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Is My Husband (or Wife) Cheating on Me?

While driving in New Jersey a while back, I listened to a radio talk show about relationships. The topic of the day was whether we have the right to read our spouse's mail and email and check his or her cell phone text messages and call logs.

No matter which answer callers gave, the question itself, and their eagerness to engage it, disturbed me. A better question would be whether we stand to gain or lose by checking up on a spouse.

When we marry, we take a big risk, in exchange for an even bigger payoff. This question recognizes the risk. A spouse who steps out on us could bring home a deadly disease or destroy his or her career through scandal. An affair might result in the birth of a child or the death of our marriage.

We can reduce the risk by leaving our spouse no privacy. But we can't protect the payoff, the love we need in our lives, the feeling of being special to another human being, the support for our mission in life. Suspiciousness pushes all this away. We can't receive love and look for harm simultaneously. We can't distrust and feel love at the same time.

Whether we have the right to behave this way or not, by checking up on phone calls and email, we choose to give up the payoff that justifies the risk. We choose to lose.

A much better approach to dealing with our fear is to Assume Love and Find Third Alternatives.

Comments

Recognize this is an old post but current relevance for me.

I've been married for almost 22 years to a beautiful, wonderful person. We've had our struggles. Never any infidelity (pretty sure) but we married quick, we were young, and we made bad decisions. Were always flush with money or broke. I drank a lot and certainly had my times where I put the relationship at risk.

For the last ten years my wife had put on weight (from kids and life) but I still always found her desirable. We moved to a new town 5 years ago, and a lot of my antics ceased, she had a new independent job that paid well and was satisfying and things were manageable.

Two years ago she started working out doing Yoga and other things. She did this with a very small circle of people including one male with a lot of money and time on his hands. Fast forward to this spring and she was down over 40lbs, very fit and more desirable than ever.

3 months ago cleaning out the car I found a pros/cons note about this man. Lots of references to wanting to be the type of woman he would want vs. how he doesn't seem to "like" her and how he only likes 22 year olds. I had been uncomfortable with this relationship since last summer and our oldest son, who is now 14, has been noticeably disturbed about the time they spend together.

I confronted her about it and she said this was two months old and written at a time when she was thinking of stopping the workouts because he was mean. Also was honest in saying she doesn't understand why he doesn't compliment her on being hot and fit...after some research she has convinced herself she has a self-esteem issue that one writer referred to as the "I Don't Like You But I want you to want me syndrome".

At this point I went on high alert...checking email, searches, and texts. What I found is that starting in March there was a serious uptick in searches specific to this man. Lots of astrological mappings between her signs and his.

I have confronted her several times now and she has lied and then become angry when I showed her what I know.

I have seen the text messages with him. There is NOTHING to support there is or has ever been anything physical that has taken place.

I think she has a serious crush and this is her mid-life. Her great job has disappeared completely. She has no satisfaction there. She has teenage boys that don't need her as much and she feels she has no control at home.

She has created this other life and why wouldn't it be where she wants to spend her time?

I have been having huge anxiety but have also worked hard to try and make her home life more attractive. I have lost 60lbs in three months and have asked for us to start doing more.

She swears that she doesn't have feelings for him and that the only thing threatening our marriage is my jealousy.

She confides in her cousin and I have seen texts or heard messages indicating she does have feelings and is beside herself that he doesn't have them for her.

She has started to cut out the workouts with him but is not at all happy about it. In the meantime they have done new things together and lied to me about it. I always find out and she is always pissed as she feels I am shadowing her.

Our physical relationship has never been better but we keep having these blow up arguments around all these issues. If she really knew everything I knew she would be very upset. I know this is a violation of her privacy but don't I have the right to know where she is at and what she is doing when it is a point of contention in our marriage?

I can't help my feelings. We went to one counselor and she sided with me and my wife felt ganged up on. She refuses to go to anyone again.

The date she is supposed to completely separate is this Sunday. We had a discussion about a new workout place she wanted to join alone and I said of course as long as she didn't coordinate this to see him. I have always supported her. I make a good living and I don't give her any crap about her job or lack of it.

She says she can't be in a relationship where she is controlled. I just said, you have feelings for another man. I can't enable your seeing him everyday. She said, if I truly believed this, why do I think these feelings will go away with the disconnection. I responded, I can't be certain but I don't know what else to do.

I am so completely overwhelmed by this - barely worked in three months and clearly I am smothering her but left alone, this just continues. She blames me for everything. Says she is sorry for the searches but feels like lying to me is easier than telling the truth on the activities.

I need advise on the "reality of the crush". What are the chances this separation will do the trick. I've not confronted him in depth or his wife. If the full story got out in our very close knit circle, my wife's reputation would suffer greatly as well as the other couples.

She has taken to hiding things better (new email account she doesn't think I know about but I don't have access to), has her phone at all times, etc. but I still see some text messages that I shouldn't and it can infuriate me when I read some of the content. Her workout partner thinks I am crazy but doesn't have the context of knowing everything that I know.

At times I am so depressed I have thoughts about not being able to live without her. I am seeing a new therapist this week and have talked with a pastor several times but really appreciate guidance on what to do about the crush and communicating with my wife. Thanks.

Sorry this is so long.

James, I know it's awful to suspect your beloved wife of cheating on you, but whether she is or isn't is currently irrelevant, and it's as dangerous to your marriage to keep trying to answer this question as it is for her to continue flirting with disaster. You two are locked in a dance that can only end in divorce unless one of you changes your steps and leads the dance back in the right direction.

I don't think she's looking to replace you. It sounds very much like she's trying to get your attention to a problem in your marriage (even if her technique stinks), which is a sign she wants it to survive. The harder you work at tracking her, the bigger that problem grows, the further apart you two get, and the more tempted she'll be to use the one thing that seems to get your attention, which is obsessing about yoga guy. Unfortunately, while it gets your attention, it also adds to the divide between you and increases your temptation to track her.

My advice? Don't waste any of your time with the new therapist on the question of whether or not she's cheating on you. Focus instead on trying to figure out why, even after the end of your seventeen years of relationship-endangering antics, she might risk your marriage and her reputation with antics of her own. Something didn't get fixed when you moved.

Tell her you have decided to take her word that she's done with him and you are therefore done with stalking and controlling her. Then let her know all the reasons you hope and pray she'll freely choose you. Ask her if there is anything she wishes were different between you, anything you might work on with your therapist.

Instead of checking her cell phone texts and emails, send her some that make coming home to you more enticing. If you couldn't live without her, you don't need to know what she thinks of him. You need to make sure she thinks fondly of you. Schedule more date nights. Bring her flowers. Look into her eyes and remind yourself why she's the one you can't live without before you touch her cheek or kiss her lips.

Create more opportunities to share positive emotions together, because it is this that makes us feel "in love" with someone. Laugh together. Listen to or look at beautiful things together. Get some fun exercise together. Do things you both love doing together. Offer her a massage or a gift just because. Celebrate her achievements (and yours) in a big way. Plan something fun together.

The crush is a symptom, not a problem.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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