Starting with the day it is suspected, infidelity can be one of the most painful challenges in a relationship or marriage.
The emotional struggle that comes with infidelity, whether suspected or discovered, can lead to thoughts that a relationship is wrecked and unrepairable, and it can feel as if things are way too complicated to ever recover from, but know that there is hope.
What to Do If You Suspect Infidelity
There are ways to move forward if you suspect that your partner has strayed – actions that you can take that are much less damaging to your relationship and are conducive to healing and strengthening your connection.
Analyze your feelings (assume the best) and give your thoughts time
Take an in-depth look at what led you to suspect infidelity. Without tangible evidence that your spouse is cheating, you may be basing your suspicions on feelings, for example, that something is different or ‘off.’ You may also be wondering if you should trust your own instincts.
Spend some time in introspect. What caused you to suspect infidelity?
Was it something that was said?
Was it some sort of misunderstanding?
Was it the way your partner acted?
Is there something from your past that has triggered you to feel as you do today?
Have you and your partner been under a lot of stress?
Feelings of betrayal can be difficult to resist when suspecting infidelity, but it is imperative to the health of your relationship to not act in haste and to assume the best. What looks like a suspected affair could simply be the need to refocus as a couple.
Assuming the best does not mean that you should ignore the signals that led you to doubt your partner’s fidelity, but it can help steer you away from poor communication and guesswork (i.e., lack of listening and observing, reacting too quickly, and misunderstandings due to stress or fatigue). Assuming the best helps you to continue doing your part in the relationship, and this can be a valuable step in healing the relationship that you treasure. Assuming the best starts with you.
If you are doubting yourself – feeling that your suspicions are not valid, it may be time to seek help. There is no shame in reaching out for counseling. You aren’t in this alone, and sometimes we all need a little help.
Have an honest conversation with your partner
Once you have given yourself time to evaluate why you suspect infidelity, have an open conversation with your partner. Ensure the conversation is held in an environment in which each of you can be straightforward, honest, and can speak in privacy without interruption. Speak with your partner in a loving and non-judgmental way. This is not a time for accusations – which will only encourage anger and defensiveness.
Ask for complete honesty, “Are you having an affair?” Allow your partner time to explain him or herself. You are seeking the truth at this time, but you are not doing so to start a battle. This can be the moment that you, your partner, and your relationship begins to heal from any dysfunction and rebuild a foundation based on trust and commitment.
What to Not Do If You Suspect Infidelity
So far, we have discussed two things to do if you suspect infidelity – take the time and analyze your own suspicions and feelings and approach your partner openly without accusations. In support of these steps, there are several things that you must also avoid doing.
Do not broadcast your fears
Once you have let the ‘cat out of the bag’ it is nearly impossible to retrieve it. At this point, the cat is suspicion, and it is not fact. Even if it were a matter of fact, once you share your fears or suspicions with others (i.e., family, friends, etc.) you open yourself up to unwanted advice, opinions, and gossip. You also risk having what you discussed go back to your partner or your children that you may be trying to protect.
It is never good to ignore suspicions, nor to pretend that infidelity is not happening, but be cautious with how you disclose information to others and who you share your thoughts with. An intimate trusting relationship is what you desired from the start – and now is the time to protect that. Your partner should not learn about your suspicions secondhand.
Avoid being the detective
Being the detective is snooping. As much as you might want to know the exact truth, snooping can cause more damage than good in relationships. Being the detective can also be damaging to your own mental health. Snooping can be addictive. The more you dig up, the more you want to look. Resisting the urge to spy can become very difficult. Having a life outside of your relationship is healthy for both partners but digging through your partner’s personal life for evidence is not.
If your suspicion of infidelity turns out to be mistaken, you could easily destroy any hopes of restoring your relationship. Even if infidelity is proven, rummaging through your partner’s phone, laptop, social media, or spying on their every step, can deter damage repair at any level. Having an open conversation with your partner is preferable.
Seek Help from a Professional
This blog is an outline of the fundamentals of what to do (and what not to do) if you suspect infidelity. Remember that every relationship is unique, and sometimes it can be difficult to isolate and break through the issues that lead to dysfunction and infidelity.
When you have done all that you know to do and things are not getting better in your relationship, it might be time to reach out for help.
What to Do If You Suspect Infidelity is Part 1 of a three-part series. Watch for Part 2, I Just Discovered Infidelity, What Do I Do? and Part 3, Moving Forward After an Affair – the good, the bad, and the healthy way to move forward.