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The Infidelity Car Crash; The Carnage of Infidelity

Photo by Dominika Kwiatkowska on Pexels.com

*Content warning; this is a creative writing piece describing how the first 18 months of recovery felt for me, I’ve used some strong imagery that may be an emotional trigger for others who are on a similar journey. Please proceed with caution.


You’re cruising down a long straight stretch of country road in this car called marriage. 

A familiar road, one you’ve both driven down a thousand times.

Sitting comfortably on 110kmph it’s a smooth open road, there’s no speed limit. 

Singing along to your favourite Spotify playlist, he’s humming in tune with the music.

Something catches his eye he becomes distracted, glancing sideward for a little too long his eyes fix on an object in his peripheral.

By the time he diverts his attention back to where it should be it’s too late. 

Over correcting, the marriage car slams into a tree.

There’s screeching of brakes, your song turns into a scream then a deathly thud, carnage is strewn across the road and into a paddock.

The marriage car is a mangled mess, your bodies lay motionless, barely a pulse. 

Plumes of smoke and dust billow from the wreckage.

Blood is pouring out of gaping wounds, you’ve been pierced by debris.

He’s not bleeding but he’s hurt, badly hurt.

Emergency services arrive and once you’ve been freed from the wreckage you’re both rushed into the ED.

Your condition is critical lapsing in and out of consciousness, suffering substantial injury you’re placed on life support in ICU. 

He’s ok but in a lot of pain, suffering concussion and a broken wrist. His body badly bruised, he’ll recover.

He watches you fighting for life, tubes helping you breathe, buzzers, monitors, Drs & Nurses fussing. 

You’ve lost a lot of blood they’ve stitched the wounds and you’ve stopped hemorrhaging for now.

No one is sure if you’ll make it through.

Sitting beside you, he’s wracked with guilt. 

He did this, if only he kept his eyes on the road, if only he didn’t get distracted, if only….

You wouldn’t be in this mess you wouldn’t be so broken.

Three to six months you’re in this state. 

It’s touch and go. 

He’s still there watching you, wishing he could fix it, wishing he could change the past, wishing he didn’t make such a bad decision, wishing he didn’t look sideways.

He can’t fix or change anything, he can just sit and be there hoping and praying you’ll recover. 

Surprisingly the marriage car is not a complete write off as first thought, it’s gone in for assessment, maybe it can be repaired?

After 6 months of critical care you’re moved to a ward. In the crash you received two broken legs, fractured ribs, punctured lung and broken ankles, crushed pelvis and both eye sockets were broken, your jaw was dislocated.

You were a mess, the recovery road is long, but you’ll make it, we think.

He’s been doing Physio to help himself heal and he’s been there with you.

He still beats himself up that he caused this, but he’s determined to help you heal too.

While you’re in the ward you’re beginning to sit up, you still need help showering and the Physio’s are helping you get out of bed each day. Plasters are off, you’re out of traction. You’ve kind of been wired back together with pins, it feels weird but at least you’re beginning to get sensation back.

For the next twelve months, you undergo intensive physiotherapy and as an outpatient, you’ll continue daily at home.

He picked you up from hospital in the remodelled marriage car.

You were really frightened to get in. Everything flashes before you. 

What if it happens again? 

What if it’s not safe? 

The kids are in the car this time. 

They want you to get in, they want to bring you home. 

Dads been fixing things around the house to make it safe for you too, it looks completely different, way better than before.

He opens the passenger side door for you, you tentatively hop in, he’s in the drivers’ seat.

As he cautiously pulls out of the hospital park, he tells you the panel beaters and mechanics worked hard repairing the mess.

They replaced every damaged component and it’s got a brand-new engine. 

There are even new leather seats. 

It’s a miracle they could make anything of it. 

He thinks the marriage car might even be better than before, you’re not so certain…

He’s still doing Physio, he wishes he could help you with yours, but he can’t, and you can’t help him with his. 

The best thing you can both do is your own work and encourage each other to keep going.

Some days you feel stronger than others.

Some days you get flashbacks of the crash and just want the world to swallow you up.

Some days you just want to die, some days you want to blame him, he did this to you, he caused you to feel so broken. 

You look at him and see the remorse in his face, you see pain and you see love.

You can do this.

After about 18 months you’re walking unaided, slowly and tentatively but look how far you’ve come. 

You run into an old acquaintance they’d heard you’d had a bit of an accident. 

They tell you you’re looking great, you thank them for being kind. 

Although the physical scars are all but healed the internal injuries have still got a way to go. You’re getting there, heading in the right direction, still doing what the Drs have said.

He’s still there too, he’s supported you when you’ve needed, encouraged you.

He’s also invested in assertive driving courses to make certain nothing like this will happen again.

He’s not taking his eyes off the road again.

Blind spot detectors and lane departure warning sensors have been installed.

You’re beginning to think that the marriage car is better than ever and you’re both committed to maintaining it, taking turns in booking services, keeping fuel in the tank and making sure it has regular tune-ups. 

