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Survivor Story: Married by Myself [Episode 240]

Survivor Story: Married by Myself

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Today’s guest is Laurie Sullivan, a survivor of emotional abuse and sexual infidelity at the hands of her husband, a prominent leader in several churches they attended. Laurie outlines her story from getting married at age nineteen to a man she loathed in childhood to eventually finding freedom years later. 

Christ is at the center of Laurie’s story, showing Himself to her throughout her custody battle for her children and her third marriage to a good man. Listen in to this eventful story of Laurie’s journey out from abuse. 

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Why Laurie married a man she was originally disgusted with.
  • How a pencil and a taco can demonstrate the concept of gaslighting. 
  • Why dating someone for a long time doesn’t necessarily keep you safe from emotional abuse. Laurie’s second marriage is proof. 

Related Resources:

Born to two ministers, Laurie Sullivan was raised in faith that she embraced wholeheartedly at age four. Growing up with Jesus provided her a consciousness of God through every stage of development. She graduated from high school a year early and college with her B.S. degree in English Education to teach in her own classroom at 21. Nothing prepared her for the devastation ten months into her marriage to a youth minister, the man whose words and ambitions for Christ made her eyes shine with pride. Enter pornography, lies, deceit, young girls, and the murky waters of gaslighting. Now married and mother to eight, Nana to thirteen, she is a vibrant public speaker with a message of encouragement and hope to women who find themselves living a life they never dreamed of.

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Hi. This is Natalie Hoffman of Flyingfreenow.com, and you’re listening to the Flying Free Podcast, a support resource for women of faith looking for hope and healing from hidden emotional and spiritual abuse.

NATALIE: Welcome to Episode 240 of the Flying Free Podcast. Today we are going to visit with Laurie Sullivan. She’s a fellow survivor who was married to a minister, and she is now out of her abusive relationship and remarried. She has eight children in total and thirteen grandchildren, and we are going to hear her survivor story today. So welcome, Laurie. 

LAURIE: Thank you.

NATALIE: Your situation was especially problematic because you were married to a pastor, someone who was likely… I’m guessing he was well respected in the community and at your church, and behind the scenes doing things that were problematic. So that’s a very complicated situation. So if we could start at the beginning, maybe you could tell us a little bit about your background, what kind of primed and prepped you to marry someone like this. And also, I’m curious to know if you noticed anything, even before you got married, that might’ve raised some red flags for you. And if you did, did you ignore them? I kind of want to know a little bit about that. 

LAURIE: My background is that I was born going to church. I was in church before I was born. Both of my parents were ministers. So pregnant mom, they prayed me into being. She couldn’t have any children. She went there and had a fellow minister pray for her, and he said, “Sister, are you healed?” And she said, “I will let you know in nine months.” And I was born. So all of my conscious memory include Christ. 

I was actually four when I asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior, and I write about that in my book. So that’s a story, because a lot of people kind of look at me or want to pat me on the head about that and think, “Oh, how adorable, but what did you know?” So I do talk about that, but I always tell people that Jesus and I grew up together. So I’m aware of Christ and growing in my relationship with Him when I’m five and six and seven, and God goes to school with me and I talk to Him all the time and it’s a very natural relationship.

I met my husband when my dad took a new church in a different state when I was thirteen. And I write about that in my book, how I cried the ugly cry and prayed and asked God to not do that to me because, you know, thirteen years old, all your friends. When I look back at it now, I think, “Thank you, Lord — thank you for the journey.”

My husband, my soon-to-be husband, when I was thirteen, he was fourteen, and his dad was the minister of music in our church, and he played the trumpet. There was an orchestra that played. He’s very talented, he’s very good-looking, and he was an idiot. When you say, “Were there red flags?” it’s embarrassing, and I do write about it. I have no defense, really, for myself, Natalie. 

NATALIE: Well, you were young, right? 

LAURIE: Okay, thank you, thank you. One point. He was very charismatic, absolutely, but he was so full of himself, so arrogant, so conceited, so “God’s gift to the women,” that it disgusted me. My dear friend — and I write about that — one of my good friends from high school dated him for three years, and he cheated on her and I saw it. I was at camp, she was not there. And it further sickened me against him because he was hurting someone that I cared about. And I didn’t tell her. I look at people — I don’t know — “Why didn’t they tell me?” I mean, sometimes as a pastor’s wife, I’ve looked back and thought, “Gosh, board members. If you notice a little something something, why didn’t you come to me?” But then again, I didn’t tell my good friend when I was young.

