Read an Excerpt
Recovering from an Extramarital Affairs
By Dave Carder, R. Duncan Jaenicke
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2008 David M. Carder and R. Duncan Jaenicke
All rights reserved.
"What God Hath Joined Together":
In Pursuit of Healing for Shattered Marriages
Infidelity is woven throughout the fabric of our culture. From television shows to the pages of our daily newspapers, infidelity is all too common—and is being glamorized to our youth.
For example, it's a well-established political fact that the Kennedy clan—starting with family patriarch Joseph Patrick Kennedy and his longsuffering wife, Rose, on down through sons Bobby, John (JFK), and Edward (Ted)—has been plagued by this usually secret behavior pattern. Marilyn Monroe and others have openly admitted to liaisons with the former president and his brother Bobby. "Womanizing was a family tradition," says Kennedy biographer and Northwestern University professor Garry Wills. "The family game of 'chasing' is part of the self that was built up by all three imitators [sons] of their magnetic father. Passing women around and boasting of it was a Kennedy achievement."
Our national conscience is being seared to the point where we're not even shocked when we hear such things. For example, when this book first went to press, an author was making the rounds on national TV talk shows talking about his latest book, How to Cheat on Your Wife and Not Get Caught. Sound like a hoax? No, he was serious, promising in his promotional materials to teach readers "how to lie successfully," "how to have the edge over a clever or suspicious wife," "how to avoid feeling guilty," and "how to outfox your wife's detective." Even as I do the revisions on this edition of Torn Asunder, the Christian community is still struggling with the shocking revelations in 2006 of one of its premiere pastor/leaders, Rev. Ted Haggard.
What's more, statistical studies back up the headlines. In the general population some reports suggest an astounding 50-65 percent of husbands and an equally shocking 45-55 percent of wives have had extramarital affairs by the time they are forty. Approximately 25 percent of all couples seeking marital therapy report infidelity as their primary concern, and after initiating therapy, an additional 30 percent eventually reveal an affair in the marriage. Forty percent of couples who divorce cite infidelity as the cause, making it the most frequently cited justification.
Utilizing the General Social Survey of 1994, researchers report that about 90 percent of men and women who were unhappy in their marriage felt that there were conditions where an affair could be justified. Also, as suspected, younger generations appear to be even more tolerant in their attitude toward infidelity than do the older generations. Surprisingly, only a third of males give dissatisfaction with their marriage as a reason for their affair. It appears that most males engage in infidelity primarily to address sexual disappointment, while on the other hand, two-thirds of women involved in infidelity report being unhappy in their marriage prior to the affair.
Statistics within the Christian community are more difficult to come by, due to the shame placed upon such behavior by those circles. But a study of pastors sponsored by Christianity Today found that 23 percent of the 300 pastors who responded admitted to some form of sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives while in the ministry; 12 percent admitted to extramarital intercourse; 18 percent confessed to other forms of sexual contact (such as passionate kissing or fondling); and only 4 percent said they were found out. Another study done on pastors for ten years across the decade of the '90s found a similar rate of infidelity. However, an additional 14 percent of the pastors admitted that they had lied on the survey, thus suggesting that the rate might be substantially higher than it first appears. When coupled with the fact that this survey was collected at pastoral conferences across the country (where, it is thought, terminated, adulterous pastors no longer attend), the researchers suggested that the rate of infidelity among pastors might approach 40 percent.
True, the percentages among Christians are lower than those among the general population, but there is probably a large degree of underreporting, due to the stigma attached to such behavior. Regardless of the fact that the numbers may be too low to reflect reality, they are still far too high for Christian leaders. And the sad thing is that among their parishioners the incidence of infidelity is probably close to the general population's. And that's far too high for those who carry the name of Christ.
BEN AND LYNN'S PAIN
It has been well said that people and the Word of God are the only two things worth investing one's time in. And it's people's stories that I'll be sharing—with names and certain circumstances changed, of course—in this book. As you and I walk alongside the various people we meet in these pages, we will share their pain and try to learn something about this most devastating of marital events, the extramarital affair.
As we get started, I want to share the story of Ben and Lynn. It epitomizes so many aspects of this painful subject that it will get us off on the right foot. Later in the book we'll take a more in-depth look at their story.
The "Perfect Match"
Ben grew up in a warm, affectionate family, with lots of hugs and nurturing from Mom and lots of special times with Dad, smiling and sharing hobbies. Ben had Dad's aptitude for drama and theater. It was natural for him to follow in Dad's footsteps, and numerous individuals began to talk about his abilities superseding those of his well-known father, who had done quite a bit of community theater in their area. Dad had founded a Christian radio ministry and was not threatened by that talk—he always encouraged Ben to pursue his interests. Mom and Dad were supportive emotionally and financially all along the way.