You both want the marriage car to last a lifetime, with care, it will.

Infidelity hurts, really hurts. It’s not just the betrayal or betrayals that pierce you to the core, it’s all of the behaviours which accompany betrayal. The undermining, gaslighting, lies, secrets, sneaking around, deception, losses; an endless list of loss and grief.

There really are no winners in an affair fog, a delusional state of momentary fun, games and selfishness, deceit is a heavy burden to carry.

Beware the lure of greener pastures.

There are mountains to climb and valleys to sit in, no matter which road you take to recovery.

God Bless,

Noni & Dave xxx

Anniversaries & Triggers

Anniversaries and triggers are a painful reality following any traumatic event.

Reactions can be variable depending on timing and circumstances, reminders are pretty much unavoidable—triggers may come from out of the blue and can be damn intense, to say the least.

We, humans, are an interesting species, we need to attach meaning to almost everything, it’s foundational in the human psyche, it’s just how we are geared though sometimes we’ll assign importance to things that are not necessarily healthy or real.

If you’ve read our Memoir you may recall that on Christmas Eve 2018 I had a missed call from Dave and unbeknownst to him he left a 5-minute voicemail of him speaking with another woman. He had just left our family home that afternoon after we had been planning our Christmas Day—we were in the process of reconciling after a recent separation which had nothing to do with him being unfaithful.

I remember that moment with crystal clear clarity—it was horrendous! Every maddening thought that you could begin to imagine pulsated through my body with a ferocious force. My mind and body went into full-on fight mode, I needed to protect myself, I had to find safety…

I can’t erase Christmas Eve from the Calendar but I can decide what meaning I assign to that date. I know it’s coming up and I have the ability to choose how I will approach it.

I have the power to choose what Christmas Eve 2021 will look like for me. Am I going to focus on the horrific mental anguish I was in on 24th Dec 2018? I could if I wanted to but I also know how that will end up and how far down the rabbit hole I might go—or am I going to adjust the narrative and be thankful that this date was also the catalyst for when Dave finally had to own his choices.

What I focus on becomes way more important and significant than what I choose to let go of.

The gift Dave gave me on Christmas Day is also somewhat of a reminder. He had been to a staff shop at the company he works for and did a little Christmas shopping. When he gave me a really lovely body wash I was happy with the simple and yummy smelling shower gel. After the year that we’d had, it was a nice gesture.

It was only on full disclosure did I learn that the pocket dial on Christmas Eve, was Dave gifting this other woman something small from the staff shop also. UGH!

Since then this fresh and pleasant smelling body wash has been purchased over and over and has a regular spot in our shower recess. Most days I don’t give it a second thought, it’s just a shower gel. There are other days though when it reminds me of that dreadful pocket dial—then I have fleeting thoughts of tossing it and replacing it with something else! I don’t though because, besides loving the freshness of the scent—any replacement would just be a reminder as to why I got rid of the other one and I’m not going to be beaten by an inanimate shower gel!

The power of the mind, do our thoughts control our actions or do our actions control our thoughts—I say both can be true.

Christmas can be a really tough time after betrayal, if it is for you, I encourage you to plan ahead. Have strategies in place to help you get through what you need to.

For some couples, family is unaware of what you’re going through and it can feel like a whole lot of pretending normal—you’re dreading the facade.

For others, you’re apart and trying to navigate juggling kids and pleasantries or you might be together but really struggling to stay afloat, the intensity of anger, pain, grief is all-encompassing.

It all hurts, I’m so sorry for this pain. If you are able to, give yourselves permission to put the affair thoughts and grief on hold for a period, allow yourselves to have a break from recovery work and try your hardest to access joy even if only for a little while. Take rest and promise yourself that you will get back to it. Keep that promise—don’t put your affair recovery work on hold forever, you deserve to heal fully.

There is no magic pill to ease or hasten the process but know that however and wherever you find yourself on a betrayal journey, you’ve already survived 100% of your worst days up until now and you’re still going!

The dates will come and they will go as sure as the sun rises and sets.

There is no denying that what happened to you is excruciatingly painful and traumatic for everyone involved, please be kind to yourselves, you can get through this season no matter what it throws at you.

God’s Richest Blessings to you and yours, stay safe and stay connected.

With love and gratitude

Noni & Dave

Dear Unfaithful

Dear unfaithful,

There’s probably a lot in this that you’re not going to want to hear—but you really need to if you want to begin to understand what’s happened.

Imagine that you’ve just dropped a nuclear bomb on your marriage, your spouse, yourself and your family. 

The world as you once knew has been annihilated—napalmed—and just like these catastrophic events, there’s going to be a massive fallout for the foreseeable future. 

You can’t stop the fallout from happening but you can safeguard yourself and your family against further destruction if you want to and are committed to doing whatever it takes—and believe me, it—takes—A LOT! 

A LOT of courage, accountability, honesty, transparency, ownership, determination, patience, perseverance, humility, compassion, grace, kindness, hope, forgiveness, vulnerability and just when you think you’ve run out of these you have to dig a little deeper to find more. Yes, the resourceful well of recovery love and care must be accessed continually, no matter how deep you have to dig! 

