Listen to My Wife Tell Her Story

My wife has deep roots in her heart. I love to hear her tell her story. I'm so glad she had the courage to dig deeply into who she is. My life is so much richer journeying with her.

LIsten to her story here. She recently shared this at Calvary Church in Longmont, CO.  

Ann is available to lead retreats and speak at conferences for women. Later this month she is headed to the Spokane, WA area to guide some of the women of Fairchild Air Force Base on a reflective weekend.

Hit the contact form above or give us a call at 720.378.2327 if you'd like to learn more about bringing her in to speak to your group or church. 

Welcome Asbury Seminary

Noticed quite a few folks stopping by from Asbury Seminary.  It's good to have you!  Please feel free to leave a comment or email with your impressions and questions. 

Asbury is home to Virginia Todd (Toddy) Holeman who wrote Reconcilable Differences.  Ann and I had the pleasure of chatting with Toddy about our story and a year or so later enjoying dinner with her in Palmer Lake, CO.

We were one of the featured couples in Reconcilable Differences.  You can find us in there as Alan and Elizabeth. 

I wrote a few posts on Reconcilable Differences back then. You can check them out here, here, here, and here.  Here here. 

I noticed while doing this that comments were closed on a lot of my posts.  I meant to close them momentarily a while back and forgot to open them.  They are open now.   

Ann Wilson--My Affair

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. 

Part 2 Ann Wilson--My Affair

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…

Part 3 Ann Wilson--My Affair

Our affair lasted off and on for three years.  I ended the relationship at least a half dozen times or more.  But we also had a professional relationship, he as salesperson, me as buyer, so our relationship never completely ended making it harder to close the door with finality.  I would also go through bouts of guilt, only to tell myself that God would forgive whatever I was doing.  As I look back, I realize that only cheapened God’s grace.  That was the only ‘saving’ I allowed God to do in my life at the time.  During this three years, Ben’s and my relationship seemed to blossom.  We seemed to be following the Lord and building our marriage on His foundation.  Only we both had something to hide that kept Him from truly blessing our marriage.

My affair had been ‘over’ for about 6 months when I heard from Barney that the company he worked for was hiring salespeople, and I’ve been told most of my life I’d make a good salesperson.  Ben and I talked it over and prayed about it and it seemed the time might be right.  Initially they asked if I would be willing to move to Los Angeles, uh-uh, no way.  Then a position opened up in Kansas City.  Not too far from home, Ben could quit his all-consuming job at the trucking company and attend Seminary without having to work…we decided to go for it.  Well, five minutes into my interview, the manager told me she wanted to hire me but had to finish the interview nonetheless.  I took this as a sign from God that we were doing the right thing.  We put our house on the market and it sold within weeks for cash no less.  Another sign.  We found a house in Kansas City right by a golf course and lake with a swimming beach, and with Ben’s love of golf, we felt this was another sign.  The only thing that didn’t line up with seeming like God’s will was that I would have to travel with Barney for a month or so.  I thought I could handle it…I was wrong.

Soon after beginning to travel together, the affair picked up right where it left off.  Over the course of the summer, Ben and I grew further and further apart.  He was increasingly suspicious when Barney continued to travel with me after our preset timetable had passed.  I began to turn his suspicions back on him and tell him if he would just think more positively then our relationship would get back on track.  I soon grew weary of the double life I’d been leading.  I suppose my last straw was when I asked Barney how our relationship was affecting his marriage, because mine was sucking the big one.  He replied by saying the sex was better than ever.  The sex was better than ever…that’s all he had to say.  That’s when I knew I needed to end our affair.  I was hoping I could continue working at the job I was enjoying incredibly, but that would only be possible if I never, ever told Ben about the affair. 

Ben, the kids and I went to my parents home for Labor Day weekend. Little did I know but Ben had discovered how to listen to my voice mail messages.  As soon as we returned from our weekend away, he listened to my voice mail and heard a suggestive voice mail from Barney – he never quit being a persistent pursuer – saying he would call me the next day.  The next day, Ben came home from class at Seminary and asked if Barney had called.  I said, ‘No.’ Ben then told me he’d figured out how to get into my voice mail.  Uh-oh.  I knew I’d been found out.  I walked Ben into the living room, sat him on the couch and told him I’d been having an affair with Barney.  That was the worst day of my life.  But I also felt like a weight had been lifted.  I no longer had to lead a double life.  I was free from the lying. 

