Darin Leonard’s mistress never rejected him. She never ignored him, never failed to recognize his talents, achievements and success. She took notice of his skills and met his needs. Above all, she met his need for affirmation.
And what about Darin’s wife, Jennifer?
“I had a wife who didn’t appreciate me, who didn’t understand me,” Darin says. “Doesn’t she realize how successful I am? Doesn’t she know how all these others feel about me? Doesn’t she realize all that I’ve accomplished?”
Darin’s obsession dominated his every available moment — making sales, negotiating contracts, closing deals. You see, Darin’s paramour wasn’t another woman, but the mistress of corporate success. He was hooked, utterly and completely, and Jennifer simply couldn’t compete.
“Your mistress doesn’t have to be a woman,” he says. “Infidelity is giving your heart away to anyone or anything other than your wife.”
At work, Darin says, was validation and praise. All of a sudden, he needed to be at work in the evening, he needed to be at work on Saturday. Oh, and he needed to golf with his work buddies on Sunday.
“I didn’t want to be [at home]. I wanted to be where everybody loved me.”
Move No. 6 was the first time Jennifer spoke up. She’d gone along with all the previous relocations — Chicago, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Des Moines — at least five moves in their first five years of marriage. Jennifer packed her bags every time Darin accepted a new promotion, a new challenge, a new chance to win another sales contest or executive award. She accompanied her husband wherever he went, but she wasn’t excited about it. Not this time. Not anymore.
Jennifer had recently given birth to their first child, and now Darin’s company wanted him closer to the corporate office. They were headed back to Chicago.
“At this point, I was not happy about moving at all,” Jennifer says. “I had friends, and a few of us had babies at the same time. I didn’t want to start all over with friends, church, housing.”
Darin wouldn’t hear of it. He’d spent the last two-and-a-half years negotiating the biggest deal of his career, and Jennifer’s objection wasn’t a concept worth entertaining.
“It was the first time she tried to say no to moving, and I didn’t even recognize the idea,” Darin says. “The move to Chicago was the low point of our marriage, and I was so hardened at that time, I didn’t care.”
The position came with a new team and a 35-minute drive to work. One of those team members told Darin about Focus on the Family’s daily radio broadcast. Darin eventually tuned in. He tuned in again, and again, until he was listening every day on his commute.
“I was slowly coming to see my failures, and the program hooked me hard.”
Over the next several months, Darin says, God began to soften his heart. He felt as though every program was speaking directly to him, constantly challenging his selfishness and neglect.
“About six months after he started listening to Focus,” Jennifer says, “I noticed that he was more intentional when it came to our son. I liked the interest he had in our son, but I think I was too hard at that point to notice if he had become more aware of my needs.”
Darin kept listening, and he reached a conclusion: His priorities had to change.
Jennifer was eight months pregnant with their second son when Darin decided to act. He quit his job — his “great mistress” — and moved the family back to Seattle, where he and Jennifer had met. She questioned Darin’s timing, but not his motivation. He started a new career, with strict boundaries protecting his family life. No more late nights, no more weekends, and a conscious decision to reconnect with his wife.
“She deserved so much more, and she was so lonely,” Darin says. “Most women would have strayed or filed for divorce, but not my wife.… It is only through the unbelievable, divine gift in my wife that I’m still married.”
Jennifer recognizes that she and Darin still have a long way to go, but things are much better now than when her husband first tuned in to Focus. Day by day, she says, God used a radio program to get his attention.
“Focus,” Darin says, “has been a never-ending part of my life ever since.”