Sometimes it will feel like you are taking one step forward and ten steps backwards, keep going forward if you want to save your marriage. Once you rebuild what you’ve destroyed then you must be prepared to protect the restoration at all costs if you want your relationship to thrive. 

No one can erase what has happened even though we all wish we could, so please don’t expect or ask your spouse to forgive and forget. 

It is impossible to go back to what you had before because what you had before was not enough to keep you from making the choices you made. 

No, the reconciled relationship looks very different, and if you dare allow yourself to hope and get the right support, your post infidelity relationship can be infinitely better than the past. 

You can heal from and move beyond the pain of affairs even though in the initial stages this seems completely unattainable.

Unfaithful, here are some things you should know once your infidelity has come to light, and as much as they might be normal reactions after discovery, they are also massive barriers to healing:

You’ll try to convince your partner that you made a mistake, no Unfaithful you didn’t make a mistake, a mistake is filling the car with petrol when you should have used diesel. Cheating is a choice, please be brave enough to own the choice and call it for what it is.

You’re going to want your partner to “get over it and just move on” because “you’re sorry” and “it’s never going to happen again” that’s not how recovery works…

You’re going to get tired of talking about it and answering questions but you must do this until your partner arrives at a place where they are satisfied that they have sufficient information so they can process and heal themselves. I promise you this doesn’t go on forever although it can feel relentless. Your partner is not doing this to punish you, they’re just trying to figure out the mess for themselves, please be patient and gentle. The more you can empathise with your partner the safer they will feel. You may have been living in a fantasy for quite some time but for your partner, everything they held as being real has been demolished. Their own sense of reality is totally upended and they’re trying to piece together how this could have happened.

You might feel like your partner should trust you again because you never intended to hurt them—my friend, trust is a looooong way off, and this kind of thinking is pure arrogance and entitlement—it is also very unsafe for a betrayed partner. You’ve already demonstrated by your actions you were untrustworthy so until you’ve proven yourself trustworthy over and over you are not a safe person for your betrayed. Actions always speak louder than words. Compassion is a good substitute for trust so please give thanks for any compassion you’re shown, receive it as a precious gift.

You’ll likely attempt to attribute blame on some kind of lack in the relationship for your infidelity, or a deficiency in the marriage, maybe a need not being met, this kind of thinking only shatters your partner more and shifts blame onto the one whom you betrayed. Every relationship has its own set of issues and there are plenty of options to address these, cheating is not one…

It is also a complete lack of responsibility and ownership of your choices, but I get it, you don’t want to feel like a bad person so you’ll shift blame to take the pressure off yourself—this is called deflecting. You’ll probably deflect in many ways that you might be completely unaware of, the sooner you become aware that you’re doing this, the better.

You’ll feel immense shame, guess what, so will your partner and your family but wallowing in shame is not going to propel you into recovery, it will keep you a victim of your own making.

You’ll be defensive and you’ll minimise the length and degree of your betrayal, you’ll do this because you don’t want to face the cold harsh truth, and you’re trying to defend your own core values that you betrayed.

You will drip feed truth, trickle the truth out and be economical with the truth. There are a couple of reasons you’ll do this, one is mentioned above, the other is because you know that you’ve shattered the person you love and you think that by withholding some of the truth you are protecting them from more pain. 

Dear Unfaithful please hear me on this one—your spouse can handle the truth, they may still be hemorrhaging after the initial discovery or disclosure, but why would you want to re-open that wound when they’ve just begun to heal. New shards of glass piercing the broken heart afresh, it’s just too cruel.

I know this is terrifying, I know that you are thinking that they couldn’t possibly forgive you or love you if they knew the truth, maybe, maybe not? Please don’t use this as a weapon of control though, please love and respect them enough, tell the truth, please be brave enough to allow them to make decisions for themselves. The longer it takes for all of the truth to come out, the longer it takes to heal. Whenever a new piece of missing information is discovered, that’s the new ground zero.

A betrayed partner will likely get over the affair/s long before they will get over the lies, lying by omission and gaslighting that you mastered while you were cheating on them. Put an end to this now.

Offer information before you’re asked, don’t make it your partners job to extract important details. If you don’t think a detail is important share it anyway and let your spouse decide if it is or not. They will appreciate you prioritising their feelings.

One final thing and this is actually the first step in recovery; you must stop all contact with the affair partner—cease acting out—this may be easier said than done, but if you want to give your marriage a fighting chance, this is essential. 

Betrayal trauma is a form of PTSD—it’s a result of that bomb you dropped on your family. 

If you want your marriage then you have to find a way to end all contact, no one ever expects a soldier to get over their PTSD while they were still being shot at. You invited the intrusion in, you can find a way to lock them out, work together with your spouse and keep them updated!

You are probably wondering how long it will take to fully heal your marriage, well you’ll keep investing in your marriage for the rest of your life, not because you’re paying penance for the past but because you place the utmost highest value on that which you hold dearest yet almost lost.

