There are a few questions I can reliably torture myself with at 3 am. What if I’d conceived five seconds later and ended up with different babies? Can sinkholes happen in Victoria? Should I actually give up alcohol? And of course, what would I do if my husband had an affair?
I like to think I’d be cool about infidelity within the parameters of not being cool. That there would be no slicing up of his wedding suit, no drum kit chucked onto the nature strip. No public denunciations, no money drained from accounts and definitely no leaving.
There would instead be micro-honest conversations, perhaps spare bedroom banishment – and then there would be forgiveness. I love him too much, and I’m too far down the road to do otherwise. The only thing that would bring me undone is if he was in love with someone, not just having sex with them.
I hope we would both accept I hadn’t pushed him away by being bossy or letting myself go, that it was him who had the problem. And that we should grab the chance to hit the reset button on whatever had pushed him towards the fantasy of an affair.
But I’m someone who is constantly surprised by what other people worry about and what they don’t. And my expected responses to infidelity are as hypothetical as the affair itself. Who knows what I’d really do? The one thing I’m totally confident of is that in my mind I’d repeat, “Be like Bonnie Paine”.
Wow. Bonnie Paine. Wife of former Australian Test captain Tim Paine, who resigned last week when lewd texts he sent in 2017 to a then-colleague became News Corp front page fodder.
The Tasmanian mum-of-two joins the ranks of women including Beyonce, Victoria Beckham and Hillary Clinton who ignored public humiliation and stood by their man. They chose to honour their own for better or worse marriage vows even if their blokes didn’t.
I have huge respect for Bonnie. She told how “horrific” it was when Tim confessed his sexts –motivated by an “inflated” ego – to her. There were recriminations, tears, questions, but they “decided to move on with life and do it together.”
The relationship has been helped by “this mess” said Bonnie, who added nobody is perfect. “It was never a question of love. We have always loved each other deeply. You need to forgive. People deserve second chances.”
I know from experience how destructive affairs are, how much regret they cause. They are to be avoided. But if they happen – and they do, to 45 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women in committed relationships according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy – can they make relationships stronger because they demand intense honesty and re-evaluation?
Maybe the Paines are ahead of the curve because Bonnie has seen and accepted Tim’s ugly side, and their relationship has moved beyond window dressing and good times. Or maybe they’re always in jeopardy now because she’ll watch his phone and face forever.
There will be people who look at Bonnie and think, ‘Who stays with a cheater?’ Turns out a lot of women, statistically. A 2018 study from Trustify found 81 per cent of women stick with unfaithful husbands.
One of them is journalist Elle Grant, who founded website Betrayed Wives Club when her husband had an affair. She stayed with him and 10 years on, the marriage is “rich and deep and fun.”
But for Grant, what nobody tells you about infidelity is it’s so “bring-you-to-your-knees devastating that kicking him out is the last thing you have the energy to do. It takes everything you’ve got just to breathe, to stem the bleeding”.
To her, women who leave aren’t necessarily any stronger than women who stay: “Simply remaining upright when dealing with such betrayal is a hero’s work”.
Bonnie Paine, you rock. Tim Paine, you are a lucky, lucky man.