And I remember one day when we were seventeen, I grabbed her face because she was weeping yet again about the tragedies of her relationship, and I said to her, “Break up with him. He is such a jerk.” So that was age seventeen. 

I graduated early from high school. I went off to college a thousand miles away, and six months later he came out in the spring semester. He came out to the same city and went to a different college in my city, and I was mad because I thought, “This is my space. I don’t have to live under your condescending personality. This is my zone.” And then when I was nineteen, I married him between my sophomore and junior years of college. 

NATALIE: Wow, interesting. What was your thinking at the time? 

LAURIE: I am an eternal optimist. I’ve made it to age sixty without that being beaten out of my body, and I’m not sure how. But I see the glass half full. And so I have all this hope, still, and he changed, right? At home, he was a big fish in a very small pond. In our city, he was a very small fish in a very big pond.

And he called me once in my dorm room. He called me specifically and said, “Can you introduce me to some girls because I’ve tried all the things I’ve ever done to get a date here on campus, and nobody responds to anything.” And I laughed right out loud on the phone, and I said, “Oh, well, welcome to the planet where the rest of us live. It’s called ‘rejection.’ I know you’ve never experienced it, but.” 

So roller skating is just fun. Roller skating was the big deal to do. They closed the rink at 10:00 to all the high school students so only the college people could skate. So that was the big thing to do in town, and I agreed, “Okay, we go skating, you go skating, okay. I’ll introduce you to some of the girls that are at the skate.” None of the girls that I introduced him to were interested in him. And I was like, “Wow, this dude is taking a beating, man,” because I knew how he lived and moved, you know? And it was humbling to him. 

And his intention was he was a musician. He played bass guitar in a band and he played trumpet and he would sing, and he started talking to me about, “I’m here because I want to be a youth minister and I really feel heart for teenagers.” And I thought, “Good for you.” And then over that semester there were just more and more encounters with him, and he seemed different. He had been knocked down a lot of pegs. 

And that summer when we went home, he did some sort of summer course on the Old Testament. And so he called and said, “Would you come over and help me when I read through Leviticus, help me with my homework?” And he had asked me out on a date. We went to the zoo, and I remember thinking, “If you even try to hold my hand, I will never go on another date with you.” And I didn’t tell him. I was just like, “That is the test.” And he didn’t. 

NATALIE: And the rest is history. You ended up getting married to him. Okay, so after you were married, then what were some of the ways that he mistreated you, and did he become that youth pastor or what? Tell us what happened next. 

LAURIE: So we married young. I was nineeteen, he was twenty. We had two years of college yet to do. So he took a position — I’m thinking it was in our senior year that he got an internship in a small church and we started going there to be volunteer youth ministers. And it was then… No, I guess it wasn’t — it was our junior year. Because we had a baby. My junior year I was pregnant. Three days before my senior year of school started, I gave birth to a child. 

NATALIE: And you finished school? 

LAURIE: Oh, yeah. My father was terrified. When we wanted to get married so young he said, “I don’t want you to get married while you’re in college. You’ll never finish.” And my father was a lifelong learner. He was working on his second doctorate when he died. I remember saying to him, “Daddy, I am too much of your daughter to ever quit school.” Because I was nineteen and I knew everything then — I’ve since forgotten it all — but I said, “And dad, there are ways to prevent that.” Because he said, “You’ll just get pregnant and you’ll quit school.” And I said, “Dad, there are ways to prevent that.” So imagine the conversation when I called and said, “Hey, we’re going to have a baby.” So one of my favorite photos of myself is standing in my cap and gown, holding my nine-month-old son. 

NATALIE: Oh, that’s amazing. 

LAURIE: Yeah. So we finished, but it was actually while I was pregnant and we were at that church that I found — and I write about this too — I found the briefcase. We had purchased a professional-looking briefcase for his appearance, and it had a lock on it… Oh, what am I trying to say? A dial number lock.  I didn’t know the combination, but sticking out from the briefcase were like little pieces of paper, and they were like glossy paper.