Formerly unfaithful, you deserve to heal, for yourself. Do the work for yourself, live your best life and be the best version of yourself, and although you might not feel it you’re actually worth it.

Be a safe person for yourself and those around you, stay safe, you are loved and valued.

Noni

David and Noni have co-authored their memoir Beyond Betrayal 28 Years, Lies-Deceit-Infidelity you can get your copy here

There are a limited number of FREE downloads of our memoir Beyond Betrayal 28 Years; Lies-Deceit-Infidelity available, click here.

Dearest Betrayed

You didn’t deserve this…

You did nothing to cause it and there is nothing that you could have done differently to prevent it from happening.

Your partners’ betrayal had nothing to do with you, heck it didn’t even have anything to do with the other person/s or object/s they chose to betray you with. So please Beautiful Betrayed, don’t even begin to question whether or not you “measure up”, there is no comparison.

Your partners’ choices were all about t-h-e-m-s-e-l-v-e-s.

They used whoever or whatever they chose for their own selfish desires and insecurity.

PERIOD!

I know that this is really hard for you to believe right now because your world has been completely shredded. You feel like a grenade has detonated inside your heart and you’re wondering how the person you loved and trusted the most in the entire universe was capable of pulling the pin.

I want you to know that you’re not alone.

I know that this pain is all-consuming, I know that you can’t even begin to imagine how the pieces will ever be put back together and I know that at times—you can barely breathe.

I know that the colour has been drained from your life, I know that you’ve been robbed of joy, I know that sometimes you just want to curl up and die and that some days you beg for the earth to just open up and swallow you whole.

I know that you’ll want to kick, punch and scream, hey—you should—go right ahead—find a safe place where you won’t hurt yourself or anyone else and just let it out. Howl and bellow and throw your fists into a pillow, rage until you’re spent, then pick yourself up and dust yourself off—because my friend you’ve got sh*^ to get done.

You’ll likely be facing the person you love and they’ll be feeling really sorry—sorry they got caught—sorry they hurt you—sorry that they might lose their partner, family, house, job, car etc. Sorry, yes they’ll be sorry alright, but please don’t mistake a quick sorry for true remorse.

The best apology is changed behaviour, any apology without this—is manipulation…

Unknown

You might want to confront the piece of work that was a willing participant in the annihilation of your marriage, there may be more than just one. You might want to give your partner a taste of their own medicine and have a revenge affair, you might want to destroy property, you might want to announce your partners’ infidelity to all and sundry, publicly humiliate them on social media. Why not, they deserve it don’t they.

You want them to feel the same pain as you’re feeling, you want them to hurt because you’re hurting so, so bad. I get it, I truly do but please beautiful betrayed, this is where you need to show yourself the most love and compassion.

Are you really going to feel better if you go out and do any of these things? For how long? And what happens then? Do you land yourself in jail? End up on assault charges? Contract an STI? Carry the burden of guilt and shame on top of your insurmountable grief?

This is far too heavy for you to bear, the thoughts are normal however the actions will only bring more pain. You’ve got enough on your plate for now.

No Dearly Betrayed, you are going to show yourself true love and compassion—you’ll draw on every ounce of self-respect you can muster. You are going to have grace and dignity even though your insides are hemorrhaging, you’re going to get through this.

You’re going to learn a whole new vocabulary, you’ll develop skills for healthy boundaries and you’re going to become an expert in self care.

I’m not going to lie—the early days are excruciating. For the first 3-6 months you’re going to be in critical care mode. You’ll need a solid safety support system around you.

You’ll go through stages of not knowing whether you should leave or stay. You will hate your partner one minute and love them the next, you will want to be with them and also not want them anywhere in sight. You might want to be intimate with them and then be sickened by the thought of them touching you. You want to know everything, you want to know nothing. There’ll be crazy images playing over in your head that you’ll want to shut down but you can’t. You will feel like you’re going crazy, let me assure you that you’re not, I’m so sorry to say, this is all a normal part of the process after betrayal.

You will feel shame for what they have done and what others might know or think about you. You probably never thought that you’d be faced with this and in your mind, you determined that you’d always end a relationship if you were cheated on. But now, this is happening and you’re not so sure of anything anymore—you hate it.

You’ll be wishing that love had an off switch—you’re learning that it doesn’t…

It will be a time of intense confusion. You should hold off making any important decisions during this time because you might not be able to fully trust your emotions.

You’ll need the right guidance to help you through this. This is going to feel like some sick cruel joke, a living hell. There’ll be sleepless nights and aches in your body that you never noticed before. Some days are incredibly dark, remember though, it’s always darkest before the dawn. Other days you’re doing really well and then some ghastly reminder will send you spiralling back into the abyss. Hang in there, keep moving forward, it won’t always be like this.

If your partner has come clean and told you everything there is to know, they might feel great, they might be a whole lot lighter—meanwhile, the overwhelming weight of their secrets has been thrust onto you…and you’re buckling under the pressure. It sucks!

