Do you have a nagging feeling that something is off in your relationship and can’t seem to put your finger on what it is? If your partner seems more distant or distracted, or not interested in you sexually or emotionally, you may suspect that he is cheating on you. On the other hand, if he has been a caring and supportive partner, the thought of infidelity seems so outlandish that you may tell yourself you’re just being paranoid.
The back-and-forth thinking about whether he’s cheating or you being paranoid can become overwhelming and exhausting. At some point, you need clarity and answers instead of ruminating. What’s the best way to bring this up with your spouse that will get you the information you need but avoid unfounded accusations and needless anger?
Make Sense Of Your Feelings First
The first step is to understand your own emotional history and motivations. Have concerns about infidelity been a pattern in your life? Has a previous partner cheated on you? What has happened in prior relationships which made you sensitive to past trauma? Consider your romantic history and what negative experiences may have left you insecure or hyper-vigilant.
Other things to consider are whether you are the one thinking about cheating on your spouse and you’re projecting these thoughts on to him. Have you been feeling emotionally unfulfilled or sexually dissatisfied? Being fully aware of your feelings and sensitivities will help guide you along the way.
Trust Your Gut And Share Your Feelings
Regardless of your past experiences, ultimately, it’s best to trust your gut and discuss your concerns with your partner. The best way to broach the subject of infidelity is with meta-communication, the act of talking about talking. Here’s an example of using meta-communication to bring up the subject of a suspected infidelity:
“I have a difficult topic I need to bring up with you. Lately I’ve had this weird feeling that you’re with someone else when you’re not with me. I fully acknowledge this may sound crazy but I need your reassurance.”
Note that the quote above is not hostile or accusatory. Instead, it is honest and measured. Even if you’re boiling over on the inside, it’s important to remain calm and be open to receive your partner’s response.
Ask For Evidence, With Caution
If you are suspicious that your partner is cheating on you, asking for evidence and proof is a reasonable next step. Ask to look at his phone to check emails and texts. If your partner has nothing to hide, this shouldn’t be a big deal.
Now, here’s where to proceed with caution. It is not advisable to look at his phone in secret. Looking for evidence of cheating by sneaking looks at his phone will only make him defensive and angry. It’s almost always better to be upfront and open. Asking to see his phone shows that you are acting in a transparent, mature and respectful manner.
Moreover, asking for your partner’s phone should only be done once or twice. It shouldn’t become a recurring part of a relationship. Constant checking is a reflection of fundamental mistrust and is not sustainable. It can also create symptoms that start to resemble obsessive-compulsive disorder, which will likely cause more issues for both of you.
If your partner is not cheating on you, and you are grappling with recurring, intrusive thoughts, it’s advisable to get some counseling. Part of the danger of paranoia is it can become a thought-reassurance dynamic or routine which is harder to break the longer it goes untreated. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment for paranoid thinking. There is no shame in getting help and taking care of your mental health, and fortunately, it’s easier than ever before to find a therapist.
On the other hand, if your conversation reveals that your partner is in fact cheating, you will need to make some difficult decisions about where to go from there. You will likely want to ask your partner many questions about his infidelity. You will both probably need some time and space to process the revelation and come to grips with all the emotions that come with confronting infidelity.
Keep in mind that infidelity is not necessarily the end of a relationship. About 75% of couples who get therapy feel better and are able to successfully rebuild their relationship. So, cheating is not a sign that it’s over, but a sign that you need help. There’s still hope to find a path back to a healthy, strong relationship.