Three months ago I sent an email out to those who purchased my program, How to Survive An Affair, looking for real life success stories.
Last month I sent you the story of Julie and Jerry Hamnernick. After received literally hundreds of emails from those of you who were touched, I wanted to send you another powerful story.
This story comes from Arden and Nancy Fox. With the help of my editor Spencer, we were able to capture their story. It’s a little long, but it’s full of details that I know many of you will relate to.
Here is their story:
Arden and Nancy Fox.
“It started out as a job. Arden was doing construction work at Niki’s house. She has a store in her home, and Arden was remodeling the house to make it into a store. I knew this woman from church, we were acquaintances. I knew she was married. I also knew she had some problems. But I never realized how serious the problems would become.”
That’s how Nancy Fox begins her saga of the horror she went through for two years while her husband was engaged in an affair he wouldn’t admit to.
“My red flags went up very early on. It was just never-ending. Once he finished one project there was another. He would complete part of the house and be done with the job, then another project would come up . and then another. Most of the beginning projects were outside of the house. Progressively they moved further and further inside the house.
“Then at church she began saying things about him like she would have to ‘keep him on retainer.’ That made me REALLY uncomfortable. But Arden and I have been married for 28 years. I’ve been part of the Fox family since I was 14-that’s when Arden and I started dating. We’ve known each other for more than 40 years. We had a very long-term relationship and I relied on that. I wanted to trust him.
“Then one day in the spring of ’05 my husband came home in tears. I’ve known Arden for a long time and he never cries, so I knew something was terribly wrong. Niki had asked him to help her commit suicide. It was at that point I knew this was a very bad situation. I knew we were dealing with someone who was mentally ill.
“However, I felt compassion for this woman and I wanted to help. So we went to her house and I talked with her. I didn’t directly address her issues, but I tried to help her in the ways I could. I tried to talk to her and tried to get her to look at things from a better perspective. I knew I was out of my league and that she needed the help of a professional, but I wanted to do something to help.”
Despite the extreme and bizarre nature of this incident, Nancy and Arden agreed that he would continue working for Niki. They were having some financial trouble at the time and Arden didn’t feel he could give up the income Niki was providing them. Nancy didn’t like it, but she acquiesced, because she knew they needed the money too.
Unfortunately, the problems had only just begun .
A few weeks after “the suicide incident,” Arden came home and told Nancy that Niki had asked him to run away with her. Several more weeks went by and Arden reported to his wife that Niki tried to hug and kiss him. Each time one of these strange incidents occurred Arden would assure Nancy that he had put a stop to it and that nothing like it would ever happen again.
But his actions didn’t seem to match his words. While he was telling his wife that he was putting an end to Niki’s behaviors, he was progressively spending more and more time at her house. The project at Niki’s started out as one among several jobs he was working-slowly it began consuming all his time. He was spending 8-9 hours a day, every day, “working” at her place. And the whole time, he and Niki were alone.
When he was there, she bought him lunch. She talked with him. And she supplied him beer anytime he wanted it. She even delivered a beer to him at about 3 p.m. as a mid-afternoon break.
As time went by, Arden also began doing things for Niki after hours “because no one else could.” Never mind the fact that Niki and Arden were both married to other people. Niki’s husband wasn’t available to take Niki shopping, run her out to the airport to pick up family, or make sure she had dinner in the evenings and Arden felt “obligated” to help so he did these things for her. He told his wife he was just trying to be a nice guy.
Arden didn’t hide what he was doing from his wife. He just told partial truths. He revealed small indiscretions that he knew might make Nancy uncomfortable, but he wouldn’t confess to having a sexual relationship with Niki. Instead of giving Nancy a complete picture of what was really going on, he told her about shopping trips he took Niki on. He might even admit that Niki tried to kiss him from time to time (even though he said he “had put a stop to it”), but he never told her the whole story. As a result Nancy felt uncomfortable, but remained convinced for a long time that her husband wasn’t having an affair.
“Every time I heard about these things from Arden, I would think ‘WHAT?!!’ But I was usually too stunned to respond. Besides, I still trusted him.”
