Where do unfaithful men and women turn for help when the world around them implodes?
Men in particular don’t like asking for directions when we’re lost and believe it or not, betraying my wife is never a road I thought I’d end up on, so if we have no idea how we got here how the heck do we get out?
We have shattered the lives of those we vowed to protect and honour. We’ve become a person we barely recognise and cannot stand looking at, we are filled with shame and despair.
I know I was…
I wanted to scramble out of this place of humiliation and indescribable shame as quickly as possible. I wanted to put as much distance between myself and the mayhem I created. I desperately wanted to find my way back to some kind of normal path but I had no idea how to get there.
Some of us turn to the virtuous man or woman, a respected friend, relative, teacher or pastor who has a great marriage, because we want to be more like them, or perhaps we hope a counsellor will give us direction .
Counsel and support definitely provide comfort, and confession is absolutely good for the soul. Unless the people we seek wisdom from have deep insight into the anatomy of an affair, or have experienced the catastrophic fallout firsthand, their advice may have limitations — particularly given our own tendency to distort and blur the truth.
For an unfaithful person, this can be likened to asking directions for how to get out of a valley from someone who has always lived in a village on top of the mountain. They know the village well but have never traversed into the depths of the valley below. These important and vital confidants can encourage us from a distance but are unable to show us the exact route out.
An unfaithful man or woman wanting to be free from the empty place their life of deceit and lies has led them, needs someone who knows exactly how dark it is in the pit of that valley. We need to hear from those who have climbed the treacherous path and overcome the obstacles littered on the way before reaching daylight. We need an experienced guide, one who has gone before us and is aware of the pitfalls along the way.
I’ve yet to speak to any man freshly facing the horrendous impact of their choices who initiates and ploughs through the internet looking for support groups, forums or courses to find healing for themselves, yet most would express a desire to save their marriage. More often than not however, a betrayed partner will go to extreme lengths searching for information and answers to why?
The world as they knew it has been thrown into chaos, they have no idea what is real and what’s not, this is the trauma and uncertainty we’ve caused. So if you’re here reading this and you are, or have been on my side of the fence, brace yourself for an influx of articles from your spouse as she (or he) is clambering for safety. It’s completely normal, and rather than shy away from the ugly truth, learn to welcome the information coming your way, even if it is not all 100% accurate for you. Even better, invest some time in doing research yourself, initiate the recovery process. This major step will speak volumes to your hurting spouse.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
She’s (he’s) looking for answers, hope and a lifeline.
So, it turns out, Noni fits into the completely normal end of the spectrum of what betrayed partners do, she found plenty of articles that she generously shared to my inbox.
Although I would have given anything to be able to just move on, the more I overcame my reluctance to read one more article, watch one more video, and to face myself, the more I discovered something I never knew existed.
Not only had the men in this online community put themselves (and their families) through the same ordeal as I had, they were more than simply surviving, they were were thriving.
I was filled with hope.
These men had worked hard to understand how their vulnerabilities led them to the darkness of that deep valley. They had navigated the challenges of recovery, sometimes they stumbled and failed, but each time persevered, rebuilding themselves and a better relationship. Their support and guidance were crucial to my own recovery. This journey is one that is punctuated with bouts of hopelessness, isolation, anger, despair and disgust.
Knowing I wasn’t alone was the precious lifeline I needed.
I was reminded when I slipped backwards, or froze in the face of a challenge and didn’t know what next, that I am not hopeless nor destined for failure. There is a path to being a trustworthy reliable man, and indeed a man committed to a much better relationship. Unfortunately this path is travelled infrequently, often started and sadly not completed by many.
For me personally, having a safe place to work through the hurdles and traps while unravelling my betrayals was a place where I could share the disappointments and doubts as well as the successes and hope. It is a place without judgement or condemnation but one with loads of empathy and accountability.
Having this support was the difference to perservering with the work of recovery or giving up when it got hard, and it certainly gets very hard.
At times I found it easier recognise my patterns and behaviors for what they were when they were duplicated in the stories and experiences of others. My own acting out was no longer kept in a compartment out of sight when I identified so many similarities in my story, there are no bragging rights in these places, just humility and remorse. At times one person’s revelation sparks the revelations in me, likewise my mistakes in recovery serve as a warning for others, and the progress of my companions become encouragement for me.
Men who have betrayed their partners can be very reluctant to open up to others and participate in group work. Often the shame and pain of facing who we have been seems too much to bear let alone reflect on and explore with strangers. We often prefer to do whatever to fix what we can, renew our promises and move on as quickly as possible, lest we realise how broken we really are, I tried that 27 years ago and it didn’t work!
Loneliness can be excruciating when trying to heal (for both partners). In isolation we can feel it’s all too hard, too painful and just beyond our capacity.
Loneliness and isolation are the enemy in our recovery journey
Find the right support, stay close and in touch, even when you feel you don’t need or want to.
You can climb out of the depths of the valley.
Reach out to us if you want, we might not have the answers to your own unique situation, but we can listen and perhaps give you some pointers on what worked for us and what didn’t.