Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2019 Sep 11
I am a Dateline Mystery kind of gal. I don’t know why I get into a good whodunit story, but it’s about the only thing I ever take time to watch. Having said that, I rarely watch it when it is on TV. I have to record it and watch it later because I always fall asleep.
Over the weekend, I happened to record both Dateline and 20/20. I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the topic, but I began to see some rather heated discourse on social media over 20/20 in the following days. So, I decided to go back and watch it as soon as I could.
The episode was simply titled The Affair. It was the true story of a love triangle between Mark, his wife Jennair, and his lover Meredith. Of course, I was hooked.
It seems that Mark met Meredith and they quickly began to develop a romantic attraction. It’s important to note, however, that both Mark and Meredith were married, Mark to Jennair, his wife of 24 years. At some point approximately three or four months into the affair, Jennair went to Meredith’s home, shot and killed her, and then took her own life.
Let me start by saying there must have been something unstable in Jennair to allow herself to reach a point of murder. However, 20/20 also did a really good job of garnering support for Mark, the one who had chosen to leave the bounds of marriage and engage in an adulterous relationship.
From what was presented, Mark and Jennair had a mostly solid, loving relationship. Yes, Mark can point to some issues with Jennair being stubborn. We also have to remember Jennair is not here to defend herself. One interesting thing I saw was that there were no close friends who were interviewed to share how they saw the relationship between husband and wife. We really have no idea what went on behind closed doors based upon the way 20/20 presented the marriage. We only have Mark’s story (which was mostly positive).
What struck me was how Jennair was characterized as an evil person. Yes, she chose murder and suicide which is absolutely wrong. However, she was characterized as being anything but that evil person before the affair.
So how does someone change from a peace-loving, stable wife to a psychopathic killer?
Honestly, anyone who has experienced the pain and betrayal of having a cheating spouse can probably sympathize with Jennair. I know I did.
Most of Jennair’s thoughts and actions were completely normal. 20/20 talked about Jennair’s fear of being alone, of being financially ruined. They talked about how she felt completely rejected and not good enough. She wondered why she was so awful that her husband would trade her in for a newer, prettier model after everything they had been through together.
I know exactly how she felt. I couldn’t imagine how I could ever move forward after the affair. I didn’t know how I would be able to put food on the table for my kids or provide for them as teenagers. My life looked bleak. It seemed as if my life was over.
That’s how Jennair felt. We heard it in her own words, in recordings found on her computer of conversations with Mark. She felt hopeless and helpless and couldn’t see that relief was anywhere in the future.
Jennair became a private investigator. She had Mark’s phone cloned so she could read his text messages and listen to his conversations. She hid recording devices in his clothes. She put a tracker on his and Meredith’s cars. She wanted to know all the details.
I remember the days of scouring through private conversations and emails. I remember being so desperate to know every single detail of what they said, what they did. It was an obsession that haunted me day after day. I don’t know why I wanted to know all the details, but my wounded heart somehow needed to know. If I had the money or the knowledge, I might have gone as far as Jennair.
There finally came a day when I realized I was obsessed and had to erase it all. It was a conscious decision to walk away for my own health, my own sanity. It was hard, but I knew I had to do it if I was going to survive. Sadly, Jennair didn’t realize the damage she was doing to herself.
You never know what you are capable of in a given situation until you are in it. Jennair was driven to murder and suicide. Even those closest to her never thought she would be capable of using a gun let alone using it to kill another human.
In those painful early days, I did things I never dreamed I was capable of. I shudder to think of the person I was becoming. I am so thankful my Savior reached down, called me back to Himself, and helped me realize He was with me every step of the way. Otherwise, I might have been a Jennair. I know suicide crossed my mind. I wished they were both dead (although I don’t think I thought about killing them).
The truth is none of us knows what we would do in a given situation until we are thrust into the midst of it. An affair? I had no idea how I would respond. A loved one dies in a car accident? I don’t know how I would handle it. A child stopped for drunk driving? I pray I never know what I would do. You name it. When crisis hits, we don’t know how we will respond…until we are there. We should never judge anyone for how they handle a situation.
In some ways, Mark bears the responsibility. At one point, Mark had the opportunity to take a job across the country, a choice that would have taken him and his wife away from the situation and saved his marriage. He turned down the job because he didn’t want to leave Meredith.
At every stage of an affair, the straying partner has the option of turning away and back to his/her spouse. At every stage, God gives a way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 13:10). It is up to the wandering spouse to choose self or to put aside his/her sinful desires and return to his/her spouse.
Mark did not pull the trigger; he did, however, create an atmosphere that caused so much extreme pain for his wife that she did not know how to handle it. I believe her suicidal thoughts drove her to a state of homicide.
All sins are forgiveable. Mark stated at the very end of the episode that Jennair’s were unforgiveable. “I do not forgive her for that,” he said.
Jennair’s actions were detestable, but I’m so thankful God doesn’t see sins as unforgiveable. I pray Mark’s anger and bitterness doesn’t destroy his future.
I don’t feel that 20/20 gave an impartial or accurate picture of this situation. I wish they had interviewed others who had suffered the extreme pain and devastation that adultery creates. I wish they had spoken with psychiatrists or counselors who could testify to the damage done by the betrayal of a spouse. I wish they had taken a look into the effects of unforgiveness.
They didn’t. I just want to say that while Jennair broke, I understand much of what she experienced.