As a Second Lieutenant and newlywed, I was shocked when my first commander tried to use a government credit card to run off to Germany with another officer’s wife. My commander’s wife and small children were clueless until the charges came down.
It was only a few years later as a First Lieutenant, I found out that many of the female officers I worked with were messing around with their enlisted counterparts or the “co-pilot” of their crew team. Before my first deployment, Haus and I invited my crew team Specialist and his wife over for dinner specifically to ease her anxiety. Sadly we had to make it very clear that our marriage was just as important to us as theirs was to them.
At a mess hall in Qatar in 2003, I was cornered by a Navy pilot. The guy wouldn’t leave me alone even following me towards my bunk area. My stomach turned at one point when I realized he had a faint tan line from a wedding band. I asked if he had any family and he eventually divulged the fact that his wife was pregnant with their first child. Around this time, I ran into a group of my Soldiers that distracted the guy and I never saw him again.
As a young Captain, I roomed in a small trailer on a base in Baghdad with another married female officer. A few weeks into the deployment, it became very clear that she was cheating on her husband with the Battalion Commander, a married man. I switched to room with another female and tried to separate myself from the situation.
To keep away from her drama, I found myself hanging out with a single male officer and married senior enlisted guy. The three of us did just about everything together in between duty. I regularly ate meals and worked out with them. As my enlisted buddy was called to other duties, I little by little spent more time with the male officer by myself.
My judgmental disgust for my former roommate almost blinded me from falling into the same trap. Alone with this man, I was consistently flattered by him. We’re just friends, I would tell myself, as he verbally praised me. Without realizing it then, I was on an adulterous path. It wasn’t until one day I happened upon a book lying on the “Free Books” table in the phone center. It was titled, “Every Woman’s Battle” by Shannon Ethridge. I have to point out that finding a book for women during a deployment is a miracle in itself as most books placed in care packages are for men.
I devoured the book in less than a day and realized that although I had never been physically unfaithful to my husband, I was allowing this other man to fill a void of affirmation that was only my husband’s to fill. I stopped hanging with the guy immediately. I prayed that God would forgive me for my actions and guarded my heart throughout the rest of the deployment.
I’ll never forget the heartbreak on my husband’s face when I came home and confessed to him that I had allowed another man to emotionally meet my needs. Sitting in our truck as the rain pelted our windshield, I cried and begged him to forgive me. I told him I would never be so careless again. Haus hugged me and told me how sorry he was that he hadn’t been affirming me more. My incredible husband apologized to me! He forgave me that day and has never chastised me for it since.
I tell you all of this in the wake of the General Petraeus’ scandal. I’m not surprised by the news. I’m empathetic. I’m sure their path started a very long time ago with something as simple as being alone together. I pray that their families can recover from the consequences of their choices.
I learned the hard way that no one is protected from unfaithful actions. I am thankful that I was made aware of my choices before it was too late. I’m even more thankful for my faithful, forgiving husband. Now I think I need to go hug my Haus.