And I remember I was home alone and I was pregnant and I thought, “What is that?” And I pulled up and then I just kept pulling and it was many, many pornography magazines, just a whole collection. And of course, there’s your first confrontation. With a professional gaslighter, that’s… I write about that too. It wasn’t until probably the last five years of my own life that I had a word to put to what happened to me. I used to say to people, “My ex-husband can tell you that this is a taco.”

NATALIE: For those of you who are listening, she’s holding up a pencil. 

LAURIE: Yeah. And if you’ve never been gaslighted, you probably think, “Laurie, you might be a little off on your understanding of the world,” but when someone has been gaslighted and I say that, they connect immediately. They’re like, “Yes.” The craziest thing that is not real at all that you absolutely know — you know reality — but it is the work of that gaslighter to take reality and to manipulate me and everyone else that experiences this into not questioning my own sanity with something that should be so clear — that that is a pencil, that is not a taco. But that is how messed up it is. 

So that was our first confrontation, and his explanation — he always had such a great way to explain things — that he came across this variety of a collection from a fifteen-year-old boy in the youth group who had come to him for counseling and had given him the stash. So I have no idea if that was ever true, but that was the story. And it seemed to fit because it was such a variety of magazines and dates. So then I asked him, “Well, what are you doing with it?” And he said, “Oh, I threw it in my briefcase so no one would see it, and I needed to go to a dumpster.”

NATALIE: So beyond that, can you describe how the relationship worsened and then maybe some of your coping strategies and what you decided to do? 

LAURIE: Yeah. He kept me feeling bad for him, for sure. And then any time I confronted him, if I didn’t have a piece of objective evidence that you could exactly look at and say, “Listen, this lives outside of your mind and outside of my mind, and here it is, and this cannot be explained away…” There were very few moments of that. So the sorrow of our story is that we went from church to church to church. And within the organization that we were a part of in ministry, there is no hierarchy that checks from one state to another. So we were in four different churches, Natalie, and things would get a little bit suspicious. There would be these gray kind of areas that you’d begin to question, “What is going on?”

But the first senior pastor had these questions and just fired him, and we left and went to a different state. We got hired by this next state. I was questioning, “What just happened in my life?” And the subtitle of my book is how I’ve described it as living a parallel life. I feel there are still things about those nine and a half years I don’t know about, and I feel like at sixty, I’m okay with not knowing anything more than I do know, because what I know has come out in life circumstances in a custody case, and it’s vile and it is disgusting. And every time he would say when he got caught, “It’s an emotional affair.”

Well, we were so young, and I had this Bachelor of Science degree in English education. I’m teaching high school. We’ve got two little boys now. My life is full of work to do and I’m loving being a youth minister’s wife because I’m the drama girl. I have a certification in theater and drama and I’m using that to work with the students at church, and I am loving my students in my classroom, and my precious little chocolate-eyed boys that look just like their daddy. And I am believing in marriage. I’m believing that God can do anything. I am begging God to help me know what to do because I didn’t understand my own life, and just waiting for an answer. So in the end, at the end of nine and a half years, it had been four congregations in four different places. 

NATALIE: And he was fired in all four places? 

LAURIE: Yes. 

NATALIE: Okay. Mainly for sexual indiscretions or…? 

LAURIE: Yes, these questionable activities. Although in place number two, there was a letter. I don’t know what possessed him to put a handwritten letter to a fourteen-year-old girl in his outbox in his church office, but I found this letter, so a piece of tangible something that said, “Laurie, you are not crazy. There was something going on.” There was. That letter — I had gone in, he was practicing with the youth choir — I don’t know why I was in the building — but I went in his office. Right at the top of the outbox on his beautiful, cherry wood desk and everything was this handwritten letter. And I recognized, of course, the name, because that girl was in our youth group, but she was also in my classroom. I was her ninth-grade English teacher. So I was like, “What is it?” 

