The Ecstasy and the Agony of an AffairAugust 18, 2010
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Ron and Nancy Anderson, a couple whose marriage was rocked off its foundation by the sin of infidelity.
Today on the broadcast, Dennis Rainey talks with Ron and Nancy Anderson, a couple whose marriage was rocked off its foundation by the sin of infidelity.
The Ecstasy and the Agony of an Affair
Nancy: I should have told somebody. I didn't tell girlfriends; I lied to them. I lied to my mother. I lied to anybody that I thought would stop it. The only person I told was a woman at work who I knew would agree with me because she had been divorced multiple times. And I said, “I'm thinking of leaving my husband,” and she said, “Well, good for you. Life's too short to be unhappy.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today: for Wednesday, August 18th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today how Nancy Anderson's marriage went from bad to worse and then how it came back again.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We're going to discuss a subject today, Dennis, that for anyone who has found themselves in the midst of this kind of a scenario, well, they know it can rock your marriage. It can rock your life.
Dennis: Yeah, we're going to talk about infidelity. “Newsweek” ran a cover story on this a number of months ago and it reported that 80 percent of Americans say that infidelity is wrong. Now compare that with the Scriptures, where infidelity is wrong 100 percent of the time.
The interesting thing is, it is estimated that somewhere between 50 to 60 percent of married men cheat on their wives and it's been as low as 10 to 15 percent of the women, but now has increased in recent years to somewhere between 30 to 40 percent of married women are now being unfaithful to their husbands.
And the reason is, according to this “Newsweek” article, is because of the number of women who are in the workplace, who are now coming into contact with the opposite sex because every day they're going to work like their husbands used to where their husbands were tempted. Now they're being tempted, as well.
Bob: And we've got a couple who are joining us today who have examined this subject, not just to see what the Scriptures have to say about it and what the cultural perspective is, but it's been a part of their own experience.
Dennis: It has. Ron and Nancy Anderson join us on FamilyLife Today. Ron, Nancy, welcome to our broadcast.
Nancy: Thank you very much.
Ron: Thank you for having us.
Dennis: Nancy is the author of a book called “Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome” and, in addition to her being a writer, she's a homeschool mom, has two children.
And you guys were married back in 1978 and when you started your journey together, Ron, you were 26, Nancy you were 22. You kind of thought you'd both meet each other's needs and it would be happily ever after. But that wasn't the case, was it, Nancy?
Nancy: No, it wasn't the case. And we did get married with a premise that's wrong and that was that I thought that he should make me happy and he thought the same thing. So we just sat around waiting to be made happy and, of course, that doesn't work.
Dennis: And one of the key questions, I guess, at this point is: where was God in all this in your lives? I mean, if you started out rocky, was He in the picture in your marriage? Or did you start your marriage without Him?
Nancy: I was a Christian. I had become a Christian, actually, while I was in high school during the Jesus Movement years in 1972 and I went to Bible college, even. So it wasn't that I didn't have the knowledge. I was just selfish and I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it and I wasn't willing to sacrifice any of my needs to meet his.
Ron: And also, she came from a very strong Christian background, both her mother and father and brothers. I became a Christian about a year before we got married. So I was fairly new. I wasn't a strong Christian and I think, looking back, obviously that was the beginning of the end, so to speak, because we were not building our relationship on godly principles at all. We were looking for reasons not to go to church. “Well, let's sleep in,” or “Well, we were out late last night.”
We weren't spending a lot of time with Christian friends. We weren't developing people that would hold us accountable as friends in that sense.
Bob: You know, we really shouldn't skip past this fundamental premise that you talked about here too quickly, because I think, Dennis, a lot of couples are saying that the fundamental thing they're looking for in marriage is to have their needs met. We talk at the Weekend to Remember conference about getting married with a 50/50 plan or a 50/50 approach to marriage, which is, “I'll do my part if you'll do your part.” And that's always destined to destruction.
Dennis: It is, because her part -- that is my wife, Barbara, of course--
Dennis: Barbara's part is never as much as my part and the reason is, is my fingers are on the scales on my side of the deal. I'm weighing what I've done and I know how much it costs me to do what I do and we don't-- we don't meet each other halfway. And it's out of this drama of two people feeling like they haven't met one another halfway that disappointment strikes.
And then if you have someone who's going to work, as Nancy was, who's meeting sharp, handsome, attractive men, all of a sudden you have the possibility for a chemical reaction, which is what happened with you.
