During those early years, I did what I could to hold our household together. Physically more than emotionally. I was emotionally distant. I had never known how to express myself emotionally, and now I grew cold in my heart. Not that my friends would know. You see, I was very good at pretending that everything was all right. I always seemed to have a smile on my face and a kind word to say. But in reality, I was just plugging along, doing what I had to do to get through each day. Get up, get the kids up, get them to daycare, go to work, pick the kids up from daycare, go home, make dinner, get the kids to bed, go to bed myself and start all over again the next day. I knew there was something more, but I just didn’t know what it was or how to get it. I began to think about going to church, but never quite made it. What seems ironic to me now is that the thought of an affair crossed my mind several times during those first few difficult years, before I began going to church. But I don’t think I ever considered it a real option. I actually remember thinking that if Ben ever had an affair, that would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Then I could justify leaving him.
Ben was away at Basic Training and AIT for Army Reserves when we moved to southwestern Missouri. During his time away, he shared his heart with me in a tender way through his letters. He let me know just how depressed he had become after losing golf. I just wasn’t quite there. My letters continued to be filled with the mundane, everyday happenings of life. I still didn’t know how to share my heart with him. He’d never really asked me to do it up until then. But when he got back and we were face to face again, we lost a good deal of the intimacy we had developed while we were apart.
Ben decided not to take the job that was waiting for him when he returned. He didn’t want to be in a commission-only position within a matter of months. To me, it felt like we were back where we were before we moved. I was the one making the money, in control of our lives and he was absent, not contributing his fair share. I have to admit, he surprised me by taking a job stocking shelves at Wal-Mart just to pay the bills. Soon after that, he again surprised me by his direct approach with a trucking firm where he wanted to work. They hired him when he walked in and said he was ready to start work, where did they want him to sit.
This job helped to ease our financial burden, but Ben worked long hours and also talked with drivers all day long…not easy for a natural introvert. I on the other hand worked in a lab all day by myself…not easy for a natural extrovert. I would come home just wanting to talk to someone, and Ben came home just wanting to find some peace and quiet. It was one of these evenings when I was trying to talk with Ben when he told me, “I hear bitchin’ all day at work and I don’t want to hear any bitchin’ from you.” So I found someone else who would listen to me.
I struck up a friendship with a very friendly lab sales rep, Barney, who came to town every couple of months. A few months later, I attended a seminar out of town that was hosted by the company he worked for. Ben and I had argued before I left for that seminar, so I was feeling incredibly vulnerable. I went out to dinner in a group with Barney and we continued the evening with an impromptu wine and champagne party. Barney walked me to my room and certainly could have taken advantage of me (and I am almost certain part of me wanted him to), but didn’t. He left my room without as much as a hug, which probably helped me to esteem him more, rather than less.
I came back from that trip scared to death. I had never been so close to actual infidelity as I had been that night. I decided to act on the urge I’d been feeling for months to begin attending church. Surely God would save me from the desire to have an affair with another man. And besides, I thought my children needed to have a solid Christian upbringing, although neither Ben’s family nor my own attended church consistently growing up.
We became involved very quickly at the little country church that was just a few miles from our home. Ben and I both knelt by our couch together and accepted Christ as our savior and were baptized on Mothers Day 1991. By fall we were teaching Sunday School to 3 year olds. Go figure, we were babes in the faith ourselves…what qualified us to be teachers?
I had continued developing a friendship with Barney, feeling safe and secure in my newfound faith. But he was a persistent pursuer. He would call (at work of course) ‘just to talk’…ah, music to my ears. And even though everything looked pretty good on the outside for Ben and I, we still had not developed the intimacy that we needed to protect our relationship. I soon found myself accompanying Barney to his hotel room…I don’t know what I was thinking…I knew what he was after, so why did I go? I am still somewhat perplexed by this decision. How differently would our lives have turned out had I made a different decision? Yet here was a man that wanted me…all of me, not just physically, but I felt emotionally as well. Forget that he was also married and had two children. When we were together, we could leave all of our everyday humdrum lives and decisions outside the door and just focus on one another…an intoxicating drug for sure. It leaves you wanting more…