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

Real Time Recovery pt 2

I honestly wasn’t anticipating the fallout of asking Noni whether something was bothering her after grocery shopping. Sure she was quiet but I still didn’t think it had anything to do with me, I really wasn’t expecting it.

Only when she queried what was going on back at the store did I realise that my wandering eye had been noticed. My gut immediately churned with the stinging deep conviction of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, rather than compelling me to humility and restitution, my spirit morphed quickly from conviction to condemnation, shame, and the desperate need to avoid this current sensation of discomfort.

Waves of nausea enveloped me while I pieced together the significant impact my thoughtlessness had on us and how easy it was for me to dismiss Noni’s heart, a heart and space I truly want to protect. 

Unaware I was slipping into the tired old cycle of control and manipulation only served to drive Noni away. After transferring the groceries from the boot of the car to the kitchen, Noni asked me to put them away and then walked out the front door.

I was left to work this out over the next few hours. 

Fear had to make way for courage. I knew that I could easily welcome and nurse the poor me victim I was so familiar with—but we’ve done too much work for that option to be as enticing as I once thought. I know far too well how that cycle goes—it leads nowhere.

I needed to confront myself with raw courage even though it scared me to death.

Read on for a glimpse into the process for me during this event…

We probably passed the tall active wear woman mentioned in last weeks blog post, about 4 times before arriving in the dairy section, I sensed then that I was feeling a little awkward inside. I knew it wasn’t right to repeatedly let my eyes linger longer than normal, gazing at any woman other than my wife, yet I continued to do so. I was embarrassed for myself without even beginning to consider how this incident might make Noni feel. This behaviour has been a painfully common occurrance through the course of our relationship and a habit that I thought—was no longer a thorn in my side.

My ego was consoled with a bunch of half baked truths such as—I know in my heart there was no lusting—I wasn’t looking for her she was just kind of there over and over! At this point I failed to acknowledge that it was MY choice to keep on looking and of course Noni would notice, how could she not!

My next big mistake without any thought was my reflex response to Noni’s question. I shared what I believed were rational explanations—rationalisations. I desperately wanted Noni to believe what I wanted to believe; I was sure I could make her understand it wasn’t such a big deal. The harder I tried—the more it felt like I was struggling in quicksand. GASLIGHTING!

Noni was right to leave the house.

Once she got home I still had the overwhelming urge to point out all the times over the last months I had taken steps to remove myself from these types of situations, it was an effort to demonstrate I am not as bad as I seemed at the moment. Proving to her that it was simply a momentary lapse, not an uncontrollable compulsion. As soon as I gave the accounts of my ‘good behaviours’, a light flicked on for me and I realised – wow Dave are you really expecting praise for being respectful or not doing wrong? Why should I expect Noni to applaud me for doing what should have always been an acceptable standard of committment? This is the depth of self deception I can live with.

Eventually, I just shut up and watched and listened to how Noni felt, laying aside my discomfort with the situation momentarily. She was wounded by my efforts to minimise as much as I hurt her with my actions. It took me quite a few attempts to hear Noni completely—that is—without adding context to what she was saying, filtering what I was hearing, or offering what I thought was a helpful explanation/qualification or correction. I needed to put aside my shame to really recognise and empathise with Noni’s grief. After hearing the detail of how humiliated Noni felt, my apathy also set off an avalanche of fear and pain, I was gutted. It then dawned on me the significance of my thoughtless glances, this was a huge red flag.

The Red Flag

In another place and time in my life not so long ago, my decision to hold the gaze of another woman would not have been so thoughtless. It would be me grasping a brief moment of gratification, a gesture that may or may not be reciprocated, if that look or gesture was acknowledged or returned there would be further gratification, it may even have led to a verbal exchange—polite yet with an undercurrent of flattery, and even more gratification. From that verbal exchange, the idea of other possibilities may be held in the back of my mind (a fantasy perhaps) which might even result in further contact by chance or design. It could end anywhere, and most likely would end nowhere, yet this cascade of decisions pursuing momentary selfish gratification is at the heart of betrayal. Infidelity begins with a thought, not an action and after a series of thoughts, the wheels are in motion.

In isolation, my action and choices may seem like a minor lapse of concentration, frought with danger though, if such a lapse goes unchecked and I allow myself to explain away the decision, then what next? Our partners are right to challenge our behaviours, us unfaithful may judge our recovery on our intentions but the hearts we’ve shattered are wise to gauge differently.

It might take years but if these moments are left unchecked they inevitably increase in frequency and scale, eventually corroding the boundaries I’ve established to keep me and my marriage safe.

Like a fence that isn’t maintained, if a series of small breaches are not repaired and fortified, the fence is weakened and eventually, one day when it is tested, it offers little resistance…

Noni will wrap up part 3 of Real Time Recovery next week, this sinkhole has been another massive training session for the marathon effort needed to change my lifetime of faulty thinking.