As more time passed, Nancy noticed that the quality of her marriage was deteriorating. Arden started getting angry and agitated at Nancy for no seeming reason which had never happened before. She equated it with the financial stress they were under, unaware of what was going on behind the scenes. Anytime Nancy expressed her concerns to Arden he largely ignored them. They stopped communicating with each other for the most part. In short, their marriage was becoming distant and strained.
While Nancy and her husband were growing apart, it was clear to her that Arden and Niki were closer than ever. That year he invited Niki to their home for Thanksgiving dinner. She also showed up during a Christmas Eve party they had bearing gifts for Arden, Nancy, their children, and the rest of their family. Nancy didn’t want her there. Her family wondered who this strange woman was. But Nancy would tell herself, “God said you should invite your enemies to your table.”
“I thought maybe this was something God wanted me to do. I felt compassion for her. I knew she was lonely and had issues so I wanted to help.”
Traditionally Arden took time off work during the holidays so he could spend time with his family. While he was home that year, Niki called every day to talk to him. Nancy didn’t have any idea what these conversations were about, but she knew she didn’t like having Niki call and talk to Arden so much.
From time to time Nancy would confront Arden with her fears. She would say, “I cannot compete with her. She won’t leave you alone. She has you from 10-6 all day. I’m working. When I come home I’m exhausted from working. I don’t feel like I can compete with her.”
Arden would assure Nancy she didn’t have to compete with the other woman. But he didn’t change his behaviors.
Nancy knew things were getting bad in their marriage, and she knew talking with Arden wasn’t working. She had also started to expect the worst at this stage, and though she barely dared to admit the reality of a sexual affair to herself she knew it was a possibility. So she decided to change her tactics.
She figured instead of trying to get Arden to stop spending time with Niki, she would just go along on some of these shopping trips and errands he took her on. If he was innocently trying to help Niki, she figured it wouldn’t be a problem if she came along too.
Of course, every time she asked to come along there was sudden change in plans. Niki would be unavailable at that time and would reschedule for Tuesday night-the one night of the week Nancy was preoccupied with a class.
It was increasingly clear to Nancy that something was amiss, yet there had still been no admission of a sexual affair. Nancy strongly suspected it at this point, but when she questioned her husband on it he denied it outright. These denials caused Nancy to doubt her own perceptions. She knew she didn’t like what was going on, but she wasn’t wholly convinced that Arden and Niki were having a sexual relationship.
Not knowing who else to turn to, Nancy talked to the pastor at her church about her problem. He offered to have a talk with Niki on Nancy’s behalf and they agreed he would request that Niki fire Arden from the job. It seemed like a good solution to Nancy. She knew Arden wouldn’t be happy about it, but hoped his ire would prompt him to open up and talk to her about what was really going on.
“I was waiting for a response from him like, ‘Nancy what do you think you’re doing telling pastor to have Niki fire me?’ He did nothing. He was flat. He just became more and more distant.”
When her husband failed even to address the fact that she had gone to the pastor at their church about the issue, Nancy decided it was time to take more drastic measures. She wrote Arden a note that said, “I’m gone-gone to figure out what my life is about. I’m tired. I’m lonely. And I need to find out what I have, because it obviously isn’t what I thought.” And she left the house. “I didn’t know where I was going. I just knew I had to go.”
That was the first time Nancy left Arden.
Several days later Arden called Nancy and said, “Please come home, we need to talk.” She agreed and went home. As soon as she walked in the door, he reached out for her and held her. She sobbed. What he revealed then wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but he still didn’t tell her the whole truth.
Nancy asked Arden if pastor had talked to Niki. Arden said he had and told her about how it happened. Niki approached him crying and said, “Pastor told me to fire you.” When Nancy asked Arden what he did in response he said, “Nothing. I just went to work.”
This smelled a lie to Nancy, but she had other issues she wanted to address.
“Why don’t you just quit? You know how I feel about this!”
“You know what she’ll do Nancy.”
“What, she’ll commit suicide?”
“Yes, but that’s a piece of why I can’t leave.”
Nancy wondered what the final part of that statement-”that’s a piece of why I can’t leave”-meant, but she was too emotionally overwhelmed to ask him anymore questions that night. Realizing the situation was far worse than she ever dreamed, Nancy went to bed numb and overwhelmed.
