updated 20 May 2012, 13:03
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Mon, May 14, 2012
New Straits Times
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Private investigator reveals top 10 signs of a cheating spouse
by Audrey Vijaindren

Not long ago suspicious spouses had to depend on hoodlums and thugs in seedy private investigation firms, located alongside brothels in dark alleys of rundown neighbourhoods.

Today, one need only catch a taxi or bus, or take a look behind one, to nab a straying partner.

MVD International chief strategy officer (CSO), Rebecca C., says their clever advertising campaign has got the phones ringing off the hook.

"I first penned the phrase 'Catch Cheating Spouse' for an investigation campaign in Singapore. It was well received by the people there, I suppose because adultery was and still is one of the highest investigated matters in the country.

"Two years later, it was only natural to start running the same campaign here in Malaysia. We were not sure how the public would respond, but the feedback has been overwhelming.

"Since the ads first appeared at the back of taxis and buses in the Klang Valley, we've been getting calls asking us to investigate spouses every single day.

"So much so we've even started using the phrase on our company T-shirts and billboards. In fact, some of my private investigators and I hang around popular night spots in the Klang Valley, prominently displaying the catchy phrase on our clothes, just for the fun of it."

Rebecca says while the increasing number of extramarital affairs is nothing to be proud of, she's glad to be able to reach out to the "victims" of adultery.

"Almost all women who seek my services are suspicious of their husbands. Some are spot-on about their husbands having a little something on the side, while quite a few are merely paranoid when their husbands work late all day, every day.

"While women check on their spouses, 80 per cent of men check on their girlfriends or mistresses. It's not uncommon to deal with clients who want to know whether their affair-buddy is having an affair of her own.

"It's an ugly scenario, but it happens all the time, especially among prominent and wealthy figures, both locals and expatriates alike."

She says adultery has been around since the time the institution of marriage was established.

"The only difference is victims of adultery used to live in silence, they were more afraid of rocking the boat than confronting their spouse. But today many are investing time and money to find out whether they're being played out by their partner.

"In the Western world, it's common practice to go separate ways if the marriage is not working, but there's still a social stigma in Malaysia. This causes people to stay in a marriage and have affairs. They carry on living secret lives."

The signs of a cheating spouse are almost always present, she believes.

"There are two types of adulterers, those who are mean and those who play a fantastic role as a loving and faithful spouse in public -- this group is often brought up by conservative families. In today's world, women are equally guilty of playing this role.

"Usually at the beginning of an affair the cheating mate is more attentive to his or her spouse, mainly due to the guilt that they are feeling at the time.

"After the affair has been going on for a while, the cheating mate will try to find fault with his or her spouse as a twisted way of justifying the affair.

"Cheaters may become less bothered about household activities. Many don't show interest in the day-to-day affairs of their children.

"Cheaters may also display changes in sexual behaviour, either by wanting more sex, less sex or having strange requests.

"At this point the 'victim' should monitor his or her spouse for two weeks. During this time, keep track of the mileage on their car, note the time they leave for work and the time they come home. Keep a calendar and journal to help establish a pattern."

However, having all the facts doesn't necessarily mean the innocent party always walks out the door, she says.

"This is due to two main factors - social status and children. The need to keep up appearances is especially evident among politicians and businessmen. Many are concerned that the stigma of a divorce will bring about negative connotations and they're aware that their reputation is at stake.

"These prominent figures, including locals and expatriates, would much rather strike a deal with their spouses to live together for the sake of appearances.

"Although it's unthinkable for many to live with someone you can't trust, many of these wives have more to lose than to gain by leaving their cheating husbands. So, they close one eye and enjoy the perks of the marriage.

"There are also those who ignore the elephant in the room for the sake of their children. However, although they may forgive each other, they're unlikely to forget the betrayal anytime soon."

Technology, Rebecca says, makes it more difficult for culprits to get away.

"There are numerous items which can be converted into spy cameras these days, most blend into the background without arousing suspicion. Designer handbags, sunglasses, blouse buttons, key chains and motorcycles can all be easily modified.

"Once we obtain the evidence, it can be used in court. Normally, a sworn affidavit by my investigators or testimony in court will follow.

