Necessary Conversations / Uncategorized

Cheating in Relationships: I Thought I Saw a Mouse!

Hundreds of people have come through my office over the years stating, “I’m almost certain my partner is having an affair, but I’m not 100% sure.” Since affairs are secretive in nature, being 100% sure as to whether or not your partner is involved with someone else may be an expectation that can not be quickly satisfied. Therefore,you will have to rely on your  “gut” or intuition in figuring out this sad and painful situation.

I help the potentially betrayed deal with this possibility by using the “I thought I saw a mouse!” metaphor. Usually when someone thinks he or she has seen a mouse; there was, in fact, a mouse who scurried through the person’s field of vision. Perhaps just a shadow, a fleeting glimpse, a momentary glance, a flash, a spotting may be all you get; but if you thought you saw a mouse, you probably did. The mouse metaphor serves as an indicator that you may be picking up on or sensing that your partner is having an outside involvement with someone else. Just like the mouse, the affair has caught your attention from the corner of your eye. Now what?

Directly asking probably won’t help. Most people having affairs deny that they are; at least at the outset of being discovered. Getting nasty and accusatory won’t help either. That will only enable your partner to further justify the possible betrayal. You will need to consciously and deliberately think through your own personal plan of how you deserve to comport yourself during this very stressful and challenging time of your relationship. Whatever you do, do not behave in ways that bring you only more shame and self-loathing.

Here are some tips on how to proceed if you are almost certain, but you’re not 100% sure, that your partner is cheating on you:

  • Ask your partner about it in an emotionally safe space so that you can approach the dilemma together in a constructive manner. For example, “I am feeling very concerned about our relationship. We must be not dealing with something important because I think you are involved with someone else. Will you discuss this with me?” You may have to patiently ask this more than once. Be prepared for it to possibly never get answered.
  • Seek some professional individual counsel on your concerns and insecurities. Get some input and help with managing your emotional pain, regulating your intense feelings, understanding what went wrong and identifying your options.
  • Stop worrying about what your partner is or isn’t doing and hone in on what you are or aren’t doing.
  • Use your internal focus to define your own experience and do not succumb to the temptation of blaming and attacking your partner or the possible paramour.
  • Do not fall prey to seeing yourself as “replaced.” The point in question is more like, “Is this person a good relationship choice for me?”
  • Think about your perspective on cheating. Is it a deal breaker? If it is, start planning for the future with a workable strategy for becoming single.
  •  If there is an affair; is it something you can live with? If it is, you and your partner need to get connected with some healing resources.
  • Remember that cheating is a symptom of some unaddressed issue in your relationship that deserves immediate attention. Carrying on about an affair distracts you from identifying a crucial relationship concern. Whether you stay in the relationship or not, you need this information so that you may grow as you move forward.

Please notice from the above tips that going after the perceived cheater in any negative way about the betrayal is not listed. This will not help and will only make matters worse for you. Remember that someone’s poor judgment and bad behavior does not justify you deciding to  behave badly. Please take responsibility for how you choose to initially respond because this first response can make all the difference in how the painfully upsetting occurrence actually plays out in the long run.

Stay tuned for more on healing the broken heart.

One thought on “Cheating in Relationships: I Thought I Saw a Mouse!

  1. If you are considering embarking upon an affair then I BEG you to read this. I apologise for the length of the blog, I hope this doesn’t put you off.

    I did exactly this eleven years ago, it lasted only six weeks or so before I broke it off. But I then re-started it around five years ago with the very same person, and then kept the deception up for three and a half years. It has ruined me and my family. Please, don’t anyone make the same mistake.

    First of all, some background to me. I’m a 54 year old male, I married in 1988 and have three grown up children. For various reasons I have had issues with my sexual behaviour since puberty. I believe that attachment disorder (my father left when I was two and a half) and sexual abuse (paedophile, stranger) may have some part to play in this (there’s more I’m sure, and I’m having professional help now and am trying to get to the bottom of it). I was very promiscuous and sexually charged in my teens and twenties and was unable to develop intimate relationship. I used sex as some sort of substitute and, without doubt, to relieve feelings of pain, loneliness, stress etc.