And I took it and I fled to the bathroom, and I knew he was busy and I thought, “Oh, my goodness.” My heart was just beating because I thought, “Oh, I’m not crazy. There really was something. I’m holding it in my hands. I have evidence.” When I opened it, he had even drawn a little picture of a place in nature, actually on the ocean, and it said, “Our spot.” And he drew little people. And I don’t remember what the letter said, but I did take it to our senior pastor and his wife. And I remember saying to them, holding it, I did the taco thing. I held the letter and I said, “Now, you’ve got to be with me when I confront him, or he is going to make you believe this is a taco.” And they were. And so when he can’t wiggle out of it, he would then say, “I’m sorry, it was an emotional affair.” 

NATALIE: Who cares? There are things like emotional affairs, but they’re just as bad as… It’s still a betrayal. And also, that would be considered grooming if it’s someone who’s underage. He was grooming her for only God knows what. Completely illegal.

LAURIE: And there were two suspicious girls, thirteen and fourteen years old, in the first church. I have suspicion of two. They never came forward. You know, the piece that seems to be common is his victims are usually vulnerable young women who don’t have father figures in their lives. And the one that he was with the longest and whom I’ve spoken to, her damage is incredible. I mean, we’re thirty years out, and when I talked to her about writing the book and if she would want to have a voice at this point in her life, she absolutely refused. She said, “If my husband,” who was her boyfriend back then, “If my husband heard this name and knew I was talking to you, I would immediately be divorced, Laurie. I can’t, I can’t. The journey has been so stupid long. I can’t.”

NATALIE: Yeah, I get that. I would even correct the idea that these were young women because they were really children. They were children. He was preying on children, and that’s really sad.

LAURIE: In a position of power with a charismatic personality. And she had said to me earlier in ‘96 — I had spoken with her because I was doing a court case — and she cried and she said, “Laurie, I’ve always wanted to find you and tell you I was sorry.” And I said, “Oh, honey girl,” I said, “I accept your apology. I understand that at your age, you know right, you know wrong. But you were a victim and I was a victim. We all were victims, honey, of the same thing. It’s just I was married.” 

NATALIE: You were married to the predator. That’s it. Okay, so how did you end up getting out, then? When did you decide to get out? 

LAURIE: Five years in I came home from work late at night. I’m a teacher, so in the summer, I was working as a hostess in a hotel, and I came home to find my two and four-year-old son asleep in the same room with their dad who had the television on and was watching that stupid college sex movie, Porky’s, back in the eighties. And it was porn, and my babies were asleep in that room. So I said not one word to him. We have gone to mandated counseling. He balked against it. We left that church. We went to a different state. We’re living in his parent’s home, all four of us in a bedroom. And I was just like, “God, please. I don’t understand my life. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what truth is,” you know? But when I saw that, Natalie, I thought, “Okay. Thank you, Lord. Because my children will never be subjected to anything. No, it will not happen.” 

And I called my family, and I don’t remember details, but my family came. It was a very long drive. And I did not even have a conversation with him about, “I’m going to leave you.” Because talking to a gaslighter and a narcissist is an exercise in futility because they’re just going to twist anything you say. So no words are better. And I just took those children and I left. 

And I was gone I think five months, and I had gotten some substitute teaching jobs. I had no money, living off my parents, feeling like a total failure. I had to figure out, “What are we doing, Lord?” And I remember at noontime, my parents would come home from work over at the church office, and they live next door, and they would come home for an hour for lunch. If I was home and not teaching that day, I would go to the church and I would lie flat on my face in the choir loft, for whatever reason, the choir loft, and I just gutturally… You know, the guttural noises in the prayer and fasting and begging God, “Save my family. Save my husband. Help him. I don’t know what is happening. I don’t know what’s wrong with him, but these are two little boys and they need their dad,” you know? Sometimes I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have prayed so hard, you know, like Hezekiah, and God gave him fifteen more years?

NATALIE: Yeah, yeah.

LAURIE: It wasn’t great, but what happened was in those months’ time, he swallowed a bottle of Tylenol and had to have his stomach pumped, and his mother called me and said, “Honey, please come home, please come home. All he says is your name.” And I remember being just intelligent enough, and I feel like I was under some spell of gaslighting, but when I got away, I said to her, “Mom, he doesn’t need me — he needs Jesus. I’m not coming home.” 