Nancy: It's exactly what happened. Actually, I can tell you the exact moment that it went into the danger zone and that was we were at a sales meeting. We were co-workers on a sales team and the whole premise of a sales team is to build teamwork and work on projects and have these victories together. So we were in the midst of one of those meetings and he was sitting next to me and his leg moved slightly and bumped up against mine and I did not pull away. And I remember making the decision not to pull away.
Dennis: Now do you think he did that on purpose?
Nancy: I don't know. He left it there on purpose, because usually, it would happen that you'd bump each other and then you'd both pull away. But we both left it and that sent the signal to him that I was unguarded. He later, in conversations, did remember that moment as a defining moment of our relationship, taking it from friends and co-workers into a physical -- though it was just our knees -- relationship and then it progressed.
Dennis: You know, I want to stop there, because I think some of the couples who are listening to this broadcast, specifically women at this point but also men, you need to realize that the opposite sex does go fishing.
Dennis: They do drop hooks--
Dennis: --baited hooks in the water and, really, if you dissect the word “temptation” and what it means in the Bible, it means bait. And what he was doing is he was baiting you. He was-- he was going fishing to see how you would respond to that situation.
Dennis: And I have no idea, over a period of years in my marriage, how many times women have gone fishing for me, but I'll tell you, it can all turn in an instant if your eyes are allowed to linger too long. If, as you did, you allow your leg to stay there and not pull away and shoot a look like, “What are you doing, buster?” which is what you should have done.
Dennis: The people who are going fishing are looking for a green light. And what you need to be at that point is not a yellow light. You have to be a red light that says stop right here.
Bob: One of the reasons you were vulnerable to that brushing of the leg was because your own marriage had deteriorated to the point where I think you and Ron were separated at the time, weren't you?
Nancy: Not at that time. It was later, because this relationship with the co-worker, then we started to sit next to each other at lunch and then we went to lunch alone. And then we went to dinner alone after work.
Dennis: You actually canceled a lunch with Ron, at one point--
Nancy: I did.
Dennis: --to have lunch with Jake.
Bob: Was that when he took the picnic basket to the park?
Nancy: That's when he took the picnic basket. And my husband, to set this up, was not complimenting me. He was not kind. He was not doing the things-- like I talk about in the book, he was not watering me. He was not watering his own lawn, so that's why I went looking for greener grass.
I'm not excusing my behavior, it's absolutely wrong, but I was in need of watering and I went looking for it in all the wrong places and this man at work, obviously, knew what I needed and began to water me with compliments. And compliments are like magnets and I was very attracted to him.
Bob: Ron, give your perspective on what was going on in the midst of this. Were you even aware that--?
Ron: No, I hadn't-- I mean, I was-- first of all, I was not a very good husband. I was a horrible husband. I frequently made Nancy the brunt of my jokes in a party environment and then we would end up fighting 'til three o'clock in the morning over that not being as funny I thought it was at her expense.
I used-- now, you've got to remember, we're both Christians at this point, but I'd resort to useing profanity in the relationship as my ace in the hole when I really wanted to make a point or really wanted to hurt her. So I was doing everything wrong that a husband could do.
And, you know, we jokingly say that she would come home and the first one that got home got to prepare their argument. So when the next one walked in the door, whatever the argument was going to be that night, we could start the chaos.
Bob: But conflict was pretty much a daily occurrence?
Nancy: That was our life.
Ron: Oh, that was our life. It was-- we were always picking at each other. And I, you know, half jokingly, here's a guy that's bringing her flowers to work, that tells her she's adorable. He's taking her to the park for lunch--
Bob: With a picnic basket, yeah.
Ron: --with a picnic. I kind of jokingly say, I would have dated him. Of course, not, but I mean, how could you not be attracted to that when you come home and then you have a fellow that is just a creep and I was a creep.
Bob: Were either of you saying to one another, we need some help for our marriage? Let's go to a counselor. Let's talk to a pastor. You were talking to your parents and saying, “Mom, Dad, help.”
Nancy: I wasn't. I was attracted to this other man and I was making just horrific choices. I knew that my parents would stop me, so I just lied. Adultery and lies are all in the same. Every adulterer is a liar and I got really good at it and the more lies you tell, the more lies you have to keep telling to cover up the lie you told yesterday. And so it became this cycle, this secret, that kept me in a prison where I couldn't even ask for help, because then I would have to give up Jake.
Dennis: Early in our marriage—and I know I’ve shared this on FamilyLife Today before but it’s such a great illustration of what a woman ought to do in a situation like this where a man goes fishing. I was leading bible study and there was a man coming into our home for this bible study who went fishing for Barbara.
