There is really only one golden rule when it comes to confronting a cheating spouse. And that is……no violence. Here are a few other tips on how to confront a cheating spouse.
- Get your head on straight. When you first find out that your spouse is cheating, emotions will run high. You may want to confront your spouse immediately but keep your own best interests in mind as you decide how to bring up the topic of his or her cheating. Know your own intentions (to get the truth, keep the marriage together at all costs, or……?) so that you can get what you want from the discussion. Don’t forget that when you first bring the issue up, you will have the benefit of surprise on your side…and you want to be sure to use that surprise to your best advantage.
- How much do you know? If you have incontrovertible evidence of your spouse’s cheating, decide whether or not you will share that information with your spouse. Will she only tell you as much as she thinks you already know or will she fess up? (Some of the greatest damage caused by infidelity comes not from the initial transgression but from the subsequent lies about it.) Being well-informed of your spouse’s activities gives you the opportunity not only to test her honesty but to assess her intentions, too. If you’re going to bluff on just how much you know, prepare yourself to do so convincingly.
- Gather evidence. This is more for your own sake than to prove something to a cheating spouse. Sometimes when confronted with a topic that is as challenging to our identities as spousal infidelity, it can be tempting to deny the evidence staring you in the face. If you log what you discover into a journal, it is harder to maintain the denial that is often your first defense. You’ll see written out in front of you that this is actually the seventeenth Wednesday in a row that he has come home late without explanation only to jump straight in the shower while expressing amazement at the “cat scratch” marks on his back. Hmmmmmmm...
- Listen (without interruption). This one may be challenging. Here you’ve been living with your suspicions for some time and you’re probably feeling ready to vent. But listening to your spouse when he or she is first confronted will tell you quite a bit about the status of your relationship. If your spouse has been almost hoping to get caught and is ready to confess and make amends, you are in a much different situation than if your spouse denies everything or blames his or her infidelity on you.
- Do you want to repair the marriage? This question depends upon so many different factors, including the character of your spouse, the trajectory of your relationship, the willingness of both parties, your own ability to forgive……and so on. If you think that the marriage stands a chance of being rehabilitated, best get a counselor for some help……regaining trust that has been broken is one of the biggest challenges that any relationship can face.
- And until you’re ready to bring it up... On a strictly practical note, your partner’s extracurricular activities expose you to possibility of contracting a venereal disease so you may want to find an excuse for curtailing relations until you’re ready to bring the issue up. Or protect yourself……at this point in time, a venereal disease would really be the icing on the cake, wouldn’t it?
- Think through the implications. If there is deceit in the relationship, is it possible that the deceit extends to other areas of your life…such as finances? If your partner has been cheating, and your relationship is near its end, do you have the legal representation you will need to protect your interests? Just think through all the possible implications BEFORE you initiate a discussion so that you’ll have your interests covered no matter what direction the discussion takes.
- Take care of yourself. As difficult as this may be to realize in the moment, the greater problem is your spouse’s and not yours. You still have your integrity, after all. In addition to the effects of his behavior on the relationship, he has his own guilt to deal with as well. And though the degradation of the marriage in the first place is usually due to joint issues, the decision to go outside of the marriage was your spouse’s decision alone, and a big blow to his personal integrity.
No matter what you do, you must do something. Pretending not to notice an affair is tantamount to approving of it. Even if the discovery of a spouse’s affair leads to the end of a long-term relationship, this outcome is preferable to living a lie. So hold your head up high and good luck to you as you confront your cheating spouse.