The Right Conditions
An affair involves two things: opportunity and willingness. During Mark’s first 12 years of marriage, there were a lot of chances, but not the preparedness to act.
But then, that doesn't mean he was void of interest or desire. Dissatisfaction with his marriage sometimes led him to wonder what it might be like to be with someone else. But thoughts never turned into action because he valued faithfulness, feared the consequences of infidelity, and he didn't want to face the condemnation of others, especially God.
One thought-without-action episode occurred while Mark was away attending a week-long conference. On the first day, he met a woman who’s striking in both appearance and behavior. That woman apparently enjoyed Mark’s company and frequently sought him out during the rest of the week. There is no improper word was spoken; no inappropriate action made; but he had no doubt that the woman he was pertaining to would have shared a night with him if he had hinted a desire to do so. At the end of the conference the woman gave her address to Mark and she asked him to come and visit her. Afterwards, the woman hugged him good-bye.
Despite that, Mark never contacted her. As a matter fact, when he returned home, he told his wife all about the encounter, which was another little "victory" that gave him a false sense of protection. But although Mark never acted on the temptation, he did think about it. Even months after that event, when feeling distant from Anne, he wondered what it would have been like to spend a night in the other woman's arms.
That's as far as his unfaithfulness would have gone, he thinks that if everything in his life had just persisted to be steady and predictable; it didn't.
The place where Mark worked started to experience growth, which requires him to spend extra time at the office. But despite that he’s working hard his boss never appeared to be fairly satisfied, so what he did was he doubled his efforts. Work kept Mark away from home and of course his wife became progressively upset and critical. He felt overworked, unacknowledged, and empty. Although he somehow accomplished to keep all his plates spinning, he still felt like a hollow man performing tricks.
During this period of personal confusion, Mark was asked to head up a new project at work. Linda, who is an assistant from another department, joined him on the task. The time was ripe for an affair. He had an opportunity: working with Linda nearly every day, most of the time alone. Also, he finally had willingness: ready to discover a relationship that would make him feel valued and loved. Within two months, Mark’s affair had begun.
The Other Woman
"Why her? What does she have that I don't have?" Those were the questions Mark is thinking his wife would eventually ask him—questions that were often heard repeated by many betrayed spouses.
If Mark will be asked what was it about Linda that made it easy to develop a relationship that led to an affair, he would definitely say that he was attracted to those qualities in her, that in his opinion, lacking in with his wife, Anne.
When he became disappointed in his marriage, he found it easy to pay attention on Anne's insufficiencies. He realized now that she still possessed all the qualities he had originally loved, but the years of acquaintance had made it easier for Mark to focus on their differences…on the ways they failed to connect with each other. Of course, once he was convinced of these areas of mismatch, he was also apt to pay more attention when he perceived other women who appeared to be free from these imperfections.
It wasn't about physical beauty. Linda was cute, but Mark still thinks that many would have considered his wife better looking. It was her self-confidence, professionalism, articulation, and life goals: these were the things that drew Mark to Linda.
This attraction alone, though, would not have been enough for him to open the door to an affair. Linda’s admiration accomplished that. Mark just wanted an approval. He wanted to be valued and appreciated. For the period of this disheartening time in his
life, he felt an especially strong longing to hear someone tell him that they believed in his abilities.
Anne never did this very well. Mark thought that this is because of her uncertainties. Maybe it was because Mark didn't show his wife enough appreciation or maybe it was a mix of both. Whatever the reasons, that kind of affirmation didn't come from home.
But then, Mark was able to see this appreciation from Linda.
Linda often praise Mark on his work and abilities. These remarks were sincere and, at first, probably innocent. He was indeed thirsty for them and so he looked forward to each day of work with her: another chance to take a sip. At some point, Mark thinks, Linda realized his need and eagerly gave him more of what he wanted.
They talked and joked and laughed and shared stories about their lives. Mark began to think of Linda as someone who certainly connected with him—a soul mate to be more specific. He started finding reasons to spend more time with her and thought about her always, even at night while in bed with his wife Anne. For the first time in many years, Mark felt blooming and confident.
Even at this point, he can think of a number of events that could have intruded and kept him from having an affair. But then, he didn't want to be stopped, so he kept everything in secret. Even Mark’s closest friends didn't know where he was going.