There’s only one way to know if your partner is cheating: Nope, it’s not by thumbing through their text messages and emails. To really get down to the truth, you have to ask your spouse directly.
“Instead of becoming a detective and snooping through their phone, consider talking about it,” Elisa Dombrowski, a marriage and family therapist in Orange County, California, told The Huffington Post. “Let them know you can handle the truth and that you believe you can work through anything, as long as there’s honesty.”
Below, Dombrowski and other marriage therapists offer more advice for broaching the delicate subject.
You deserve to know if your partner is faithful. If you have a suspicion that something is amiss in your relationship, don’t ignore the warning signs, Dombrowski said.
“Some people worry that confronting their partner will force the break up of their relationship,” she said. “They hope it will go away on its own but it’s often this lack of communication that creates distance in the relationship from the beginning, making it easier for an affair to take place.”
Ultimately, you should trust your intuition and broach the subject delicately, she said.
“Too often, we condition ourselves to ignore that tiny voice inside that says something doesn’t feel quite right,” Dombrowski added.
Don’t lower yourself to snooping through email or text messages, especially if you’re hopeful your relationship can withstand any possible betrayal, said Stephanie Mintz, a marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles, California.
“Resist the temptation to snoop,” she told HuffPost. “This would be a total breach of trust and privacy on your part and would make rebuilding that trust much more difficult. Although you may suspect your partner or spouse has already broken the trust, you don’t want to add fuel to the fire.”
Timing is critical when discussing a subject this sensitive, Mintz said. You’ll both need to be in the right frame of mind, so to that end, don’t bring it up at 12 a.m. on a Monday, when you’re both exhausted. (Indeed, studies have shown that the brain’s emotional centers are more reactive when we’re sleep deprived.)
“You don’t want this to be rushed and you don’t want to do it before work, when children are around or with an activity to go to shortly after,” Mintz said. “Wait for an evening after each of you has had some time to unwind from work or a weekend where you don’t have plans for later on in the day.”
This is bound to be an uncomfortable conversation. You may want to begin the talk by acknowledging how uneasy it makes you, said Todd Creager, a marriage therapist in Orange County, California and the author of The Little Black Book On Infidelity.
“Let your partner know that you have some uneasy feelings and need him or her to help you sort through them,” he said. “Then go ahead and let your partner know what you are suspicious of or what caused your uneasiness.”
Your spouse still may get angry and defensive ― especially if your suspicions are true ― “but you’re cutting down the chances of defensiveness by focusing on yourself and not your partner,” Creager said.
Let your partner know that when you feel uneasy or have an intuition, you owe it to yourself to check it out, Creager said.
“By bringing it up, you are educating your partner that you have integrity,” he said. “Let him or her know that you are owed the truth if nothing else. You deserve to know what is truly going on so that you can make a good decision for yourself.”
It can be isolating and painful to deal with infidelity. Depending on the answer you receive from your partner, you might consider seeking individual or couples therapy afterward, Dombrowski said.
“You might feel the need to tell friends and family about your partner’s cheating but once the secret is out, you can’t put it back in,” she said. “Friends and family are great but a good therapist can help you decide who your trusted circle of support will be while you are learning to navigate the difficult journey that lies ahead, whatever you decide.”