Bergen Marriage & Couples Counseling

Phone Icon (201) 907-1207

Can There Be a Silver Lining Around the Cloud of An Infidelity?

silver lining

Section III: In Today's High Tech Era, It Is So Easy To Begin a
Secret Relationship, And So Easy To Be Discovered

Infidelity In A High Tech Era: Secrets And Exposures

Together Apart

Reuben E. Gross, Ph.D., ABP, ABPP, LMFT

(201) 837-0066
(201) 218-3112

Note: Both men and women cheat on their spouses. But it would be confusing if I switched genders in every sentence. Since men do this more frequently, the article is slanted in that direction, i.e., the husband is the "offending party," and the wife is the "hurt party." All statements go in both directions, and the words "husband," "wife," "partner" are interchangeable. The words "marriage" and "relationship" are also interchangeable.

Unfaithful partners are seeking their own emotional satisfaction, the fulfillment of psychological needs, and/or physical pleasures. Since they do not wish to hurt their spouses, they delude themselves into believing that their spouse "will never find out, and what they don't know won't hurt them." The purpose of this article is to highlight the fragility of this self-serving belief and hopefully deter those individuals who are on the brink of an affair. Further, for those already involved, it is always better to confess and reveal rather than be discovered. Rebuilding trust is more difficult when the hurt party makes the discovery by herself, …and she can.

The devastation and heartache of an affair cannot be simply "smoothed over" by the couple as they "get on with their lives." The lack of trust, pain, and heartache will linger. The problem should be faced directly. It can be addressed successfully with professional guidance. Click here for the article "Coping With Infidelity."

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on tracking down errant spouses. Nothing in this article should be understood that I am giving advice on how to do so. The purpose of the article is to let people know that errant behavior can be traced and discovered comparatively easily.

Then vs. Now

In Ancient China, soldiers stationed along the Great Wall would alert each other of impending enemy attack by signaling from tower to tower. In this way, they were able to transmit a message as far away as 750 kilometers (470 mi) in just a few hours.

Polybius, a Greek historian, came up with a complex system of alphabetical smoke signals more than 2000 years ago. He invented a system of converting Greek alphabetic characters into numeric characters. The North American Indians also communicated via smoke signal. All of those communications had one thing in common: There was no privacy.

Sending personal communications far distances required a mail system and was not initially used for casual social communications. When people lived in fairly isolated communities, they had very little access to others not living close by, so it was hard to maintain a relationship with an out of towner, much less keep it secret. In small villages and towns, people could easily observe what others were up to, and so it was impossible to keep an ongoing relationship secret.

Enter The 21st Century

In today's high tech era, and especially for people who live in cities, a person can easily engage in clandestine relationships with others both within as well as outside of his/her own community, and even with a person who lives thousands of miles away. Today the bulk of communications in relationships are not dependant on meeting a secret acquaintance face to face. People are "meeting" using ordinary telephones, cell phones, and email. They are skyping or using webcams when they want to see each other, and can do so with complete privacy within moments of pressing a single memory button or clicking a "mouse." In split seconds, text messages and photos are being sent thousands of miles away. Then it was impossible, but now, it's so easy.

In addition to the opportunities offered by mobile devices, people augment their mobility by the use of cars and airplanes; and they achieve privacy for physical contact with the proximity of motels.

Unlike earlier times when work was dictated by the rotation of the sun, many people sometimes stay late at their job, entertain out-of-town customers, have changing shifts, or need to travel on a regular basis. Spouses do not know from hour to hour, day to day, or even week to week (unless their partner "remembers" to give them the "updated" itinerary) where their spouse is supposed to be at any given time, much less where he actually is.

The Truth Will Come Out

Many discoveries of hidden communications or relationships with a third party are made by an unsuspecting partner by accident. This may happen when a wife comes across a very personal email or text message to (or from) her husband, sometimes with attached pictures, from a member of the opposite sex. She might have innocently used her husband's computer for some household related tasks. Or found her husband's cell phone in some forgotten corner of the house, picked it up to return it to him, and noticed a suspicious text on the screen. Perhaps her curiosity was then aroused to check his incoming/outgoing calls, and she discovered a certain phone number occurring again and again. Her suspicions would be aroused if the calls were frequent, lengthy, and/or at odd hours. Of course, emails are much more revealing as there is little opportunity to explain away the printed word.