Initially she felt complimented. Not that another married man was seeking after her, but she enjoyed his attention. She began to fight a little internal battle over a couple of days, saying “What should I do? Should I tell my husband? That seems silly.” But before the next bible study occurred, she told me.
She said, at the moment she told me even thought she felt foolish for even mentioning it, at that point she felt that its hold, or whatever lure it had over her, or a spell—you actually call it a spell in you book, The Greener Grass Syndrome—that spell was no longer cast over her and all of a sudden it was revealed for what it was. Not a silly temptation, but a real temptation that could have gotten a foothold if she’d kept it a secret.
Bob: That's so key. I had a co-worker in another setting come to me at one point and he said, “I just need some help and some accountability.” He said, “I have found myself becoming attracted to a co-worker in our place,” and he said, “And I just know this is wrong and I need some accountability.”
Well, we had the opportunity to talk about that and to pray about it and I provided some accountability, but he told me, months later, when we were talking about this, he said, “It was-- it was like as soon as I told you, I didn't have the temptation as strong as it had been.” As soon as it was out in the light -- and that's what we talked about. We talked about how you leave it in the darkness and it grows, you bring it into the light and somehow the power gets drained out of it, doesn't it?
Nancy: Right, exactly. And that's what I did not do. And looking back, I think, other than pull my leg away at the first instance, I should have told somebody. I didn't tell girlfriends; I lied to them. I lied to my mother. I lied to anybody that I thought would stop it. The only person I told was a woman at work who I knew would agree with me because she had been divorced multiple times. And I said, “I'm thinking of leaving my husband,” and she said, “Well, good for you. Life's too short to be unhappy.”
Bob: You know, there's an action point for some folks who are listening, Dennis, because they're saying, I haven't gone there, but I've thought of where there is and I've wanted to go there and the action point is, it's time to not only run, but to bring somebody else in. Don't keep it in the dark.
Dennis: I want to go one step back from that. I would say to every young couple starting out their marriage together, as you get your pre-marriage counseling, talk about this issue. I want our marriage to be a safe place, to be able to bring that to light and talk about so that it can be defused.
Bob: But it's interesting, because we'll get e-mails -- you know this -- from folks who write and say I am extremely jealous of my husband. He gets attention from other women. Is the jealousy my issue? He--you know, I do trust him. I don't think there's anything going on, but I just-- I find myself getting very jealous. What does a wife do if she finds herself in that situation?
Dennis: Well, I think in some of those situations, you've got to talk to your husband or if it's your wife who's flirting, you have to be able to have the conversation to say, “You know, your behavior in these situations is sending a signal that you're not a stop person, you're a green light person.” And I've had these conversations with these women who are married to men who women pay a lot of attention to. There's a reason why those women pay attention to them, because those guys are flirting.
Dennis: Those guys are sending out signals. They're fishing.
Ron: Well, and Nancy, I think, would admit that she was a world-class flirt, even while we were dating.
Nancy: I was. I dated a lot of boys in high school and a lot of boys in college and I took pleasure in the fact that I could reel them in and then they'd fall in love with me and then I'd move on. And yet I had not grown up. I had not matured in my faith. I had not matured in my relationship skills and those secrets are tantalizing.
I wanted to live in the secret world until the world all fell apart for me. And then, when I did finally confess, of course, and opened the door and let the light in, the light of truth and the light of the Lord, that's when our marriage started to turn around. But my secrets kept me in prison.
Bob: Would you say in your relationship with Jake, after the time that you brushed knees, were you pursuing him harder than he was pursuing you? Or was it equal? Or were you responding to what he was doing?
Nancy: I would say it was equal. Now he was married and had two children, so it was a different thing on his part.
Bob: You were married with no children?
Nancy: I'd say it was equal. We both called each other; we both had our secrets. He had already told his wife that he was leaving her. He had actually moved out of the house. So he-- we were planning on being together.
Ron: She had told me that she wanted a divorce. Now it started out as, “Well, you know, I just need a little time on my own. Can I just go away for a couple days?” Okay. You know, I didn't know. And then, all of a sudden, she calls back and says, “Well, I need another week.” And then by the fourth phone call, it's, “I want a divorce.”
Bob: You never thought, in the midst of all of that, there's another guy?
Ron: No, I-- I was an idiot. I had no-- I just thought I-- I knew I wasn't a good husband and I thought that was the catalyst for it, because I wasn't, but I had no idea that she was having an affair with another man.
Dennis: You had no idea you were in real competition.
Ron: I was in big trouble.
Dennis: Real competition for the soul of your wife.
