Betty sat up suddenly! She had been trying to sleep and has suddenly come to the realization that again, for the third day in a row, sleep has eluded her. If only she could just get some hours of sleep. Not just to calm her nerves or to silence the throbbing ache in her head, but most importantly, she wishes a nap would send her to dreamland and turn the events of the last three days to what it really is – a nightmare. If only it could be so, she thought. If only someone could wake her up from dreamland. Oh! If only her broken heart could be put together again. She will give anything to have her home intact again, her trust and respect for Dave, her childhood love untainted.
It usually is a very rude shock when an unsuspecting spouse is suddenly confronted with hard evidence of infidelity. The same is the case even when the offended party had suspected all along but chose to be in denial or gave excuses for the philandering spouse, not wanting his or her suspicions to be confirmed.
Betty’s pain and trauma is one that is gradually becoming the norm in our society. More fearful is the fact that many Christian homes are not spared as day after day, pastors and Christian counsellors are constantly being inundated with tales of broken trust, adultery and betrayal even by Christian couples and in many instances by pastors.
It will therefore be foolishness to play the ostrich and imagine that the situation will rectify itself all by itself. Something needs to be done to address the social malady called adultery especially among Christian couples. If this must be done, then it will be important to identify the symptoms and of course the root causes so that we don’t end up cutting off leaves and branches when the entire tree needs to be uprooted.
Symptoms of Adultery
The seven symptoms listed below are not in any way exhaustive of the behaviour or attitudes that are indicative of adultery. There may be others not listed that might spell out the same tendencies since individuals are different and will give off signals in totally different and other unsuspecting ways.
It is also important to know that it is possible for your partner to manifest any and all of the symptoms and not be in an adulterous relationship. There may be other peculiar reasons and circumstances that might have necessitated his or her change in behaviour. Closely related to this is the fact that there will be situations in which a partner is cheating and he or she covers it up so nicely that the spouse does not get to know or even suspect. Some people are experts at playing the cover up game. Be that as it may, the following are likely indications that all may not be quite well:
- A sudden secretiveness: You may discover that phones and iPads are getting passworded and some calls are either dismissed with promises to return the calls later or they are outrightly ignored. Some calls are picked but the receiving spouse moves away from the spouse’s earshot before picking or conversing.
- Unpredictable movement: When all of a sudden, your spouse’s movement becomes unpredictable. Meetings are suddenly being held at odd and unusual times, official trips become the order of the day and enquiries made about the purpose and outcome of the meetings and trips are briskly brushed aside.
- A sudden interest and attention to physical appearance: He or she may start making an effort to dress younger, older or differently or being impeccably turned out. Cologne or jewellery may become new additions to his dress code, possibly all in a bid to impress the other woman in the case of a male or indiscriminate exposure or flashing of excess flesh such as cleavage, thighs, and curves when it is a lady.
- Reduced libido: When his or her libido reduces drastically or totally flies out the window, then there may be cause for alarm. A dead or boring sex life may be due to stress, health or anxiety in some cases, but it may also be a pointer to infidelity.
- Picking quarrels: When the man or woman picks a flight for the slightest reason and grumbles at any and everything, then his or her heart may be far from the word fidelity. Nothing seems to satisfy such a spouse and many times and on many issues, the situation is more of damned if you do and damned if you don’t! Head or tail, the cheated spouse loses.
- Slightly extreme or unpredictable behaviour: When a spouse suddenly becomes more generous and tolerating (usually out of guilt) and when he is a male and he suddenly becomes so willing…extra willing to send you and the kids away on that holiday…and then offers to stay back – there may be fire on the mountain. On the flip side is a situation in which the man becomes tight fisted or less generous than he usually is…mainly because his resources are being stretched thin and something needs to give way.
- Strained relationship: There may be just this slight or major tightness around your marital relationship. You may find out your banters and gists don’t flow as usual, a strain in your friendship (if you are friends). You make the motions but you are not connecting properly.
Many times, these symptoms are there but we are unable to interpret them accurately. A spouse being cheated on may even attempt to treat the symptoms but end up frustrated largely because a treatment of the symptoms is never the way out of the malady. It is the ability to identify the root causes and to deal with them appropriately.
Causes of infidelity – Proverbs 16 – 18
What are the causes of infidelity?
What pushes a man or a woman to cheat on a spouse?
