranaffairofthemind.com . We’ll announce when her new book comes out. Like I said before, Laurie is APSATS-trained, and we appreciate that perspective that only APSATS coaches, and therapists can bring. Currently, the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club is running through the holidays.
Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club gives you access to six APSATS-facilitated group sessions per week, one every weekday, and two on Tuesdays, one Tuesday during the day, and one Tuesday evening. By all means, you don’t need to go to every single session. It’s available when you need it. Many times, you’re one of a few women that are in that session.
We’ve had a few sessions where only one woman went, and she got personal attention for an hour. It makes it so that you can get in any time that you’re in trauma. That gives you up to 30 APSATS-facilitated group sessions per month, which means that you get an APSATS-facilitated session for less than $3.00 an hour, which we do because we love you, we care, and we’ve been there, and we understand what you’re going through. Register for Betrayal Trauma Recovery Club today.
I’d like to thank all of you who helped get us closer to our $5,000.00 Giving Tuesday goal for the year, to cover our expenses. If you have not donated yet, please do! Consider making a monthly, recurring donation to BTR.
$5.00 or $10.00 a month will help us to reach more women, to make sure that all our technology is up-to-date, to make sure that we continue to bring these amazing podcasts to you, that help bring you peace, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year.
Until next time, stay safe out there.