Chapter 6, loren
We all make mistakes, make bad choices, and miss judgement calls. If we didn’t, how else would we learn and grow?
The affair I had with a much older man when I was 21, impacted my life and my perspective on love forever thereafter.
It was a judgement call that I am only now speaking about publicly. I aim to be as transparent as possible, and in telling the story of John and I, there is no way around the truth of how we met, fell ‘in love’, and grew our family. The way in which we began our love story foreshadows the events that followed our marriage and divorce.At 21, and recently separated from my first husband, I was working full-time at a tanning salon. One Saturday afternoon, this handsome, older man waltzed in. He was arrogantly singing an old Johnny Cash song. I set the timer for his session and off he went. At the end of his visit, he walked out the door and said, “Goodbye gorgeous!” I rolled my eyes and remember feeling both annoyed and flattered by his gutsy gesture. I knew he was a married man and had seen him with his wife a couple of times, but this was my first true interaction with him. What I didn't know or could have never predicted, was that this was the man that was going to change my life forever.I can recall specifically the moment we started our affair. It began one night outside the bar next to where I worked. I was there having a drink, as I often would on occasion. He took my phone and put his number in it. He later sent me a text that simply read, “I have a hotel room. Show up Monday morning, and tell no one.” Brazen is the word that immediately comes to mind when I think back at how he pursued me. Obviously, I did not go. Well, that would be a lie, and then I would have nothing to continue to write about! I knew it was wrong the moment it happened, but do you think I cared? I did not. In fact, I still remember the rush of adrenaline I got when he would meet me outside work, or at his home, or when he would visit my apartment on nights he should have been elsewhere.
I can still recall the way he smelled, the way he looked at me, the sound of his voice when he sang to me, and the way he made me feel.
He swept me right off my feet, and I did not want to come back down. How could something so wrong, feel so right? Well, if you ever find yourself asking this question - my advice: run! Not a light jog, but a high speed, full force run!From that point on, our affair was all but tame. It was secretive in the most passionate way and fueled by our darkest sexual fantasies. After a few short months of this audacious love affair, we found ourselves unexpectedly working at the same job. One would think that with us both working together it would stop us. One would be very wrong. The lust and passion never even slowed down. In fact, it posed nothing but new ways in which we could test our luck. We snuck around like ninjas in the night, always tip-toeing the line of being caught.
Just like with all lies and secrets, eventually the truth does come out. I promise you, secrets are like oil, and they will always rise to the surface. After 6 months of his distance and late nights, his wife became suspicious, as any good wife would, and finally confronted him. Instead of telling her the truth, he side-swept the scandalous details and simply told her that he wanted a divorce. Unbeknownst to me, since I was under the impression that he was already in the process of a divorce, and much like myself, was separated from his spouse. I would later find out how wrong I was about that. Are you seeing the tangled webs just yet?Leaving her was no small task. It never should have been. He broke her heart, and I was the accomplice that aided him. To this day, I cannot tell you why I ever did what I did, and continued to do, knowing full well how hurt I would be if my husband ever did anything like that to me.
I just remember my infatuation with him and how much it felt like he was supposed to be mine.
In fact, as I go back in time with this story, I remember not feeling any emotion or sympathy towards her whatsoever. She was a character in a story, and there was no personal connection to her as a real human with emotions. I was cold, selfish, and felt like she didn’t need him - I did. I loved him. He loved me. I saw nothing else, and I don’t think I even tried. If you’re wondering how this all plays out, don’t worry, karma catches up to me. I promise! At that time, he began his separation from his wife, and he had nowhere to go. So, I offered to let him live with me. I say offered, but I wanted him to be with me…always. I wanted to have him all to myself and to know where he was at all times. You see, when a relationship begins on lies, jealousy comes along and sits uncomfortably right between you both. Not long after we began living together, he came home one day and told me he volunteered on orders to Afghanistan for a year. My heart sank in my chest. Remember, we were both still legally married and only separated from our spouses at that point. As if our affair was not messy enough, it was about to get a whole lot messier. One cold March morning, I woke up from a 3-day hangover. My friend that was staying with me jokingly said, “Dude, you should take pregnancy test. This hangover has lasted long enough.” So, for ish and grins I peed on a stick, took my dog outside, and casually came back in to examine my urine sample.
There it was. I was confronted with the reality of my actions…two pink lines.
