Through Humility, Weak Things Become Strong

By Kathy Hulick

Be sure to also listen to Kathy and her husband Arlo share their story. Watch video here.
Kathy Hulick grew up in Stockton, CA, with her parents and three brothers. Active in the LDS church her whole life, she married in the temple, had a premature baby, then become a widow at the young age of 26. Two years later she met and fell in love with Arlo Hulick, and they had two more children together. In 2004 they relocated from California to Utah. Arlo and Kathy have been married for 21 years. Kathy is a sign language interpreter, both by profession and in the deaf ward in her stake. She loves to sing, and began singing duets with her mother in church at the age of 8. She currently sings in a community choir and often signs one of the songs at concerts.

Beginnings and Endings



When I was 26 I got my miracle baby. He came to us after two devastating miscarriages and was born 6 weeks early. He spent a month in the NICU, and when he was finally well enough to come home, he wore a breathing monitor that would set off a blaring alarm when he stopped breathing. At 7 months old he was declared healthy and was taken off the monitor. Only a month after this triumph, my world turned upside down.

My husband was diabetic, and had been taking insulin for a couple of years. One weekend we went on a camping trip. He woke me up in our small trailer at 6 in the morning and told me he'd been vomiting uncontrollably for an hour. I took him to the hospital and they admitted him. The doctors couldn’t seem to pinpoint exactly what was wrong, though they suspected it was related to his diabetes. Late that night the doctor called and said he'd been moved to the ICU. The next morning I asked our home teacher to give him a blessing. Later that afternoon, I went to see him again. He was in bad shape. I pleaded with him to hang on, to be here to raise our son with me. After 15 minutes, the nurse told me I had to leave so he could rest. Five minutes later I heard "code blue" over the hospital PA and I knew it was for my husband.

I looked through the glass doors of the ICU and could see a half dozen doctors and nurses crowded around his bed. A nurse saw me and told me to wait in a little room while they worked on him. I sat there, all by myself. I went into shock as the minutes ticked by. I didn't know what to think, or what to do. After what seemed like a painfully long time, a doctor came in to talk to me. He told me that my husband's heart had stopped, and that despite their best efforts, they were unable to revive him. The next couple of hours were a blur, spent filling out paperwork and making arrangements. My grandparents had arrived by then and helped me through the process. I was in shock and barely functional. When I was finally done, the Lord gave me a tender mercy as I walked out the door of the hospital. I clearly felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my fragile heart that the Lord would not leave me alone for long and that someone else would come into my life within two years. I was stunned! That was the furthest thing from my mind at the moment, but it became a salve to my soul. I waited on the Lord, and clung to that hope, even as I mourned the loss of my husband. I knew that He was mindful of me and my son, and the loneliness I was going through at the death of my husband.

I was living in Burbank, CA in a small one-bedroom apartment. After a year of loneliness, I decided to move back home with my parents in northern California. That October I went to a Halloween singles dance. A guy came up and asked me to dance. His name was Arlo and we had a great time dancing. We spent the rest of the evening together. When he asked for my number, I felt it only fair to be up front about my situation, even though I was afraid he'd run away. Steeling myself for his response, I blurted out, "Ok, but there's something I think you should know.....I've been married before and I have a 2 year old son." I held my breath, anticipating the expected response: "Oh! Uh....well, it was nice to meet you. Bye!" followed by a hasty departure. Instead, to my surprise and relief, he replied, "Oh, that's nice! I'd like to meet him sometime."

Dating and Engagement



We started dating, and on our second date, I was really beginning to like him. After our date, we went back to my parent's house and sat in the living room and talked for a long time. He began to tell me a story about his life, about how he and his father didn’t get along and how he’d been bullied in school. I started to feel uneasy. “Where is he going with this?” I wondered. He told me about his best friend in junior high and a roommate in college and the things they tried to do with him. My uneasiness grew. The thought came to me, "what if he tells me he's gay?" As he continued his story, my worst fears were realized. He told me that he finally admitted to himself that he was gay. My initial reaction was not good, to say the least. All I could think was "Ew! Don't touch me!" though I said nothing and didn't move away. My experience with gay people had been limited, to say the least. But his story was not over.

Arlo continued on, stating that after fighting the attraction he felt towards men for a long time, he finally went to a gay bar and was eventually sucked into the lifestyle. He became involved in the politics and the gay rights movement. After several years he became discouraged because he had not found what he was looking for. Throughout this whole time, he still had a testimony of the gospel, even though he'd stopped attending church. He then told me how his mother had been led by the Spirit to go and find him and bring him home. He went with her back to northern California, though not very willingly. He decided to attend a ward in San Francisco, with the hope of finding someone who was gay but also believed in the gospel. Arlo was blessed to meet a guy who had turned his life around and had left the gay lifestyle. They became friends and he was able to teach Arlo that the feelings he was experiencing stemmed from a desire to be like other men and to be accepted by them, but those feelings had become sexualized. Arlo told me that this all happened 3 or 4 years before meeting me, and he was no longer involved in the gay lifestyle at all.

