That’s right. There’s a lot more to infidelity than a physical act.
They had been married for eleven years and had two kids when she came in to talk with us. As she looked out at the future of their marriage, it wasn’t very bright. They were barely speaking to one another, aside from angry jabs and sarcastic remarks. There wasn’t anything that she considered to be arguing or abuse, and she didn’t think their kids had noticed anything.
I asked her if she thought there had been any infidelity, and she quickly responded “no!” She had no reason to suspect that. When he wasn’t at home, he was at work, and they communicated enough that she was confident he wasn’t seeing someone on the side.
I asked her about his work schedule, and the tears came. “He goes in early and he’s there until late in the evening,” she said. “We barely see him. He works most Saturdays and part of Sundays. I’ve been trying to schedule a family vacation for the last six months, but he says he can’t find the time. And three times in the last month, we’ve had chances to go out to dinner and he’s cancelled at the last minute because of work.”
She didn’t realize it, but her husband was being unfaithful to her. He wasn’t having an affair with another woman; his affair was with his job. He was displaying the exact same behavior you’d see in someone who was sleeping with someone else, and that behavior was doing just as much damage to their marriage.
There’s a common misconception that infidelity only involves sex. Far from it. Any pattern of behavior that is interfering with or substituting for normal connections in a relationship can be a form of infidelity. You can “have an affair” with golf or hobbies. You can have an affair with a job. You can have a deeply emotional affair with another person, and swear it wasn’t infidelity because it didn’t involve sex. But if you’re having intimate conversations with that person and sharing the kind of time couples spend together, and you’re hiding it from your spouse, guess what it is? Infidelity once again.
Fortunately, she came in before the marriage had completely collapsed. We transitioned to couples counseling, and it was an eye-opener for both of them. He didn’t realize how his workload made her feel, because he felt she didn’t want him around. She discovered that she had been so focused on their children that she really hadn’t been there for him. We helped them strengthen their communication skills and carve out uninterrupted time when they could focus on each other.
If you feel like someone … or something … is taking your spouse away from you, don’t sit back and assume it will get better. Without some kind of intervention, it’s likely to get worse. Call us and schedule a time to talk soon. We’ll share our ideas for steps that may not only preserve your marriage … but make it better than it’s ever been.