Featured Inspirational Author  

Inspirational Author Alice May on Surviving Betrayal
by Joyce Dixon

Alice May is the pseudonym of a North Carolina author who has published twenty-four romance novels under another name.  However, donít look for rose-colored glasses in her daily meditation book Surviving Betrayal.  Alice May is a survivor of spousal betrayal and a member of a local womenís support group discovering strength in their faith and themselves. 

ďIíve devoted the last five years to working as a personal coach for women whose lives are in crisis, typically either from the effects of infidelity, alcoholism or other addiction in a loved one.  The only thing that qualifies me to help is that Iíve survived these experiences myself and know what works.  I pass on the healing skills other women taught me when I was in pain.  In fact, when I needed help, I knew instinctively that the only way I would survive was by finding others who had experienced similar betrayals.  I also worked with a therapist, as many of the women I coach do; but we all know we would be lost without the support of other women who have walked in our shoes.  I was instrumental in establishing a support group in the town where I live and that group thrives today, with more than a dozen members who are finding their own personal path to healing.Ē 

Where many women in todayís society would end the marriage and move on, Alice May chose to work through the betrayal.  Though the assumption can be made that her choice speaks to her spiritual faith and love for her husband, Alice puts it this way, ďI think the truth was that I was so broken, so devastated by all that had happened that I was incapable of making a decision to leave the relationship.  At times I had little or no belief that the relationship would ever heal.  But I knew this: If I placed myself and the marriage in Godís hands, the right thing would happen; and that I would heal, no matter what happened to the marriage." 

ďIs the marriage saved?  Today things are much better.  Today I do have a fairly strong measure of belief in the relationshipís future.  But I also believe today that I am now strong enough to walk away from the relationship if it becomes obvious my husband doesnít have the same commitment I do.  Today, I like to say Iím married one day at a time.  And thatís working for both of us.Ē

Did your experience as a romance author aid you in writing the emotional extremes one goes through when betrayed by a spouse?   

Actually, I believe it was the other way around.  The depth of emotions I experienced during the last ten years became one of my greatest gifts in writing fiction.  As fiction writers, we must draw upon the deep, the dark, the sublime, the transforming events in our lives.  Itís that bleeding on the page thing.  As I salvaged my own spirit, I was able to salvage the spirits of my characters, as well. 

Did you work harder at saving the marriage because of your spiritual beliefs and the ideals presented in romance fiction?

I worked hard at saving myself spiritually and I believe that is why the marriage is still intact today.  The rest of the question is harder to deal with.  In the early years of writing romance fiction, I often spoke in interviews about my belief in the power of love to transform our lives.  Today, Iím sorry to say, Iím not so sure I have that much faith in the power of romantic love.   

Has surviving spousal betrayal clouded your ideal of ďhappily ever afterĒ and your romance fiction writing?

Yes.  But at least I can say that without bitterness, which I suppose is one of the many miracles Iíve been blessed with in recent years.  I know without a doubt that the happily-ever-afters we end our novels with are pure fantasy.  True love, real love, mature love, is about supporting one another through the difficult times.  It doesnít rescue us from the difficulties, it just gives us a bit of a cushion when the difficulties hit.  Writing happily-ever-after became increasingly difficult over the last four years and I fear I have written my last romantic novel.  But I believe that opens the door for me to write other kinds of fiction.  So Iím looking forward to where my talents can be used next. 

In a society where second marriages are becoming the norm, is there any advice you would give to newlyweds who are survivors of betrayal from past relationships?

To any newlyweds, previously betrayed or not, I would say that every marriage is made up of two flawed people.  None of us is perfect.  We will hurt the people we love and they will hurt us.  We will all let one another down in one way or another.  But if you make a commitment to learning from whatever happens in your marriage, if you turn over the relationship to your personal Higher Power to heal, if you see everything life brings as an opportunity to become a more spiritual person, you will find joy.  No matter what, you will find joy.  And joy is better than happiness.  Far better. 

Though you designed your meditations for women, is there any reason men who have been betrayed would not be helped as well?  What about betrayal in other relationships? 

