Is your man about to cheat on you?

The problems in your marriage may signal an affair that’s waiting to happen. Here’s how to fix them before his cheating heart takes over. By Sasha Gonzales

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The problems in your marriage may signal an affair that’s waiting to happen. Here’s how to fix them before his cheating heart takes over. By Sasha Gonzales

JASMINE SIANG, psychotherapist, Heart-To-Heart Psychotherapy
JASMINE SIANG, psychotherapist, Heart-To-Heart Psychotherapy
JASMINE SIANG, psychotherapist, Heart-To-Heart Psychotherapy
JASMINE SIANG, psychotherapist, Heart-To-Heart Psychotherapy

When Adeline* found out that her husband of 12 years was having an affair with his colleague, she was more surprised than devastated. The affair seemed to come out of nowhere.

“I really believed Darren* and I had a good marriage,” says the 42-year-old human resources manager. “We never really fought and we had an okay sex life. There was no reason at all for me to believe that he would betray me like that. When I found out about the affair, I wondered how our marriage had gotten to that point.”

The affair was short-lived and the couple decided to rebuild their relationship and attend counselling together.

When she looks back on her marriage before the affair began, however, Adeline says Darren displayed a few signs that he had “checked out” emotionally. “I didn’t realise it at the time, but he wasn’t happy at home,” she shares. “At certain points, I noticed that he was withdrawn. I figured it was stress-related and didn’t talk to him about it.”

Adeline recalls other occasions where Darren felt she didn’t appreciate him or care about him enough – issues that came to light only after theyʼd been for counselling. “Had Darren and I just been more open with each other about our feelings, and had we been more aware of the problems in our marriage, perhaps the affair would not have taken place,” she adds.

Jasmine Siang, a psychotherapist at Heart-To-Heart Psychotherapy, says no one actually plans to have an affair. The majority of extra-marital affairs happen spontaneously.

“Infidelity is typically the result of one spouse not getting his or her needs met in the marriage,” she explains. “If someone else – whom they think can fulfil these emotional, physical, sexual and/or intellectual needs – comes along, they will gravitate towards that person. If the conditions are right, they may even decide to have an affair.

“Of course, cheating on your spouse is never the answer to whatever problems you have in your marriage. However, for the one being unfaithful, that feeling of disconnectedness or dissatisfaction is very real, and they may find solace and comfort in forging a sexual and/or emotional connection with someone else.”

Most of us would be able to tell if our spouse was having an affair. We’ve all heard of the classic telltale signs – from text messages at odd hours of the day and night to the lipstick marks on the collar, and the sudden change in his appearance or lifestyle habits.

But you don’t want to wait until it gets to that point before reviewing your relationship with your husband or asking yourself what went wrong.

Here are a few signs that signal that an affair may be waiting to happen. If you notice any of these behaviours, bring it up to him and work together to get to the root of the problem before he decides to look for satisfaction elsewhere.

He doesn’t seem happy anymore. He appears moody and withdrawn, and doesn’t react positively when he sees you or when you call him, says Jasmine.

He’s easily annoyed or angered. Jasmine says your husband may snap at you when you ask him what he’s doing or where he’s going because bitterness or resentment may have set in and he can’t help but take it out on you.

He’s no longer interested in sex. A low libido may also indicate problems with your hubby’s health, such as erectile dysfunction disorder. But if you know for sure that he is healthy, then a loss of interest may mean that he no longer feels emotionally connected to you, says Jasmine. When he lacks this connection, he loses the desire for sexual intimacy.

He’s stopped trying to make you happy. He used to make an effort to please you, but now it’s like he doesn’t care anymore, says Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre. In fact, you feel like he’s starting to take you for granted altogether.

He’s not emotionally connected to you. He seems distant or distracted and unable to keep his mind in the present, says Jasmine. Sometimes, when you try to have a conversation with him, he acts as if he’d rather be somewhere else. It’s also become difficult to relate to him.

He accuses you of not appreciating or caring about him. This is a pretty direct expression of your husband’s lack of relationship satisfaction, says Daniel, so don’t brush him off or get angry or defensive if he reveals this to you.

He prefers to spend time outside the home, and with other people. He seems to have more fun when he’s out with friends or co-workers, says Daniel, and most of the time, you don’t really know what he’s doing, where he is or who he’s with.

In addition to changes in his behaviour, Daniel and Jasmine believe that certain triggers can push your man over the edge and send him looking for fulfilment outside the marriage.

If you’re dealing with any of these problems in your relationship right now, here’s what you can do to stop them from getting worse:

Constant fighting. Nobody enjoys living in a hostile environment. It’s emotionally draining and unproductive. Daniel says the next time you feel an argument about to come on, stay calm and – in a normal voice – tell your husband that you want to discuss the issue civilly.

When you’re both feeling in control over your emotions, talk the problem through without yelling, without getting angry or defensive, and without blaming each other. Then, seek a resolution together.

When you can solve problems together amicably instead of wanting to get at each other’s throats, there will be less tension in your household and your husband will be less likely to seek comfort or support elsewhere.

Lack of communication. Have you stopped talking to each other altogether? Do your conversations revolve solely around the kids or work? Jasmine says that communication is a building block of emotional intimacy in a relationship, so if you’ve stopped communicating with your spouse the way you used to, tell him.

“Sit him down and explain what you’ve observed – that you’re no longer really talking to each other – and share how you feel, whether it’s worried, sad, insecure, or afraid. Pay attention to his reaction. Then, discuss when and how the communication breakdown happened and look for ways to get it back on track so you don’t drift further apart,” she says.

Loss of passion, affection and intimacy. When you lose this aspect of your relationship, you are at risk of losing that all-important closeness and connection, says Jasmine.

If you can’t remember the last time you made love, went out on a date, or just held hands and shared a passionate kiss, it might be time to bring the romance and excitement back. Once again, share your feelings and discuss how you can work on becoming close again.

Neglect. Have you stopped paying attention to your husband or doing things to make him feel happy and supported? Are you neglecting him because you feel that he’s neglecting you?

“When your spouse doesn’t feel that you value or cherish him, he may think that he is useless or not up to your standard, and he may resent you for it,” says Daniel.

You should both make it a point to take care of each other’s emotional needs. Compliment each other, offer support, and really listen to each other when you’re conversing. These gestures, though small, can make your man feel like the most important person in the world.