His phone blinked with a new message. She casually glanced over to see if it was a message from their son who needed to be picked up from after school activity. The message read I love you and I can’t wait to be with you tonight with a trail of hearts and kisses! What in the world? Tonight? He told me he has a big meeting. As her mind raced she could hear her husband humming in the shower as he prepared for his ‘big meeting.’ Her heart pounded like the sound of drums beating when danger is imminent. She picked up his phone to see who the message was from. She thought that it may be a prank. Maybe the message was sent to her husband by mistake. In desperation to keep her sanity and preserve her marriage, she searched for any plausible excuse to justify his action. Then she saw the name. It was his co-worker. His Muslim, married, muhajaba co-worker with 2 kids! Does she not have any decency? What about her commitment to Allah? What about her husband and kids? This was unbelievable! She ran to his computer and with trembling hands searched for her name. There in plain sight were dozens of emails exchanged between this woman and her ‘adoring’ husband (only he was adoring the wrong woman). Each word that she read were like daggers in her heart. There was flirting, promises and even pictures that were exchanged. Her heart which was once like an exquisite, dazzling crystal shattered into thousands of pieces. She felt her marriage was over. The sound of the humming became closer as her husband walked into the office to ask which tie would make a better impression. An impression on whom? The tramp? Her sadness almost instantly transformed into rage.
I know that it sounds like a plot of a soap opera, but unfortunately this story is based on an actual client that I had a few years ago. I hear stories about Muslim couples on a weekly basis that are involved with infidelity. There is a whole spectrum of inappropriate behavior for married men from flirting at the office or online, going on dates or getting prostitutes. Yes, you read correctly. Many practicing men seek out prostitution to get sexually fulfilled when married. Although many feel ashamed from their behavior there are some that actually try to justify and excuse their actions.
Adolescence All Over Again
When men approach the age of 40 or they are in their mid 40’s something very strange happens to them. They start questioning their looks, vitality, and ability to attract other women. They wonder if they still have it – it being charm, appeal and good looks. Some men who have lived a chaste life start questioning their choices. They start feeling dissatisfied with their spouse thinking that they could have done much better. Other times they may love their wife, but they are fascinated with getting the attention of other women. In many ways, a 40 year old regresses to an adolescent with raging hormones that acts impulsively without any regards to the consequences of their behavior. Since they have a new sense of confidence, status, achievement and wealth in their 40’s, they feel that they could attract more intriguing women.
I used to think that midlife crisis was a Western phenomenon. I thought that as long as a man has a good, strong connection with Allah and a happy marriage then there is no fear of midlife crisis. If he is aware of the consequences of his actions and he knows what’s right and wrong then how could he fall into such a grave mistake? I came to realize that not only is it possible to fall into a mistake, but it is also quite common. Just because someone knows that eating right and exercising is good for them and eating junk food is harmful does not guarantee that they will do what is right & beneficial. In the same way, people find justifications, loopholes and excuses to fulfill their ever growing lusts & desires.
“Have you seen him who takes his low desires for his god? Are you a guardian over them? Or do you think that most of them hear or understand? They are but as the cattle; nay, they are farther astray from the path.” (Surat Al-Furqan, 25:43–44.)
Different Types of Infidelity
And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].Surat Al-Baqarah 2:42
Many times it is the small, “white” lies that lead to very destructive behaviors such as emotional, physical or financial infidelity.
Emotional– emotional infidelity is when you become emotionally attached to someone of the opposite gender other than your spouse. This could include texting, chatting, video calls, talking & flirting at work or at school. When you are investing in a relationship other than your marriage you are introducing a cancer in your relationship. It will destroy the trust, intimacy and level of commitment when you have someone on the side to confide in. Now with the advent of social media emotional infidelity has become much more prevalent and it has taken the place of workplace flirting.
Physical – typically infidelity is seen as two people having a physical relationship. This could range from touching, kissing to having sexual relations. Generally this is harder for most spouses to forgive. When the relationship is physical it becomes extremely challenging to restore the marriage. Intimacy and sexual relationship suffers since the spouse who was betrayed will constantly think of the other woman during the act and they become obsessed with the details of the physical interactions.
