This is Ann. Happy New Year!
Ben and I are applying to be on the TV show, Diary of An Affair. As part of the application I had to submit my story. Up til now Ben and I have composed our story together. This was a new exercise to do this alone. I hope it helps one of you out there struggling to forgive yourself. Your affair is forgivable and redeemable.
Here is Part 1.
Ben’s first ‘pick-up line’ 24 years ago (almost to the day) was, “Hey girl, do you know where Ken Johnson lives?” I was making a quick stop at our local 7-11 before I met my date for the evening. Ben and his buddy were driving back to Missouri from a golf/football Bowl game trip to New Orleans. They were both on the golf team at Missouri, as well as my friend, Ken. They asked if I would drive there and they could follow, but I had a date to meet, and I didn’t want to be late so I just pointed them in the right direction. Later in the evening, I walked into Pizza Hut with my date, and lo and behold, Ken and the boys were having a pizza. They exclaimed, “That’s her!” Apparently, they’d been combing the yearbooks trying to figure out who I was. To this day, Ben can tell you what I was wearing that night. I guess I made quite an impression.
Ben came back to small-town that summer to play in a golf tournament with Ken. I had just graduated and was planning on attending Missouri (Mizzou) in the fall, so it seemed natural for Ben and I to meet again. He was tall and thin with thick, dark wavy hair and a deep tan from all the hours spent on the golf course. It was a slightly awkward meeting, as we didn’t know each other at all, so I defaulted to what I thought was all I had to offer, and that was my body. We didn’t have sex, but we certainly ‘made out’ more than two strangers should.
Ben and I wrote letters throughout the summer. I let him know which dorm (along with the room number) I would be living in while at Mizzou as well as when I would be arriving. What a surprise when I got to my room and there was a note on the door from Ben asking me to give him a call. Somehow my phone was already hooked up, so after my parents left, I dialed the number. Ben’s dad answered the phone, but a knock on my door interrupted the call. It was Ben…standing there in his red Ohio State t-shirt, white tennis shorts and oh-so-tan legs (he made quite an impression also!). I hung up quickly with his dad and our relationship began.
We started dating on that very first day on campus. Not exclusively at first, but within about a month, Ben asked if we could date just one another. Shortly after that, our relationship became sexual. To be honest, most of our relationship revolved around sex, because neither one of us had much of a clue as to how to BE in a relationship. We had many ups and downs throughout those first few months that stretched into difficult years.
During the first three years we were together, I have no doubt we were in love with one another. But even then, we both had affairs. Ben had a sexual relationship with a woman in his apartment building. I never had sex with another man, but pushed the envelope more than once.
In 1984, Ben went to the NCAA golf tournament in Houston. I was visiting my sister in Louisiana at the time and Houston just wasn’t that far away. Went to visit, got pregnant. I was using birth control, so you tell me how it happened. I was incredibly scared, nervous, apprehensive. But by the time I told Ben, I was sure I was going to have the baby and no one was going to change my mind. I was entering my final year of college, a difficult year for the degree I was obtaining, and knew if I could make it through that year I could take care of a baby with Ben or without him. He was shocked; as most men are that just figure the birth control is taken care of. He asked if I would have an abortion. “No,” was my reply. I later, years later, found out that he was contemplating breaking off our relationship when I told him about the baby.
Initially, I only told people who had to know and my closest friends. I didn’t wear maternity clothes until well into the 5th month. I didn’t want to get married right away, partly out of vanity and partly because of history. First of all, I didn’t want to be a fat bride. Secondly, my sister had married the father of her son when she became pregnant out of wedlock, only to divorce him and leave them both when her son was 4. Partway into the pregnancy, I moved with Ben into his parent’s house.
Our beautiful baby girl, was born February 22nd, 1985. It amazes me, how even in our sin God blessed us with such a beautiful, bright, creative and talented child. She has blossomed into an incredible young woman that I believe has been a factor in my redemption.
After our daughter was born, Ben and I began to make arrangements to get married. At the time, I’m not sure I decided to marry Ben because I loved him so much or because I thought it was the right thing to do. Ben and I had grown ‘comfortable’ with one another. Getting married was the ‘comfortable’ thing to do. And besides, who else would have me? So our engagement didn’t feel special. I did get an engagement ring, small because we were both still students. But I remember going to pick it out by myself. And Ben was upset because I didn’t order his ring at the same time, only mine. When you think about it, that’s a pretty distorted way to start a marriage. I would end up doing many things by myself over the next several years, which in a lot of ways was okay with me because when I did it by myself I had control, and boy did I like control. And Ben, absent yet upset. Another frequent theme.
Another theme I’ve left out of the description of our courtship was Ben’s drinking. That’s a story for him to tell, but I’ll highlight it here. He began drinking on his thirteenth birthday. He continued drinking for fifteen years and one month. He wasn’t a ‘get drunk every day’ sort of drunk. He was the ‘can’t stop once you start’ kind of drunks. And when he got drunk, there were times that I became the butt of his jokes. Not fun. In some ways, I do feel like his drinking rescued me from my own teenage drinking. I also began drinking around age thirteen. I also didn’t get drunk every day, but boy could I tie one on in social situations, pretty much every weekend during high school. But when Ben and I would go out, I would either nurse one drink all night or drink soda so one of us would be able to drive home. This felt like one more way I ended up having control and Ben ended up being absent.
We got married August 3rd, 1985. I had begun working full time at the hospital lab and Ben was finishing his MBA while playing some professional golf. In order to save money so we could invest more into Ben’s golf, we moved in with Ben’s parents. Ben began traveling to play golf, sometimes being gone for weeks at a time. I remember one time our daughter was so upset that when Ben went to the bathroom, she cried outside the bathroom door, sticking her pudgy little girl fingers under the door grasping for him, until he came back out. This was part of a vicious cycle that began. The more Ben missed us; the worse he played. The worse he played; the more he missed us. Fairly quickly, the money ran out, ending Ben’s ability to travel playing golf. Soon after that, I became pregnant with our second child. We moved out of his parent’s house and our son, was born April 23, 1987.
We struggled financially in those early years. Ben had always relied on golf for his identity, and now that was gone. He felt much like a fish out of water in the everyday work world. As he moved from job to job, I continued working at the hospital, bringing home the steady paycheck. It just wasn’t enough. We became seriously in debt (Ben was also gambling) and his parents finally said, “No, we can’t help you out financially anymore.” Ben looks on that as one of the factors that made him realize he needed to grow up. But without their financial help, things felt very desperate. Ben contemplated suicide, but knew the life insurance policy we’d recently bought wouldn’t pay if he killed himself. He was literally counting down the days until he could kill himself. One night, he looked out a large window in our townhome into the dark night and cried out to God, “This can’t be what you intended for my life. Either take me back or show me the way.” It was soon after this that he quit drinking, made the decision to take a new job with a friend’s company in southwestern Missouri and join the Army Reserves that would provide some financial relief in the form of payback of student loans he had from Graduate school.