Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash
Uncertainty about whether or not your partner is cheating can feel awful. Beyond worry and anxiety about the relationship, you may feel bad about yourself—fearing that you aren’t enough for your partner. If your relationship has been struggling for a while, you might fear that this will cause a breakup, and that can create a storm of concerns and fears about everything from finances to family to housing.
So how does one know? Research has shown that most affairs are prompted by loneliness. Ironically, when life feels overwhelming, the union that serves as the foundation of our lives, can sometimes ends up on the bottom of the priority list. When this happens, we stop carving out time to connect each day, we forget to show affection and caring, express fondness or plan ahead to have date-nights, romance, and playtime. Perhaps we’ve begun to blame each other for whatever goes wrong or started comparing our partner to others and finding our partner lacking. Inevitably, partners no long feel important to each other and their needs aren’t heard. Compromise becomes difficult, so partners come to lead parallel lives. What happens next? You guessed it: Individuals may then look outside the relationship to have their needs met.
If you and your partner are emotionally close, are comfortable sharing your feelings, and make time for passion and fun, then discussing your fears about cheating should be relatively easy and straight forward. Simply share your worry and ask for clarification about any time spent apart that seems unusual. Asked in a caring way, and framed in fear about losing your partner, these questions are usually well received.
If you and your partner have been struggling, and communication has been difficult, finding out the truth may be more challenging. The first thing to know is that infidelity does not have to mean the end of the relationship. There is a path toward healing if it has occurred. Having questions about whether your partner is cheating can often signal the need to devote more time to the relationship since couples who feel secure and well-loved, usually don’t worry about these issues.
So, how do you learn the truth? Try to check in with your partner each day about how they’re doing. Try to ask open-ended questions that can lead to discussion and show interest and empathy. Try to also share a bit about your own feelings, both positive and negative. Next, choose a low-stress time of the week and begin to have some discussions about how each of you is feeling in the relationship itself and what each of you need to make things better. Try to share your own feelings and don’t describe your partner. Rather than sharing what your partner has done wrong, focus on your positive needs. What could your partner do to make you feel good. Once you have had a few of these meetings, go ahead and share your worst fears about the infidelity and in a very calm voice, ask your partner if there is something that needs to be shared. Explain that the relationship needs to be based on truth, so even if it will hurt, you need to know the truth.
If your partner admits to an affair, emotional or physical, or if your partner refuses to discuss the situation, you will most likely need the help of a competent couples therapist who uses an evidence-based approach (a therapy model based on research). Even if multiple affairs have occurred, relationships can be saved if both parties are committed to the process. To learn more, visit https://www.gottman.com.
Wishing you Loving Relationships!