Financial – this is not the scope of the discussion but I thought it’s important to include it since it is so prevalent and very few people see it as infidelity. Financial infidelity is when one spouse spends secretly without telling their spouse. It can really break the trust between a husband and wife when there is secrecy in spending, lying about expenditures and hiding.
Causes of infidelity
Lack of Friendship or Emotional Bond – it’s very common for the person committing the infidelity to feel emotionally detached to their spouse. They feel underappreciated which leads to resentment and built up frustration. Most couples live as roommates and lack a friendship with their spouse that causes excessive loneliness in their marriage. Many times the relationship starts off very innocently. They begin by sharing about their day, work and family life. As they lower their guards, they may reveal more and more about their dissatisfaction with their marriage. Once they have shown a weakness in their relationship, then they become a prey for others seeking companionship.
Lack of Sexual Fulfillment – many people lack sexual fulfillment in their marriage due to inhibition, lack of interest or lack of sexual compatibility. It is very rare to see couples that have a fulfilling sexual relationship. Generally this aspect of the relationship is ignored. Most couples don’t even feel comfortable discussing the subject with their spouse much less asking for ways to be fulfilled. As this aspect of their marriage is ignored they become more and more likely to pursue another relationship.
Looking for Variety – I have had many men start their conversation in therapy by saying they love their wife, they find her beautiful and they have a good physical intimacy, but they want variety. They want to know what it would be like to be with other women. They crave getting attention from the opposite gender and wish they could spice up their life with the thrill of a chase and hidden relationships.
Warning Signs to Lookout for:
- Spouse starts to act or dress differently
- Sudden change in appearance
- Secrecy with phone and all electronic devices
- Hidden passwords
- Different email & FB accounts
- Acting aloof and distant
- Being irritable
- Being secretive about where they go
- Not including you in their work, activities and social life
- Sudden unexpected trips not related to work
- Coming home excessively late on a regular basis
- Acting arrogantly or reminding you how great others think they are
- Uninterested in physical intimacy
The Effects of Infidelity on the Spouse Who Was Cheated on
- Suicidal ideation
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling of inadequacy
The Effects of Infidelity on the Unfaithful Spouse
- Incongruence between beliefs and actions
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling of neglect
- Feeling isolated
- Frustrated due to the constant reminders
- Ostracized by the family
How to React When You Find Out About the Affair:
I know that the common reaction is yelling & getting angry, but that is not going to get you the results you want. One client I had described how she wanted to rip her husband apart when she found out that he was seeing other women, but I told her that she needs to remain calm, level headed and act wisely. By doing this her husband apologized, felt guilty and took initiative to end the relationships.
Remain calm – if you overreact by screaming you will make him feel rejected. This will make him feel more distant to you and closer to the woman who is making him feel so cherished.
Make Sure You Have Solid Facts and You Are NOT Assuming – if you just have a hunch that he is seeing someone don’t confront him. Only if you have come across texts or emails that are discriminating.
Address Your Spouse – you need to let them know so they have a chance to explain. Many times it’s not as bad as you assume and by asking many ambiguities are cleared up. If it is a full blown affair you can NOT pretend it didn’t happen. It will destroy you to keep this from your spouse and he will be able to know that there is something wrong. You need to address this vital issue to save him and your marriage. Even if it’s an emotional affair you have to let him know that you found out to put an end to it.
Be Mature– I know that it’s tempting to have a tantrum and pout, but you have got to be mature in this crisis. Being mature means discussing the issue calmly without attacking, criticizing and lashing out. It means listening to him and trying your best to understand what happened and how he went astray. Many times I have seen that the man did not intent to have an affair. Sometimes women are extremely aggressive and they pursue a man they are working with. There are times that they fall into mistake but quickly reform and repent.
Be a Source of Support – show him that you are there for him and you want to help him. This is no time to abandon your spouse even though you feel betrayed. He may have a sex addiction and he is not able to overcome it alone. Provide him with the necessary tools and comfort.
Keep it Private – do not expose your spouse’s mistake. Don’t tell your parents or your friends. You need to protect his reputation regardless of how hurt and angry you feel. It will be best to speak to a 3rd party preferably a Muslim therapist that can help you through it without passing judgment on your spouse.