The following day, while on her way to work Nancy saw Arden’s truck in Niki’s driveway. Though there had been no specific agreement that Arden would “quit the job,” Nancy hadn’t suspected that he would go back to Niki’s the very next day, even if it was “for work”.
Fed up, Nancy decided to confront the situation head on. She stopped her car determined to confront Arden and Niki both. As soon as the motor was turned off Arden rushed out and said, “What do you want?”
“Arden, I told you how I feel. I told you I’m not comfortable with this. And you’ve turned around and come right back up here today. I don’t trust you and I don’t trust her.”
With that Nancy got back in her car, slammed the door and sped off. She was too frustrated and frazzled to even wait for a response from Arden.
After this incident Nancy and Arden’s marriage began a steep descent into chaos. Nancy repeatedly tried to tell Arden how she felt. He ignored her. He was rarely home. He never talked to his wife. Arden “didn’t like to argue” and since Nancy was in the mood to do little else, ignored issues instead of confronting them. It was not a pretty picture.
Feeling that she had no other choice, Nancy decided to play private investigator. She wanted to know the truth, and she had come to a point where she was convinced that the only way she was going to get it was by spying on her husband.
So that’s what she did. She followed Arden when he left the house, tracked his phone records, asked friends to stop by Niki’s shop and report on what was happening there, and tried every other method she could think of to find what was really going on between her husband and the other woman.
What she unveiled surprised even her. She found out that Arden was constantly on the phone with Niki when he wasn’t at her house. He visited her at odd hours of the night. They even met in parking lots and changed cars to avoid being found out. Arden was going to extraordinary lengths to make sure Nancy had no idea about the extent of his relationship with Niki.
By spying on her husband Nancy began to develop a picture of the disgusting truth. But there was one piece of information she still didn’t have. She hadn’t procured concrete evidence that Arden and Niki were having sex.
All Nancy wanted was the truth, and in her desperation she was willing to go to any lengths to get it. So she did something that under normal circumstances would seem extreme . perhaps even crazy.
“I looked for some proof of a sexual encounter while Arden was asleep . and I found what I was looking for. They were having sex. I tried to convince myself Arden was just satisfying himself. But I knew it wasn’t true. Niki was having sex with my husband.”
Nancy didn’t reveal what she had discovered to Arden immediately. Instead she continued to try and express her concerns in a calm and rational way. She wanted him to admit to the affair on his own. She wanted him to tell her the truth. But no matter what she said, Arden always “went back to work.” He offered excuse after excuse. “The kitchen floor is about to fall in.” “It wouldn’t be right not to finish this job. “We need the money.” But he never told Nancy what she most wanted to hear.
All the while she continued to follow Arden to keep tabs on what he was doing. When she could take no more, she finally confronted Arden during one of her private investigator operations. She went to a grocery store adjacent to Niki’s house where she could watch it. After waiting for a little while, Arden and Niki drove up to her place together in her van.
As Arden got out of the van, Nancy walked toward him. He looked at her and said, “I’m going home.” Then got in his truck and left Nancy standing there. She didn’t know what to do so she went for a short drive and then went home herself.
When she walked in the door, Arden’s tone had changed. He looked at her and said, “Who’s packing you or me?”
“I couldn’t believe those words had come out of his mouth,” Nancy said, “I looked back at him and said, ‘I’m packing.’
“At that point I emotionally fell apart. I screamed and yelled, and, as he would say, ‘threw a fit.’ I started throwing stuff into my suitcase.”
But Arden didn’t stop his wife. He let her walk out. She put her suitcase in the car, and came back for her computer. Then the reality of her leaving seemed to sink in and he decided to try and stop Nancy.
“He stood in the doorway and tried to block my path. I said, ‘Let me go.”"
“I don’t want you to go! I don’t want you to leave. I won’t go back there! Please don’t leave me. If you don’t leave me I won’t go back there.”
“The last time this happened he went right back to her. I wanted to believe him, but I couldn’t. After all, he was the one who said, ‘Who’s leaving you or me?’ I didn’t trust him anymore.”
Arden grabbed hold of his wife and held her and began to sob. She didn’t hug him back. She was committed to getting out the relationship now. So she left.