And then family gave him a plane ticket and he came to me. And I got pregnant again and he left, and I told my father. I said, “But Dad, I’m not going to say anything to him because I do not want a baby to be the reason that he wants to work on this marriage.” So I didn’t tell him. And he did the things, you know? He got himself a job and he got an apartment and he traded in his  stupid expensive car and got a reasonable car. A lot of his behaviors, Natalie, back then, reminded me of bipolar. There would be these moments of glorious excess and joy. And then the pit of despair and suspicion and awful.

So after the five years and all that prayer, I did go back, and I write about that. I thought, “Lord, if he is willing to try, I feel like I need to be willing to try.” And God knew me too, Natalie. I could not have lived with myself if I had not exhausted everything that could be done. I would feel like I copped out, and it’s kind of led me in, in any conversation with other women who are in abusive relationships, nobody can tell somebody else when it’s time to go.

NATALIE: Right.

LAURIE: It’s such a personal decision and awareness. And as a Christian and as a minister’s wife, I really needed to know that I was okay in front of God — Laurie and God. That’s it. And I remember my father and mother had always preached against divorce, that divorce was not a Christian thing to do. And so I had that weighing in my mind too, and I thought when I did decide, “This is it. Thank you, Lord — this is it. I have my clarity.” I was completely confident to look at my parents whom I loved and respected very much, but I said, “Daddy, I know that I know that I know, and I stand before God, my Maker, all alone. I will be alone in my accounting on judgment day. And this is between me and God, and God says I am released. I’m released.” That was my word. And I needed that. I, Laurie, needed that to be able to walk away from a narcissist and a gaslighter who would continue to torment me, threatening to take the children.

NATALIE: So what was your divorce like? And how did custody go? 

LAURIE: Divorce, I filed. I wrote him a letter. Dr. James Dobson needs a shout-out here for a book because this is literally what God did for me. I was washing dishes. We had eaten. The three boys were outside playing. He was working nights and I was teaching school, so we didn’t see him very much. And prayer, prayer, prayer: “God, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do?” And I’m washing dishes and into my mind comes, “Tough Love.” And I thought, “Oh! I’ve heard of that before. Somebody must have written about that.” I looked at the clock. It was 5:50. The Christian bookstore in town closed at 6:00. We lived close. So I stopped doing dishes, I yelled to these three kids, “Get in the car,” and I raced downtown, parked the car, grabbed the kids, walked in, and I said, “Hello, do you have a book called “Tough Love”?” And she said, “No, but we do have a book called “Love Must Be Tough” by Dobson.” I said, “Thank you. I’ll take that one.” I bought it. They closed the door, closed shop. 

I got home, did the boy routine, going to bed thing, read half of that book that one night and the other half on Saturday morning with Saturday morning cartoons helping me out with those children. And that book suggested to the Christian world there is such a thing as drawing a boundary line — draw a boundary line for righteousness — and talked about a letter. 

So I wrote a letter, I copied it, and I had the youth pastor and his wife come to be witnesses to prevent the pencil from being called a taco. So I had witnesses, and I made copies of the letters for them and I read the letter and it just said, “I’m done. This is it. I am drawing a line for righteousness. My children and I will live for the Lord, and you will not live here anymore. We’re done.” And he couldn’t weasel out of it. So he said to the youth pastor and his wife, “I think I’ve given my life to God, but I never really gave Him my heart.” And the youth pastor, God love him, he didn’t miss a beat. He leaned right into his space and he said, “Well, brother, let’s do it right now.” Crickets. 

NATALIE: Oh my gosh. He was just trying to put on another mask, like, “Oh, all the other masks didn’t work. Let’s try the mask of, ‘I didn’t give him my heart.’” 

LAURIE: Isn’t that beautiful? It’s beautiful. So he stared at the carpet for quite a long time and they eventually went away. He said, “I don’t have the money to leave.” So he stayed another month. And I thought, “Oh, isn’t that a special sentence? What does that sentence say to me? I’m your sugar mama? Come on! Get out!” It actually took my parents coming to visit. They were driving through my town to go see my sister graduate from college. So he knew they were coming on a Saturday morning, so he left Friday night. It took a month, and I don’t know if it would’ve taken longer if my parents hadn’t been coming through, but he finally did find a way to move his body out of the house.

