When I met Dan at church I was sure our life would be perfect. During the next three years, while he was enrolled fulltime at college, we married and had two children.
But life wasn't perfect. After Dan graduated, we found jobs with a ministry that provided housing to low-income families. The harassment and threats from drug dealers and domestic disputes within our large project were a constant stress, and continual complaints from residents with unrealistic expectations chipped away at our self-esteem.
Burned out, Dan changed from the sweet theology student into a negative, morose man. Both of us, lacking in faith, were afraid to leave our jobs. And as Dan's bitterness increased, I began to think, Maybe Dan's a failure.
Feeling trapped, I escaped by reading romance novels. The formulaic story, exotic places, and the tension of a man and woman falling in love were stimulating yet soothing. So as Dan fell deeper into his pain, and since I worked only in the mornings, I'd spend afternoons reading one or two novels before the children came home from school. In the evenings, after the kids went to bed, I even progressed to a third.
But reading the steamy romances didn't fulfill me or help my marriage. And after a while it wasn't enough to just read about romance. Long, solitary walks or drives blocked out the real world, enabling me to conjure up my own fantasies.
A tall, handsome man, resembling different TV characters, met me in my daydreams. A successful, wealthy professional, he'd wine, dine, and dance with me, and our "love" would quickly develop in moonlit gardens or sunlit beaches to marriage where I no longer worked outside the home.1