Erin* had been married to Jay* for two years when he had an affair with a co-worker. She confesses that, at the time, she gave more attention to their newborn than to her spouse. “Jay would become very moody when I couldn’t attend to him immediately. He became jealous of my time with our son and started coming home very late from work,” she recalls. “Our son was seven months old when I noticed signs that pointed to an affair.”
It took a few more months before Erin found the courage to confront her husband about it. “Of course, he denied it at first. But our friends confirmed seeing him with the woman in various places. ” It was during one of their heated arguments when Jay finally admitted to having an affair. “Although I already knew it in my heart, I was still devastated by his betrayal. I decided to leave him.”
Anatomy of an affair Marriage and family counselor Clem Guillermo says an affair is not just about having a relationship with a person other than one’s spouse. It could also be non-sexual: an obsession with work or a car, for example, such that his time and energy supposedly reserved for his family is spent on something else.
He adds that affairs are a result of unrealized expectations and unresolved issues. “When a person says he wants to quit the relationship, there’s already an emotional readiness [to quit],” he explains. When this happens, all it takes for a spouse to fall into temptation is meeting the wrong person at the right place and time.”
According to Guillermo, it is not true that a relationship gets damaged because someone had an affair. “The relationship is already damaged; that’s why there is an affair,” he clarifies.
Telltale signs How can you tell if your spouse is in an affair—or on the verge of having one? Guillermo advises watching for:
1. Behavioral changes. Does your spouse leave for work earlier more often? Does he come home later than usual? Has his schedule suddenly become irregular (nightly “meetings,” etc.)? Is he now more conscious of his physical appearance? Does your spouse hide his mobile phone from you so you are unable to read his messages or accept calls? Have there been changes in the things he likes such as sports, music, food, and movies? “The point here is that the other person is becoming a very strong influence on your spouse,” says Guillermo.
2. Ways of conversing. Is there a particular name he casually mentions often during your conversations? Is your spouse more easily irritated? Does he lose his temper and shout at you more often? Does he pick on your weaknesses and blame you for the littlest of things? “These could be a prelude to justifying why he prefers the other person over you,” explains Guillermo.
3. Paper trails. Do you often find receipts for restaurant meals that don’t seem to have been used for business meetings? Is there a frequently-called number reflected on your husband’s mobile phone bill? Are there items charged to his credit card that seem out of the ordinary? Guillermo points out that you must not be quick to conclude when you notice one or two of the above-mentioned factors in your marriage. “It takes a combination of all these factors to determine if they are really signs that something might be brewing.”
Saving the marriage Guillermo reminds that not everyone who gets involved in an affair would like to leave the marriage. There is usually hope for reconciliation.
“Look inside yourself and try to discover what your spouse might have found in someone else. What could be lacking on your end?” he asks. “Know where your spouse is coming from, and try to understand his needs.” For instance, if a man has low self-esteem, he would definitely be looking for someone who adores him, encourages him, and makes him feel important. “Recall all the things you enjoyed doing together before you got married. Are they still present?” says Guillermo. He suggests reading books such as Willard Harley’s His Needs, Her Needs or Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. “Find out his language of love and responsibly do your role as his spouse. Show him you are different from all the other women out there.”