If Barnaby Joyce and Vikki Campion’s cheating scandal is any indication, affairs in the workplace – particularly, Australian politics – seem to happen all the time. The government is so rife with office relationships, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull slapped Canberra with a sex ban preventing ministers from having sex with their staff.
But are infidelities in the workplace really that common? According to statistics from private investigators Trustify, yes. A surprising 36 per cent of us have had an affair with a co-worker – and that doesn’t even consider emotional affairs at work, a whole other rabbit hole.
Perhaps the stats aren’t that shocking since we spend the bulk of our waking hours at work with people who have similar interests to our own. And while no one wants to suspect their partner of cheating with a co-worker, would we even know that something is going on at work considering we spend eight hours a day (sometimes more!) away from each other?
According to clinical psychologist and CEO of Relationships Australia NSW Elisabeth Shaw, and relationship psychologist Jacqui Manning there are indicators to be aware of that may point to your partner having an affair with a colleague.
Here they help us identify six of the most common signs your partner may be having an affair with a co-worker – and what you should do about it.
1. Changes in working patterns
You know your partner’s work schedule as well as they do, so when their working patterns change unexpectedly, Manning says this may indicate something isn’t quite right.
Shaw lists “longer unexplained hours at work” as a possible sign of an affair, as well as scheduling in after-work meetings and justifications for more socialising with colleagues. “Perhaps you were once included in work functions and are now excluded,” she adds.
2. Mobile phone secrecy
Maybe you’ve noticed your partner won’t let you use their phone, when the once did. Or they’re showing signs of secrecy, resting the phone face-down and taking phone calls out of earshot. Changes in mobile phone use can be a telling sign of an affair. Things to look out for: your partner using their phone more often, or placing stronger focus on answering work emails at home.
3. You partner seems distant
Sure, changes in your partner’s phone habits may hint at an affair, however, changes in your significant other’s behaviour towards you may be one of the most obvious signs.
“It’s quite difficult to keep two relationships going to the same degree, so if your partner seems more distant and comfortable with that, or alternatively more angry or resentful for no obvious reason, that could be a sign of competing feelings elsewhere,” explains Shaw.
There are other factors however, which could influence your partner to be emotionally distant that aren’t a workplace affair. Manning lists these as “stress, ill health or other worries”.
Therefore, it’s important not to jump to conclusions, and to consider other reasons why your partner might be putting themselves at arm’s length from you.
4. Your partner is annoyed or irritated
… And they’re not ‘just tired’.
“A person having an affair is often feeling guilty and conflicted and so might develop more umbrage at home to manage those bad feelings,” says Shaw.
5. Changes in their appearance
Is your partner spending longer getting ready for work? Perhaps they’ve bought a whole new work wardrobe or are wearing clothing outside of their usual style. Our experts tell us, dressing to impress (more than usual) for work could be a sign there might be an affair happening at the office.
6. Your gut instinct tells you something is off
“Your instincts can be a signal that something isn’t quite right, subconsciously you can notice signs that your mind may not see, so if you’re getting strong instincts it’s worth asking and checking things out,” suggests Manning.
I think my partner is having an affair with a colleague, what do I do?
So you’re seeing these signs play out right in front of you and now you want to act on it. Manning says, hold your horses.
“Firstly, be mindful that what you’re feeling is suspicion – there’s no proof yet,” she says.
“Think about what and when you’d like to raise it. Pick a good time when you won’t be interrupted. Try and be as calm as possible; you could even write down your thoughts and feelings. Tell them why you are worried and see what they say,” she asserts.
Try not to start with an accusation, says Manning who adds, opening the conversation with something like: “We don’t seem as close as we usually are/you seem distracted, and I have started to worry about you, and even wonder if you are having an affair”.
Your partner’s response will be important, as you will be able to tell a lot from their reaction.
“A person who is not having an affair, and is very engaged in your relationship, will want to reassure you in a very direct and heartfelt way, and discuss the issue that has caused your concern,” says Shaw.
“A person who starts yelling or telling you that you are crazy for example is not necessarily guilty of having an affair, but is unable to listen and take care of a worried partner. That, in itself, deserves further discussion,” she adds.
If they do confess to a workplace affair, Manning explains that you may feel initial relief, but it may also feel overwhelming.
“Stay safe,” she says. “Call a friend or family member to drive you somewhere if you need some breathing space.”
Responses to complicated questions like these aren’t always so black-and-white. You’re partner may say nothing is going on, yet you may still feel worried – if this is the case Jacqui suggests seeking professional help to talk things through.
“Even if nothing is going on, there sounds like there are cracks in your relationship to talk about and it could be a great use of your time – and cheaper than a divorce!” she says.