“I called him five minutes later, because I got scared. I was afraid he might hurt himself. He had been exposed to this woman who said she was going to commit suicide anytime something went wrong. I told him, ‘Please don’t do anything stupid. Please don’t hurt yourself. No matter what I still love you, but something has got to give here.’
“He assured me he wouldn’t hurt himself. But we have hunting guns and rifles in the house, so I had to muster up enough strength to believe that I would be OK and that he wouldn’t do anything I would feel guilty about later.”
As Nancy reveals this piece of her tale, she begins to cry .
She went to her friend’s house that afternoon-someone who knew about her situation. She talked to her pastor again. Then she called the woman she drove to work with. She had been through a bitter divorce and convinced Nancy that leaving her house could be a mistake, because she ran the risk of losing it.
“I didn’t know if that was true, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so about 8:30 that night I went back home.
“My husband was sitting in the living room talking to my youngest son, so I wanted to be discrete because I didn’t want to bring him into this.
“I went upstairs and started setting myself up to live upstairs. I have a pretty big house and I tried to tell myself I could just live upstairs; that it would be alright.”
Arden came up several times and asked her if she would come down and talk with him. She refused and told him, “I’m not leaving my house, because it’s my house just as much as it’s yours and that’s why I’m back, but I’m not coming downstairs.”
For the next four days Nancy lived in the attic bedroom in her house and didn’t come down.
During those four days, Arden and Nancy’s interactions were not pretty. Nancy started asking Arden if he had been having a physical affair. But their communication was long past the calm, rational tone it once carried. Instead she was yelling questions like “How did it feel when she sucked your c—?” Arden would yell back at her denying such horrible charges. But by this time, Nancy knew the truth.
She gave in to pushing Arden any time she saw him, almost physically attacking him because she wanted to get a real response out of him. Arden ignored these pleas for attention. She says during that time she became a person she didn’t want to be, but she felt trapped. She didn’t know what to do.
More familial problems complicated the situation even more. When Nancy’s mother got lung cancer and was hospitalized she went to help her father, knowing that Arden would be with the other woman the whole time. She would creep home late at night to see if Arden was at the house. Sometimes he was there. Sometimes he wasn’t. When he wasn’t, she always knew where he was.
After 10 months of this kind of behavior the situation finally came to a head. Nancy had confided in her brother and sister-in-law and told them about what was going on between she and Arden. They offered to help her in the private investigation she had been carrying out and followed Arden one evening so she could go to class.
As Arden left the house Nancy’s brother and his wife tailed him in their own car. Within 5 minutes they had lost him. So they called Nancy, who then said, “Well, can you follow her?” They agreed and went to wait for Niki to leave her house. When she did, they followed her to a parking lot where she and Arden had been meeting.
Arden was already there waiting for her. He got into her car, and they pulled into a parking space together. Nancy’s brother and sister-in-law pulled in right behind them, trapping them in the parking lot and called Nancy who arrived 20 minutes later.
When Nancy pulled up she heard her brother saying, “Stop playing games with my sister. Tell her the truth. Whatever it is, just tell her the truth.”
Her first instinct was to go after Niki. But her brother intervened and said, “It’s not about her, talk to him. Talk to your husband.” Nancy changed courses and walked over to Arden who had stepped about 20 feet away from the encounter, apparently hoping to avoid a scene.
“I walked up to within 6 feet of him and just stood there. He asked me to come closer, but I wouldn’t”.
“Just tell me, have you been f—-ing her?”
“Then you’re not coming back to my house tonight.”
“I need my clothes.”
“I don’t care what you need, you’re not coming back. You’re done.”
Nancy next walked over to Niki and confronted her. It wasn’t the first time she had a confrontation with Niki about this issue, but it was certainly the most intense encounter they had.
“She looked at me and said, ‘He wouldn’t go home.’ I couldn’t believe it. I looked right in her eyes and said, ‘Niki did you double your medication when you had sex with my husband? I know you’ve been messing with my husband, because he just told me so.’ Then I walked away.
“My brother took me home that night. My sister-in-law offered to take Arden home, but he said, ‘No,’ then he got into Niki’s van and they drove away.”
“I wasn’t in the car 5 minutes when I started transferring my money out of our mutual accounts. I knew it was over. There was no question about it.”