They might be asking for forgiveness, they might not, Lord knows surely they don’t deserve it. You’re the only one who can make this decision for you, and just as sorry should never be mistaken for remorse, forgiveness must never be mistaken for reconciliation.

None of this is fair, I get it and you didn’t ask for any of it, but one day in time to come you will wake up from this nightmare and realise that the pain is gone. You’ll be amazed at how strong you are and how you gained this superhuman strength while keeping your heart soft. Never allow your heart to become hard hoping that it’s going to save you from grief, a hard heart only promises a whole new level of torment.

We will become bitter or better, I pray that you choose better…

I’m so sorry that you are in so much pain right now, perhaps it feels like life will never be as sweet again, I promise it can and will be if you press into your healing journey. It might take a couple of years, it could take longer, the important thing is that you keep on doing the work you need to do to heal yourself. Time alone will not heal your wounds, it is what you do in the time which ushers healing.

Your marriage might be saved, maybe it won’t—know that you’ll be ok either way— determine to heal yourself for yourself regardless.

I understand that love won’t look the same as before, my prayer for you is that it isn’t. I want for you a better life, greater love and marriage than you could have ever thought possible.

Precious friend, prepare to be vulnerable—stay vulnerable and never ever compromise your core values just because the one you love has.

Remain true to yourself.

You are worthy to be loved, honoured and cherished.

You’ve got this!

Noni XXX

David and Noni have co-authored their memoir Beyond Betrayal 28 Years Lies-Deceit-Infidelity, you can get your copy here.

Buckle up and be kind to yourself friends, grief is not linear!

What is Infidelity?

Dr Frank Pittman describes infidelity as “the keeping of secrets”.

The longer Dave and I are on this recovery journey, the more we learn about ourselves and others, and the more we connect with betrayed or unfaithful men and women—the more we align with Frank’s description as being truth.

If you’ve read our Memoir you’ll recall that Dave kept plenty of secrets. Secret past times, secret “friendships”, secret communication—in fact so many secrets it’s crazy to imagine how this could have gone on for so long. What’s even crazier is the number of people around the globe who are living this reality and have done so for decades.

Dr Frank’s article “The Liberating Power of Honesty” is a brilliant and concise read on the impact these secrets have on the ones holding them and the ones who are being kept in the dark.

The long and the short of it is—secrets and lies kill relationships!

The person who shares your secrets owns your soul. You are bound to those who know your secrets and you are separated from those to whom you lie and from whom you hide yourself.

Frank Pittman “The Liberating Power of Honesty”

Let’s take a look at another secret—pornography for example—Dave and I are learning more and more that this seems to be extremely common amongst unfaithful men with most guys admitting that their first exposure to porn was at a very young age. (We’re talking early teens or pre-teen)

I guarantee that every betrayed woman I have spoken to has been completely blindsided by this revelation of their partners’ secret life. Maybe you’re of the mindset that pornography is completely normal and I’m just a straighty 180—everyone has a right to their own opinion but if you think that porn is harmless, I urge you to do a little more research, please.

Listen to the TEDx talk by Ran Gavrieli on why he stopped watching porn or at the very least watch this short doco, Raised On Porn—The New Sex Ed you might just reconsider the impact pornography has on yourself, your relationships, our communities and the generations.


However, if porn is your thing, my question to you is, is it shared with your partner or do you like to keep it to yourself?

How well do you know your partner or think you know them?

Do they keep things hidden from you? Are there secret fantasies, relationships, communication, or pastimes you know nothing about? Stupid question eh, if you don’t know you don’t know right? This is how most betrayed partners live, we thought that we knew our partners and never really felt the need to question until our worlds crumbled around us.

How about you though? Is there anything you keep anything hidden from your partner, finances, friendships, other?

If there is the withholding of information, keeping secrets or hiding friendships, questions to ask of yourself or your partner is why?

Why the need for secrecy? What are you/they afraid of?

These honest conversations are hard—*real hard—deep heart conversations are life-giving though, they lead to freedom and connection.

I promise you, they are nowhere near as hard or destructive as living a lie.

Noni XXX

*(In some situations it may be beneficial to have a therapist’s support)

Can Leopards Change Their Spots?

Once a Narc, Always a Narc? I’m not so sure.

This kind of thinking is too black and white for me and I feel that the mindset only encourages unaccountability and a victim mentality.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but (He has given us a spirit) of power and of love and of sound judgement and personal discipline (abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control).” AMP

People can change, if they want to!

I read somewhere that by the time a person begins searching google for terms like “narcissism, emotional abuse, passive-aggressive behaviour, coercive control, what is covert abuse etc” that they have likely been a victim in an abusive relationship for quite some time. Either that or they’re doing research for study or asking for a friend

In 2018 after almost 25 years of marriage, I began searching these terms.

The word covert is an adjective—meaning hidden, not openly acknowledged or displayed, secret, stealthy, behind-the-scenes, undercover, sneaky, sly, concealed, hush-hush and so forth.