NATALIE: And then did you end up getting custody of the kids, or did you share custody?

LAURIE: We have joint custody. Although, I have to thank God for a Catholic judge, who, when we were in court talking about custody — when should the children be with the father and the mother — he asked my ex-husband, “What’s the man of the cloth” — and that’s how he said it — he said, “What’s the man of the cloth doing selling cars?” And my husband replied, “Well, God needs His people everywhere, sir.” The turmoil in my mind and stomach… You’re in court, you can’t convince an objective person, of the whole sordid, long story and pull out the pencil-as-a-taco thing. And so I’m just like, “Oh, God, please let truth be known. Let truth be understood.” And this Catholic judge didn’t say anything to him, but he said, “All right,” and he goes through the calendar and he said, “The children will be with the mother every year on Easter as that is the most precious Christian holiday.”

NATALIE: Interesting.

LAURIE: And I went in the car and just wept. I thought, “Lord, thank you,” not only for him saying that and for giving that gift to me, but because he sized me up and he sized up my husband and he gave me that gift of Easter with my children regardless. But it also was God telling me, “Laurie, I am seeing you. I’m seeing you, and what you cannot speak to the lawyer or to the judge or to a court, I’m handling.” This Catholic judge was used of God to communicate to me that God was taking care of me and still saw me and I was not alone

NATALIE: That’s neat. I’m curious to know if any of the evidence that you had as far as his grooming female children, did any of that come up in the custody case or any of his…

LAURIE: Nothing came up. No, nothing came up. A divorce where you could offer evidence of anything. It was just this no-fault divorce and, “Here, let’s divide up this custody.” But it was four years later that I did a custody battle because he was married again, he was up to his old tricks again. His second wife got a hold of me — a husband came into her workplace and wanted to kill my ex-husband, which, I was kind of for that?

NATALIE: I get it. I get it. 

LAURIE: We want to stop him, you know? I’m being facetious, but she was blown away and didn’t know what to do. And he said he’s going to kill himself again with the bottle of Tylenol and I was like, “Oh my goodness. I don’t know — maybe he needs a list from all of us (because he’s always trying the same thing) about ‘how to’ if you really want to get this thing done, buddy,” because it’s so stupid and it’s so manipulative. It’s like he pulled the same song and dance and all the games on me and her. She called one day when she suspected him of having an affair, and we spent seven and a half hours on the phone. Who does that? But she was so curious: “Did this happen? Did he say that? And then that?” And I was just confirming, “Yep.” He wrote us all the same songs. 

NATALIE: That’s so gross. So where are you at today? I know you got remarried. You must have had… Wait, how many kids total? Eight kids?

LAURIE: Eight kids. 

NATALIE: So you must’ve had five more kids. Is that with your second husband? 

LAURIE: No. So there’s husband number two, a quiet, seemingly peaceful introvert. Very, very different personality than my minister husband, but sadly the same selfish nature, only quiet and not loud and charismatic.

NATALIE: More covert.

LAURIE: And so two years of dating, all of the tests and workbook series and videos and premarital counseling, and here are these three boys — we just did everything. But ten months into the marriage, at a wedding, husband two said, “I do not love you like a husband should love a wife.”

NATALIE: Wow. So he ended it?

LAURIE: We were eight hours from home and I said, “Well, I have to go take care of the reception book for my dear friend who just got married and we need to go to the reception. So I have no idea what that means, but we’re going to have to put that in a box with a lid because I have got to go take care of my dear friend’s situation.” 

He didn’t understand what he was saying himself, and we began years of counseling. Years and years of counseling. I was so desperate, Natalie, because I thought, “Oh no, no, no, no. Because we checked this thing, we dated for two years. We did all the things because I have three children, and what we are not going to do is put those children through any kind of stupid suffering. What is going on here? We need to understand what this thing is.” We even moved across country to a warmer climate. I thought, “God, if that’ll do it, I can do that.” 

And we had a son, and he was very angry about that. He didn’t want any children. And so that’s a whole story in the second book. But that little boy, God love him, he’s just the best thing that ever happened to our family. My seventeen-year-old son wrote that on his little poster that he had to take to school one day, one year of school. He said, “He’s just the best thing that’s ever happened to our family.” And I thought, “Oh, it’s so true.” That little guy brought us so much joy. 