Lynn, on the other hand, lost her father to illness at the age of six. Mom and the two girls bonded together in their little family and continued on. There wasn't a lot of time to feel sorry for yourself—Mom worked long, hard hours, and the two girls did all the household chores including cooking. They did all right, though no one had time to relax, be frivolous, or have fun. Everybody became very efficient, and the place ran like a well-oiled machine.
Ben and Lynn met in college and became quick friends and dates. Ben loved Lynn and the smooth way things always ran when she was in charge. He had a tendency to be spontaneous; his mom said that was true of all good actors. Intuitively, he knew Lynn would be good for him with her organized ways.
Lynn found in Ben that warm, gregarious masculinity that she had been missing most of her life. He provided the fun and security, and she provided the efficiency and productivity. Together they seemed a natural. Graduate school for Ben (in broadcasting like his father) followed marriage, and three children came along. Lynn handled it all in stride. Ben moved into his father's organization as a producer/director and was doing extremely well.
It seemed there was no end to what needed to be done at home, and they were all constantly on the run. The kids were constantly traveling to and from games, lessons, and school. Going to a private school meant the kids' best friends didn't live in the neighborhood, and that meant additional driving. Changing clothes, putting on makeup, grabbing lunch—all were done in the car on an everyday basis.
Ben and Lynn would joke about it occasionally and lament with other couples caught in the seemingly endless round of activity. But nothing ever changed. As he lay in bed watching the late news one night, Ben glanced down the hall at Lynn carrying the folded clothes to each of the kids' bedrooms. She was a great mother, but somewhere along the line, Ben felt as if they had gotten off track. But how could he complain? He knew Lynn was exhausted after each day.
Their marriage looked good, even perfect. But Ben's doubts and sense of emptiness didn't disappear. At first he tried to put such thoughts aside. When that didn't work, he tried to talk with Lynn, but there never seemed to be time. She was always in high gear, cooking, cleaning, and helping with homework.
"Success" at Work
Gradually, Ben became more and more involved in his new position, and his concerns about their busyness and lack of communication waned. The new position was demanding, but Ben rose to the occasion and won the admiration of his colleagues both inside and outside the studio.
Several members of the broadcast team were openly complimentary of Ben's efforts, and he found himself thriving on their recognition. His assistant producer, Whitney, especially seemed to admire his work. She was warm and fun-loving but also extremely efficient and productive. When it was one hour until air time, she could really make things happen.
Ben naturally admired that combination of talents in Whitney. She was married but had no children. She brought humor to an otherwise rather serious process. Most of the team took themselves seriously, but she was humble. Though capable, she didn't seem to be overly enthralled with herself.
They started catching meals together in groups after broadcasts. Once only the two of them and another woman could make it, and they all had fun. They talked and laughed about some of their families' recent experiences, and it was refreshing for Ben.
As he drove home, he thought about how long it had been since he had spent that kind of time with Lynn. He vowed to change that and asked her to set aside time for a date that weekend or the next. But after several last-minute cancellations for orthodontist appointments and school conferences, he gave up trying to break into Lynn's jam-packed schedule.
Things Heat Up
Soon Ben and Whitney were eating together after the broadcast more often than not. After shutting down the studio, she would stop by his office briefly to say thanks for his capable leadership. In addition, they often saw each other socially with a variety of other couples. At times, Ben felt a little uncomfortable with her obvious admiration, but her marriage appeared secure and he dismissed his concerns.
That is, until one night after the broadcast when she stopped by to say her usual thanks. He couldn't believe the sudden rush of emotion he felt. He wanted her to linger longer, but she left quickly. On the way home he felt confused. He wished he could talk about it with Lynn, but he knew that was out of the question. That's all Lynn needs—to hear her husband is falling for another woman. So he put it out of his head.
To keep himself from falling for Whitney, Ben tried to put some distance between them. Apparently he was successful, because after a taping several months later, Whitney stopped by and asked if she could talk to him. He knew he should have said no, but the hurt in her voice appealed to his sense of fairness. He knew he needed to tell her why he was avoiding her.
As she sat down, Ben didn't even wait for her to bring up the subject. He blurted out that he thought he was falling in love with her and therefore needed to stay away. She shared mutual feelings of affection for him. Over the next several months it became a full-blown love relationship.