Covert abuse begins in the most subtle of ways, it’s a little dig here, a sarcastic remark there, the odd snide comment and it could be regularly occurring oversights or forgetfulness. When you let your abuser know that their actions don’t sit well with you, you’re told, “It’s just a joke, lighten up, don’t take everything so seriously, you’re overreacting, I didn’t do it on purpose, I didn’t mean it”.

It’s kind of hard to believe that people who use these tactics could be unaware that their behaviour is actually abusive, yet that is exactly what it is. These personalities are often charming and sophisticated, and they’re cunning—they are so darn good at their manoeuvres that even an intimate partner feels confounded and conflicted. They’ll have you convinced that you’ve misunderstood them. It’s not that the person on the receiving end of hidden abuse is dumb or stupid or blind (even though this is how they’re made to feel), they are usually trusting, empathetic, kind, patient and generous—a perfect blend of characteristics—suiting the covertly narcissistic personality to a tee.

Let me clarify here though, displaying narcissistic tendencies is quite different from the true psychologically diagnosed condition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NPD is not, I repeat not, common at all. In fact, only 0.5%-1% of the general population are in this category.

On the other hand, behaving narcissistically is all part of the human condition. How far along the spectrum anyone sits is entirely variable.

Why is this so difficult to recognise in an intimate partner? Well, the covertly abusive person appears to be the fun-loving, caring, charming, cool as a cucumber nice guy or girl most of the time (image is critical for them and it is important that they are liked), these behaviours are also displayed at home, family do receive the good as well as ahhh the other side. It couldn’t be all bad because then they would have no one and that’s what they probably fear the most—being alone.

The problem is that the nice guy or girl facade is cyclical. Behaviour worsens over time due to lack of ownership and playing the victim then before you know it, for no apparent reason, the rug is swiftly pulled out from underneath and you’re left reeling and wondering time and again, what the heck was that?

None of my husbands work colleagues, family or friends would ever have suspected the covert cruelty he was capable of, and if you asked him, his behaviour was always justified as being completely normal or someone else’s fault, namely me or the kids, or the cashier at Coles, or the football referee or whoever he believed was to blame for how he felt.

Blame, denial and avoidance are the childish defensive mechanisms of a 2-year-old. Unfortunately, these toddler brain traits are actively at work in adults who have not yet learnt how to have true compassion, empathy and self-control. They strive to protect themselves from any perceived or real threat to their identity, using, anger, control, manipulation and resentment while they coercively attack those they “love”.

Sound familiar?

Dave’s still discovering and peeling back layers of hidden behaviour, (you can’t change what you don’t know is there right?) I’m having to learn how to navigate this new algorithm of growth and discovery. It’s not easy by a long shot but I’m better at responding assertively, speaking and sticking to my truth, setting firm boundaries, calling the behaviour for what it is and holding sufficient ground in our partnership. He’s better at self-regulating and understanding what is driving his reactions thanks to discovering a handful of amazing online resources. Paul Colaianni Steven Stosny and Lundy Bancroft

Sadly this “normal male behaviour” is far too acceptable and way too common, it has to be called by its correct name: ABUSE and the men are ABUSIVE or ABUSERS, not that many will identify as that, the covert is horrendous, if we walked around with a black eye or fat lip, people would be outraged, but for us, we are questioned and our reality is met with doubt, no one can see the invisible scars we carry“. Noni

Historically there is not a lot of voice given to the dangers of this coercive behaviour. Much like affairs, this kind of abuse is rampant in politics and sport, portrayed unashamedly in movies and media—society is vastly desensitised. Covert abuse is raging, and not enough people are standing up to talk about it. The church is also ill-equipped in recognising and dealing with it effectively, thus allowing the harm to perpetuate our faith communities.

If you’re left scratching your head and spinning your wheels in your relationship—wondering why you feel confused a lot of the time, check out this list Learn to Recognise 26 Covert Abusive Tactics A person might not exhibit every trait but there may be several nuances that ring true for you.

Sadly, the statistics of how many male abusers change long term is very very low and although most won’t, it is not because they can’t. Recovery takes a long time, requires consistent effort, a lot of hard work and they must want the change for themselves.

Is it worth it? We both think so.

Dave’s demonstrated greater courage and determination over the last 3 years than he’s ever done during our 31 years together.

He is doing intensely deep work on and for himself daily, and this instils hope for our future. Why would I give up on us now?

Will Dave be counted among the minority of men who continue doing the work needed to experience lasting change?

I pray sweet Jesus that he is.

Here is great interview with an abusive man who could very well be Dave talking.

Noni xxx

Amazing Grace

GRACE is the unmerited favour of God toward mankind...

Grace can’t be bought or earned and none of us is deserving.

It’s a free gift borne out of divine love.

Billy Graham says “Our human mind, with it’s philosophy of an equal return of favours done, can hardly comprehend the full meaning of this grace of God”

Anyone who has read our memoir might recall from chapter 6, that I extended grace to Dave’s affair partner in 1994. This prompting had nothing to do with me being an exceptional woman or anything remotely close to amazing. It had everything to do with God’s grace in my own life.