One woman told me that she found it peculiar that her husband took his cell phone with him at all times, even into the bathroom. Another woman was surprised when she picked up her husband's cell phone to answer it, and he grabbed it from her. Yet another was suspicious of his facial expressions and mood after sending/responding to certain texts. Sometimes, a behavior does not raise suspicion, but when added to another unusual behavior, the woman thinks back to the first and starts putting two and two together.

I've worked with wives who accidentally came across a female's name and phone number on a piece of paper or found receipts from a jewelry or clothing store in his pocket when doing laundry. Unfortunately, this does not just happen in the movies. Another wife found motel receipts with in-room flowers and champagne charges while emptying her spouse's pockets before taking them to the dry cleaners. Yet another woman was searching for her husband's attaché case at his request for some needed object or information. She found a list of female names and out of town phone numbers next to each one. Her husband was self-employed and did a lot of traveling. I had another situation where a husband left the room for a few moments, and when his cell phone rang, his wife answered it only to learn that the female caller was surprised to hear a woman answering her "boyfriend's" cell phone.

One client told me that she smelled perfume on their husband as he walked into the house. Another wife found a lipstick in the husband's car. However, neither of these situations are "smoking guns" since the man may have taken a heavily perfumed female colleague to the train station after work or driven some colleagues to a team lunch during which time a woman spilled contents of her pocketbook. In these two cases, the husband bolstered his claim with other facts and evidence, and the wife believed him.

Woman on Computer

Other Sources of Suspicion: Even More Likely Symptoms of an Affair

Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire is Dangerous
Sometimes, the wife becomes suspicious when she discovers a cell phone in her husband's possession that she did not know existed. Or she may note E-Z Pass charges for trips across the G.W. Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel, not at the usual commuting times of her spouse. On one occasion, a husband told his wife that his arrival time from his out-of-town business trip was at 8:22 p.m., and in fact, he did come home shortly after that time. The problem was that the bill from the chauffeur service, which she found on their vanity, said that he was picked up at the airport at 1 p.m. The wife wondered how her husband spent his time between the 1 p.m. pickup at the airport and his arrival at home at 9:30 p.m.

In one situation, a wife's interest was aroused when she visited her husband's place of business and noticed his business credit card bill, which had charges from stores that neither she nor her husband frequented. In another case, a wife raised her eyebrows when she spotted a charge from Victoria's Secrets for items that her husband had not given to her. She did not buy his explanation that he purchased them for her as a surprise for her next birthday, which was not for another six months. Further, he knew her taste in that area, and these were items she would never have worn.

A common sign that something is awry is when a husband makes a cluster of changes without a clear impetus e.g., his choice of after-shave cologne, takes an increased interest in how he looks, joins a gym, loses weight, buys new clothing, or gets spruced up more frequently than usual because he has "an important client" to meet that day. Another possible symptom of an affair would be a change in the male's sexual behavior. Sometimes a man will slack off in frequency, claiming he is tired or busy. But in other situations, the opposite occurs in that the errant husband becomes more creative and passionate with his unsuspecting and deluded wife.

Other reasons for a wife's suspicions arise when her husband spends more and more time away from home or seems more distant or uncaring. At other times, a wife might complain that she called her husband's cell phone all evening when he was "out with some friends," left numerous messages, but he never answered his phone or called her back. Why not? Excuses may range from "I left it off by mistake" to "it was so noisy that I didn't hear it ring," or "I left my phone in the car." How many of these excuses must she hear before she becomes suspicious?

Most suspicious behaviors or events can be explained, but not necessarily to the satisfaction of the wife. One wife told me that she found a box of condoms in her husband's car, and one condom was missing. She did not believe that a friend of his had borrowed his car and "must have left them there." When suspicious evidence piles up, even plausible explanations are often not believed. Should they be?

A wife will certainly become suspicious if she catches her husband in an outright lie. In one situation, the husband told his wife that he came home late because he was delayed at the office. But the wife had spoken to the receptionist who said he had left the office at 5:30 p.m. and had not returned (as there was only one door and she had not left her desk until 8:30 p.m.). In another case, the husband left the house Saturday morning, saying that he was going to his office. His suspicious wife drove to the office a half-hour later and did not see his parked car. Where was he?

