*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Having a happy relationship with your spouse has a lot to do with trust, respect, having fun, and making memories together. But what happens when you don't know why they come home late, and they refuse to explain what's going on?
Is that an indication they don't value your relationship anymore, or should you go on trusting them if you want to avoid a divorce?
My friend Mary, who lives in Dallas, Texas, has been married to her husband, Doug, for three years. They don't have kids yet, even though she wanted to be a mom right after they got married.
"We had talked about it during our engagement, and I told him one of my goals in a permanent relationship is to have my own family. He agreed with me back then, but when I wanted kids after the wedding, he gave me lots of reasons to wait. I didn't feel the same way, but I realized he was stressed about it, so I felt it was ok to give him some time to adjust to the idea of becoming a dad," Mary said.
They both stayed focused on their jobs and worked long hours to get promoted. At the same time, Mary took cooking classes and did all she could so their home was comfortable, and her husband felt loved and appreciated.
She felt that putting their relationship before work or money issues was what mattered most. And by constantly reminding Doug how much she cared, she had no doubt he would realize becoming parents would be the right thing for their marriage.
Unfortunately, Doug didn't notice her attention that much, and he even began offering to do more overtime. Whenever his wife asked him if anything was wrong, he said he wanted to afford a bigger home and kept avoiding spending time together.
"I thought maybe he wanted to have the same type of house his coworkers had. It didn't matter that much to me, but I supported him. That meant he was always tired when he came home. And after a while, his schedule changed completely, and I wasn't sure what to make of it and how it affected our relationship," Mary said.
In the last six months, Doug has been coming home much later than usual. At first, he told his wife it was about overtime and saving money. But one month ago, he gave up on offering any kind of explanation.
When he gets back, he just wants to sleep and won't tell Mary where he was or who he spent time with. And she's not sure if that means he's having an affair or trying a different work project.
Most of the time, Mary can't stay up to see exactly when he arrives, but it's usually after midnight. She's called a few of his coworkers during the past two weeks, and they don't know anything about overtime or a work project. However, Doug mentioned trying to set up his own business but no other details.
"He comes home after I fall asleep; he won't tell me what he's doing. I don't know if it's because he's trying to have his own business, looking to change jobs, or maybe seeing someone else. I'm worried our relationship doesn't mean that much to him if he's ok with seeing me feel so upset and keep doing the same thing," Mary said.
Two days ago, Mary went to see her husband during his lunch break since there was no way she could talk to him in the evening. At first, he told her they could talk another time, but she insisted and wouldn't leave, so instead of arguing over there, he agreed to have lunch together.
"It was so hard to convince him. That was awkward. We're married, we love each other, or we used to. Our relationship got so distant that I need to make him have lunch with me to talk things out," Mary said.
While they had their meal at a restaurant close to his office, Mary asked her husband if he was seeing someone else. Doug said there was no affair but that his schedule couldn't change. And when Mary wanted an explanation, he refused to tell her anything else.
"He just said I don't need to be worried about another woman. But I still don't know what's happening. Other than following him, I don't think there's any way to tell what he's up to," Mary said.
She's asked Doug a few more times about where he stays away so late, but the result was the same. Next Friday, she's willing to wait in her car until he finishes work and figure out where he goes after.
What do you think about this situation? Could Doug be having an affair even if he denied it, or is he just working and won't disturb Mary while he's busy? Should Mary trust her husband or do what she can to find out what he's doing and if he's still interested in having a long-term relationship with her?