Why Kathie Lee Gifford Was ‘Relieved’ Her First Husband Left Her

Former Today Show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford just released her new memoir. Sharing her current projects and encouraging others to pursue their dreams regardless of their age, Gifford is also covering some personal topics she has never publicly discussed.

Kathie Lee Gifford
Kathie Lee Gifford | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

‘It’s Never Too Late’

After leaving the Today Show in April 2019, Gifford relocated to Nashville to embark on passion projects she had previously put on hold. From movie directing and script writing to creating new music, the former talk show host insists, “I’m not retiring; I’m refiring!” 

In her new book, It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life, Gifford shares personal stories from her childhood in Chesapeake Bay to life in the spotlight. Always leaning on her strong Christian faith, the singer explains how God helped her dreams become a reality and focus on what’s meaningful in her life.

Gifford also broaches several extremely personal subjects on which she has previously remained quiet. The best-selling author felt her transparency on such sensitive issues could be of help to others.

RELATED: ‘Today’ Alum Kathie Lee Gifford Hits the Big Screen With a Release Date for ‘Then Came You’

Kathie Lee Gifford reveals a painful first marriage

The Live With Regis and Kathie Lee star opens up about her first marriage in It’s Never Too Late. Heading to the altar with composer Paul Johnson in 1976 after meeting at Oral Roberts University, Gifford was just 23 years old when she tied the knot. Their union did not bring the happiness she had expected.

“I was excited about starting a life with someone, but he didn’t feel the same way,” Gifford told People. “I felt humiliated sleeping in my guest room.”

Sharing that she was in a sexless marriage at the time, Gifford revealed the emotional scars she endured during her time with Johnson.

“It was so damaging to me on so many levels, damaging for me emotionally as a woman to be rejected after saving myself all those years,” she explained. “And then it was so disappointing on a spiritual level, because I had to ask the Lord, ‘How did I get this so wrong anyway?’ I don’t even like to call him my husband because he wasn’t in the truest sense of the word.”

Former ‘Today’ star found love with Frank Gifford

Gifford tried to make their marriage work for six years until Johnson was the one to leave.

“I was relieved,” the former television personality admitted. “I realized, you know what, we can make all the vows we want in life, but if both people don’t want the same thing, it’s not going to work out. And I was very hopeful that one day I would find a real love.”

Cupid struck when she met NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford on the set of Good Morning America, and the two tied the knot in 1986. They were married until Frank’s death in August 2015. Gifford is now hoping her personal trials and triumphs can be a comfort and encouragement to others.

RELATED: Kathie Lee Gifford Shares What Regis Philbin Told Her After She Announced She Was Leaving ‘Today’

“I choose to live in life abundantly, I choose to trust God,” she shared. “And to believe that all the things that have happened to me were not a coincidence. … Sometimes the past is not your favorite place to visit. But I can look back on things with a deeper wisdom now, and if I can share that with people and it helps them, then it’s worth it.”