I’d like to think the best of a sad situation. Time will tell, hopefully truthfully, if he betrayed more than his marriage.
But here’s the thing: I get it.
Beautiful, intelligent, athletic, accomplished woman. A man with incredible authority. Common interests. Mutual respect. Mutual attraction.
Maybe I’m over-simplifying; maybe Paula Broadwell, Petraeus, or anyone close to the situation would say I don’t get it at all, and they’re probably right. This is not a blog post about them, actually, or on the causes or evils of extra-marital affairs.
This post is about the shadow stories. Because as I listened to the NPR report, I wondered about the men and women who do not stop at saying “no” once, twice, a dozen times. They say it again and again, to themselves, to their imaginations, to the very real people offering them a taste of a dream.
This is my salute to all the men who, time after time, turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the siren. My tribute to the women who choose not to encourage the intimate interest of another woman’s husband…or of any man other than her husband, if a husband she has. If it need be said, yes; the roles also reverse — women are not the only tempters.
Stories of temptation that end in triumph stay in the shadows, silent reminders of our frailty. Perhaps your spouse knows, or maybe the trusted friend who helped you keep your promise. Could be you are the only witness to the trembling strength it took to walk away, the only audience outside of the Almighty to hear the frantic, “Oh God. Help,” you pleaded more than once.
We don’t share these stories, perhaps, because we’re ashamed. We’re afraid of what we contemplated and of how susceptible we’ve turned out to be. We don’t want to hurt our spouses, or give them reason for insecurity or doubt.
Such a confession would demand incredible courage from the one tempted, as well as from the one not-quite-betrayed. Frankly, I don’t know if I could survive hearing Rob admit that he’s sorely tempted to go to another woman’s bed. Yet I know I want my love for personal security to submit to the good of us — which would mean rallying my heart to recognize the strength demanded of my husband to confess, and join him in his determination to see our marriage, our partnership, survive and flourish.
Sometimes we don’t know the strength and courage we possess until it is demanded…but I’m lying if I say I want to know if I have that particular form of courage.
And what about you? you ask. Are you susceptible? You bet — and I asked Rob at 11pm, in the midst of writing this post, “Do you want to know? Should I tell you if…?”
He thought for a while. Then he reminded me of one time I told him about…. “I told you about him?” I asked. More honest than I realized. Honest — and scared. Scared enough to be honest (and then, apparently, forget). Yet the question was not easy for him to answer. Finally he said, “Yes; tell me if it is an ongoing attraction.”
Stories of failure and betrayal are common now; stories of forgiveness, less so. Yet the stories of faithfulness are happening every day. If this is you, and no one in your life has the knowledge to say to you, “Well done,” let me be the first. For the only nod allotted to these shadow stories of determination and perseverance rooted in a promise are generally left at a short, seemingly simple yet deeply complex answer to the question asked of couples on their 40th, 50th, 75th anniversaries:
“What is the secret to your successful marriage?”
“It takes a lot of hard work.”