The next day Nancy got in touch with an attorney and had divorce papers drawn up in a matter of days.
But she felt she needed to talk with Arden one last time, so she called him at his mother’s house, where he had been staying.
“I said, ‘We need to talk away from the emotion away from all that has occurred, just you and I.’”
Arden agreed and they met that afternoon to discuss “business.”
“We sat in his mother’s kitchen and I asked him, ‘Do you love her?’”
“Yes, but not like you.”
“That was enough for me to hear. It was over. I knew it. We went our separate ways at 2. I found out later from looking at cell phone records that he called her at 2:01.”
“Knowing he had sex with someone else . I felt dirty. I was up for 3 days with a half hour sleep. I lost 6 pounds. I stayed up and walked around outside and wailed. I cried from the depths of my soul.
“The following Saturday I ran into Arden outside the movies. My brother was with me, and I thought, ‘Well at least my brother is here to protect me.’ I never felt unsafe with Arden physically. But the one thing that came out of all this . the emotion of not feeling safe and protected anymore was the toughest one to deal with.”
Upon saying these words Nancy weeps again as those old wounds are opened once more in the telling.
Outside the movie theater, Arden invited Nancy to go back to his mother’s house with him. She went. They sat and talked. Nancy asked about the details of the affair. He told her it had only been happening for 2 or 3 months. That wasn’t true, and Nancy knew it. He told her there were only 2 or 3 sexual encounters. That wasn’t true either and Nancy knew that too. Arden was still lying to her, even now .
When Nancy asked how the affair started, Arden told her Niki had seduced him physically. He told her he had been able to turn down all her other advances, but that a woman had never touched him that way before.
He had been upstairs working on bedrooms for her family to come over to visit. She came up and started talking him. Then she walked over, ran her hands up his shorts, and seduced him.
He said, “What the hell are you doing?”
She told him to lie down. Then she gave him oral sex.
Even after hearing this, Nancy stayed with Arden that night. She still loved him. She told Arden life could be different, it could be better, and that she wanted him back.
They agreed he would come back home when “the job” was finished. But “the job” didn’t end immediately.
“Day after day he would say, ‘Just one more day.’ And it looked like the same old scenario to me. I didn’t think he would change.
“But he finally finished the job, came home, and invited me to dinner. We laughed and caught up like nothing had ever happened.”
He said, “I want to come home.”
“I wanted you to come home yesterday. I never wanted you to leave.”
“Well, I’m done with the job and I need her check to clear, but I’m never going back there.”
From that point on Arden never went back . to Niki’s house.
The sexual affair ended at that point . but Arden still didn’t stop seeing Niki.
Arden was contacted again by Niki the following December. She met him at a parking lot. It wasn’t planned. She happened to be at the same place at the same time. She told him he owed her a conversation.
Then Niki sent him a letter.
And Arden slowly slipped back into Niki’s world, writing her and calling her. For four months they began communicating again.
He said he just wanted to be nice to her. He just wanted to say hi. He wanted to be a nice guy.
He also said he did it so he could find out whether or not he had been played.
But he didn’t tell Nancy any of this. She could sense that her husband was lying to her again, but she didn’t know for sure until she went to confront Niki once again.
“I felt like I had to put my demons behind me. I was acting like I never had before in my life, and I needed to put this behind me. So I walked into Niki’s business, went up to her, and gave her a hug. I whispered in her ear, ‘I’m sorry.’ She said, ‘No, I’m sorry.’
Then she and Niki started talking. It was at this point Nancy found out that Arden had been contacting her again. Arden had also purchased Niki a sweater for her birthday. These revelations didn’t come from her husband, they came from his lover.
Nancy was back in her old role of private investigator again. She put on a front with Niki, soaking her for more information and stayed there talking with her until late in the afternoon.
After she learned what she wanted to know, she went home and told Arden about her encounter with Niki. At first he tried to deny that he had been contacting her. “She lied to you,” he said. But eventually he admitted that it was all true.
“Arden you’re back into her world again. Why did you meet with her?”
“I had to find out if she was playing me.”
“Well you don’t have to buy her a sweater.”
“When she called me she told me it was her birthday. Besides I bought you two sweaters. I wanted to buy you four, but they didn’t have any more in your size .”
