"Do I Have a Cheating Spouse?" - Mr. Marriage Counselor

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      Living with worry is an exhausting and painful way to exist. It’s nearly impossible to be happy when you’re always worried and anxious. And when your worry is about whether you have a cheating spouse it can be exponentially more painful.

      If you’re thinking that your spouse may be cheating, you’re also likely feeling very alone. After all, you can’t really share your fears with the one person who’s supposed to be your closest confidant.

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      Every week at Guy Stuff we counsel couples dealing with the problem of cheating and the trust issues that create the suspicion of cheating. Below is a question sent in by Carrie who’s worried her husband may be cheating on her. Read her story and my response that follows, and see if you can relate.

      Why You Might Wonder If Your Spouse Is Cheating

      Reader Question:

      Do I have a cheating spouse? I have continuously had a problem with my husband and his online or phone line flirtations, or "entertainment", as he calls them. I find phone numbers, emails, messages about hooking up and he says that it's all just entertainment because he's bored. We have a beautiful 16 month old son whom we struggled for years to have and finally, the egg dropped. I don't know if it's underlying jealousy for the attention I give to our son or what. But the bored and entertainment lines are getting to be more than just lame. I recognize the dirt which I have created as well and made great strides to rid myself of those individuals along with that mentality in order to improve myself and my marriage. Granted, as my grandmother used to say, "If you look for dirt, you'll find dirt.", my feeling is I wouldn't have to look, if he was more open with me about his wants and desires. I am willing to compromise to a point as long as it doesn't involve anything absolutely gross and degrading. Any help you can provide to me would be so greatly appreciated and welcomed." -Carrie V

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      Given her situation, Carrie’s concern that her husband might be cheating are understandable. Not only is he behaving strangely, but the changes to their lives with the addition of a child can create a cascade of new stressors.

      My Answer:

      "Do I have a cheating spouse?" is a very important question to be asking and answering.

      I've counseled other couples struggling to answer the same question about when a spouse is cheating. Questionable behaviors can include flirtatious online "entertainment" like your husband's, as well as other behavior such as gawking at other women or flirting with them, looking at porn, social media or dating apps, or even swinging (sexual activities with other people).

      Clearly you both feel different about what acceptable "entertainment" is in your marriage.

      Ultimately, the question of what defines a cheating spouse is one each couple has to reach for themselves. But to properly answer the question for yourself you've got to understand what's being triggered for you that's causing you to ask this question in the first place.

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      I hear 2 things you're not getting enough of in your marriage due to your husband's behavior:

      • Respect
      • Love

      It is my belief that your husband's behavior does not show respect or love to you. It’s selfish and focused solely on his needs, not yours or the needs of your relationship. You deserve to be treated better. And, yes, I believe you have a cheating spouse.

      At the end of your email, you state that you're willing to compromise sexually to meet his wants and desires. Be careful not to take on too much responsibility for his behavior or believe that it's driven by solely by something you're not doing or could be doing differently.

      Most often, looking for "entertainment" outside the relationship has more to do with what's going on internally for the person seeking it (self-identity, stress relief, etc.) than it does with what's missing in the relationship.

      A Word Of Caution If You Think You Have A Cheating Spouse

      Carrie’s relationship has some clear red flags, and her worry is well founded, but these things aren’t proof. What they are, however, are clear signs that her marriage needs attention.

      Before you determine on your own that you have a cheating spouse, I should caution you to really look at your own circumstances before you allow your suspicions to get the better of you.

      Having a child like Carrie does, can bring changes in employment, sickness, depression, growing apart, and many other things that can leave a person feeling insecure and vulnerable. For instance, here's an example of a problem I see regularly regarding sex after having a baby.

      In these states it’s very easy to look for the worst and fit “signs” into your own narrative to support your suspicions.

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      To a certain degree if you are asking yourself if you have a cheating spouse, it doesn’t matter if you spouse is really cheating. The question and suspicions alone indicate that something is broken. So, if you can relate to Carrie in any way, it’s time for action.

      Get some help from a marriage counselor to learn how to get your husband to treat you differently. Another resource you can use for help are the articles on this site. Check out our Love Is Gone page to start.

      Got a question you'd like to Ask a Marriage Counselor? Click here to submit it and I'll try to answer it in an up coming article. Be sure to sign-up below so you'll get my answer as soon as it's published.

      Editor's Note: This post was originally published August 13, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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