Infidelity, unfaithfulness, adultery …

These words come to mind again as the headlines in our newspapers, and in our online news services in Australia declare another fall from grace, and another couple goes through publicly what is an intensely private, searingly painful, shattering and life altering experience.

While the many who haven’t experienced this, watch in disbelief as all the sordid details unfold, and shake their heads in incredulity — all the while there is a woman, struggling to catch her breath, reminding her heart to beat and wondering how to take one step after another. Some who watch this unfold in this public forum may glance away from the headlines to see that their own wounds have opened a little, or find, perhaps, the scars are beginning to itch.

The moment:

For those of you who haven’t been granted membership to this particular club, there’s a level of betrayal that comes in the moment when you learn about infidelity that is unlike anything else you will ever experience…

you suddenly drop off a precipice, 

you plunge either flailing or with an eerie stillness into the freezing cold waters of rejection that suck the air out of your lungs

before you know it, you are hit hard by a merciless wave,

this somehow, at once, fills your nose and mouth

and pummels your core

you recoil only to discover that where your heart, stomach and internal organs once were is now, instead, a gnawing, gnarling, gaping void …

turbulent ocean

I vividly remember trying to get out of ear shot of the 3 and 1/2 year old in order to answer my mother’s shocked,

“What has happened?”

My strength failed just shy of the top step,

and I came to rest there with the “work” mobile in my hand,

while it was now peacefully sleeping …

the names of strangers danced in my mind’s eye,

and the messages, 

those messages,

… the incongruity of those messages and the protests of innocence still ringing in my ears.

Where do I sit?

Am I going to vomit?

Or cry?

Or just do … nothing … 

Hit by a wave of helplessness, suddenly you find yourself strangely disoriented in a place that was, until moments ago, a safe place.

Whether the moment of revelation was one that came as a complete surprise – or if it was something that you knew on an intuitive level; the moment when the realisation that those fears have been realised hits … numbness descends. Even if it was something that you had suspected, at this point there is no sense of vindication or relief. …

Your ears are humming, buzzing and ringing, yet you could swear that all the sound has drained from the world …

now they are burning and tingling as though pricked by hundreds of tiny pins and needles … 

then that tingling, prickling sensation begins to slowly travel down from the top of your head    

To the observer however, you are bereft of colour and beads of sweat glisten on your brow …

perhaps now you start to tremble, because despite the fact that you feel uncomfortably warm all over, in that same moment — you are also extremely cold.

It is shock, and I can only aim at describing it. In reality, it is an intensely emotional and visceral experience. 

Let’s not sugar coat it people, it is trauma – and the damage that this leaves is not visible because it resides in your heart, and mind.

The recovery:

If you have been there – what you know is, that while this is the worst moment, surprisingly this moment is also the beginning of your recovery. The waves that wash over you can’t be avoided — they must engulf and envelope you — but like all waves, these will ebb and flow away.

The tide retreats and you find yourself, just short of the top step, the water has subsided and now you have to get up.

Your colour slowly returns, your ears resume their function, your lungs remember they need air and your heart remembers its primary purpose — and while may have shattered into a million tiny pieces — it beats on.

The recovery can be very slow and it can be painful. From now on you will move from numbness to anger to rage to fear to shame to sadness and back again …. I know for some time I ran the gamut of emotions daily.

You will need a few things – a good counsellor,  some wise and good family and friends, and you will need my God. 

Before I go onto the hope, one more thing, even 11 years on – there is a feeling that descends on me at the beginning of Feb each year. I’m often puzzled as to why this feeling, mood, disquietness descends on me … I then eventually remember that it is that time of year again. It is a trauma – if you know someone in it or if you are someone in it … please recognise that this not just a “get over it” kind of thing.

The hope:

When it comes to the relationship some of you find that your partner has made the choice for you (he/she has gone), some find that the betrayal is such that you cannot salvage anything, while some of you have the opportunity to remain and move toward healing the relationship.

Whatever your present situation, the hope is the same for you – the source is the same and the promises remain the same …

Psalm 34:18.

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,

And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Psalm 73:26

My flesh and my heart fail;

But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted

And binds up their wounds.

Isaiah 42: 3 -4

A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.

He will not fail nor be discouraged …

Ezekiel 11:19

Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,

Ezekiel 36:26

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.


In closing, when you stand by and watch the shipwreck that is the end of someone else’s marriage try to remember that somewhere in there, is a person trying to remember how to breathe …

I owe many, many thanks to the family and friends who were there and helped me to remember to breathe … and to the man I married years later, who has stayed and prayed and breathes with me everyday.

I have deliberately excluded details despite the fact that Anne Lamott’s words keep springing to mind…


Links to read:

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