Except for cases where the husband's job requires that he meet many people in a variety of settings, the knowledge that her husband was seen in public with another woman would be a cause for great suspicion for most wives. I once had a situation in which the wife's parents saw their son-in-law come out of a movie with a woman that they did not recognize. On another occasion, the errant male, who had a 9-5 office job which did not include out-of-the-office meetings or entertaining customers, was spotted tete-a-tete with a woman by the wife's friend in a clearly non-business setting.

An upsetting behavior may range from a comparatively innocent, but secret, phone call or email to someone the husband met in a chat room to the more serious secret phone call, email, or "lunch" with an "ex." This latter type of errant behavior is all the more damaging when the hurt partner personally knows, or at least has heard about her spouse's "ex," and has been promised by her spouse, or committed partner, that he cut off all ties to that person. With one of my clients, the husband actually called the other woman with his wife in the room and told his "ex" that since he is now married and does not wish to upset his wife, he is cutting off all ties, told her that we would not call her, asked the "ex" never to call him either and affirmed that he would not take her calls. But he failed to keep his promise. I've had this happen many times. The errant husband loses his wife's trust and is pushed further and further away. His efforts to win his wife back are more complex, and he will have to work much harder if he wishes to succeed.

Conscious or Unconscious Denial

Sometimes, a wife will close one eye to the suspicious behavior of her spouse. She may even brush off the delicately-put comments of her alert and suspicious close friends. Such a woman may flit in and out of denial, ignoring signs of infidelity because she fears a confrontation, hurt and pain, and the possibility of the breakup of her marriage. I've had situations where husbands have been unfaithful for years and even decades and often with more than one woman.

Technology Tells All: You Can't Really Hide

However, in most cases, upsetting discoveries by a spouse are not ignored. The offended partner will then make a concerted effort to retrieve from the computer's "trash" the suspected partner's deleted email messages and attachments. She will carefully search electronic records of (hopefully undeleted) incoming and outgoing cell phone texts or calls. The suspicious wife will now scrutinize all hard copy phone or credit card bills looking for frequent calls to/from a certain number, especially if they were made at a "suspicious" time or from a suspicious store. Sometimes, the wife will simply ask her husband who the phone number belongs to, and at other times she will call the number herself and become very upset if a female answers the phone.

Do-it-Yourselfers Can Rapidly Uncover The Truth

The do-it-yourselfers, who suspect that their spouse is using the home phone for surreptitious calls, can go to uspystore.com and purchase numerous "spy equipment." This website has a special section called "Spouse Cheating" and offers a plethora of equipment that suspicious "do-it-yourself" wives may wish to try out. Wives who wish to trace their spouse's computer activities can buy "007 Spyware" at e-spy-software.com, which will track every key pressed including as well as log-ins to such sites as "Facebook," "Twitter, "Married But Lonely," EHarmony.com." "Asian Women," "Match.com," "Plenty of Fish," as well as pornographic and other sites offensive to the wife. These keyword logger applications help a person discover email passwords, incoming as well as outgoing emails, and internet chats. Other spouses buy voice-activated recorders and place them under the seat of their husband's car, thus determining who he talks to while driving his car. Other sources sell a "Home Evidence Collection Kit," which will analyze stains, including body fluids on clothing, car seats, or elsewhere.

And for those spouses who wish to track the physical movements of their husband or wife, there is a real-time tracking system that can be hidden in a car, a GPS tracking device, which gives a detailed report of the car's location and activities. A GPS Live Tracking gives the vehicle's current location immediately, and you can log into this information from anywhere that you have internet access. Other apps that can be uploaded onto her husband's cell phone can track his whereabouts by the minute.

Some women go to Internet programs such as "reverse lookup" on Switchboard.com or on Google.com that give the name and address of the person whose phone number is typed into the search bar. Women have told me that once they discovered the name of the other woman, they looked her up on Facebook. They then found pictures of their husband together with the other woman (whom he had denied knowing) on the Facebook page of the woman he had been calling.

