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.