How could I have been so blind?
I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming.
How could I have been so totally deceived?
If only I would have figured out what was going on before, maybe I would have been able to stop the affair before it started.
Ultimately, none of us can control the actions of another person. There is no way to be 100 % certain that your spouse won’t cheat on you, because you can’t control his or her actions.
However, there are often signs that someone is having an affair, is on the verge of having one, or is considering one. If you identify these signs early enough and discuss your concerns with your spouse in advance, you may be able to help strengthen the marriage commitment so your partner will reconsider or stop the affair or potential affair.
There is no guarantee that your spouse won’t cheat on you. But being aware of the signs that indicate something might be amiss in your marriage and learning how to communicate these concerns as soon as they arise is one more tool that can help you protect your marriage now and for many years to come.
In this final article in my three-part series on stopping an affair before it starts, I want to help you learn what some of these signs are so you can stop potential problems before they start.
Essentially this is an extension of what we have been talking about in the last two articles. It’s about understanding what your boundaries are and communicating concerns with your spouse when those boundaries have been breached. It’s about both of you vigilantly protecting your marriage from the potential of an affair so you can minimize the possibility that such a catastrophic event will occur.
So what are some of the warning signs that your spouse is in danger of crossing the line and ending up in an affair?
Signs that Your Marriage Might be in Danger
Consider the following:
Your husband is late coming home from work twice this week. When you ask him about it, he looks at you with a moment of panic, then mumbles something about having a big project due at work and walks out the room.
You find this suspicious, but you don’t say anything about it, because you trust your husband and you could never imagine he would cheat on you.
Then a couple more days go by and you hear him in the other room whispering on the phone. The minute you walk in he says, “Gotta go,” and hangs up the phone abruptly.
Should you be suspicious that your husband is having an affair?
It really depends on the context doesn’t it?
If your marriage is healthy, you might not be concerned. After all, perhaps your husband is planning a wonderful surprise for your upcoming birthday, he’s been out late in the evenings shopping for supplies, and he’s calling your friends in private to tell them about the event.
On the other hand, if your husband is also dressing differently or acting aloof, you might reasonably be concerned.
Consider another scenario.
Imagine you and your wife are out at a restaurant and she openly flirts with the waiter in a suggestive manner.
Is this a reason to be concerned?
I believe most husbands would worry about this behavior.
Now I could give you a list of signs or scenarios that might make you suspicious of your spouse’s integrity. This list would include:
. Late nights out without explanation
. Phone calls received from people you don’t know and your spouse is unwilling to discuss them
. Cell phone records that reveal calls from people you don’t know
. Receiving other correspondences (like email from people you don’t know)
. Sneaking around behind your back-saying he or she is going to meet with a friend but evidence arises your spouse was somewhere else
. Flirting with someone of the opposite gender
. Sitting in a corner with someone of the opposite gender at a party or other event talking in an intimate manner
This list could be extensive, including hundreds of suspicious situations. You could probably construct the list yourself.
Remember that nothing is foolproof to determine that someone is not in an affair, and the only certain evidence of involvement in an affair is to catch them in the act.
With these considerations in mind, let’s look at several approaches you can take to help you decide if you should be suspicious or not.
1. Use your suspicions to zone in on problems in your marriage
2. Discuss boundaries and potential and actual breaches of boundaries
Let’s look at each of these briefly.
Using Your Suspicions to Zone in on Problems in Your Marriage
If you have been following my work, you may have read articles on this topic. To utilize this approach when you feel suspicious, follow these two steps.
First, develop a “suspicion filter.” I mean that you consider your suspicious feelings with your rational mind. Use your adult thinking rather than your feelings or childhood fears to ask yourself whether or not the behavior your spouse is engaged in is a threat to your marriage, your relationship, or your commitment.
Which circumstances make it through your filter and alert your warning system, and which are caught in the filter and discarded largely depend on the broader context of your relationship.
Let’s go back to the example of the man who was coming home late and making “secret” calls for an example of how this might work.
If neither you nor your spouse has ever had an affair, your marriage is relatively stable, and your husband is consistently loving and considerate towards you, you might contemplate this situation and let it pass if it does not go on longer than a few weeks.
Well, in that context you don’t have a whole lot of reason to suspect your spouse is lying to you, cheating on you, or otherwise undermining your relationship behind your back.
After all, there are many rational or logical reasons someone might act like this. Planning a surprise party as I mentioned above is one. Another possibility is that he really is busy with a project at work and is taking calls from the office, but he also wants to spend time with you so he rushes to get off the phone when you come in the room. There are clearly other possibilities as well.
