How Should I Respond If I See Signs of Cheating?
Whether it is a cheating husband or a cheating wife, an affair is equally damaging to the psyche of a relationship and the emotional state of each spouse. Having your trust ripped out from beneath you is only the tip of the iceberg. The feeling of shock is just as disengaging as the guilt, anger and resentment. A marriage crisis is even more difficult to cope with when you come to realize that the signs were there, but that you did not see them and talk with your spouse before you felt blind-sided. .
Unfortunately, coping with infidelity is no easier if you find out sooner rather than later that you have a cheating spouse, but responding inappropriately to what you interpret as signs of cheating can only make matters worse. You can err greatly with either of two responses: at one extreme, you can jump to the conclusion that the problem behaviors are “signs” or “proof” that you have a cheating spouse; at the other extreme, you can trustingly accept every excuse for the problem behaviors given by your spouse without question or second thought. Each of these responses is extreme and inappropriate and both can serve only to worsen your marriage crisis. Consider a more appropriate approach with the help of the following clarifying example.
Assume that you have recently observed the following changes in your spouse’s behaviors:
- Is increasingly becoming emotionally distant
- Is more and more often late in getting home from work
- Is increasingly working late hours
- Is taking more business trips
- Is no longer interested in the same things
- Is less and less interested in conversation
- Is increasingly disinterested in marriage priorities and spending time together
- Is more and more choosing to spend time alone
- Is no longer interested in a sexual relationship with you
- Is increasingly demonstrating mood swings and lack of desire to spend quality time together
Variations of these ten problematic behavior changes appear in most lists of signs of cheating. But they could be indicative of something very different. Are these behavior changes “proof” that you have a cheating spouse or rather that your spouse really is having an increasingly tough time at work? Or is your spouse having an increasingly tough time at work due to personal health problems or fears of job loss in these tough economic times? Instead of making matters worse by erringly assuming that these problematic behavior changes are signs of cheating or trustingly ignoring the problem behaviors, engage your spouse in loving but serious conversations about your concerns. Don’t assume that the problem behaviors are “proof” your spouse is having an affair. Rather, begin the conversation by sincerely and lovingly expressing your concerns about the behaviors and the negative effects they are having on your marriage and intimacy and on the life and wellbeing of your family. Said differently, don’t begin with confrontation, but with a sincere desire to understand the cause or causes of the observed changes in behavior and express your deep concerns for your spouse, your marriage relationship, and the family’s wellbeing.
Remain diligent in your pursuit of answers about and understanding of your spouse’s behavior changes, but stay focused on the behavior changes and their negative effects, not on what you might or might not think they mean. Don’t assume that your spouse is cheating unless you have concrete proof or your spouse’s confession. Affirm your love, show your concern, and be willing to hear the truth. You can only deal with reality of what’s behind your spouse’s problematic behavior changes when you know what the reality is. Communicate your concerns over the changes in behavior, but show equal concern for helping your spouse get through whatever rough transition could be causing the suspicious behavior. Just because you think that the behavior changes could be or are signs of infidelity doesn’t mean you should confront your spouse with all guns blazing. You risk pushing your spouse further away if you’re not able to communicate your feelings without completely losing control of your emotions.
If you do not feel able to approach your spouse about the problem behaviors or if you have tried to do so and the marriage crisis is only getting worse, seek out marriage counseling or weekend marriage seminar in order to get proper guidance to help navigate the sensitive and emotional terrain. Marriage counseling and weekend seminars provide a judgment-free environment where you and your spouse can learn how to communicate in order to work through the cause or causes of the problem behaviors and focus on solutions rather than on the problems. In a time of marriage crisis, it’s never too late to seek professional marriage help. Don’t attempt to save your marriage by yourself when professional experienced help is available.