But that marriage did end. I just thought, “Okay, God, clearly, clearly, I am missing it every time. There is no formula for safety on this thing.” So it was actually my brother who said, “You should try an online site. And I just said, “Oh no, no,” because that was all a new thing and still kind of scandalous. I’m like, “Oh, shouldn’t meet a human online.” But I did it. I always say Rob looked like a little postage stamp, his little picture. We met at a restaurant on a Sunday afternoon. I did all the safety things. And honestly, Natalie, we married within twenty-five days.

NATALIE: Wow. And is this person someone you’re married to now, the guy who was waving a little bit ago?

LAURIE: Yes. It’ll be seventeen years. 

NATALIE: Wow. That it’s very interesting. It goes to show there is no formula. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can be together with someone for a long time and still not see the truth about them. And it’s not probably something that I would recommend, getting married after twenty-five days. 

LAURIE: No, no. I said to him when we realized it, I said, “We should not tell our adult children what we did. This is a very bad example.”

NATALIE: That was seventeen years ago. Did you have kids with him, then? 

LAURIE: We adopted. We adopted a girl. We adopted a teenage girl from my high school classroom. It was totally a God thing. Totally a story. I was not shopping for more children because I had four biological sons and my husband had three daughters. They were grown when we married in our 40s. So then my husband helped raise my youngest guy. He was seven. And then we adopted a sixteen-year-old girl and put her right in there in the lineup. So there are eight of them. 

NATALIE: Wow. That’s very interesting. And you have thirteen grandchildren. What are their ages? 

LAURIE: They range from eighteen to three. 

NATALIE: So, so sweet. That’s great. Okay, why don’t you tell us what your book is called and where they can get it so that people who want to hear more about your story can go do that?

LAURIE: It’s called Married by Myself: Living a Parallel Life with a Man Hiding Behind the Cloth — a reference to ministry. And it can be purchased on Kindle on Amazon for $9.99 and it’s $20 on Amazon. My website, I’ll autograph it for you and send it to you if you want to get it on my website. And it’s also online at Target, Walmart, and Barnes and Noble.

NATALIE: All right, we will be sure to put links to the book in the show notes and to your website for people who want to connect with you. Thank you so much for giving us some of your time and telling us a little bit about your story. 

LAURIE: Thank you for talking to me.

NATALIE: And for those of you who are listening and you want to hear more, yes, we will provide a link to that book so you can read more about her story.

Hey, beautiful butterfly. Thank you so much for listening. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe, and then consider leaving a rating and review so others can find us. To connect with me and get a free chapter of my book, head over to flyingfreenow.com, and until next time, fly free.

"I love how this podcast has helped me understand what I was going through! It really helps my find my strength in Christ with the lens of being free from abuse."
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The Comments

  • Avatar
    Joan
    October 11, 2023

    Thank you for sharing your story! Sometimes I think I’m losing my mind from all the gaslighting that happens in this family & it’s like ducks in water, they all do it. A constant triangle and ball toss to anyone but me. The pencil is a TACO I cannot stop laughing. They believe their own lies so much so it makes you wonder about your reality! I heard a counselor say that he was giving a class to alcoholics who had been sent to him by a judge & one of them showed up drunk & the guy was so convincing that he hadn’t had anything to drink the counselor actually had to ask for a breathalyzer because he actually doubted himself! YES!!! This is the crap they do!!! Please pray for me.

  • Avatar
    Carol
    September 16, 2023

    I love the pencil taco description. They are so good at that. Natalie, thank you for helping me understand what had been happening in my marriage. I had already left but you were part of my healing journey. I was not crazy.

  • Avatar
    LISA
    September 13, 2023

    Good morning! Is there a transcript for this episode that I can download?

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → LISA
      September 13, 2023

      The transcript has just been added!

      -Aimee, Flying Free Community Support

  • Avatar
    Louisa
    September 13, 2023

    Thank you for sharing your story. I prefer to read the transcript, but I can’t find the transcript download link.

    • Natalie Hoffman
      Natalie Hoffman
      → Louisa
      September 13, 2023

      The transcript has just been added!

      -Aimee, Flying Free Community Support