My husband, Judah, and I have been married for sixteen years. He is my best friend. My safe place. He has witnessed the best of me and weathered the worst.
When you meet and marry “the one”, you don’t need anyone else, right? All physical and emotional needs are met by your one and only.
Not so fast.
Several years ago, I was out of town for work. I hadn’t seen Judah in several weeks. I started noticing one of my coworkers who had been giving me some attention. In “real life”, this isn’t someone I would ever date. But in “fantasy”, I could make up whatever rules I wanted.
In short order, I would catch this person coming “randomly” to mind, imagining what flirtatious thing they might say to me. They would show up in my dreams where we weren’t just talking.
Normally, I am put off by flirtatious people. If you’re flirty with everyone, how will anyone know if you actually care for them? I don’t trust them and can judge them as careless with other people’s feelings.
This one slipped under the radar. Sort of. I was still annoyed by the flirting, but I was also annoyed that it was working!
I admitted all of this to a friend of mine, hoping talking about it would lessen the intensity.
And then I called Judah. “I need you to come visit me sooner than later. I’m really struggling sexually.”
It was a very hard conversation to have. It felt shameful to have to admit to my husband that I was physically drawn to someone else. That I was struggling with my own hormones and desires.
Thankfully, Judah isn’t a jealous person, almost to a fault actually. Instead of hopping on the next bus, he visited a week later.
He trusts me. Which is nice. But also naive. I am human and fallible. And I was struggling.
Once we were able to connect, physically and emotionally in person, I felt totally different. The tension in my world had been released.
I found it fascinating that I was “drawn away” physically. When it comes to The Five Love Languages, physical touch is the bottom of my list.
Not even a year later, I was out of town again for work. Freshly armed with all the learnings from this past experience, Judah and I were intentional about connecting. We talked on the phone every night.
Quality time is my number one of the five love languages. The tricky part about it is that you can have quantity time without it being quality.
We were having a hard time connecting. Long silences. Short responses to questions. As the time went on, our conversations got shorter, with Judah initiating ending the call.
When I got home, Judah told me that while I was gone, he had become emotionally drawn to someone else. By the time I found out about it, he had already discussed it with some guy friends and gotten support.
How was this possible?
It’s not that I couldn’t imagine him being “drawn away”. That would be pretty hypocritical and short-sighted given my recent history.
But, how had this happened when we had been on the lookout and so intentional?
As we talked through my time away, Judah was able to see that when we talked on the phone, he was often distracted with work-related items open on his computer in front of him. I would call, interrupting his train of thought. While we talked, he could hear my voice but was otherwise distracted by the work-in-progress staring him in the face.
Because he was distracted, he didn’t feel connected to me and longed for that female energy and connection. And found himself drawn to find it elsewhere.
As we unpacked these experiences, we were struck by many things.
Judah’s number one love language is physical touch, and yet he was drawn away emotionally.
My number one love language is quality time, and yet I was drawn away physically.
I would have expected the opposite for both of us.
And yet, it made sense. We were drawn away by the very thing the other person brings to our relational dynamic. The thing we were missing from each other. I missed Judah’s physical presence in my life, drawing me out sexually and fulfilling those needs. He missed my emotional presence in his life, helping connect him to his feelings and providing a safe place for him to express himself.
We were also struck by how little this is talked about. We went through pre-marital counseling. We have lots of married friends with whom we talk quite candidly about vulnerable aspects of being married.
Surely we aren’t the only people who have dealt with this.
We’re all human beings. No one is immune. If you think you are, you are likely at a higher risk of getting blind-sided.
I felt shame at being drawn away from my husband, but I also felt so thankful that I could go to him in the midst of it. Thankful that we both had wonderful friends we could share our humanity with. Neither of us acted on our impulses.
What if we hadn’t told anyone? What if we had felt like we had to deal with it on our own, individually? And what if we couldn’t?
This could easily have been a road to infidelity. A silent, alluring, titillating, painful, lonely, shame-filled walk down the plank to deception and despair. And possibly divorce.
It was risky to talk about our attractions to other people. But how much riskier would it have been not to? I shudder to think.