You know something is off.
Perhaps, it's his recent mood swings. Perhaps, you feel like he's withdrawn or is hiding something. Or maybe, you can't put your finger on exactly what it is, but your intuition is telling you something is amiss.
You've tried to push the thought out of your head, but the more you do, the more it seems impossible to get rid of.
Could he be cheating on you?
The following is the five-step process I take my own clients through if they find themselves asking this question.
Not only will it smoothly get you to the truth, but it will also give him the benefit of doubt in the meantime, ensuring you nurture the relationship as you gather information.
1. Don't panic or jump to accusations.
Before you do anything, stop. Take a few deep breaths. There may be a reasonable explanation for your man's behavior you haven't considered yet.
aMen can be insecure beings. Failure, perceived sexual inadequacy and finances are all things that can cause men to withdraw from you. And they might just look like cheating.
This is no time to jump to accusations. In the event he's guilty, your evidence is limited. Early accusations not only give him ample chance to lie to you, but also to cover his tracks.
But if he's innocent, false accusations could ruin your relationship.
2. Write a list of everything you've noticed.
Find some alone time, take out some paper you can keep private and compile a list of things that have raised your suspicions. Write them down, in detail.
This exercise has a very specific purpose: It allows you to get your thoughts down on paper, rather than have them swimming around in your head, creating emotional turmoil.
Your list will help you see the whole picture, meaning you can think more rationally about the situation, including whether you may be jumping to early or unjustified conclusions.
3. Become more vigilant while looking for further signs.
Once your list is written, it's time to raise your awareness.
Be vigilant for further signs. As you do, try to be objective. Avoid talking yourself into reasons that aren't there.
If you're unsure, put them on your list and review them later for clarity.
As you become more watchful, pay particular attention to his phone. Don't go in for it. Just become aware of it.
Does he leave the room when calling or messaging? Is it always by his side?
Sometimes, in becoming more vigilant, you'll notice positive signs. Ensure you write these down, too.
Perhaps, you notice him leaving his phone absentmindedly around the house or leaving his social media logged in. Positive signs in your list may also add up.
4. Find time to talk.
If your mental stress hasn't been eased by your list and increased vigilance (or, if your suspicions have worsened), then it's time to sit your boyfriend down and have "the talk."
There are three golden rules to the talk:
1. Approach this talk as you would a relationship problem talk. It's not a cheating talk. 2. Phrase everything as you, rather than him. 3. Don't pull out your list.
Remember, if he is cheating, it makes no difference.
But if he isn't, your relationship can be saved. Talk to him as such.
To begin the conversation, make yourself vulnerable. You are working under the assumption his behaviors are caused by stress, feeling inadequate or something else wrong in his life. You go in vulnerable because you want him to feel safe opening up to you.
Here's an example:
“There's been some stuff lately that I can't make sense of, and it's scaring me. I feel rejected by you when you're home late, and I feel like you're not interested in making up the time. I know you're probably dealing with things, but it's just making me feel left out of your life and like you don't want me.
We used to talk about everything we had going on, but we've hardly done that at all lately. I want that to be us again. Talk to me about what's going on.”
You may need to repeat this talk to get a result. If it is something he's sensitive about, he may not open up on the first go.
On the other hand, if he repeatedly refuses your attempts to talk, or if he becomes defensive when you try, proceed to the final step.
5. Choose the high road (show him the list) or the low road (investigate him).
The high road is when you take "the talk" to the next level by showing him your list.
Again, start the conversation by being vulnerable, but this time, also be firm. He's likely to be taken aback by your list, which could lead him to being defensive.
Being vulnerable means he can connect with you, giving you the innocent explanation (if there is one), while your firmness clarifies you're expecting one.
“I want to be open with you. I'm scared about what I've seen. I hope there is an innocent explanation, and I want to make this work. But, these behaviors have been deeply concerning me, and I need to know, or else I don't think we can continue.”
If the high road doesn't work (he becomes defensive or continues to offer poor explanations), couples counseling is your last option (if he's willing). Otherwise, end the relationship. If you can't trust him and he won't explain himself, what do you have left?
If you absolutely cannot bear not knowing, the low road is another alternative.
As its name suggests, the low road is the morally lower ground, where — if you are positive he is cheating — you go in behind his back to confirm your suspicions. Be it going through his phone or email, placing recording devices or even hiring a private investigator, the low road virtually ends any chance of a loving, trusting relationship.
But, it does get you your answer.
While I dislike this course of action, some men and situations necessitate it, particularly where children or money may be involved.
Before you go down the low road, ask yourself one last question: Do you really want to bother investigating a relationship that is so suspicious it warrants deceptive action?
Your answer may see you taking the high road or leaving the relationship outright.
If the low road reveals the evidence you seek, you have your answer. If not, couples counseling may still be an option, but realize that by then, with the current levels of mistrust in the relationship, it may be too late.
Too often, suspicions of cheating lead to accusations that shake a relationship beyond recovery. Don't jump to conclusions.
If you believe your partner could be unfaithful, reign in the urge to spy or lash out. Instead, take a measured approach to finding out more.
While it will take some restraint on your part, the underlying sense of trust it assumes might turn out to be the very thing that saves your relationship.