"For divorce proceedings, the best evidence is, of course, a spouse in bed with another person. But our courts know that such evidence isn't easily obtainable.

"Thus, the next best thing is to obtain circumstantial evidence to build the case. If the client is willing to wait and pay, the ultimate evidence can be obtained."

Her company's services are not cheap, but not expensive either, says Rebecca.

"We go by per day rate, but if it's a foreign country assignment I have to use overseas resources as well, so the charges are much higher.

"For instance, if I need to follow someone who has flown to South Africa, I can't use a Malaysian agent.

"Similarly, if it's a man who has gone into a Chinese karaoke lounge, I need to get a Chinese person to follow him around.

"We are licensed and our reports can be used in court. An investigation done by a licensed company is different from the fly-by-night ex-police or army officers who provide similar services. When it comes to our services, there's definitely no hanky-panky.

"Clients have come to us after being conned or blackmailed by these companies. When dealing with such a sensitive issue, it might be worth paying a bit more to ensure the evidence doesn't end up on YouTube."  

Top 10 signs of a cheating spouse

1. A sudden need for privacy and space

2. Secretive phone calls - their phone is usually on silent and practically strapped to their bodies

3. Constantly dropping their new "friend's" name in conversation

4. Change in regular work habits

5. Behaviour that doesn't add up, such as not being where he/she is expected to be

6. Spending more time on the computer and always deleting browser history

7. Household duties and chores become neglected, time spent with family also declines

8. Partner suddenly makes it a point to inquire about your daily whereabouts, to make sure the coast is clear

9. Unaccounted-for gift items show up in the home, like new mobile phones, perfume bottles and gift vouchers

10. Ironically, you may in fact be accused yourself of having an affair

Q & A with family therapist Dr Johnben Loy about marriage and adultery

Question: What are the emotions which afflict a betrayed spouse?

Answer: When it's not yet clear if an affair has occurred, a sense of uncertainty lingers at the back of the mind of a betrayed spouse. Upon confronting the affair, there is often a sense of shock or disbelief, accompanied by deep sadness followed by anger and even rage.

Sometimes, there's also a denial response where the betrayed spouse refuses to acknowledge that the affair is upsetting for him or her, only to come to terms with their feelings later.

Question: With regards to adultery, is it possible to forgive and forget?

Answer: If your spouse cheated on you, you can still forgive him or her. But to forget is another matter altogether. It's a lot harder to wipe out the images and scenes that come into the mind - places, objects, events, can all trigger the memory.

Question: If a couple stays together after an affair, what are the necessary steps needed to make the marriage work?

Answer: First of all, the affair must be declared over. Secondly, the spouse who had the affair will have to work hard to win back the trust of the betrayed spouse.

The betrayed spouse may also need a safe place to process the pain. This can be with a therapist or counsellor, or with family, friends, or community leaders.

Question: How would you help a spouse who's paranoid about his/her partner's whereabouts and actions?

Answer: I cannot personally help this spouse because the partner may indeed still be having an affair. The key to helping in this situation is for the partner to assure the betrayed spouse that he or she is no longer having the extramarital relationship.

The most incredible example I have seen of this is where a husband, who had cheated on his wife, was willing to give money to his wife to hire a private investigator of her choice to check up on him at any time! The wife's response was one of gratefulness, deep softening and the rebuilding of trust towards him.

At the core, the message is: "I'm so sorry and I love you so much that I'm willing to be completely transparent with you."

Question: Is it healthy for couples to have 100 per cent transparency in a marriage?

Answer: Some couples have a lot of personal privacy but still have very healthy marriages. In my own marriage, everything that's mine is also my wife's and vice versa. We practise complete transparency, so there's never the question of fear or betrayal.

We tell each other about our feelings, even those that we might be having for someone else. My wife and I understand that being honest and open - and very importantly, being willing to listen fully to one another - is key to building true friendship that can withstand the pressures and stresses of life.

Question: Is it possible to affair-proof one's marriage?

Answer: From my years of working with couples and from my own marriage experience, I think that being willing to be open, honest, and taking the risk to communicate even difficult topics can build the kind of relationship where having extramarital relationships become unnecessary and even unappealing.

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