Before anyone considers doing the same though, a wee bit of advice—examine your motives thoroughly and be prepared for any outcome. Although I have no regret over my gesture towards Karen in 1994, if my expectation was for honour and loyalty from them in return, I would have—at best been sadly disappointed and at worst—mortally wounded. Proceed with caution.

There is so much freedom in extending grace to others and even more extending to yourself.

We are so good at beating ourselves up over stuff that is out of our control or is a consequence of other peoples choices.

How often do we feel like a failure if we screw up, let others down or think we don’t measure up. What good is a comparison?

You are you, uniquely and wonderfully created, be kind to yourself and know that you are loved just as you are.

Walk confidently and receive this incredible free gift.

AmazingGrace

Noni xxx

The olive branch is a symbol of peace—an offer or gesture of conciliation or goodwill

Trusting the Process

When Dave and I discovered the Affair Recovery website in 2019, we felt enormous relief that there were people in the world, ‘just like us’. People sitting on both sides of the infidelity fence, ones who wanted and managed to salvage their marriage and also ones who didn’t.

We found a well of resources drawn from depths of experience, articles and vlogs from the likes of AR founder Rick Reynolds, Samuel, Wayne Baker, Leslie and John Harding. Men and women who had shared the same pain as we had, yet somehow succeeded in rebuilding their lives. We needed to learn all we could from those who had gone before us.

We felt validated, we even dared to see a glimmer of hope.

I quickly enrolled in a program for the betrayed, hoping to find support and guidance through my recovery journey and Dave enrolled in the program for unfaithful spouses. I was thankful that such programs existed.

But wait, hang on a minute…

Why should the unfaithful be cared for after they have caused so much pain to their betrayed spouses and families? Shouldn’t they be left hung out to dry, shamed, punished, tarred and feathered?

I needed to heal, I needed to be nurtured, I needed to feel safe, how is this new group Dave’s joining going to be a safe space for him, and us!

Is it safe for my cheating husband to meet in groups with other men who have betrayed their partners?

Aren’t they all deviates who shattered their relationships by betraying their significant others?

What kind of horrible things will they be discussing—I mean—there are a lot of serial offenders out there, my husband being one!

Won’t they corrupt each other further?

Will it be like some kind of blokes club where they boast about their conquests?

Will they lament over the loss of the other women/porn/seduction/secrets and excitement.

Is it safe, will he be safe, what if he decides it’s too hard and gives up working on recovery?

Am I safe? My amygdala was going crazy, am I safe, am I safe, am I safe?

AND THIS… Why am I asked to sign a contract saying that I will not read his notes???

OMG, how this one sent me into a tailspin. Why on earth am I being asked to sign a contract, I’ve done nothing wrong, he’s already kept everything hidden from me and now I’m being asked to give him more privacy or more opportunity to keep his filthy rotten secrets private.

Does he even deserve it?

I struggled big-time with this.1

I told him that my promise was good enough, he should accept my word, just as I had his all of these years. I could tell him that I would not read his notes (and I meant this) but I don’t think I could bring myself to sign it. My ego wouldn’t let me, it was the principle of the matter.

I think I may have even said things like, “What does a signature on a contract mean if a person can’t keep their word? You signed our marriage certificate but that meant nothing to you did it?” “Your promise was not worth the paper it was written on, why should this be any different”

No, I was not full of grace at all.

You see a traumatised brain has a hard time trying to find any semblance of safety when it’s been hurt so badly. How the heck could I trust anything after what I’d been put through, and then to be asked to give him space and heaven forbid privacy to diarise any dark thoughts and feelings…

Although I desperately wanted Dave to get to the bottom of why he did everything he did to crush me, the truth is I was scared—absolutely terrified—of letting go of having any control over Dave’s healing process, yet I had to accept I was not in control.

Only Dave could do Daves work and only I could do mine.

I believe that it is difficult for us humans to trust in a process that we are not in control of. I’ll put my hand up first and say that this is true for me.

So what did Dave find in this 17-week group with a handful of unfaithful men?

He found Hope for Healing, gained internal strength, had accountability and received support through a structured program that was the beginning of him understanding himself in a way that he’d never known before. He met broken courageous men who weren’t afraid to cry and be vulnerable and honest with each other. Men, filled with genuine remorse and humility, men dedicated to repairing the damage they’ve done to their marriage and the agony they’ve inflicted upon partners they love deeply. Men who are taking responsibility for their actions and choices, men committed to becoming better men, men of honour.

Through this course and all of the subsequent ones he has mentored and led, Dave continues to meet incredible men and discovers more about himself.

Peeling back the layers, like an onion, getting to the sweet spot.

All of my initial fears, though valid, were completely unfounded, we are in this together.

I’m in charge of keeping my side of the street clean and Dave’s in charge of his.

