I opened my mailbox to a letter the other day. Personal, handwritten snail mail, the best kind.
It took a moment to place the name on the return address: a man I know only casually over the counter of a business outside my community. I was there last week. I remembered him: about my age, very nice, soft spoken, genteel.
Two sentences in, I learned his letter was a solicitation to “get to know him better”. I’ll give him this, he was forthright: He knew my name from my purchase; he found my address on the internet; he is married; his wife travels a lot; he would like a close female “friend” on the days she is gone; he will never change his marital status; he had noticed me; he felt comfortable talking with me; would I be interested in dinner and drinks when his wife is out of town? Blah, blah, blah … He was seeking an affair.
The sentences blurred as my reaction surfaced: I hate this. What the %&*@ ? What’s wrong with people?!” I called close friends and a son, “Help! This just happened. How do I respond? He was so nice, I didn’t see this coming. If you met him, you’d never guess he would do this.” My confidants were angry on my behalf, which helped, and they offered ideas on how to respond.
For two days I walked around with a face like one makes after eating a lemon, ruminating:
No, I don’t want to meet you alone … because … because … YOU ARE MARRIED! It is irrelevant what the state of your marriage is — as long as it IS a marriage, I’m FOR IT, not a pawn to be used against it.
Must I stop being nice to every married man because infidelity may lurk under his facade?
No, I won’t betray yours or anyone else’s wife. I AM her — I can easily put myself in her shoes — I am single because of an action like you are proposing. Worse, my young sons were forced to grow up in a broken home. Too late, he woke from his tunnel-visioned obsession to realize a domino effect of toppled lives, and actually said, “I didn’t think it would affect anyone.”
That’s all kinds of blinded and all kinds of foolish. Hidden attitudes turned into secret actions turned into irreparable destruction of a marriage, a family — innocent lives impacted forever without consideration, without say, without choice.
If only “the other woman” had stopped him in his state of blindness, with, “No, just no”.
And I’ll do that. But why have you put me in the position to have to? You are a grown man, a business-owner, a husband, a father … you should never have crossed that boundary.
Finally, today lemonade emerged from the lemons. Somehow I managed to respond, withholding my initial reaction and instead explaining that I would only root for his marriage, never jeopardize it. So no, just no, but not as sour as that — with added sugar: a choice of words that “saved face” for him, assumed the best of his character, and hoped the best for his marriage.
In a separate glass of lemonade, I have a new appreciation for my good male friends who are married — they have always helped me keep us in friend zone, where we belong, and in doing so, they didn’t compromise their wives’ trust. My male, married friends have never put me in the position this guy did. I took that for granted, but today I am indebted to their right behaviors and characters, and value their upright friendships more than ever.
Now, how to turn other lemons of life into lemonade …