When he finally left that night, my mind was reeling. I realized though, that he had given me a way out early enough that the hurt would be minimal if I chose to end the relationship. He had promised himself that if he ever became serious with a woman, he would tell her of his past as early as possible. That is why he laid it all out that evening.

Of course the uppermost question in my mind was: should I see him again? My first inclination was a definite “NO!” I felt I was only setting myself up for heartache down the road. He called several times over the next few days, but I kept putting him off. I prayed long and hard about it, but didn't feel I was receiving any definite answer. I asked my dad for advice, who felt I should not risk it. He told me that too many men who had been gay said they had changed, but later left their wives and went back to the gay lifestyle. He didn't want to see that happen to me. I decided I needed a second opinion, so I asked my institute class teacher. He said that he believed that homosexual relationships were sinful, but since Arlo had left the lifestyle more than three years ago, and had repented, it was not my place to judge or condemn, but to forgive him. Now I had two opposing opinions! I really did like Arlo a lot, so I finally decided that the best thing to do was to keep seeing him, to give him a chance and see where things led.

We continued to date and after three weeks he told me that he loved me and had decided to date me exclusively. I was not ready to commit just yet, but I knew I was falling in love with him. He was good looking, had a great sense of humor, a strong testimony, and was great with my son. He definitely acted like he was attracted to me, so I gradually stopped worrying about his attraction to men. It seemed that was all part of the past, and over and done with. It wasn't long before I also felt that I loved him, and once I expressed that, we were soon talking about getting married. Six weeks after we met, he proposed to me at my parents' cabin, in front of a warm crackling fire. I didn't hesitate to say yes, and we began making plans to get married in the summer.

Early Years of Marriage



It was very important to us to marry in the temple, even though we couldn’t be sealed, since I was already sealed to my first husband. With special permission we were allowed to be married in the temple for time only. After much thought and prayer, I petitioned the church to allow me to break the sealing to my first husband, and Arlo and I were sealed for time and all eternity in the Oakland temple one year later. Three weeks after we were sealed, our daughter was born.

I wish I could say "...and we lived happily ever after!", but that would be a lie. Really, though, who can truthfully say that? Arlo developed an addiction to pornography because his need for healthy male relationships was still not being met. In response to his addiction, I became controlling and vindictive. It’s true that his "involvement in the gay lifestyle" was in the past, but what I didn’t understand was that his attraction to men never completely went away, and probably never would. I was in denial about my own role in the cycle of addiction. It would be several more years before I learned any of this though. All I knew then was that we didn't have the celestial marriage that I longed for. We decided to move to Utah, where we knew there would be more resources and support.

In Utah, Arlo began attending Evergreen support group meetings weekly, and eventually was asked to be the group leader for six months. After awhile, he realized that though the group was helpful in dealing with same sex attraction, it wasn’t set up to help men overcome their addictions, so he stopped going. He then tried attending the LDS Church’s 12-step addiction recovery program. While it helped somewhat, he didn’t feel free to open up about his same-sex attraction, so real healing was still elusive.

Feeling Alone



In the spring of 2012 I finally realized that I needed support for me. For so long I had the attitude of "It's his problem; I don't need help!" and "I don't want this to be what my life is about," so I fought it. I wanted to focus on being a mom, having fun dates with my husband, having the spirit in our home, attending the temple, singing in a choir, and serving as a sign language interpreter in church and professionally. I tried to bury this dark secret and live a normal happy life, but it was weighing us both down. We became disconnected from each other and our marriage was barely hanging on.

I had no one to talk to about all the hurt I was feeling. When my Visiting Teachers came over and asked if there was anything they could do for me, I couldn’t say, "Yes, actually, I could really use a shoulder to cry on. You see, my husband is attracted to other men and is addicted to pornography." Who could I trust with something like that? I didn't want others judging him, or me. I had few friends, none close enough to talk with about something like this. Even if I did, what would they say? I felt they wouldn't understand because it would be foreign to them. So I continued suffering in silence and kept punishing Arlo through my words and actions for his weakness, thinking that by doing so it would make him change.

