How do you know if your spouse is cheating on you?

Sometimes the evidence is incontrovertible. But sometimes it isn’t.

Here’s the good news and the bad news. There aren’t any 100% certain, telltale signs that your partner is definitely cheating on you.

Sometimes where there’s smoke there really is fire.

Sometimes a change in your partner’s behavior, such as them starting to work late on a regular basis, or spending more time in their home office with the door closed (i.e., to chat with an affair partner, or to look for an online romance) is indeed a sign that something is amiss.

But sometimes people really do have to work late. Sometimes people do take up new exercise routines, and start going to the gym obsessively. Sometimes people do take up new habits that might seem strange, like going for long walks at odd hours. People change, after all, and a change in their habits is not necessarily a sign that they’re cheating on you.

Sometimes a sudden new interest in birdwatching is simply that. And yes, sometimes a seemingly odd new hobby is a cover for other behaviors.

On the other hand, some people are EXTREMELY good at covering their tracks. Some people cheat on their partners with scrupulous attention to secrecy, and to keeping up the appearance that everything is normal. Some people conduct affairs with the stealth of a covert operations specialist.

If you have a gnawing hunch that your Person is cheating, you could be right. Sometimes our instincts are right on target. But on the other hand, sometimes we’re paranoid! Sometimes our seemingly well-founded suspicions are completely, utterly baseless.

Our minds can be our greatest servants, but they can also play some wild and crazy tricks on us sometimes. Sometimes our imaginations can be our best friends, but they can also lead us astray.

If you’re worried that your spouse or partner or significant other is cheating on you, and you just want to KNOW if you’re correct, without actually having to confront them with your suspicions, you may be out of luck.

Instead of spending your energy trying to figure out what they’re up to, or obsessively Googling “signs your spouse is cheating on you,” you’re better off figuring out what’s going on with YOU.

You may not have any control over their behavior, but you have the power to determine your response to it. (That may not sound like much consolation if you’re upset by the possibility of your partner being unfaithful, but it’s actually the best thing ever.)

So if you think your partner is cheating on you, and you’re upset and worried and don’t know what to do, now is a great time to ask yourself some important questions about what YOU think, and how YOU feel, and what YOU want. Here are a few to get started with:

1. Why do you think your spouse/partner is cheating? What specific pieces of evidence are you basing your suspicions upon?

2. Do you really want to know if they’re cheating? If you do, WHY do you want to know?

3. What would you do with the information, once you had it?

4. If you found out your partner IS cheating, what would you want to happen next?

5. If you found out your partner is NOT cheating, how would you feel?

6. Have you ever had a conversation with your partner about the parameters of your relationship? More specifically, have you ever had a conversation about what counts as cheating, or being unfaithful?

7. How do you feel about your relationship overall — aside from the possible infidelity?

Once you have a better sense of where you’re at, you can make decisions about how you want to proceed with greater clarity. Maybe it’s time to have an honest conversation with your partner about your concerns. Maybe you’re not ready to hear the truth (and if you aren’t, that’s okay!). Maybe you need to talk to someone about your fears and hopes and questions before you do anything.

Believe it or not, this experience can be an opportunity for your own growth and evolution — no matter what does or doesn’t happen with your relationship. Even if it ends up being the case that your partner is cheating on you, this experience can be the catalyst for better things in your life. And that process starts with focusing more on what you have the power to control — yourself — and learning how to develop a new orientation to what you don’t have the power to control. Learning how to do this will make all of your relationships better, starting with your most important relationship: the one you have with yourself.

Relationship coach, specializing in helping people who are having affairs decide what they want to do. No judgements. www.mariemurphyphd.com

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