the Hope of Survivors

The Unselfish Love of a Husband by Samantha Nelson

[Note: The following article was written as a submission to an organization soliciting stories about love in action. It is published in this newsletter as an encouragement to all the husbands whose wives have been abused by a spiritual leader to love and support their wives; and to all the victims as they seek to rebuild their marriages and understand the unique struggles their husbands face trying to support them while they cope with their own grief, betrayal and pain.]

 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

I wish to write today of the unselfish love of my husband Steve. He embodies the description of love as given in the Bible text above. Now, that may sound like a lot to live up to, but let me explain how his love has impacted me over the past 20 years.

We met when I was only 18 and very emotionally unstable due to the abuse in my childhood and teens. He loved me through my suicide attempts. He loved me despite my self-destructive and often horrible behavior. He loved me as only he could do, in the way I needed most. I knew I’d found the love of my life, the only man with whom I ever wanted to spend eternity.

As the years went by and we grew and changed together, life somehow got in the way. Our business became our focus and, even though we worked side-by-side, we lost touch, to some extent, with what was really important—the need to stay connected and the need to keep our priorities in order—our main priority, outside of our relationship with Christ, being our marriage.

It was during this time of high stress that we experienced a meltdown that nearly destroyed us both. Our pastor sexually, emotionally and spiritually abused me; and my husband stood by my side, defending me and trying to protect me, even when I, obviously deluded and deceived and under constant pressure from the pastor, thought I wanted out of our marriage to be with the pastor.

I cannot describe how much agony I feel when I think of what I put my husband through and the pain he endured during that dark time in our lives. I am thankful for his unfailing love. Not only did he recognize what was happening (that I was being manipulated into this abusive relationship) and try to help me, he loved me through it all, despite the arguments, despite the pain I caused him, despite my selfishness and, once again, suicide attempts, he was there—firm, faithful, forgiving and full of love—for me.

As if that weren’t enough, I underwent major surgery in the midst of this crisis. Just prior to surgery I became ill at home and it was my loving husband who took care of me, cleaned me up, took care of the house, our pets and our business. He covered for me when I could not work. He protected my character and reputation. During the time I was in the hospital, he stayed by my side continuously, only going home to let our dog out and to change clothes each day. He loved me, unselfishly, fully and patiently.

I can say that Steve exhibited all the qualities of love that are referred to in the above-quoted Scripture passage. Not only do I think he has those qualities; he has proven them to me by his actions. Love does not consist of words alone. Love is primarily action. Love is a principle as well, and my husband remained steadfast in his love for me.

To put it simply, he expressed his love for me in many ways, including:

…cleaning me up when I was sick and couldn’t care for myself.
…staying by my side when I was hospitalized.
…loving me enough to be firm with me when I was headed down the wrong path.
…caring for me when I was not being respectful or kind in return.
…remaining faithful to me throughout our marriage.
…holding me while I cried, even if I cried all night.
…returning home to make sure I was ok when I had just attempted suicide, although he didn’t know it. By his returning home, I was kept alive.
…praying for, and with, me.
…spending time with me.
…growing with me.
…laughing with me.
…reassuring me.
…forgiving me.

There were so many non-verbal ways he expressed his love to, and for, me. I stand in awe of what he did for me during those terrible times. I am amazed at his love for me during the good times. I stand in awe of his great love for me—through it all.

I love you, Steve.


If you are a survivor of pastoral abuse, we would love to hear your story and possibly make it available on this web site for others to read and renew their hope. You can use a pseudonym if you choose and rest assured that all personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.

Please note: We do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed, by the grace of God, in their own time and way.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart...Psalms 34:18