It started by coincidence, 400 miles from home. Running into each other on vacation which neither knew the other was going on, let alone to the same place. We work for the same company, but had been never more than civil. “How are you?” in the hallway summed up our interactions.
Let’s call him Ben. When I saw Ben on the beach I couldn’t believe my eyes. How? Four hundred miles from home and on 40 miles of coastline, and we’re on the same part of the beach? He was chasing his young son around and I waved him down, saying hello and exclaiming how surprised I was by seeing him. Casual conversation ensued, followed by trading numbers and “let’s grab a drink tomorrow evening.” To be honest, I was looking forward to this drink. Neither of us had many friends at work, and I thought perhaps this could be good, for both of us.
Ben was 45 minutes late to the bar, but I didn’t mind. I was on vacation, he was an acquaintance. At that point, I’m not sure I would have minded if he never showed up. I was enjoying myself.
When Ben finally arrived, I had already been drinking. He began to drink and we talked. We talked about the weather, the upcoming football season, current events at work. As the drinks kept coming, the conversations got deeper. Who’s hot at work, my relationship troubles, his rocky marriage. Boundaries were pushed. However, when I left that night, I was pleased with the night’s events. I was pretty shy and I had bonded with a coworker I liked – this could be good for me.
We didn’t speak for a few days following this encounter. I was returning home, and shortly after, he was set to do the same. Communication was absent and the night’s events were nearly forgotten until my second day back at work. We were given the same assignment, and this assignment meant us, alone in a small area for six hours. In those six hours, a budding friendship swiftly turned into more. Flirty texts were exchanged, sexual innuendos were whispered, plans were made for yet another drink after work.
This time, the drink together was different. Suddenly, Ben became extremely forward. Compliments were flying, conversation was flooded with flirty comments. Sexual tension began to fill the air between us. I loved the attention and I loved the adventure, but I knew it was wrong. I vowed that no physical contact would ensue, and we finished our drinks and went our separate ways.
Things were quiet for a few days, until yet again we were on the same assignment. This time, for only four short hours. I knew I should behave, but Ben was more flirty than ever this time. I began to love it. We would intentionally find ourselves in the same area often, just to be near each other. Texts were exchanged when others were around. At the end of the four hours, we shared a passionate and heart-racing kiss in the stairwell.
After that kiss, everything escalated at an alarming rate.
We were texting almost constantly, and his wife was leaving town that weekend. I went to his house with the intention of staying for just a few hours. We made out passionately on his couch. I gave up, I couldn’t get enough. We went to the liquor store together, drank heavily, and ended up having sex that night. Twice.
I was on a high the next morning. The guilt hadn’t set in. He promised me happiness, promised me his feelings were true, spoke visions of him leaving his wife and us being together. He knew exactly what to say. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved it. I loved the idea. That same day, I ended my own relationship.
Ben’s wife was still out of town and he invited me over for another night. But how quickly everything had changed. He was distant, there was almost no physical affection. We watched a movie and slept next to each other. Him, soundly. Me, with guilt starting to pour over me like the ocean waves when I ran into him just ten days earlier.
I left the next morning praying that it was just a bad night, that he’d text me later in the day and things would be like they were 36 hours earlier. I’d never fallen for somebody so hard, so fast.
The texts came but they were strictly sexual. No more compliments, no more flirting, no more visions of a future together. “Send pics” or some other kind of sexual innuendo is what I expected to read every time his name came across my phone. Despite my better judgement, I gave in.
We worked together again about four days later and it was tense and awkward. I left work that day feeling defeated. I hit rock bottom. My hands felt numb, my heart was in my stomach and I spent the next days in bed, fighting back tears as the few texts I had been receiving gradually became zero. I checked my phone obsessively, waiting for him to call. I spent hours looking through his and his wife’s Facebook profiles, looking for signs that maybe their relationship was ending. I had never intended for this to happen. Not only had I ended my own relationship, but I had slept with a married man, something far beyond my moral compass. I wasn’t good enough for Ben, and I was a shitty person to boot.
Sleeping with a married man led me down one of the darkest paths of my life. I was forced to see him weekly at work. I was hurt, jealous, and insecure. I envied his wife because she got to sleep next to him every night. She got to taste him, love him. I was bitter and hurt, and he didn’t care.
Silence from the person you want more than anything is deafening, and that pain was not beautiful. Not even a little.
Despite hitting rock bottom, I don’t regret it. It took me weeks to crawl out of that hole. But finally, rather than envy his wife, I began to feel bad for her. She spent her nights lying next to a man who didn’t value or respect her. A man who had an affair, likely more than once. Their relationship was likely doomed, when my capacity and journey to love was just beginning.
This experience shaped me as a human being, as a grown woman. Ben isn’t the only charming man in the world. I will feel that rush and excitement of new love again, this time by a man who is available both physically and emotionally.
I learned to recognize my own value, I learned that I don’t need the approval of any man to be okay. I learned a lesson that will follow me for the rest of my life.
Ladies, if you find yourself in this same situation, I beg you not to lose hope. Don’t settle for a man so cruel, so unavailable. Break away, learn to love yourself and learn how to be okay alone. Once you do this, you will attract the love of a lifetime.