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Letter: When a friend I had not seen in almost a year invited me for a Sunday barbecue, I grasped the invitation, grabbed some flowers, a bottle of whisky (for him) and some candy for the kids and rushed off.

As we share a fondness for SA football, the main topic for discussion was Clive Barker’s latest book. 

But I could not help but notice the aloofness of his wife and a sort of penetrative self-exile that she had imposed on herself. 

And the nail in the coffin was when the little one took me to her room to show me her new toys, and I noticed two freshly made beds.

“Who sleeps there?” I enquired. “Oh, that’s my daddy’s bed.”

When I got home, I could not get over her hurried steps, the haunting look in the wife’s eyes and the veiled whispers, so I decided to call him out of sheer concern.

“Something’s not right pal,” I got straight to the point, and he did too.

“I think she’s having an affair?”

My surprising but sound advice to him was not to let emotions overrule sound judgement and to refrain from postulating on a whim, innuendo, scuttlebutt and conjecture. 

He needs to have concrete proof before any decision can be made, bearing in mind the welfare of the children. And thus, extra-marital affairs, in the Indian context, has become the focal point of my discussion today.

The incipient signs and harbinger were all too evident for my dear friend.

So, who is to blame for the violation of the holy covenant of marriage? 

I think men and women are equally guilty of marital discord, although history is full of men, who have orchestrated the ending of their wives’ lives, either to make way for a mistress or she was having an affair.

The mantra for a disillusioned husband seems to be “choose me or a tombstone”. The causes of spouses slipping into lassitude and urging them to new depths of prurience are varied.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to put women working at top of the list. 

Work situations offer new friendships and a range of social occasions. An alarming number of women saddle on to the drinking profession through work. 

Illicit relationships with bosses are on the increase, either to keep the job or otherwise.

A boring and incompatible partner is also a problem, like the crie de coeur of the anonymous letter writer, who openly declared he was forced to live in a loveless marriage for over 40 years.

His wife had graduated into a LOL queen, sitting on WhatsApp until the wee hours of the morning. Yet they have everything under the sun, besides the radiance of true love.

The exponential revolutionary explosion of the internet is one of the most powerful of modern manifestations. Digital infidelity is also a prime cause of breakdown in marriages.

Some spouses thrive on fear, fear of getting caught and so the hunt becomes sweeter than the kill.

Many hoard and carry their deadly cache of secrets and sweet sins like nothing out of the ordinary. 

Empty nesting is another possible cause when the child-rearing bailiwick is over, many couples go their own way, finding comfort and ease in a shared peril. Many men will help with twigs for the chickadees, but they miss the hunting. 

Some men enjoy both the danger of married women and the innocence of young girls and many sacrifice their families for a quick flash and a bacon sandwich.

Lodges are sprouting everywhere like never before because there is a market for day-time trysts behind drawn curtains.

And when there is a whiff of an affair in the air, where one suspects or has proof of the other, family life becomes poisoned. Hatred thickens. It also becomes a dangerous playing field for children. 

Some flaunt their affairs without a backward glance. The guilty party will pick up the accused and drop off take-out meals for the hubby and kids. This is sad, but true, and happens all the time around us.

I know of an individual who has two sons from her lover and is still married!

They say happy marriages are made in heaven but so too are thunder and lightning.

Sexual impotence and medical problems are also reasons for a fall-out and so many relationships age, losing its texture like crisp wine that has gone tiresomely bland.

Behind the white picket fence and trees that line the front lawn, many lives are fiction. Thus, an extramarital affair becomes the principal flaw, the ingredient in the cocktail for lust that sours the matrimonial drink.

There are numerous markers that can raise red flags that something is amiss. Long and indefinite periods in the toilet or bathroom means texting. 

Refusal to engage in intimacy and sexual intercourse. Unanswered landline calls. A sudden interest in fashion or a new hobby. 

Sudden Saturday work should ring alarm bells. New friends mean going out with them. Beware of single or divorced friends! 

The sudden arrival of gifts. An increase in drinking because of “stress”.

However, many men have been known to keep a mistress, with or without the permission of their beloved wives. 

There is a certain mindset to being a mistress, something you have to get used to. You have to learn to be without your lover on birthdays, Valentine’s Day and Christmas.

Days become important to you. All these things are denied a mistress. You will discover a peculiar intolerable aloneness when he is not with you and you crave him most.

If you find yourself playing second fiddle to such a situation in life, I suggest you pick up the threads, weave some meaning into the fabric of your life otherwise you might just form the rope that will hang you.

Personally, I feel that no one has a right to destroy someone’s marriage.

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* Kevin Govender is a freelance writer, opinionist and marketer