Ron: And you husbands that are listening, [choking up] you may think you've had a bad day when you didn't get a raise, but when your sweetheart comes home and tells you she wants a divorce, there's no amount of begging, pleading that is going to change her mind, because now you're talking to a woman you've never met before, you're talking to a wall. She's turned off the emotional faucet and doesn't care any more. Then you've had a bad day.
Dennis: You know, as we visit, a situation that certainly no person who gets married would ever think they would end up there. Proverbs, chapter 14, the first couple of verses, Solomon gives some great advice. He says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. He who walks in uprightness, fears the Lord, but he who is crooked in his ways, despises Him.”
And, you know, I just can't underscore enough that marriage is a spiritual institution. It is a spiritual relationship. Your choices are going to be based upon some kind of spiritual value system, either one that's based on the Scripture or a spiritual value system of the world that's nonsense.
You're going to base your marriage on something and if you have the wrong foundation, if you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ and if you're not in the Scripture, building your house according to the Biblical blueprints, you're not only not exempt from a story like what we've heard today, you're setting yourself up for someone to go fishing for you.
Because it's just a matter of time until you get disappointed, the hurt goes deep enough and your heart grows cold like the wall that Ron was speaking of where you're speaking to a woman you don't know or to a husband you don't know. And you know what, it's at that moment you need help and God's ready to help you in that moment.
Bob: And I think those couples who would find themselves in the early stages of a situation like this, they need to realize there is a strategy to protect yourself and to keep from falling into this sin. I also think, for those who would find themselves on the-- on the other side of an affair, God can put a marriage back together and can graft it together so that it's stronger than it was before. You guys are an example of that, you’re a testimony to that.
Bob: The book that you’ve written called, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome gives couples hope that a marriage can recover from an extra-marital affair, but it’s also a great warning to all of us that we need to make sure we have established appropriate boundaries. And we need to make sure that we continue to cultivate the kind of relationship that God wants us to have in marriage—that we continue to love one another, and care for one another, even in the midst of what can be hard and challenging times for us as a couple.
You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how to get a copy of Nancy Anderson’s book, Avoiding the Greener Grass Syndrome: How to grow affair-proof hedges around your marriage. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com, you can also call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, if that’s easier. 1-800-FLTODAY, to ask about a copy of this book and we’ll be happy to send it out to you and to help you however we can to strengthen and preserve your marriage, or to help you recover from a marital earthquake if one of those has occurred in your marriage.
In fact, this month, we want to offer you as a resource, a two-CD series featuring a conversation we had with Tim and Joy Downs. They are the authors of a book called The Seven Conflicts of Marriage where they talk about common areas of conflict that come into a marriage relationship. And they help us navigate how we can resolve those conflicts, and how we can live in harmony with one another. The CDs are a thank you gift to you this month if you’re able to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.
Here as the summer is drawing to a close, actually at FamilyLife we’re taking a hard look at some of our expenses and wondering if we’re going to have to do a little more pruning here at the ministry. Here in the last year and a half we’ve had to go through and make some adjustments because of our financial situation and our commitment to live within our means.
We’re wondering here if we’re going to have to make some further adjustments, and perhaps no longer be heard on some of the stations that are currently carrying FamilyLife Today:. So, we’re hoping that as many of you who can, will go online or will call to help with a donation to support our ministry. When you make your donation, feel free to request the two CD series on The Seven Conflicts of Marriage. All you have to do is type the word “seven” into the key-code box on the online donation form. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make your donation over the phone and just ask for the CDs on conflict. Again we’re happy to send those out to you as a way of saying thank you for your support.
If you’ve never made a donation to FamilyLife Today--maybe you’ve listened for a while and you’ve just never called or gone online to help support the ministry. We’re hoping here during the month of August, that we can rally about 2500 new supporters--2500 of you who listen regularly but who have not made a donation. That would be about 100 people a day over the course of the month.
We’ve got a graph on our website that will show what our progress is this month if you’d like to check it out. But, we’re asking if you’ll consider being one of those 2500 this month and make a donation, request the CDs when you do, and we’re happy to send those out to you.
If you are making a first time donation, and if that donation is more than $100 this month, we want to send you a certificate so that you and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember® Marriage Getaway this fall or you can pass that certificate along to your son or your daughter so they can go with their spouse, whatever you’d like to do. Again, all you have to do is be a first-time donor to FamilyLife, and make a donation of $100 or more. You can request that marriage conference certificate when you do that, and again, we want to say welcome aboard, thanks for your support and we’re glad to have you as part of the FamilyLife Today family.
We hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow as we’re going to continue talking with Ron and Nancy Anderson. We’re going to hear about what happened in their marriage when the earthquake went off, and how they began the process of rebuilding. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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