How to survive infidelity
Johannesburg - It raised more than an eyebrow or two when Dyllan Smith and Viki van den Barselaar-Smith revealed an infidelity in their relationship on M-Net's reality TV show Power Couple SA.
Since then, they seem to have become the poster couple for those who've been through a similar experience, of which there seem to be many.
News reports on the Ashley Madison data hack revealed that about 175 000 cheating South Africans were registered on the dating website. And, according to AshleyMadison.com's South Africa Cheat Sheet, about 62 percent of men and 38 percent of women cheat.
In Dyllan's case, he decided to come clean to save his marriage.
The couple are from Salt Rock in KwaZulu-Natal. Viki owns a film production company, called Imagine Afrika Productions, while Dyllan runs Mzansi Flexo, which supplies a specialised product to the print industry.
They've been together for 18 years, six of them as husband and wife, and they have a 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter.
The couple say their marriage started to fall apart in 2014.
"We were drifting apart and went to counselling to try to fix the crack between us, but problems can't be fixed when there is underlying deceit," says Viki. "When you've been together for so long, you know when things are completely off kilter, but you don't want to believe that the person you trust so implicitly would ever betray your bond.
"Denial is powerful," she reflects. "(But) when I found out about the affair, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
"We were both in shock. Dyllan, too, at what he had done and the consequences thereof."
Like many betrayed women, Viki's first instinct was to walk away. "There was so much anger, hatred and fury. And, of course, disbelief. The reality of the pain was very overwhelming because it was so inescapable. I booted him out of the house that night, but he refused to leave and ended up sleeping in his car in the driveway."
Dyllan says he couldn't believe the pain he had his caused his wife and "beautiful family".
"I was terrified that I would lose it all. I had been living a double life and the reality of what I had done hit me like a ton of bricks. Regret, such regret. At the same time there was massive relief that the truth was finally out."
With hindsight they know how they had arrived at that point.
Viki explains: "When Dyl's dad, his best friend - his everything - passed away, Dyllan took it badly and headed down a path of self-destruction, taking our whole family along.
"Dyllan was numb and we were hurting. Slowly but surely, anything good in life he pushed away and we started to drift apart. At this point I gave up on him and didn't even realise it. He now had no one in his corner. At the end of 2014, he collided with another woman equally unhappy with life. A short affair occurred."
Viki said instead of walking away immediately, she took her time to figure what she wanted.
"I decided not to make my decision in anger and haste. I had to ask myself if I could live with what had happened, or if it was too much for me to accept?
"I never let myself become the victim. I knew that I was strong in who I was and the choices I had made. But a decision needed to be made which was true to me and my heart."
Both of them agree that there is a lot of pressure from the outside world at a time such as this.
"I would have to live with this choice for the rest of my life, no one else," says Viki. "I came to realise that I still loved Dyllan, and where there is love there is always hope."
They attended counselling once again but individually first to deal with their personal issues before they tackled their relationship. So began a tough journey.
"When we had both decided that our marriage was what we wanted most, we fully committed to healing and going through the process of rebuilding a broken dream from scratch," says Viki.
"I remember us going on a beach holiday. We shut out the world completely and focused on ourselves, each other, and our family. We took long walks on the beach, talked, cried, shouted and eventually laughed.
"Of course, there were times a little gremlin made me doubt Dyllan, but I learnt not to entertain it. There is trust now.
"Dyllan did all the hard work, and made it easier for me to trust him again too. He answered his cellphone whenever I called. He gave me everything I needed to move closer towards him until I felt secure in our relationship again."
Their passion and power was surely evident to viewers, some of whom have come up to the couple to share similar stories.
Dyllan says: "Power Couple came around at the right time in our lives. It gave us the chance to put ourselves out there and to own the experience we had gone through together."
Viki says while her experience is only her own, she believes there are some lessons worth sharing:
* "When your spouse cheats on you or when you cheat, it's incredibly isolating... as individuals and as a couple. People should know that there are many marriages which survive infidelity. Every situation is unique and that's why you need to be certain that the choice you are making is the right one for you."
* "If one of you cheats, both of you have to commit to working it out. Figure out where the crack initially came from and work on fixing it, but also take the time to see counsellors on your own to make sure you are personally on track."
* "Be transparent, get it all out, hold nothing back, and be ready to answer every question no matter how difficult."
* "Deal with, and experience, your emotions as they come. Don't bury them so that they keep cropping up months later and ultimately damage your progress."
* "Don't hang on to the past. It will stop you from coming together. Give yourselves time, it is the ultimate healer, and things will get easier."
* "Forgive only when you are ready."
* "If you want to regain someone's trust, listen and be calm, kind and patient."
Viki adds: "Although others may judge, they do not walk in your shoes. If you are in control of your decisions, it is all that matters.
"People do make mistakes, and if you can overcome that with passion, truth and love, you can build a stronger healthier, happier future together."