Several months ago my best friend's husband informed her that he had been having an affair for over two years and he was leaving her for another woman. Just recently another friend caught her husband cheating. This couple has not separated yet but I won't be surprised if they do, and soon. She's so upset that I don't see how they can last. I thought both of these couples were happy together. My husband and I get along fine and I've never worried about him cheating on me, but all of this has made me realize it can happen to anybody. Now I find myself terrified I'm going to end up just like my friends. What do you think -- CAN it happen to anyone?
There may be a couple of reasons for your letter. You might have a sneaking suspicion about your husband that you're not willing to admit in the letter, or maybe not even to yourself. If so, there are a number of common signs you can look for to tell if your husband might be cheating on you. For example, does he have unexplained absences or excessive mileage on his car? What about changes in grooming, wardrobe, spending habits or level of affection toward you and your children? Do the same unknown numbers show up repeatedly on his cell phone bill, often immediately after leaving or before returning home? Perhaps he has frequent short phone calls when he is home, to which he doesn't want anyone to listen. You can find more extensive lists of signs here and here. The same indicators, by and large, also apply to wives who cheat.
If you ever find yourself in a situation similar to your girlfriends, I urge you to seek help from a qualified third party such as a counselor or psychologist. Depending on the circumstances, you may also benefit from the services of a private investigator or lawyer. Dealing with the aftermath of an affair can be extremely traumatic and you needn't (in fact, shouldn't) go through it alone. Children typically find the experience difficult and are also likely to benefit from some help.
Another possibility is that your worry has nothing to do with your husband's behavior. Your stress may be strictly a response to what your girlfriends are going through. Based on your letter, I suspect this might be closer to the truth for you. This brings me back to your essential question: In the absence of any signs of cheating, should you be worried anyway?
Think about what happens when a married person cheats. At some point in the process they are presented with an opportunity; a potential partner becomes available. Now they have a choice. They can opt to begin the affair or decline the opportunity. Obviously, some people choose to cheat. But can it really happen to anybody? Does everyone on the planet have a particular set of temptations that, for them, would tip the scales and cause them to cheat? Or are some people immune to such temptations?
I firmly believe that many, many people are immune. The evidence is all around us. A tremendous number of couples are faithful to each other for their entire lives. This couldn't happen if everyone was constantly at risk of leaping into bed with someone else. What defines a person like this? I can sum up the difference between those at risk of cheating and those who aren't in one word: commitment.
Some people enter marriage with an astonishingly low level of commitment. Stories of spouses who cheat right from the beginning are all too common. (...which makes me wonder why they bother spending all that money on a wedding, but maybe that's just me.) Others seem to give up; problems and discontentment grow to the point where the marriage loses much of its appeal. As the level of caring drops, susceptibility to temptation outside the marriage can grow.
Not everyone is like that, however. By definition, when someone is truly committed to their marriage, cheating is not an option. It is simply not part of the plan.
A committed partner:
- accepts the inevitability that their spouse will be imperfect, just like everyone else;
- does not view imperfection as grounds for long-term discontent;
- believes in solving problems instead of running away from them;
- is repulsed by the thought of hurting their spouse and children;
- could not bear the possibility of waking up each morning and having breakfast in a different house from their spouse and children; and
- realizes that the grass on the other side of the fence is no greener. In fact, the other plot of grass is sure to have its own patch of weeds.
How can you tell which situation applies to you? I urge you to trust your instincts. If you have suspicions, you might want to check out the links I've provided above. Many husbands, though, are loving and completely devoted partners. These men could camp out for months in the Playboy mansion with no danger whatsoever that they would do anything to hurt their spouses. (Okay, so the camping trip alone might be enough to raise some eyebrows, but you know what I mean.) If your gut says your man is such a guy, then open your heart and give him the trust he deserves. Not only will this improve your peace of mind, it might save you from creating the very problem you so desperately want to avoid. Baseless suspicion and mistrust can drive a wedge between you and your husband. In some cases this even leads men to seek comfort elsewhere.
In short, it's kind of like the song: Don't worry, be happy ... unless you know of a specific reason to do otherwise.
Do you have a concern about your relationship? I am truly committed to answering any questions you might like to send in.