They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them” (Surat Al-Baqara 2:187)
Allah in His infinite wisdom chose the analogy of a garment to describe your spouse which means that just like the garment protects, covers and safeguards your body you need to protect your spouse from being exposed even if he has fallen into sin.
Is Your Marriage Over?
Not necessarily! I have seen many marriages survive infidelity but it depends on three important ingredients:
There is Remorse – there are some men who truly feel guilty and ashamed for their adolescent behavior. If there is genuine remorse and repentance then there is a good chance that they will not make the mistake again. I have seen men who see nothing wrong with pursuing other women and having emotional or even physical affairs. If they don’t feel remorseful then that means they will have an affair again and again.
They ask for Forgiveness – with the remorse comes a plea to be forgiven. They would do anything to restore their marriage if you give them a second chance. Generally if you feel that they are serious about not repeating the act and they feel extremely guilty about their behavior, then forgiving them could the biggest emotional deposit you will ever make. This act will restore your marriage and keep your family together. Remember that true forgiveness means not bringing it up in the future and not using it as a whip that you strike him with it every time you get angry.
End all Relationships – If they are willing to end the extramarital relationships then you both can focus on your marriage. If your spouse refuses to end the relationship or sees nothing wrong with keeping contact with the person
How to Recover from Infidelity
Most people who have suffered from infidelity have told me that it was not so much the act that broke up their marriage, but it was the shameless acts of dishonesty, deception and endless lies that destroyed them. Once trust is broken in any relationship, then it like a deflated life vest – you can’t rely on it any longer to support you.
- Complete transparency
- Phone & email available to be looked at
- Passwords need to be shared
- Share daily events
- Complete honesty
- No white lies
- No partial truths to protect her feelings
- No hiding interactions with anyone
- Spend quality time together
- Time together without mentioning the affair
And of His signs, another one is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may find comfort with them, and He planted love and kindness in your hearts; surely there are signs in this for those who think about it. (Surat Ar-Rum 30:21)
- Travel together for a weekend if possible to rekindle the fire
- Make time for physical intimacy and try to create more variety by fulfilling each other’s fantasies
- Time together without mentioning the affair
- Seek Marriage counseling – I have helped countless people overcome the infidelity in their marriages alhamdulillah. It doesn’t have to be over!Advice to the BrothersI know that many of you don’t mean to go astray. You may start off with good intentions of helping a sister in need, but what I’m certain of is that anytime boundaries set by Allah are ignored it’s disastrous.As the number of infidelity cases I had increased, I started researching the topic more. I was amazed that non-Muslim psychologist were offering concrete ways to avoid falling into infidelity by giving similar guidelines that Islam has established. Remember that these suggestions are made by non-Muslim Psychologists.Here is what they suggested to avoid infidelity:
- Avoid friendship with the opposite gender – yes, a non-Muslim suggested this
- Don’t give compliments to opposite gender
- Don’t spend time alone
- Don’t go out together for lunch
- Don’t complain about your spouse
- Don’t meet and speak regularly
- Don’t share personal stories
Here is what I suggest:
- Don’t fall for the damsel in distress syndrome – many women try to lure good, practicing men by making them feel sorry for them because of the oppression, neglect and abuse they have faced in their lives. If a sister is in need connect her to a sister’s committee – don’t take it on yourself to be the savior because usually it will end up with transgressing against Allah or ruining your marriage.
- Don’t give dawa to sisters – if someone is interested in Islam then introduce them to the many sisters in the community that are willing and able to give dawa. Many times giving dawa could lead to committing many wrong deeds.
- Don’t try to be a therapist for a sister who is having marital problems. Refer them to a female psychologist instead. I have heard of sisters complaining to their supervisors about not being sexually fulfilled by their husbands and the supervisors actually think they are helping by giving guidelines for sexual fulfillment. This is wrong on so many levels!
- Don’t chat with girls online just for fun. It is very likely that you will feel attracted with one and develop an emotional connection and addiction. I have seen this happen hundreds of times. Simply don’t open that door and protect yourself and your family from the traps of the shaytan.
I pray that by discussing this topic openly more people can prevent infidelity or save their marriages after an affair.