Trust the process…

Noni xxx

Only those who stick around long enough to see the caterpillar turn into a butterfly actually get to witness the transformation

Kristin Michelle Elizabeth

1PS. The reason why a betrayed spouse is asked to sign a contract not to read any of the unfaithful’s workbooks or notes is for their own benefit, to minimise more harm and further trauma. What an unfaithful person writes in a moment may be true for them at the time but not necessarily the truth. It can take many years for them to fully understand the why behind the choices, they can be caught up in limerence or in a place of ambivalence. And in case you’re wondering—no—I have never looked at any of Dave’s notes, I may have been tempted on occasion but have resisted the urge until the urge no longer exists.

The Rabbit Listened

Someone very near and dear to Dave and I, someone who has known us for many years, is reading our memoir. Each time I speak with them, the same comment is made, “I don’t know how you put up with it”. During our last conversation they remarked, “Why didn’t you ever say anything?” “How come when you knew about XYZs affair you never said anything?” So, even though this person has known us for our entire marriage they knew nothing of the issues we faced—after all, they were our issues.

It’s not as if I didn’t share with anyone, it’s just that I didn’t share with everyone.

Why wouldn’t I discuss my problems with certain people? Was it because I was trying to hide what went on? Was it because I was trying to protect an image? Was it because I was trying to project a different reality or was it because I knew that there was no wisdom in sharing my heart where there was little hope of empathy and understanding, and I mean this in the nicest possible way.

It’s only natural that people who love and care for us also have the innate desire to protect us. (Admittedly, this is what an unfaithful spouse vowed to do—yet didn’t—for their own reasons).

People who love us don’t want to see us hurting; sometimes though, their attempts to sit with us in our pain often feel more like they’re urging us to take a page from their own action plan.

Perhaps they haven’t learned the skill of empathy yet, some have no idea what it is, and then there are others—thankfully a minority—who are literally incapable of showing it.

In a worse case scenario, with reckless regard to keeping confidence, our pain may even become someone else’s fodder for gossip.

When we experience trauma of any kind—no matter how it manifests and regardless of the scale—we rarely need other people to give us their opinions.

We just need them to “show up”.

We don’t need fixing, we don’t need to be told what they would do if it was them, we don’t need to just get over it, we don’t need judgement and we don’t need comparisons.

We need empathy and we need wisdom. Godly wisdom, not man’s wisdom. So before we broadcast our pain, pray for discernment, not everyone is able to support us in ways that are beneficial to our healing.

Brené Brown says “empathy rarely begins with, at least…”

How do you “show up” for others?

This is a question I must reflect on myself…

Noni xxx

Let’s all be more like the rabbit!

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

Pain and Suffering

Who in their right mind wants to put their hand up for this!

We live in a fallen world, unfortunately pain and suffering is an inevitable part of this broken humanity.

Last month Pastor Lach interviewed Dave and I as part of a wider series on pain and suffering; there is pain and suffering which is inflicted upon us, then there is pain and suffering which we bring upon ourselves. We shared what we knew to be true for us.

Out of Psalm 51 we feel King David’s anguish and torment as he reaped the consequences of his sin.

Click to watch the interview

Noni & Dave

Real Time Recovery pt 3…

Relapse, lapse and acting out are all distinctively different behaviours—a lapse like this doesn’t automatically mean that a relationship is ruined. It serves as a reminder as to how sinister the roots of addiction are and also the marathon effort it takes to heal from a lifetime of unhealthy behaviours.

What’s needed now is a re-routing, and readjustment to continue on our path of recovery.

The pain of this blow out is real, for both of us. We are prayerful and hopeful that our repair work is sufficient. As long as we continue to hold space for one another and keep turning towards each other before, during and after conflict, chances are that we will reap the fruits of our effort. The absence of conflict is rarely a sign of healthy loving relationships, rather it is how we continue to show up for eachother and mend rifts or—fill in the potholes, this is what is important.

Dave’s fighting shame and despair after this sinkhole and learning that conflict avoidance is a destructive relational habit.

and

I’m fighting voices in my mind that say things like—I don’t look anything like her in my gym gear, if Dave’s eyes focus on skinny women, he must be repulsed by what he sees when he looks at meIf we weren’t together, he’d be free to stare at who he wants for however long he chooses—I’ll do for now, enough to satisfy him until he decides to go elsewhere…

These are awful thoughts and although the feelings are absolutely real at the time, they are distorted and unbalanced thinking, they are also not true, they’re a bunch of lies. Even though our rational minds know all of this, it’s a battle which is part and parcel of trauma experienced in the brain of a betrayed man or woman. Our primitive brains scream “this is not safe”.

Woops there goes another thought...

The only way to overcome PTSD from betrayal is to face it front on and move through it. Fight, flight or freeze—the limbic system gets an almighty workout on this journey. There are techniques we can learn to ground ourselves, we get to choose what we need to do to feel safe.

If you can relate to this, my only advice is to be kind to yourself, take time for yourself, and do the healing for yourself. Speak up, in truth with love and don’t be a slave to unhelpful thinking styles that keep you stuck.

You can do this, you’re stronger than you realise! One day at a time…

“And this too shall pass”

Noni x

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds
Psalms 147:3

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