(This is an unpleasant topic about which I know more than I wish. It seemed best to write it on this blog than to attempt to compose a book since very few would read a book on immoral affairs unless they were forced to. This is meant to be a source of reference and contains my observations over the years. I hope it is helpful to someone in need.)
She came to see me accompanied by two friends who strongly encouraged her to do so. Not much prodding was needed to get her to reveal the details. Her marriage was struggling, gasping and possibly dying. She wanted to know why and what she could do about it? I asked a few questions and then said, your husband is having an affair. Her two friends nodded, pleased to hear an objective source confirm what they already knew. The wife vehemently disagreed, not wanting to face this horrible prospect. I shrugged mentally and told her to call or come to see me if anything changed and perhaps he agreed to counseling. She insisted that he was not cheating. Unfortunately, she was wrong and I was right. it wasn’t hard to see. There are signs, clues and pieces of evidence. Call them smoke which means that a fire has been lit somewhere. I intend here to detail the “smoke” in hopes that you never need to know any of this. But if you do, here are The Signs of Infidelity.
Less time at Home
In order to carry on a clandestine relationship extra withdrawals need to be made from the time bank. We only have so much time to use and give to others. Deceit is therefore necessary (I will discuss this later) and often the excuses are more time at “work” or more gatherings of the “boys.” In fact, the illicit romance is being secretly nurtured instead. (In the case of the woman mentioned above, her husband was scheduling trips to engage in his passion for climbing mountain peaks accompanied by another enthusiast who was a beautiful young woman. My, my…) Therefore sudden changes in time can be a clue, especially when accompanied by the next sign.
Some marriages have grown distant over the years for other reasons but a sudden, dramatic emotional withdrawal is perhaps a wisp of the fire burning nearby. We are naturally monogamous, made that way by God, and marriages demand to be nurtured daily. It’s not possible to carry on two deeply intimate relationships without stealing from one of them. It’s the marriage that is robbed. (Actually both relationships suffer but the immoral one is fueled by infatuation and passionate imagination. It can run on that mixture for awhile.) So now the spouse “had a hard day at work” or “is not in the mood to talk” or “has some work to do.” They can’t make it to children’s events, they don’t have time to talk, are not interested in sex. Any or all of those could have other causes but match them with other signs? Sigh. It’s probably an “affair.”
(I don’t like the word “affair” very much. It sounds like a dinner party. It’s no party.)
I won’t belabor this but the sex becomes perfunctory at best and non-existent at worst.
In order to carry on a secret immoral relationship, it is essential to have unaccountable funds (as well as unaccountable time.) Money that can be spent without being explained or audited. A credit card, a secret bank account or even some cash stashed away. If evidence is found of an unexplained expense funded by unexplained funds? Then there is some explanation needed. Add this fact to one or more of the other signs and well, it’s not good.
For most people, immoral behavior and lies are twin sisters who cannot bear to be apart. One almost always accompanies the other. I find it startling and even bewildering that people say things like: “I can forgive the sexual sin but I cannot forgive the lies.” That’s nuts! There are few people who are idiotic or brassy enough to engage in this behavior without lying about it. Shame, a fear of consequences and attempting to hide their guilty conscience are just some of the reasons for the lies. Small lies, when discovered, are usually covered with other lies. You discovered a lie? It’s a sign perhaps. Pay attention.
Anger is a smokescreen. “How dare you accuse innocent and pure hearted me of unfaithfulness! YOU are the problem, not me!!” If your spouse is innocent, he or she is usually hurt and grieved and tries to understand what they might have done to provoke the accusation. The guilty one uses anger to deflect suspicion. Sometimes, though, after throwing a fit they will back off a bit and spend more time at home to calm the situation but it won’t last long. Immorality is a powerful force that cannot be long resisted once begun.
This comes as a surprise to most observers but the guilty one becomes depressed as the secret romance is prolonged. This is due partly to the effect of concealed sin on the soul. Contrary to advertising and the movie theaters, flagrant sin does not make us feel better. Also, depression sets in because of the deep longing to be elsewhere, to not be home with the current spouse but rather to be in the arms of the other. The innocent spouse is not the cause of the depression although they are often told otherwise.
Similar to anger, this is standard behavior for the guilty. Especially once the infidelity is exposed. “If you had treated me better, I wouldn’t have done this!” Even if the marriage is truly doing poorly, doing evil is not a solution. Honor and integrity have always worked better. Blame shifting attempts to make the world in general at fault for the bad choices. “It’s not me! It’s you and everyone else who is to blame!” If you are the one being cheated on, don’t buy into this tactic when it is used on you.
Revising the history of the marriage
It is surprising to me how often this occurs. “I’ve never loved you! I didn’t feel good about marrying you. I’ve never been happy.” These statements are all examples of the common impulse to rewrite the past. Good times, genuine love and happiness are all erased. They never happened. Instead the marriage was always hell on earth and of course the recent faithlessness is justified. If the guilty one really can convince themselves that they were always miserable, then perhaps they will feel less guilty. It doesn’t work. Deeply buried guilt still burns like a hot coal in the soul and will exact it’s price. Notice the “always” and “never” hyperbole. It’s a form of deceitful self pity. It’s not true.
Once in awhile, there is a “noble” cheater who does not complain about or denigrate their current spouse while carrying on the secret immoral relationship. Normally the spouse is regularly insulted, criticized and disparaged to the new lover. It’s a means of justifying the betrayal and of convincing the paramour that they are different. Most of the time, the “other” woman or man is thoroughly convinced that they are better people in nearly every way and would be a superior partner. Nonsense! We are all sinners and defective and annoying. Marriage is learning how to get along anyway.
Deceit, disguise and misdirection
This is the final grab bag for everything I have failed to mention so far. Included in this are passwords that are changed or suddenly applied, a secret cell phone, a hidden checking account or, for the wealthy, an apartment unknown to the spouse. Trips out of town for reasons that don’t make sense, gifts that were purchased but never materialized are also examples. Marriages demand as much openness and accountability as possible. Any change in this is suspicious (although perhaps they are arranging a surprise party? Ok, I doubt it too.)
Keep in mind that it takes more than one or two of these signs before one’s suspicions should be aroused. A good marriage does not do well under a cloud of suspicion so caution is important. Naivete, on the other hand, is foolish.
Marriages can survive infidelity. In fact, they SHOULD more often than not. It requires genuine remorse from the offender, humility and forgiveness from the offended and a lot of work but the marriage can actually emerge stronger in the end. (Some women say: if he does this I’m gone! I get it but…what if YOU do it or something as repugnant and then repent? Do you wish that he should treat you the same? Also, are you morally superior? Don’t you need a great deal of mercy and grace just for him to live with you? Be careful saying there is anything you cannot forgive until it actually happens. Then take a careful look.)
Finally, to the unfaithful spouse, let me make this very clear. There is no way to have an “affair” without hurting someone!! It cannot be done and the damage will spread to more people than you ever imagined. Don’t fool yourself. Ultimately there is nothing “joyful” about this. Stop and turn back.