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‘I broke things off with my husband. It was a shock to my family. I hid my unhappiness well. Then I met Sean.’: Teen bride finds ‘unconditional love’ after realizing she didn’t want to be ‘pastor’s wife,’ is ‘grateful for second chance at happiness’

“I was 18 when I married my high school sweetheart. I hesitantly resigned myself to becoming a youth pastor’s wife, and told myself I’d learn to bake casseroles and become the epitome of domesticity. I told myself this was who I was. I never anticipated the crash.”

‘Yes, I was naive. I was married to a sex addict and had no idea. I felt like I was staring at a stranger.’: Wife realizes she isn’t ‘weak’ for staying in her marriage, husband has ‘completely owned his mistakes’

“I got a text from my husband. ‘Hey, I’m coming home. I need to tell you something. Cathy is going to meet me there.’ Cathy was a close friend and mentor to me. Why would she need to come also? I sat on my couch with my 4-month-old girl on my lap. My husband confessed he’d cheated with a woman he worked with. A woman who listened to me pour out my heart about my struggling relationship with my husband only one week before.”

‘Divorce isn’t an option. 19-year-old bride, you begin slowly dying. You feel so trapped.’: Young woman feels ‘shame’ for wanting to end ‘picture perfect’ marriage, but had to ‘save’ herself

“‘I met the man I’m going to marry,’ you told your friends. You’re 19 when you first lay eyes on him. From the moment you learn he’s going to be a pastor, you know this is the life for you. Neither of you knew what you were signing up for. You thought if you found a Christian man, one willing to wait to have sex until marriage, life will be perfect. Now, you flinch when touched.”

‘I woke up and saw him. ‘Who are you?!’ A rush of panic took over my body.’: Woman gets engaged to husband again after traumatic brain injury causes memory loss

“‘Laura, it’s me!’ He’d say over and over. ‘Who is ‘me?” I felt like I’d just woken up to the marriage, and felt no attachment to it. I’d stare at my wedding rings with anxiety, resenting them. I felt trapped. I knew the right thing to do was to stay with him, but the thought of that pained me. I had to make a choice. I couldn’t stay in a marriage I didn’t remember choosing. I took off my rings, approached my husband, and said, ‘Brayden, I want to date you.’”

‘Please,’ they begged. ‘Would you take in a newborn, just for the weekend?’ I knew my husband would say no.’: Foster mom adopts ‘special little boy,’ is forever grateful for her son ‘who almost wasn’t’

“I could literally hear water balloons whizzing over my husband’s head. ‘What?!! Are you crazy? Heck No!’ I expected this. But I couldn’t let it go. I pictured this baby alone, in need of someone to hold him, to help him feel safe. ‘Please honey, just consider it,’ I urged. ‘It’s only for the weekend!’ Around 9 p.m., there was a knock on my door. ‘We’ll take good care of you this weekend, little guy.’ I snuggled him softly.”

‘Don’t worry, he won’t cheat!,’ a church member told me. It was a betrayal of epic proportions.’: Woman overcomes husband’s infidelity to become ‘stronger, more authentic’ version of herself

“Out of nowhere, he grabbed my hands, looked me in the eyes and said every kind thing I’d hoped to hear. I asked where this sudden conviction came from. He replied, ‘Because I’ve been lying to you… there’s more.’ At that moment, time stood still. A family member of hers had texted us letting us know she had missed her period, and was concerned of pregnancy.”

‘What would we do if someone started shooting?,’ I wondered in church. I could feel my heart racing.’: Mom says her fear can be ‘crippling’ following mass shootings, but knows there will ‘always be light’

“Where were the exits? How would I protect my kids? I hate that my mind was in a place of fear in church of all places. I often run to the grocery store or Target with all 3 of my kids. How will I protect them if someone started shooting? How can I keep them safe? How can I teach them to protect themselves? Fear can be crippling. But there will also always be light.”

‘My brother molested me as a teenager. Later in life, he became a youth pastor.’: Woman’s harrowing journey overcoming sexual abuse, brother’s resignation from church

“I finally mustered up the courage to tell my friend. She and her husband worked with my brother in the youth group. ‘I have to tell you, I’m not surprised by this.’ She said she had seen red flags and strange behavior from my brother and always thought there was something off. Eventually, he confessed.”

‘When I was 3, my stepdad locked me in a cellar. I married at 19. My husband bought me diet pills for my birthday. He said I had cellulite on our honeymoon.’: Woman overcomes childhood abuse, sex-addicted husband to finally ‘get out of that darkness’

“My stepdad was angry that my mom was constantly pregnant. He told her to get an abortion more than once. I remember him hitting my sister on the head with a phone book when she was 2 years old. Someone must have tipped off CPS because they started visiting our home. Somehow against all odds, I survived.”

‘You were conceived in rape.’ She was gasping for air. ‘I don’t know who your father is. I’ve never told anyone this before.’: Adopted woman learns truth about her past, feels guilty for her own abortions

“When I was 21, with two babies of my own, I was in my bedroom with this heaviness on my heart. I needed to know who my birth-father was. My birth-mom was only 14 when she had me, 13 when she was pregnant. I could sense such sadness in her voice. My heart sank. ‘It is not your fault. Thank you for your strength to tell me. I love you.’”

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