Even though surveys have shown that the majority of people are faithful in relationships, when it happens, sexual betrayal can be the most agonising trauma for anyone to endure. Even if you’re not married, it’s an unwritten agreement in all but the most casual of partnerships that each will not leap into bed with anyone else, let alone have a long-term sexual relationship with another person. But we are all human – and so, of course, are our partners. Affairs can happen, and do. So how can we spot if our partners are having an affair? There are five tell-tale signs:
Conversation: Our partners may mention the name of a particular woman or man more often than usual, sometimes repeating what they have said. Their conversation may feel slightly different and they may suddenly entertain new ideas that seem to have appeared from nowhere. The man who suddenly declares that he’s heard that Evening Primrose Oil is good for long life, and starts taking it, is a man to watch. A woman who’s never been known to read more than a magazine but who suddenly starts trying to wade through Proust might also be the subject of slight suspicion.
Sexuality: It’s not just people who go off sex altogether, claiming to have a headache or are too tired, who may be having an affair. Sometimes betrayers are so turned on sexually by their new lover that they start having more sex, rather than less, with the person back home.
General behaviour : They may become more secretive. They frequently claim to be exhausted or stressed, which usually means the betrayed feels inhibited about initiating a discussion about their suspicions – which is exactly what the person having the affair hopes to avoid. Guilt makes them bad-tempered or angry if anything intimate is mentioned. If you start questioning, they may well reply: `Get off my back. Of course, I’m not having an affair. How the hell would I have time?’ An innocent person would probably take the time to reassure you lovingly.
Appearance : People who are having affairs usually start to look better, partly because they’re paying more attention to their appearance by exercising or buying new clothes, but partly, too, because it’s impossible to hide the happy flush of sexual and loving excitement that infuses them.
Your intuition: Perhaps the most tell-tale sign of your partner having an affair is your own intuition. Unless you have a long history of unfounded jealousy or paranoia, then you’re almost certainly right. If your partner isn’t having an affair, he or she is almost certainly thinking about it. We trust our intuition far too little these days.
In the past, there have been some rather pathetic claims about how affairs can have a beneficial effect on a marriage. Maybe a very few have that effect, because they force the unfaithful person to realise how much he or she has risked losing, but on the whole they’re destructive. `While it’s true that if you asked Joe Bloggs what he’d do, in theory, if his wife had an affair, he’d probably say he’d leave her, the reality is that more people stay together than split,’ says Julia Cole. `The problem is that the breech of trust is incredibly difficult to repair. One young man said that when his wife had an affair it was as though a crystal vase had fallen from his grasp and he was now trying to fit all the shards back together again.’