Dave

Real Time Recovery

If you’ve read our Memoir you’ll know right from the start that Dave nor I profess to have ‘arrived’ anywhere, we are still very much in the thick of this recovery journey. It’s taken us a lifetime to get to this starting point so it’s likely going to take us another lifetime to complete it!

Yes we’re different, yes we’re further down the road but there is still a ways to go. We’ve written our story with complete authenticity so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that our blog posts are no different. Real time rawness!

In our chapter “WHAT DOES RECOVERY LOOK LIKE?” we describe how our recovery road is made up of potholes which often feel more like sink holes. Well we’ve just hit another crappy sink hole.

If you are of faith, the timing of this ‘relapse’ will come as no surprise. Stepping out to share our story in church and on radio has left us wide open for an onslaught of arrows.

Here is how last Sundays slipping into the sinkhole unfolded…

After church Dave and I grabbed lunch, spent a little time in conversation about a question posed to us during the radio interview, it was around the topic of boundaries. We were both on the same page and in agreement with how we felt the interview went. There was no distance or tension between us.

After lunch we headed into Woolies to do weekly groceries. All is going well…

Dave was pushing the trolley while I tossed bits ‘n’ pieces on top of the ever mounting load.

A tall slim young and attractive woman, dressed in black active wear, was shopping with her young child and partner. She took no notice of us while she went about her business while heading down the same aisles as us. I cast a glance noticing how pretty she was and thought nothing more.

Dave, on the other hand, looked, and looked, and continued to look, and while he was busy looking he failed to realise that I became fully aware of him checking her out, not once, not twice but over and over.

Some might say, what’s the problem? That’s just normal, he wouldn’t be male if he didn’t, there’s nothing wrong with looking, and Noni don’t be so insecure, right?

Let me try to explain how this scenario played out.

By the time I was fully conscious of what he was doing we were skirting around the outside of the dairy section, this is when Dave began behaving like a kid caught with his hand in the lollie jar. Dave has little interest in food shopping yet started talking about juices, butter and yoghurt in a somewhat familiar and anxious manner, so yeah, I noticed. I’m not saying that he was lustfully drooling or anything super creepy, gosh, Dave doesn’t do that, it’s nothing quite so obvious. This is more like sneaky glimpses, when he thinks no one is watching.

It is is painful to witness, it’s humiliating, infuriating, disrespectful and unfortunately far too common in men who have affairs. It’s not that they actually seek or desire the person their attention is fixed on, well not at this point anyway, it is more akin to this being one of the first steps of them acting on their vulnerability.

Let me explain the cycle for those who don’t understand how it works.

The formerly unfaithful is doing really well but an area of fatigue/conflict/stress has risen (this could be work, relational, financial, health etc, we all experience these moments, it’s called life). It looks different in everyone but happens to everyone.

Anyhoo my formerly unfaithful husband is an exceptional man, he’s been courageous, present and committed but there has been a few minor stresses recently that may have been weighing on him without him even realising, so if he doesn’t realise, how can he share?

Unintentionally and unconsciously, he finds himself in a vulnerable state and I’m left in the dark. This becomes the first stumbling block to reduced self awareness.

We are still only in a pothole at this stage, what happened next is when it gave way collapsed into a sinkhole, taking us with it.

We packed the groceries into the boot of the car and drove off in deafening silence. Dave broke the ice with a tentative, “Non, is something wrong?”

My verbal response was intentionally measured and calm even though beneath the surface my heart was aching.

“How about you tell me what happened back there?

“Huh?”

“What did you focus your attention on?” (a few more quizzical huh’s followed)

“I saw a woman in a black gym gear and thought she looked like D**** M*****” (an acquaintance of ours)

Now, us betrayed partners have finely tuned inbuilt BS meters, they are rarely off, whilst an unfaithful partner has honed their gaslighting skills to be able to twist and turn even the simplest of conversations around. I called BS.

“Right now would be a good time to stop talking and really think before you say anything else”.

Dave didn’t heed my advice and continued mansplaining, the smarter thing to do would have been to pause and consider his next course of action.

He may have initially thought this woman was D****, but apart from her having blonde hair, she bore no other resemblance at all. This woman was a few inches taller, about 20 years younger and had a young child on her hip… Still, this was the story Dave was telling himself and trying to sell me on. The other reason I knew it was complete BS—when we were in the deli section Dave spotted a guy he thought looked like someone else we knew, he turned to me and asked directly, “Hey Non, is that J*** C****?” Now, why wouldn’t he do the same with this woman rather than continue to follow her with his eyes and get all awkward about juice, butter and yoghurt?

I hate to stop midway but this is too big a post for one entry, Dave can finish the story next week…

Recovery is an ongoing process, much love, Noni xxx

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