It is often a terrible gut-wrenching feeling when you start suspecting your significant other might be cheating on you. Maybe there was an unexplained situation that put you on high alert or possibly a comment from him/her/them or a friend that made you start suspecting. Whatever the situation might be, it is often discouraging, saddening, and isolating. Here are some suggestions to try and navigate the situation.
- Consider what you are feeling. You are the expert of your emotions. Sit back, and reflect on what is going on in your body. It is often common to feel anger and frustration over the potential situation- anger is considered a secondary emotion often fueled by something deeper (sadness, anger, etc.). I encourage you to reflect on what is beneath the anger. It can be challenging to identify these feelings if you are not used to this practice; try doing a body scan and identifying what physical symptoms you might be feeling (hot; tense shoulders; pit in your gut; rapid heartbeat; shortness of breath, etc.). Clueing into your physical symptomology might give you perspective into what emotions you are feeling. I also suggest journaling. Journaling can help you dive deeper into what you are feeling without having to hold all the thoughts on your own.
- Talk to your partner about your feelings/concerns. After you have fully discovered what you are feeling, I suggest you share with your partner your concerns. Depending on how in-depth you went with step 1, it is likely that you will have an adaptive conversation if you are not still fueled with anger. Confronting your partner with anger will likely cause your partner’s defenses to shoot up which could lead to an unproductive conversation without the results you are hoping for.
- Offer suggestions as to why you think he/she/they are cheating. Within this step, practice using “I” statements. For example, “I felt hurt/scared/confused because I could not get a hold of you for 4 hours when you went into the city. In those moments, I felt like I was getting cheated on.” Using I statements will also minimize opportunities for your partner to get defensive and shut you down. This step allows you to share examples of why YOU feel the way YOU feel without pathologizing your partner.
- Ask for honesty. After you have shared the way you are feeling and offer reasons for why you are questioning infidelity, ask for honesty. Express your desire to understand. Maybe he/she/they will have valid, honest, and realistic explanations for the change in behavior. Of course, you may never fully know if the partner is being honest or not, but hopefully, this strategic conversation will help you tolerate some discomfort, give you answers, and possibly put your suspicions at ease.
- Make a collaborative plan of action. After you have been open and vulnerable with your partner, it is time to look forward. What did this conversation do for the relationship? If you concluded that your partner did not cheat, maybe this means spending more quality time together, further connecting and continuing this open dialogue; this can be a time build on this foundation of open communication and trust. If your partner admitted to cheating, maybe this conversation opens up an opportunity to go to therapy or rebuild your relationship; if the relationship continues moving forward, this situation can give light onto what was missing from the relationship that led to the infidelity. Although hearing your partner has cheated is hurtful, frustrating, and saddening, the relationship does not have to be over. That choice to rebuild and create something just as great, if not better, is still an option that you two need to make together. You both chose each other for a reason, so if the next step is relationship 2.0, this takes a lot of time, energy, and resources, but there is hope.
- Self-care. Regardless of the answers you received from this conversation, you must take time for yourself. The roller coaster of emotions that comes along with infidelity is not easy to navigate alone. Take care of yourself! That might mean reaching out to family and friends, going to the gym or spa more frequently, or diving into a hobby that makes you feel supported. Giving yourself time every day for you is extremely important.