All my life, people have told me I have a "truth lasso," meaning there is just something about me that makes people need to confess things to me. It can be a curse, like when random strangers strike up a conversation and suddenly start spilling dark secrets to me. It happens all the time. But how I first got this reputation actually started in high school when I suspected my best friend's boyfriend was cheating. So, I posted myself on the back porch at his house party and started collecting intel. If I knew anything about confronting someone about cheating, it was that you have to gather all the facts — but if you're going to do it properly know, that's just the start.
Knowing how to deal with a cheating partner is hopefully information you'll never need, but if it happens, there are definitely wrong and right ways to handle the conversation. So, just in case it happens in the future, or you strongly suspect it’s happening now, I've turned to the experts to get their insights on how to prepare and execute a confrontation with a cheater like a pro. Just because they are stepping out doesn't mean you don’t still have the power. Here's what the experts said.
1. Be Prepared For The Outcome
When you discover or suspect your partner is cheating, emotions are guaranteed to to run high. No one can blame you for being highly emotional when you learn your SO has betrayed your trust. So there may be temptation to let emotion rule and just charge ahead with a confrontation.
Susan Winter, bestselling author and relationship expert, warns that this is a terrible idea. Rather than charging ahead and blundering into a conversation you aren’t ready for, it’s essential to take the time to think about how prepared you are for a conversation that will forever change the relationship. “The number one factor to consider is 'Are you prepared for the outcome?'" she says. “This isn’t meant to mute you or stop you from getting to the truth. But be aware that calling out your partner also means you need to be ready to walk away.”
2. Decide If The Relationship Is Salvageable
Just because someone strays doesn’t automatically mean you have to break up. But if moving forward together is something you’re considering, Winter suggests you decide that for yourself in advance.
Think about the degree to which you are willing to work with them if you do find out that they have cheated, she says. If you want to try and salvage the relationship, know that before you confront them. Ask yourself if you are willing to forgive them, and if you are capable of not harboring resentment. The key is to just be honest with yourself about what you want moving forward, so you don’t end up getting pressured one way or the other in the heat of the moment.
3. Collect All Your Facts
There is a chance when you confront your SO about their behavior that they are going to try and deny it. They may even try to turn it around on you, which is why you always want to make sure you’ve got receipts to shut that down immediately.
“Have screenshots of your mate’s text messages, credit card receipt copies, or any other tangible evidence of their cheating. Without tangible evidence, you’ll sound like an insecure, neurotic partner,” says Winter. Once faced with evidence, it should shut down any denials and you can start having a real conversation.
But what if you don’t have any actual evidence, just a gut feeling that they are cheating? Nora DeKeyser, date coach and matchmaker for Three Day Rule, suggests a softer approach. “Don’t accuse,” she says. "Come into the conversation out of love for the other person and love for yourself, but most of all, love for your bond together as partners. Angle the question in a way that says, 'I want us to work; we have so much love for each other,' and then discuss your questions.”
DeKeyser also warns against undermining yourself by coming into the conversation with an out. “Don't say ‘I know this is crazy of me to say, but…’" she says. By starting off like that, “you are doubting yourself first and you will never be satisfied with the outcome.” Just because you’re coming into the conversation without the advantage of tangible proof doesn’t mean you should be afraid to confront a partner whose behavior is making you suspicious. Above all, trust your gut and know your value.
4. Play Through The Conversation In Your Mind
While there’s no way to know exactly how your partner will react to the confrontation, taking the time to imagine the various scenarios will help prepare you for any outcome. Expect the unexpected and you can retain control of the conversation.
"If your mate is sorry, sobbing and begging you for another chance, think in advance how you’d respond to that outcome,” says Winter. “Conversely, think through how you’d say, ‘It’s over.’” By playing out these scenes in advance, it will help you be more polished, calm, and prepared when the time comes.
5. Make Sure You're Feeling Calm Enough To Confront
OK, now for the hard part: Not totally losing it when you confront your partner. DeKeyser says the best way to keep your cool is to take the conversation seriously and plan accordingly. “Really prepare your thoughts and feelings behind this conversation. This is not a flippant topic to bring up, so don't treat it that way. Really write out exactly why you feel this way,” she says.
Winter adds that it’s also all about the delivery. “Histrionics and screaming will make you look like crazy girl. If you can’t deliver your evidence in a calm, measured manner — wait until you can,” she says, adding, “how to deliver this information has everything to do with how effective your results [are]. Be in control of your emotions and you’ll look like the victor (even if you feel like the loser).”
Confronting a cheater is always brutal, but at least by preparing properly, you can avoid the pitfalls that make it even harder.
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