Iím sure many of the passages in Surviving Betrayal would be as pertinent to men as to women.  Others would not.  For example, I strongly urge seeking the support of other women in the journey to healing.  Although this is a generality and a stereotype to boot, Iím not sure men would find or even be willing to seek the kind of support from other men that women can and do provide their sisters in pain.  Also, many authorities agree that women are unfaithful, in general, for different reasons than men.  Those differences might certainly color a manís response to his wifeís betrayal in ways I havenít addressed in the book.  As far as betrayals by friends, colleagues, family, many of the suggestions in the book would work for healing any kind of relationship.  But the book deals so specifically with sexual betrayal I think others would be hard pressed to identify and benefit. 

Why did you choose a daily devotional rather than a memoir?

What a wonderful question!  No one else has asked and Iím so glad you did.  I may yet write a memoir; in fact, my husband is considering one, as well, so who knows, we may do a joint project.  But my goal with this book was not simply to unburden myself, but to provide other women with a blueprint for healing.  Iím a very results-oriented person and I wanted to pass on to others the very concrete process I used, that others have used.  This process works, it heals, it gives women back their spirits.  All I wanted to accomplish was to give women something to hang onto during a dark time in their lives. 

Perhaps the most important reason is that this is the project my Higher Power gave me to do.  The idea for the book came to me as a title, which popped into my head one morning as I was on my way to my word processor.  And I believe today that God gave me the project as a way to remain focused on my healing, and as a way to further my healing.  Much of the book was written while I was still in the depths of my pain and my struggle.  Writing the book healed me; I hope reading it will heal others. 

You created a local support group.  How has this aided your healing process?

I could not have survived without them.  And the book could not have been written without them, either.  We held each other up; we cried together; we laughed together; we loved one another through the worst experiences in our lives.  Women are awesome.  And I wouldnít have fully appreciated that if I hadnít been forced to turn to them. 

What do you feel is the most common reaction when one discovers their spouse is betraying the relationship?

Denial.  So many of us have a desperate need to turn our backs on the truth, to pretend it never happened, to ignore the fall-out and pretend we can keep it from ever happening again.  We fall into hypervigilance, which is really another face of denial.  Weíre frantically searching for the key to controlling our spouses, the marriage.  We want nothing more than for everything to return to normal and we believe we can find a way to make that happen, if weíre hypervigilant enough.  And, of course, that is one reason more betrayals often follow.  We turn our backs on reality; we become focused on control rather than consequences; we contribute to an atmosphere of secrecy rather than openness.  

As a writer, do you feel the time required to write in solitude robbed your spouse of time together?

Actually, the betrayals happened at a time when we both had home offices.  We were together more than most couples.  We still are.   

What are the stages one goes through from betrayal to spiritually healed?

Here are the five steps I suggest and elaborate on in Surviving Betrayal.  Surrender, self-discovery, unburdening, daily awareness and giving back.  In surrender, we must recognize that we have no control over our spouse and his decision to cheat again.  This step enables us to stop blaming ourselves and lays the groundwork for regaining the parts of ourselves weíve lost when we became so focused on making him behave or winning him back.  In self-discovery, we keep the focus on ourselves by exploring who we are, how we may have attracted or contributed to a less-than-healthy marriage, and who we are capable of becoming.  In unburdening, we share with other women the things weíre learning about ourselves, which sets the stage for forgiving ourselves and others.  Daily awareness focuses us squarely on our spiritual healing and our relationship with whatever Higher Power we believe in; it keeps us centered no matter what is going on around us.  And giving back helps us keep our spiritual connection and the healing principles weíve learned at the center of our lives. 

Do you have other spiritual books on the drawing board?

I do.  My stepdaughter, who is in college and far wiser than I was at that age, and I are presently working on a survival guide for teenaged girls.  My husband and I would like to write a book about healing troubled relationships by focusing on spiritual solutions as a couple.  I am also working on a novel, and I donít believe Iíll ever again be able to write fiction without incorporating at least some elements of redemption and spiritual healing.  Wish me luck.

Surviving Betrayal, HarperSanFrancisco, 1999 

© 2000 Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved