It wasn’t a secret that she was interested. He finally realized he was too … the day she decided to give up.
For Keith and Wendy Puffer, the turning point in their relationship came after becoming friends and co-workers while working as full time missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ on Illinois State University’s campus.
Keith Puffer worked with men on campus while Wendy ministered to women.
“Work drew us together; ministry drew us together,” said Keith Puffer. “We were the only singles amidst all the predictions of what would happen to us.”
Still, the Puffers both say they started out as complete opposites.
“It wasn’t a natural fit at the time,” said Wendy Puffer. “From the outside, it definitely didn’t look like we would fit together as a couple.”
At first, she thought he was entirely focused on his job. He said she was too playful.
“My first impression was that work was his highest priority. But the more I got to know him, work was really his way of building relationships with people. He was really interested in the guys he was discipling; he spent a lot of time focusing on them and helping them, giving them good advice in the context of work,” Wendy Puffer said. “So that was the way he built relationships. But for my misconception, I would have thought it was just work.”
“Wendy was really playful. She played a lot. She didn’t have an intensity that I thought she should. Which I don’t think was fair. She just had a different kind of intensity … it was different from me,” said Keith Puffer. “And she was just as dedicated to the women that she was working with and dedicated to the ministry that we had set our hearts toward and so I think that overly playful first impression wasn’t accurate.”
Over several years of friendship, the two became closer, sharing ministry and life experiences. But Wendy Puffer wanted more. Despite their differences, she was interested in a romantic relationship with her spouse-to-be and pursued him accordingly. Fiercely independent, Keith Puffer wasn’t interested in being pursued.
“I didn’t want to be a person that just gave in to her pursuit,” he said. “I genuinely wanted my own pursuit. And so it’s just easier if she could do all the work, that’s fine. But that wasn’t going to cut it for me.”
So Wendy Puffer gave up.
“As soon as she stopped pursuing, then my attraction deepened,” said Keith Puffer. “I spent so much time pushing her away that when she stopped pursuing me, I didn’t have to push and it’s like, ‘Oh, I really like this girl.’”
“So my advice for single women is be patient,” said Wendy Puffer. “It’s worth the wait!”
Three years after initially meeting, the two married.
After their wedding, the Puffers moved into Chicago, where they worked as a ministry team through Moody Bible Institute. Two and a half years into their marriage, Wendy Puffer found out she was pregnant.
“It was a lot of work. It was hard, partly because financially [it] was really tight, and [we were] still working through a lot of things that we were learning in our dating relationship and engagement,” Wendy Puffer said. “Continuing that into the marriage relationship was still pretty tough the first couple years, I would say.”
This year, the couple will celebrate 25 years of marriage. Twenty-one of those years have been spent working at Indiana Wesleyan University.
The couple moved to Marion in 1991, when Keith Puffer took a position as the resident director of Williams Hall and began to teach developmental psychology as an adjunct professor. Today, he works as a full-time professor of psychology.
Wendy Puffer joined IWU’s faculty in 2000 as an adjunct professor for the art department. After working part-time for seven years, she pioneered the interior design program at the school and began to teach full time as an assistant professor of art.
“We’ve always helped and worked with college students,” Wendy Puffer said. “So I think that it’s a passion for the same thing, even if we were doing different jobs, is what would keep us feeling like we had that mutual motivation for what we do.”
The shared passion for youth has helped to define the Puffers’ marriage.
“We can get excited about the same things and frustrated about the same things,” said Wendy Puffer. “And when we meet challenges, we really understand each other.”