I finally got my hands on the February issue of Cosmopolitan. Mine didn’t come in the mail, so I had to go out and buy a copy. Anyway, I was reading it when I came to this article about workplace affairs. One of the stories really hit home because it sounds so much like what a friend of mine is going through.
No woman in the military was surprised by the Petraeus scandal. I’m a sergeant in the military, and for several years, I’ve been having an affair with a warrant officer in my chain of command. An officer fraternizing with a non-commissioned officer is forbidden, because it’s considered a breach of boundaries and can mess with morale. So we have to be very careful. We’re also both in unhappy marriages. However, there are two sayings in the army. One refers to divorce: ‘It’s cheaper to keep ‘em.’ And the other saying is: ‘What happens TDY stays TDY.’ TDY stands for temporary duty – trips we take in the military for training or inspections – and this is how the officer and I see each other. Everything is paid for by the army, and no questions come up from spouses.
I love him very much, but if it doesn’t work out, I’d never do this again. There is so much fear of discovery, and we’ve both put so many years into the military. We’re risking a lot, including our pensions.
At the same time, what’s happening between us is so common. Sexual harassment happens every day in the military – men hit on you, and if you rebuff them, you are labeled a slut or a lesbian. So you just smile and giggle. It’s just a guess, but I doubt the Petraeus scandal was either of those generals’ first affairs – nor will it be their last. They were stupid enough to send emails on government laptops and call from government cell phones because they are just so used to controlling everything and everyone around them. At their rank, they get anything they want. – Sheila*, 41
I say it sounds like what Julie is going through because a couple of years ago, she reconnected with a guy through Facebook that she knew as a kid. He’s in the military and is married. He also has a psycho girlfriend who came after Julie so hard when she started having issues with him instead of looking at her own behavior. Instead of keeping it between them, she lashed out at Julie, thinking that she was the reason he was acting like he was. Maybe Julie was part of the reason. I don’t think we’ll ever know for certain. Not unless he actually talks to Julie again and tells her why he left.
So for the past year, I’ve had to watch Julie struggle to deal with the bullshit and the fallout. She had to fend off his whackjob girlfriend all by herself because he fucking bailed. He didn’t want to know, and Julie had to handle it the best way she knew how. It’s killing her slowly. Honestly, it scares me sometimes how hopeless she is about…everything. Moments of true joy are few and far between. I feel helpless because I don’t know what to do or how to help. All I know is that I’d love to rip him a new one for treating her this way. I’m sure that in his mind, he’s protecting her from all the bullshit. But it’s not helping, not in the least. I hope for Julie’s sake, he realizes that and comes out of hiding long enough to talk to her honestly about all of it. I won’t hold my breath.