After about eight or nine months, Ben began thinking about getting out of the affair. He was concerned with Whitney's spontaneous comments around other people—they were starting to raise eyebrows. She was becoming increasingly careless about how she acted around him, and he could sense that she really didn't care who found out about their relationship. He tried to talk to her about it, but their time together always was so short and intense that he couldn't seem to get the point across.
So far, no one knew, even though Lynn had quizzed him about Whitney's behavior. The pressure was building, and he was having to increase his deceptions. Where was he? When would he be back? Why this expense? He hated lying to Lynn, but by now it had become a way of life. Whitney was worth it to Ben, or so he thought.
When she started talking about their leaving their mates and getting married, he was frightened. He couldn't do that to his reputation, his kids, his wife, his parents, his career. That was too much to give up for Whitney, no matter how much he loved her. Whitney started actually making plans to leave her husband, and Ben realized that their relationship meant even more to her than it did to him. He was feeling increasingly trapped but still couldn't bring himself to end it.
Now Whitney was talking dates—an actual departure time and how they would plan their wedding. Ben became more nervous and upset. Still nobody knew about the affair. He had had some close calls but had always managed to weasel out of them. But to give it up or to go away—neither seemed necessary. Why can't Whitney just leave it like it is? he mused, bothered by her insistence on escalating the intensity.
Such questions generated anger and accusations from Whitney. She claimed that he really didn't love her and was backing out. He sensed a threat of blackmail. With his high profile in the radio ministry, she'd have leverage against him. She demanded more and more of his time. His anxiety was sky-high.
At home Lynn's sexual overtures turned him off. All he wanted was to be left alone. But when he was with Whitney, it was special. It sort of made up for all the pain at home.
Finally, after one of his agonizing mental back-and-forth sessions, Ben decided once and for all that maintaining the deception wasn't worth it. He knew he had to break it off.
After their next broadcast, Whitney, probably sensing his turmoil, pressed him for an actual runaway time. Even though he had prepared to end the affair, when she mentioned the actual departure, it appealed to him. What an escape! No more having to maintain the facade. Ben heard himself saying yes to all her plans, but in his head he knew he had to go home and tell Lynn the truth. It was now or never.
Lynn went berserk, as he expected. She immediately called Ben's boss, the executive producer. Until the producer and his wife arrived, Lynn stayed in the bedroom alone, sobbing.
Lynn heard the doorbell, and she came out as they walked in. It was like a torrent from a broken dam. She swore at Ben repeatedly, called him every name she could think of, asked questions about the affair, but started swearing at him again before he had a chance to answer. The torrent of swearing, namecalling, crying, and raging finally began to subside after a couple of hours.
The producer's wife was shocked and overwhelmed. The producer himself was concerned about the ministry since Ben was so highly identified as the son of the founder and Whitney was known in the industry as working with him. He asked a lot of detailed questions that reflected his own sense of betrayal and his feeling stupid for having the wool pulled over his eyes.
Lynn learned some facts from listening to Ben talk to the producer. When Ben cried from time to time, she found herself alternating between pitying Ben and getting even angrier at him—What a hypocrite he is, she kept repeating to herself.
When she heard that Ben and Whitney had been planning to leave town that weekend together, she ran to the phone in the bedroom and called Whitney's husband. She wanted to kill both of them and even told Ben he ought to leave with Whitney and get out of her life. At first she screamed at him to leave the house, then she changed her mind.
Finally the producer and his wife were ready to go—but before leaving, the producer summarily fired Ben right on the spot, telling him to have his desk cleaned out before the next round of tapings. There was no appeal, no consulting with the board of directors, no suggestion of therapy to help Ben recover from his shattered moral condition and be restored to his ministry or even to his wife. Ben was so ashamed at that point that he just agreed to disappear quietly. He didn't know of any other option.
Two weeks later, they pulled out of town, Ben driving the U-Haul and Lynn in the van with a trailer and two of the kids. A 1,500-mile trip lay ahead. They were moving in with his parents in Florida. They had nowhere else to go.
A New Beginning
The questions from his parents ruined their arrival. Money was scarce, so Lynn jumped at the chance to take a long-term substitute teaching position. It was her first outside job in ten years. A humiliating departure, a cross-country move, a job dismissal for Ben, a new career for Lynn, new schools for the kids, financial uncertainty, and the loss of their friends, home, and all that was secure—all in just three weeks!
Excerpted from Torn Asunder by Dave Carder, R. Duncan Jaenicke. Copyright © 2008 David M. Carder and R. Duncan Jaenicke. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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