It does not matter whether it was a long standing affair or a one night stand, the pain and anguish that accompanies adultery can be deep and heart wrenching.
I therefore opine that rather than policing your spouse and ticking off the list of symptoms earlier mentioned in a sanctimonious, goggles on the tip of the nose manner, every discerning man and woman should instead focus on the possible causes of adultery and consciously work on their marriages with a view to adultery proofing their marriages. Below are some of the causes of infidelity. It is by no means an exhaustive list.
It is very possible to be married, yet lonely. Many couples though living together live separate lives and pursue totally different interests. They are just housemates. They hardly ever collaborate in respect of anything and there is no connection or companionship. The danger in situations like this is the fact that there is a high likelihood of having an adulterous affair with anyone that shows the slightest interest or inclination in that regard.
It is therefore important for couples to be deliberate about connecting at different levels. By this I mean that companionship shouldn’t only be physically being around to cheer and support. While that is important and necessary, I also strongly advocate that attention should also be given to intellectual companionship and social companionship.
Lack of love and affection.
A loveless marriage and one devoid of affection makes the two individuals trapped in it to long for other parties that will meet this very important need. When love has taken flight and affection is never expressed, then adultery is lurking in the shadows.
There are situations in which the husband and or wife will claim he or she loves the spouse but there is an inability to communicate or give expression to the love. It is important that we acknowledge that it is only a question of time before an expressive and exuberant person may come calling and oh! what an easy task it will be to sweep the dissatisfied partner off his or her feet.
The way out is for both parties to cultivate and nurture the love they have for each other. Be deliberate about giving expression to the love you share. Don’t take your spouse for granted. Do those little things as well as the big ones that communicate love loudly. Learn to be affectionate. A gentle squeeze of the hand, a hug and a pat on the back to accompany it, a wink and a reassuring smile in the midst of a crowd, a lingering kiss, running an errand without being promised an arm and a leg, buying and presenting a gift when there is no special occasion. All these and more will go a long way to communicate love and acceptance.
Communication barriers or a poor communication can also be the source of a quick death and an open doorway for adultery to creep through. When there can be no meaningful communication between a couple or when there is a total breakdown in communication, the desire to understand and to be understood and for conversation to be without rancour or innuendos can trigger a search for a companion with whom a flow can be achieved.
The rancour and misunderstanding that accompany a breakdown in communication is better imagined and those at the receiving end may unconsciously drift towards a companion or friend with whom they think a less toxic balance can be achieved.
Communication is key for the achievement of a fulfilling relationship with anyone. Time and space will not permit me to break this down in an exhaustive manner. Communication is not just speaking and listening. It is about ensuring that the right information is passed and the right information is received. Feedback is key. Packaging is also important. The way information is passed is as important if not more important than the actual information disseminated. What to say, when to say it, how to say it and by whom it is said are also key considerations. The ability to dialogue and avoid unnecessary friction in the process will oil the wheels of friendship and camaraderie in your marriage and eliminate the need to seek for peace and understanding in the arms of a strange man or woman.
Lack of intimacy and sexual fulfilment
Intimacy and sexual fulfilment are like two sides of a coin. While there can be sex without intimacy (prostitutes have successfully proved the theory right) there can be no intimacy without sex. A fast route to sexual frustration in marriage is therefore when time isn’t spent cultivating and building intimacy. When this isn’t done, sex becomes a mere physical activity with no emotional involvement or connection. Where this scenario is the case, sex very soon becomes mechanical, unsatisfying and unfulfilling.
It is therefore important that in every marriage, attention is given to fanning the embers of friendship and passion. When there is friendship, intimacy will be built and the act of lovemaking will become a journey of discovery, an exploration and mining of deeply embedded pleasures, that only intimacy can bring to existence.
This is the main reason why many who stray from marital fidelity find it difficult to trace their way back home. Many times, the other relationship is not just sexual. Intimacy has been built and a pulling away becomes difficult.
I advise all couples to strive at becoming good, intimate friends. I advocate that they take the openness, trust love that has been built into their matrimonial beds and that they enjoy sex as a playful activity, communicating to each other without any inhibition their desires and preferences, feeling free to explore and being committed to pleasuring and giving the utmost satisfaction to their spouses.
Build a fence of protection round your marriage. Invest in it and you will have no need to go after stolen waters that bring damnation to the soul.