Finding Help and Hope



One day when my heart was breaking yet again over Arlo's addiction, I went to the temple seeking divine help. I sat in a quiet spot and prayed deeply, beseeching the Lord for guidance. I then reached for the scriptures on the nearby table. I let the Lord guide my hand and randomly flipped open the Book of Mormon. It opened to Ether, chapter 12. As I read, my heart was filled with compassion and hope.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.--Ether 12:27

I realized that Arlo's weakness could become a strength, but more importantly, that my weakness of punishing him and trying to control him was something that I needed to work on. I had always put all of the blame for his problems on him, and wasn't able to see my own role in making them worse. My weaknesses were no less serious than his; just different. All weaknesses prevent us from reaching our highest potential, yet they offer us an opportunity for growth to become our best selves. I finally accepted that I couldn't do this on my own anymore. I needed the support of other women who could relate to my experiences. I had no idea where to find such a group, if indeed one even existed. I decided to start with the group Arlo had been attending and called Evergreen. I left a message and a few days later I got a call back. They referred me to a woman named Tanya who led a support group for women whose husbands experienced same sex attraction (SSA). I felt hope for the first time in a long time. I immediately called Tanya and explained who I was. She knew Arlo! Her husband and mine had served in the leadership at Evergreen a few years before when Arlo had been attending. She welcomed me and said that the next group meeting was the next night at her house.

I attended the group that night, and, far from the "husband bashing" that Arlo was afraid it might be, it was extremely helpful. I learned to focus on where I was in my marriage, (am I in a good place, am I staying "emotionally sober", etc.), not on my husband’s behavior. Over the last two years I have attended the group twice a month. It has not always been easy because I have to look at my part in our marital issues. In fact, it can be brutal and heart-wrenching at times. It has humbled me to realize that I have just as much to work on as he does. I learned that my punishing him for his choices wasn't making him change; it was driving a wedge between us. Every time he made a mistake, I would verbally and emotionally beat him up. That demoralized him instead of inspiring him to change, and made him crawl deeper into his hole of shame. I was finally able to take responsibility for my own role in making things worse.

In our group we are encouraged to focus on doing “our work”. For a long time I didn't understand what that meant. I now know that my work is to remain "emotionally sober" and not attack him. I need to allow him to make his own choices, even if they are not what I want him to choose. He has to do his own work on his addiction. I am not his boss. It is Lucifer’s plan to control others, forcing them to choose the right. The Savior’s plan is one of free agency, to allow each person to choose for himself. I had previously focused on the Lord turning my weaknesses into strengths, and had ignored the part about becoming humble. Now I understood that before the Lord would turn my weaknesses into strengths, I must become more humble and Christ-like.

While attending the group I learned about a retreat for men who experience same-sex attraction (Arlo hates the term "struggle with same-sex attraction"). I told Arlo about it and he researched the website to find out more. I had learned by then that though I could tell him about the retreat, it was his choice whether or not to go. That also meant that he had to be the one to sign up; I couldn’t do it for him. He felt it would be a good experience, so he signed up. To my great relief, it was the jumpstart he needed to begin doing his own work. He has attended several other weekend retreats since then, and has always come home better for the experience.

After he returned from that first retreat, we told our three children about his SSA. We were becoming more involved in the SSA community and didn't want to worry about them finding out accidentally by overhearing something. By that time they were 22, 17 and 13. It was hard for them to take at first, but eventually they came to accept it as a part of their dad. They understand that it is not hereditary, and we now talk openly about it and can even joke about it.

Breakthrough



A year and a half after starting to attend the wives' group, I had a breakthrough. I came home very contemplative that night. I told Arlo that in order for me to remain emotionally sober, I needed to not know the details of his progress. He had his own support system that could help him do his own work. I was learning to surrender my desire to control and shame him. I worried though, that he would choose to go on a major binge because I was no longer aware of what he was doing. I learned that I had to surrender that too, to allow him his free agency.

What an incredibly freeing experience that was for me! No longer worried about being triggered by finding out about a poor choice, I was able to focus on my own healing. It surprised me, though it really shouldn’t have, that he began to take responsibility for his own choices, and make huge progress on his own recovery.

It has now been six months since that experience. We are closer to each other, we trust each other more, and are closer to the Lord. We still have challenges, but the love we share is stronger than ever before as we continue to learn and grow in this process. I have learned that the more difficult a trial is, the greater the growth. As we work together to overcome the challenges we face, relying on the Lord to guide us, our marriage is stronger than it has ever been.

I am grateful for the loving guidance of my Heavenly Father, who knows each of His children infinitely. I’m grateful for His tender mercies, His inspiration, and for the plan of salvation that allows each of us to make our own choices, and learn from our mistakes. I know that if we humble ourselves and exercise faith, He will turn our weaknesses into strengths.





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Steve
8 Aug, 2014

Thanks for sharing how it is to be the spouse to a SSA man. Thanks for openly sharing your realization in dealing and supporting your husband in your journey together. God bless you and your family.


Dayna Swan
5 Jul, 2015

Wow Kathy, You are my insperation in so many ways. I am not as strong as you. I love your brother very much and I am working on my issues. I have been looking at his and I get overwhelmed becasue his issues I have fixed in myself years ago. Today was a hard day for us both. I will start prying soon and hope God gives me direction. I hope you will talk to me when you get a chance. Your life choices are very wise and I am glad you had your parents help back then. Good parents make all the diffrence in the world.



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