    My “emotional autism” and inability to understand initimacy and how relationships needed to work resulted in me damaging our marriage from the beginning. I was unable to communicate properly with my wife and the marriage remained troubled all the way through. By the time I knew how much I did love her, the damage was done, she was so badly hurt that she had effectively turned against me and more-or-less resigned herself to just putting up with her lot. I could never seem to break through all of that and for years thought (selfishly) that I must be the most unhappy man on earth.

    Sadly, true to my patterns of learned behaviour, eventually I became focused on sex as a diversion from my difficulties. My compulsive sexual behaviour clandestinely grew. First, I got hooked on internet pornography. I even paid for sex twice. The actual affair was entirely sexually motivated, I just selfishly wanted some sort of pain relief, which I associated with sex. Underneath it all, I loved my wife and didn’t want to lose her, I somehow wanted it all to work out but didn’t know how to make it happen. Consequently, I developed an almost pathological fear of my wife ever finding out. I became the most awful liar and took great care to cover my tracks.

    But neither was I honest with the third party. Although she freely offered what I wanted, she was also clearly hoping that she would end up in a proper relationship with me. I had no such intentions. But she was volatile – and as bad as me (she was also married) – and so I became frightened that if I broke it off, she would disclose the affair. So I just played a dangerous game, not committing to her in any way, just trying to keep her sweet, in the hope that she would eventually just get so sick of it all that she simply gave up on me. What a horrible human being I was.

    Of course, not dealing with any of this head-on like a real person meant that nothing was ever resolved. She didn’t go away. The affair grew into a nightmare and every day I felt a growing burden of guilt and shame. Needless to say, living this double life impacted hugely on my wife. She wanted to make plans for our future, but I felt I couldn’t commit in case the affair was disclosed and everything fell apart. So as well as lying, I became evasive.

    In the end, I could see no way of it ever ending in the way I hoped, quietly. Not only was it impacting on my mental health, I was also holding my wife back terribly. The third party, too. I finally faced up to the fact that I had to “man-up”, end the affair and confess all to my wife, beg forgiveness and then leave her to decide whether she could live with this awful infidelity (an outcome I didn’t expect).

    I disclosed the affair to her 17 months ago. Incredibly, my wife told me that she still loved me and wanted to stay with me. This was an entirely voluntary action, she has her own means and freedom to choose what to do with her life. What a wonderful woman. But it’s been SO hard for her. All of these disclosures have been a bitter blow to her. Also to my children. They are all appalled and disgusted with me and are struggling enormously to overcome these very powerful emotions. My wife is still swinging from one direction to the other; one day she seems to be coping and the next she’s for ending it all. She’s worried the feelings will never go away. Although they somehow manage it, my children can barely look at or talk to me.

    For my own part, I’m now equally disgusted with myself. How could I lie like that? How could I have no honour? How could I have stooped to such levels? How could I be so careless with my life and the lives of the only people who meant anything to me? I have learnt so much at last, but at what cost to everyone else? And all for a bit of sex. I’m open to any amount of criticism and ridicule for the person I’ve been, anything that’s said is entirely justifiable. I’m a disgraceful example.

    With all of that appalling background out of the way, now on to my message to anyone contemplating embarking on an affair.

    If your relationship is on the rocks and you haven’t tried EVERY WAY humanly possible to resolve your issues, then DO THIS NOW. You MUST talk frankly and openly about your feelings. See a relationship counsellor – and make sure you have plenty of sessions. Communication is the only way to resolve these problems.

    Above all, don’t be tempted to just have an affair. If you intend to start with a fresh person, only do it when you’ve ended your current relationship properly. An affair solves nothing and only heaps misery onto misery. The promise of romance when you’re starved, a shoulder to cry on, or just some feel-good sex, may seem so appealing. But it addresses nothing. If you try to hide it, it will almost always come out in the end. Affairs RUIN lives. Don’t do it. Unlike me, be a decent human being. Don’t be selfish – be real, be honest. Talk. Talk. Talk. Resolve your difficulties maturely. PLEASE.

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