Cheating is the ultimate violation of marital trust. It can destroy families and ruin lives. The bottom line is that if you are even wondering about your spouse’s faithfulness, at minimum, there is some important relationship work to be done!
In general, is there a lot of cheating going on? Is there a “cheating type?” Despite numerous studies, there isn’t a dependable predictor of infidelity. It is also very difficult to find reliable statistics related to just how much cheating is going on for two main reasons: (1.) Cheating is by definition very secretive and most surveys rely on self-reporting; and more importantly, (2.) People define “cheating” in a variety of ways. So, let’s begin by asking what you mean by “cheating?”
- You are uncomfortable with how close your spouse is with a friend or co-worker.
- You believe your spouse is involved in an “emotional affair.” They are getting their emotional needs met by someone other than you.
- Cyber Cheating - Inappropriate, often sexual, texts, pictures, and videos being exchanged electronically with someone.
- Social Media Cheating - They are connecting with exes and others on social media and sharing things that should only be shared with you.
- Full-blown secretive sexual relationships.
If you suspect your spouse is cheating on you, here are a few things to think through:
- Sometimes a spouse IS NOT cheating and the issue is our own insecurities. This requires some introspection and a healthy conversation, not a bold accusation. (Be careful with click-bait nonsense on the internet. “Is he hitting the gym and dressing nicer? THEN HE MUST BE CHEATING!” Um, not necessarily.)
- Is it possible that you have never discussed healthy boundaries in your marriage? (For example, have you and your spouse talked about being friends with exes on social media and what is appropriate to share? They may have no clue that you consider that cheating.)
- There is so much misinformation out there about infidelity. Be careful. Having said that, and this might seem contradictory, sometimes, you just know.
- If you are convinced you are with a cheater, DO NOT confront them immediately and DO NOT confront them without rock-solid evidence. (At best, accusations will just be met with denial and arguing. At worst, you will have just taught them to cover their tracks better.)
- If at all possible, and I can’t stress this enough, KNOW the correct answers to questions BEFORE you ask them. This is not a “trick” or a “trap.” This is gauging their level of honesty. You might find out that they are willing to be completely honest with you. That’s a good sign! Along those same lines, your spouse DOES NOT need to know everything that you know at this point.
Here Are Some Practical Tips On How To Deal
Keep track of everything and begin gathering information immediately.
- Phones, laptops, iPads. (There almost always is an electronic trail left by an affair. Smartphones are the best way for cheaters to cheat but also the best way for cheaters to be caught. Cheaters are often very possessive of their phones, but you can begin looking closely at your phone records (Use your phone carrier app.) which are often very detailed. Is there a number that you don’t recognize that appears a lot or at strange times? Note that. Do you see data [photos/videos/social media] exchanged frequently and at odd times? Note that. Did they text/call to change plans with you or tell you they had to work late? Note time and date. What is the next number that they text/call?
- Begin being very aware of time and money. Affairs have to take place somewhere, sometime and they have to be paid for. Has there been a change in how s/he spends their time? Their money? Your bank records are your best friend here. Compare them with where s/he says they are and what they say they are doing. Have there suddenly been a lot of late meetings at work? Does your spouse suddenly have to travel a lot more? Check the bank records! Have they suddenly taken up a new hobby that keeps them out for hours? (REMEMBER: This could be the truth and it could confirm that there isn’t anything going on!)
- Sometimes you need to bring in the Big Guns. Cheating is a big problem, but catching cheaters is a big business. Just Google it. You have tons of resources at your disposal! Options range from reverse phone number lookups to programs and apps that monitor and report a variety of digital activities. Some of these options obviously raise privacy issues and you need to check the laws in your state. But, yeah, you have options and you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to use them.
Let’s say that you’ve absolutely confirmed the affair. I am truly sorry. Please take care of yourself. Look up Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder. It’s real. So, what does this mean for your marriage?
- Is the cheating spouse willing to apologize, seek forgiveness, and completely break off the relationship? (I have heard of cheating spouses that quit jobs to distance themselves from a co-worker they were involved with. What a bold gesture to rebuild trust!)
- What was the nature of the infidelity? (Strictly emotional, a “one-night stand,” or a two-year illicit relationship? Each can present very different challenges, BUT marriages can and do survive ALL types of infidelity.)
- What is the general health of the marriage? How long have you been married? Do you have children?
- How do each of you individually and both of you as a couple choose to deal with and heal from this? That’s right, choose. Are you BOTH* willing to be honest about your marital relationship? Are you BOTH willing to make changes and set healthy boundaries? Are you BOTH willing to get professional help? Are you BOTH willing to be patient and allow the time and do the work for healing to take place? Do you BOTH have accountability partners and a support system? All of this is critical.
*Maybe you don’t like my use of the word “both” here, after all, it is your spouse having the affair, not you. I understand, but please don’t play the Insurance Adjuster Blame Game. It isn’t about finding whether the marital fault is 60/40, 80/20, 90/10 or whatever. (And it rarely, if ever, is 100/0.) If you want your marriage to grow through this unbelievably tough time, BOTH of you have changes to make and work to do! But you can do it!
There is hope! Check this out, there is a large body of research that indicates that it is usually NOT the actual infidelity that destroys the marriage; it is how each spouse responds to the infidelity that determines if the marriage will survive and even thrive!
If you don’t want to hear this now, I get it, but I have heard so many couples report that infidelity actually saved their marriage, yes saved it by forcing them to realize that they had to make significant personal changes and relate to each other in healthier ways. You absolutely deserve honesty and faithfulness! Do not settle for less. But please realize that broken bones, when healed, are twice as strong.