But I didn’t entirely know how to be free.  I had never freely expressed myself; I didn’t grow up in a family that did that, so I never really learned how.  So I initially didn’t want to deal with the hurt, the pain, my emotions, my failures.  I thought it would just be easier if I ended it all right then and there.  But alas, we had no gun, knives are too messy and the strongest medication we had was Tylenol.  So I chose, we chose, to live in the chaos that followed the revelation.

Part 4 Ann Wilson--My Affair

Ben called Barney that day and told him to either come get me out of his house or leave me alone.  I knew the choice Barney would make…he would leave me alone.  Barney and I talked once that day so that I could also tell him the affair was over.  I also talked with his wife that night and he must have told her because she didn’t feel it was appropriate for us to talk considering all that had happened that day.  There was perhaps a business message or two that needed to be taken care of following the revelation, but by week’s end, we had ended all communication and have not talked since the week of September 6th, 1994.

So began the long road to healing.  I chose to quit my job, at the chagrin of my boss (and her boss).  The company was trying to convince me to stay and they would fire Barney.  These were some pretty powerful words that seemed to be competing with the anger I was unexpectedly experiencing from Ben.  You see, anger comes with conflict and we were conflict avoiders so we hadn’t come face to face with much of that.  What was good about his anger and my despair were that we were finally beginning to feel.  We both made a conscious decision to feel everything.  Not only feel it, but talk about it.

In the process of talking everything through, it was revealed that Ben had been involved in an emotional affair back when he worked at the trucking company.  He had never perceived it as a threat because it was never physical. What we began to realize was how this emotional affair set in motion some dynamics that set me up for the physical affair I had.  Ben was giving his heart to Betty, not me.  He had left me lonely, abandoned and emotionally vulnerable. He began to own his share of that and how he had hurt me.

The next fourteen months were full of ups and downs.  Some aspects of healing I feel we did right was that we talked…a lot.  We also surrounded ourselves with community, this included friends and counselors.  We became transparently honest with one another.  We opened up our souls to one another.  My priorities began to shift from outside of God’s order and design to inside His order and design.  I began to focus on Him, His image and who He had created me to be, not what He created me to do.  Ben realized that more than anything else he wanted to be close to God and in order to do that, he would have to forgive me.  The process of forgiveness had already begun, but it took a huge leap with this realization.

After those first fourteen months we felt like we were on more solid footing.  We felt like we would make it.  That’s not to say there weren’t difficult days ahead, but we had the hope to pull us through them, hope that a better day lay ahead.  We began to make plans for the future, which had been put on hold those long, dark fourteen months.  Ben wanted to return to seminary, but not for a Masters of Divinity to preach.  He now knew that he wanted to counsel others who had been through the hell we had, because had it not been for some key people in our lives encouraging us that there was hope, I’m not sure we would have made it. 

Ben’s Chaplain in the Army Reserves suggested a graduate counseling program in Denver, Colorado.  So we sold the house (and half the stuff we owned), sold the car, gave away the dog and moved to Colorado.  That was eight and a half years ago.  During this time we have both grown tremendously.  I also completed my Masters in Counseling degree hoping that we could counsel and minister to couples together, which is exactly what we get to do with our work in Pastoral Care at a church in Denver.  We get to do counseling, lead infidelity groups, teach premarital classes, lead seminars.  Wow!

Our relationship today is more than I ever imagined it could be on our wedding day.  We have a level of intimacy that is amazing and is our best protection against infidelity sneaking it’s way into our lives again.  Ben is the protector of our family.  He has regained a strength that he was designed to possess.  And he is now my persistent pursuer.  I am no longer the controlling, guarded woman.   I have learned to rest.  And it is in that rest that I have discovered (and am still discovering) the woman God designed me to be rather than the woman the world demanded I be.

We have learned much about one another and about how to love one another.  We are honest.  We play.  We laugh.  We cry.  We love.