A dangerous attraction

I’ve never been interested in cheating on my husband, even during our darkest years.

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We’ve been married for more than 16 years and there have been plenty of times I was sick of looking at him or hearing him breathe. The idea of betrayal horrifies me and I can’t quite understand how anyone could do such a thing. Yet over and over, I hear about people I know and respect who have strayed from their marriages. And while I still can’t say I understand why, I think I can personally say I do understand how.

I became friends with Mindy when she moved to my city and I ended up sitting next to her at church. She was bubbly and friendly and we both had babies, so we started trying out a friendship. Mindy made me laugh and was a great cook who loved to share—absolutely fantastic.

I’d spend time at Mindy’s house doing crafts with her. I’m not big on such things but those nesting hormones were kicking in, along with the stay-at-home mom desire for interaction with another adult. We had fun and grew into a solid friendship fairly quickly.

Mindy’s husband Bob* and I hit it off immediately. He was the complete opposite of my own linebacker-sized gentle giant husband: he was shorter, bald, in law enforcement. He loved to read so we’d talk about books in the hall after church. He valued my opinion and did that thing where he’d listen attentively to what I said.

After 10 years of marriage, my husband rarely did the listening face.

There was nothing inappropriate—we didn’t have private contact of any kind. No phone calls or email, no making plans. But we did spend a lot of time comfortably talking whenever the opportunity would arise.

One day I noticed that not everyone connected with Bob the same way I did. I’d assumed he was one of those great guys who makes everyone feel important. That guy who could sell you anything and you wouldn’t even mind. As a middle aged, not very fit, mom of two, I certainly didn’t expect that I was getting any kind of special attention.

I thought back to a recent interaction with Bob. I wasn’t
flirting, I don’t think. But I was definitely attracted. Somehow I
hadn’t noticed. It wasn’t a sexual attraction, that swoony sort of
feeling or intense longing. It was harder to describe; the best word I
can come up with is connected.

My first instinct was a bit of vanity. This was definitely not just me feeling something; a good looking guy was interested in me. In a totally appropriate way, but still. There’s a rush when you realize another human being finds you delightful.

As time went on, I hung out with Mindy and Bob and their family. Often Bob was away working. I liked it better when he was around. The things Mindy was annoyed by in her husband were the very qualities I liked.

That’s what it took—I defended Bob to Mindy. I was on his side, not hers. She didn’t notice anything weird but it stuck in my mind.

I couldn’t fall asleep that night. Did I care about this guy? How would that even work? My thought process went down that road much too far before I stopped it.

I didn’t trust myself. I’d gotten way too close to a line I had no interest in crossing.

No longer could I hide the truth from myself: I was interested in Bob. This is how it begins, I thought. You start connecting, enjoying this person, and it progresses from there.

This is how it happens.

Once I thought that sentence, I knew what I had to do. I’d committed, not just legally, but spiritually, to spend my life with this one person. My entire sense of self is based on believing that certain things are right and wrong. That’s come through a lifetime of faith and study, but more than that, my relationship with God means that if I want to feel at peace and happy, I have to follow His path. Even when it is difficult or easier to ignore.

In the quiet moments when I pray and try to listen, when I read scripture before bed and review my day, I felt that I had a choice. Pay attention to this epiphany that I should end this relationship. Or ignore it, aware of the potential consequences.

No more hanging out with this family. Not Mindy alone, not Mindy and Bob together. I didn’t trust myself. I’d gotten way too close to a line I had no interest in crossing.

I stopped inviting Mindy to do things, quickly removed myself from conversations with Bob, and declined activity requests. I didn’t want to be dramatic and have to explain to Mindy why we couldn’t be friends any more. I felt too embarrassed to come clean with her.

So instead I drifted away, intentionally. I remained friendly and civil in our encounters. After all, they were in my church congregation. But I shut down my emotional interest in both Mindy and Bob.

A few mutual friends asked if Mindy and I had a fight. I demurred, said something about our kids not being compatible. I only confessed the real reason to my best friend who knew there had to be more to the story.

Eventually Mindy and Bob moved away. I’ve rejected her Facebook friend requests, keeping my distance in every way. I hope they are doing well. I see pictures sometimes and feel a little sad.

I miss my friend. I miss feeling attractive and interesting
and desirable. I don’t miss thinking about possibilities with someone
else.

I don’t have a drop of regret for ending my friendship with Mindy. Maybe it would have been fine. Probably in fact—I’m not going to run off with someone’s husband. I overreacted, misread the situation.

Perhaps.

It doesn’t really matter. I chose my marriage over a friendship. I chose to be annoyed by the same man who’s every fault I could list if anyone asked. I chose to try to find that connection with my husband rather than looking elsewhere.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate professor of English and a writer living in Arizona with her family. Her work has appeared in Real Simple, The Washington Post and Family Circle.

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