Though it seemed Nancy and Arden were back in the pattern they were in before, things turned out a little differently this time.
One evening, a few weeks later, the phone rang. It was Niki. Arden asked Nancy not to answer it. She decided to do a little more investigative work and answered the phone anyway. While Nancy was on the phone talking with Niki Arden went to bed.
“After that conversation, I went to the bedroom and asked him, ‘Are you still awake.’ He said, ‘Yep.’ And I said, ‘You’re gonna tell me the truth, and I will know if you’re lying to me one more time or not.’”
Finally, Arden confessed everything. He gave Nancy all the gory details of the affair. He told her everything she wanted to know.
That evening Arden finally realized Niki had “played” him-”brainwashed” is the word he uses. You see, Arden was the sixth person Niki had an affair with. Through mutual friends, Nancy found this out and shared it with Arden.
“I shared this information with Arden. Then he was really hurt. He hurt me, the person he truly cared for. And he was played. This woman had no intention toward him, even though she told him so. She brainwashed him.”
After that final communication with Niki, there have been no further encounters. And Nancy is now convinced it won’t happen again. The reason is because of what she and her husband learned in How to Survive an Affair.
A few months after Nancy found out the horrible truth of the affair, a friend told her about Dr. Gunzburg’s work. She immediately went online and found a whole community of people that were suffering the same horrible fate she did.
“That book was invaluable in helping me and Arden get to the place we are right now. We were in the ocean after the affair, floating around without anything to hold onto except our love for each other which we have realized is deeper than our souls. I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Dr. Gunzburg’s stuff gave us something to hold onto.
“Number one, it helped validate my feelings as an injured person and it helped validate his feelings as the cheater.
“More than that, it gave us structures to communicate. We needed to open up to each other. For years I suppressed how I felt. I communicated my feelings ineffectively or not at all. When this affair happened I said all gloves are off. You’re gonna know how I feel, what I feel, and when I feel it. Then I learned you can’t go to either extreme. Because when I let it all out, I became a person I didn’t really want to be.
“You have to have some control on that and some thought about how you communicate with someone you respect and love. And you have to build that respect back. Dr. Gunzburg’s books . I have them right on my desktop so I can reference them whenever I need them . those books have helped me learn how to communicate my feelings effectively.
“Arden is learning how to use language and express himself too. One of the big things for him is realizing that he has feelings too. He’ll often say that: ‘I have feelings too.’ And that’s a big deal for Arden. Dr. Gunzburg’s stuff helped him realize that. His feelings are as valid as mine are. He had feelings that he was hurt and he had situations where he didn’t feel he could connect with me.
“You know, Arden got hurt two times. How to Survive an Affair validated that. He got hurt, because he hurt me-the person he loved and cared for deeply for more than 40 years-and he got hurt because this other woman made it look like she was better than me, she could give him more than I could, she was what he needed, and in the end she was playing him.
“Another thing Arden learned was that he needs to be transparent-to open up and be completely honest with me. He learned that from Dr. Gunzburg.
“But it’s more than just the one book. There’s the website, and the emails, and all his other work too. You can get online and talk about your feelings with other people who are going through the same thing. It’s amazing.
“I didn’t always want to read the book, because I had to face the hurt and the emotions I was dealing with and I had to accept that Arden had feelings, and I didn’t always want to accept that.
“Then Dr. Gunzburg would send an email that would say something like, ‘Are You Feeling You Can’t Ever Trust Him Again?’ and I’d say, ‘YA! let me read that!’
“But the one thing Dr. Gunzburg helped me with most . I would probably not have stayed with this if it weren’t for him.
“He would keep saying, ‘Ya it’s hard, but it can be done.’ There were many, many, many times that I thought: There’s no way I can do this. It’s too painful, it’s too hurtful, I have to look at my own responsibility in my marriage, and you don’t want to look at what you did, you want to blame the other person. But Dr. Gunzburg kept saying in all his communication that it can be done. It’s not easy, but it can be done. That gave me hope.
“Arden and I have both admitted it would have been simpler to throw up our hands, go our own ways, and deal with our own hurt rather than stay here together. Most people wouldn’t have stayed in this and done it, because it’s been so difficult.
Wishing you hope and healing in your marriage,