The point is that the context of your relationship and your previous experience with your spouse guide you to decide that this particular incident is not a threat to your marriage, and it is filtered out and discarded.
On the other hand, if this behavior continues, or becomes worse, or is accompanied by other changes such as dressing or grooming differently, arriving home late from work, or if he is unusually unreachable at times, or is treating you differently, these behaviors should get through your filter and fire off your warning alarms no matter what your history was.
Even if he isn’t having an affair, you will want to address situations like these in a way that hopefully strengthens his commitment to you and your marriage. You would know from my other writings that I always encourage transparency in marriage.
You might be asking yourself, “How do I communicate my concerns in a way that encourages him to strengthen his commitment?”
You know there are no guarantees in relationships. In my experience, I have found that direct communication is the best, and would encourage you both to be transparent in your thoughts and actions.
Here is a sample of how you might begin a discussion based on the scenario above:
Sweetie, when you come home late without calling me, I get afraid. I fear you’ve been hurt or injured or fallen suddenly ill and couldn’t call. I wouldn’t think you want me to feel these awful feelings and think these awful thoughts. Can you imagine what I have been going through? I am not blaming you for anything, I just want you to understand what I went through.
Notice that there is no blame, no attack, and you give your spouse the benefit of the doubt that he wouldn’t want you to have these thoughts and feelings if he could help it. The best possible response is that your spouse wants to discuss the situation with a caring and concerned attitude
As long as your suspicion is based on legitimate objective data and your spouse is trying to act with integrity, when you express your fears it should open up a dialog between you.
If it doesn’t, there may be other issues in your marriage that need to be dealt with more directly. That doesn’t automatically mean your spouse is having an affair. Perhaps you both need to work on your communication skills or some other problems in your marriage. There are many possibilities.
Or it could be possible that your spouse is having an affair or is in danger of being on the path toward an affair.
Either way, using your suspicions can help you zone in on the problems in your marriage. And it might help you stop an affair before it starts.
The other approach to strengthen your marriage in the face of suspicions is to discuss boundaries for your relationship and your marriage and talk about breaches and potential breeches of boundaries.
Boundaries: Identify and Discuss
In the last two articles I provided information about boundaries and how important they are, especially when it comes to male-to-female relationships.
Identifying what your boundaries are, what you feel comfortable with, what you don’t feel comfortable with, and discussing all of this with your spouse is an important way to protect your marriage.
Think back to the example above where the man’s wife openly and suggestively flirted with a waiter in a restaurant.
This is basically a boundaries issue. The woman, in this case, is stepping over a boundary. The husband feels uncomfortable with his wife’s flirtation, and rightfully so.
The key here is to discuss problems like this when they arise.
I recommend you converse first about the boundaries you want to have around male-to-female relationships.
Then you are in a position to consider situations that could challenge those boundaries together. Later, when you face actual situations where your boundaries are breached or potentially breached, you should take the opportunity to review the circumstances with your spouse as soon as possible.
This does not have to be (and should not be) a confrontational experience for either of you. If you were the man in the story above you might introduce your talk with:
Honey, I love you very much. I want us to be together and have a wonderful marriage. I have something I want to tell you, and I hope that you hear it as coming from your best friend, which I want to be.
When you pushed your breasts out toward the waiter and maintained intense eye-contact with him, and then licked your lips and winked when you asked for more wine, I felt awful. I felt insignificant in your life at that moment as if you were throwing me away.
I don’t like feeling that way. Can you imagine yourself in my situation and I had flirted like that? I don’t want to blame you, I just want you to understand what I felt.
Again, your spouse’s reaction in a situation like this can be an indicator as to how committed he or she is to working on your marriage and keeping it safe and happy for years to come.
Obviously, effectively executing either of these approaches takes practice, and it requires that you master some other skills as well, like effectively communicating with your spouse. These techniques won’t heal every problem in your marriage by themselves.
But if you openly address legitimate suspicions you have and you talk about even potential breaches of boundaries, and you maintain basic transparency in your relationship, you have a much better chance of protecting your marriage, ending affairs before they start, and keeping your relationship safe for the years to come.
Not only that, approaches like these give you an opportunity to communicate with your spouse in ways you might not otherwise consider. And talking, as you know, has the potential to make your marriage better than ever.
These aren’t “pie in the sky” solutions. They take work. They require effort. And even then they don’t protect you 100% of the time.
But they will help you save your marriage, survive an affair, and create a marriage that is better than ever if you practice them.
Let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage.
Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,