One savvy woman told me that she did not believe her husband when he said he'd be sleeping at a hotel close to the out-of-town meeting he had the next morning since she suspected he'd be at another woman's house. When she called him at 10 p.m., and he said he was in his hotel room, she told him to hang up, take a picture of the room with his smartphone, and email it to her on the spot. At no surprise to her, he did not comply with her request.

In her book "Is He Cheating on You?" Ruth Houston relates 829 different signs of cheating. And in addition to all of the tell-tale signs that have been noted here, let us not ignore a woman's intuition. Many many women have reported to me, "I just had a feeling." In today's high tech era, once suspicions are aroused, secret connections are easily traced, and the findings often confirm doubts and a growing loss of trust. I have known spouses who were unable to retrieve any "smoking gun" data by their own efforts but could not ignore various changes in their relationships and so to clear things up; they hired private investigators to follow and document the movements of their husbands. Following the investigator's report, the wife would "innocently" ask her husband how he spent the previous day, or how come he came home so late the previous evening. If her husband's reply contradicted that of the investigator, it would be clear he had broken her trust. This scenario was usually followed by a confrontation wherein the husband had no choice but to confess, especially if the investigator presented "smoking gun" information such as pictures, or tape recordings.

Summary

The suspicious behavior of a spouse may embrace a wide range of activities. A spouse who is suddenly "busy" at the office may not arouse suspicion, but doubts may begin to grow, possibly at a subconscious, or even conscious level when a person is questioned and offers a vague explanation for lateness or absence or other personal behavioral changes are observed, e.g., a sudden interest in physical appearance. Understandably, when a wife catches her husband in an outright lie, or when there is other "smoking gun" evidence, the suspicion is extremely high, and a confrontation will ensue. In today's high tech era, it is easy to start a secret relationship, be it physical or emotional, and maintain it for some time. But once suspicions are aroused, detection is fairly rapid by most women and certainly by an investigator. It is in the best interests of all for infidelity not to take place, but if it does, the sooner it stops, the better. Further, the heartbreak, devastation, and shock are proportionately diminished when the offending party stops on his own free will and confesses his errant behavior with sensitivity and caring while displaying heartfelt contrition and remorse. The consequences are more difficult to contend with when the hurt party makes the discovery herself.

Infidelity in a marriage is like an earthquake to a house. It can bring havoc: sometimes more, sometimes less, but need not destroy it. In fact, just as the house can be rebuilt and improved in many ways, so can the marriage react to this catastrophe as a wakeup call to the couple to reassess their relationship and rebuild…if that is their desire. With proper professional guidance, with true remorse and contrition by the offending party, a healing process can take place. The couple can reassess their lives and their importance to each other, and embrace a mature understanding of the value of their relationship. The couple can very well end up with a better relationship than they ever had.

One of the many women I have helped (as part of a couple that came because of infidelity) remarked that her husband's errant behavior was "a blessing in disguise." It was a shock to both of them and constituted the "wakeup call" that Janis Spring, Ph.D., mentions in her book "After The Affair," which helps couples deal with the aftermath of this shattering experience and go through a healing process. The husband's errant behavior opened this couple's eyes to the gradual deterioration of their marriage, the vulnerability of their relationship, and their need to stop ignoring the situation. It galvanized them (as it does others who do not wish to give up their relationship) to throw their best efforts into their marriage and make it a number one priority.

Often, infidelity takes place in a marriage that is vulnerable. However, infidelities can also occur even in marriages where both spouses thought they were happy in the relationship. But even if a marriage was considered "good" by both parties, after going through a properly conducted healing process by an experienced professional, following infidelity, the marriage can become a lot richer, stronger, more mature, fulfilling, and satisfying in many different ways. It can end up better than it ever was and stay at a loftier level for the rest of its existence. More on this in my article Can There Be A Silver Cloud Around The Cloud Of An Infidelity?"

End of Section 3: "In Today's High Tech Era It Is So Easy To Begin a Secret Relationship And So Easy To Be Discovered" ("Can There Be A Silver Lining Around the Cloud of Infidelity?")

Click here for Section 1 of this article "The Hurt and Pain of Infidelity"

Click here for Section 1 of this article "An Infidelity To A Marriage Is Like An Earthquake To A House"

Back to Top of Page