I don’t like to use the term consequences, because a child conceived under any circumstance is not a mistake. My thoughts began to scatter as panic set in. There was no way. There was literally NO way! Well, there was a way and so this is the beautifully, sweet story of how we created our first human. (Sorry Jack, Mom and Dad are not very proud of this one, but we sure do love you!)I remember taking a photo of the pregnancy test on my phone and texting it to my new baby daddy. John initially seemed excited about becoming a father and took the news rather well. After all, he was in his 30’s, and I suppose he was ready for that phase of life. He was also about to embark on a year-long deployment, which meant he really did not have to be involved…at all. I, however, was newly 22 and could barely keep myself alive. I could already hear the disappointment in my parents’ voices when I had to tell them. So, there I was all of 7 weeks pregnant, and my new baby daddy left for a place halfway around the world. I was stuck in a 1-bedroom apartment, in a town where I barely knew anyone, and working at a job that barely afforded me to live paycheck to paycheck. What now Loren? It turns out that distance, a secret pregnancy, and his still-wife living in the same town where he left me behind, doesn’t exactly make for a “happily ever after”.
As the months of my pregnancy started to drag on, the more distant we became with one another, and the more I realized I did not really love this man as much as I thought.
In fact, I began to start seeing who he truly was. I began to question how someone could ever do the things he was doing, while saying he loved me. Feeling conflicted about everything and how quickly life was changing, I began to miss Ryan, my soon-to-be ex-husband. I went on to grieve the loss of that marriage for several years to follow. Jumping out of one marriage and quickly entering a new relationship was the ultimate recipe for disaster. I never had time to accept my lost love, and masking that heartbreak with another love was as messy as this story. I also became jealous of John’s soon to be ex-wife. Naturally, jealousy once again began to rise to the surface. Despite our best efforts, our secret was no longer the secret we had hoped it would remain. That didn’t stop us. We continued with our hidden affair, and it would not be for months after the baby was born that we were ready to be open about our relationship. While John was still legally married, my divorce had been finalized for a couple of months.
Yes, I graced divorce court 8 1/2 months pregnant with my married lover’s baby. A real winning day, if you ask me.
The birth of our first child was something I wish I could erase from my memory entirely. I bet you never thought you would hear a mother say that, so let me explain. By the time John made it home for R&R (Rest and Recuperation for all the non-military affiliated readers) to witness the birth of our son, we had already grown apart and broken things off several times. For the entire two weeks he was home, he was cruel and distant with me. I could no longer understand him, but I chalked it up to the deployment and the things he was dealing with over there (stay tuned for that one). I began to miss Ryan more and more each day, to the point where my heart literally ached. I started to regret everything I had done. Ryan, being the man that he was, still reminded me of his love as we slowly drifted apart into separate worlds. I did all I could to hold on, because even talking to him again felt like all was right in the now messy world I had created. Ryan finally began to move on with his life, and the pain of a thousand knives took place in my heart. That pain stayed there for many years to follow.
Ten days after our son was born, John returned to Afghanistan to finish the remaining 5 months of his deployment. During that time, we went back to our regularly scheduled programming of jealousy and fighting. All the while, the pressure from him for us to get married started to pop up in nearly every conversation we had. I believe in his mind, marriage seemed like an obvious solution because he felt like that was the ‘right thing to do’. I came at the topic from a different perspective. Deep down I still felt as if my heart belonged to someone else, but I could never tell John that. So instead, I remember telling him how I didn’t agree that we needed a piece of paper in order to right our wrongs. I didn’t, and still don’t, believe that two people should get married just because they have a child together. Ok, this is where you say, “Loren was right, John was wrong.” And, I get to rub that in his face just a little bit. Mostly because I was right, and we in fact never should have gotten married...ever. Well, you live and you learn, and we did our best to give things the old “college try”.After mulling over the idea of marriage to a man that now felt like a stranger to me, I opted to comply with his suggestion. I thought, how bad can it be? It made him happy, and when he was happy, I was happy.
Three weeks after he returned home from the deployment, he whisked me off to Las Vegas. That is where I did the single most terrifying thing that I have ever done in my life...I married John!
In all-so fitting fashion, our wedding took place skydiving. We celebrated our survival of the vows and the landing by chugging cheap champagne from the bottle. Hindsight, it was a suitable choice for a wedding venue considering our marriage felt like nothing short of an uncontrollable fall from that day on. Our wedding photos have since been destroyed, but I swear you can take my word for it - we really did get married! Skydiving and binge drinking were great added touches to the day!Marriage round 2 is the one that threw me into the reality of my own stubbornness and pushed me to grow beyond just my comfort zone. Since I didn’t learn the first time, God had His own way of saying, “Ok Loren, I was gentle in my approach and you did not listen. So, I am going to be louder and firmer this time. What you will go through next will not be as easy, and you will struggle with your stubborn will.” Let me tell you, when God wants you to grow and wants to get His point across, He’s going to make things VERY uncomfortable!