Have you become concerned that your spouse is cheating? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. Experts like sociology professor Kassia Wosick, conducting research from the past two decades, show that on average, the rates of cheating in marriages hover around twenty percent. 

It does happen, and it’s not unreasonable to suspect. So how can you tell if you have a cheating spouse, and what can you realistically do in response?

How can you tell if your spouse is cheating?

Common signs of emotional cheating include: 

  1. They’re acting off or… different. 
  2. They’re secretive with their phone.
  3. They seemingly know a lot about the other person.
  4. You no longer feel like you’re the priority.
  5. They are opening up to you less and getting upset with you more.
  6. You’re having a lot less or a lot more sex. 
  7. They withdraw from you and become more critical of you.

Common signs of physical cheating include:

  1. Their communication changes.
  2. They pick up a new hobby that drastically alters their schedule.
  3. They are very defensive with you.
  4. They seem secretive and avoidant.
  5. They seem indifferent toward you. 
  6. They are less interested in sex with you or introduce new techniques during sex.
  7. There are bank charges that seem off, and money becomes more of an issue.

Though these are common signs of cheating, every relationship is different! These may be warning signs in one relationship, and in another, they could be nothing to worry about.

Ok, so: you’re saying yes to everything on the list, you fear your partner is cheating, or you have confirmed that your partner is cheating… What now?

The severity of betrayal is important

Ultimately, cheating is a betrayal of trust. This means different things to everyone. When we enter into a committed relationship, we make our own rules. We define our hopes and expectations in the partnership, and our partner does the same. When we lie to our partners, we risk losing their trust. And trust is like relationship glue! 

Regardless of how your spouse is cheating, feeling betrayed makes a lot of people want to take action. In the end, the severity of how betrayed you feel may help you decide how to respond.

However, when you’re bound together by both history and marriage itself, it’s unclear what you should do.

What you can do if you learn your spouse is cheating

Many different emotional responses can occur after someone discovers a cheating spouse. You may…

  • wonder what you did wrong or what was wrong in the relationship rather than looking at your partner’s actions
  • fixate on times when you could have found out and question how you didn’t know
  • have a hard time trusting again and lose some self-esteem
  • feel embarrassed and angry or lose hope in future relationships

All of these responses are normal! And you don’t have to drown in them. Below, find some ideas, big and small, for things you can do next.

Major things you can do in response to a cheating spouse:

Consider taking a break. You may need space for intense emotions to pass, before you make any decisions. You are within your rights to ask your partner for that distance.

Consider divorce. Your decision about whether to divorce likely relies on factors such as finances, any children you share with your cheating spouse, the circumstances of the cheating, and your emotional bandwidth for going through the process.

These are common responses to cheating in a marriage. However, these options are just the beginning of the story. There are many more realistic, less intense things you can do to help yourself through this experience.

Realistic things you can do when you discover your spouse is cheating:

Be direct about your concerns. Trust your intuition, and try to talk to your partner before jumping straight to accusations. Ask questions like “How are you feeling in our relationship? Are you happy? Do you feel like something is missing between us?”

Try to avoid playing detective. There is rarely a simple explanation for why someone is unfaithful in a relationship. It could be a problem in your relationship, it could be something from your partner’s past, or it could have nothing to do with you. Either way, finding out the “why” helps to keep us stuck in the past rather than moving forward. 

Try to accept your feelings. Accept that you are probably setting off on an emotional rollercoaster, and strap in! Whether you decide to end or repair your relationship, regaining trust will take time. Here are some mindfulness techniques for accepting your feelings. 

Don’t seek revenge! Your initial response may be to take to social media, slander their name with their friends, or have your own affair. Though these may temporarily ease the pain, you will likely not feel good about these actions in the long term. 

Don’t blame yourself. Or your relationship. Or even your partner. The “blame game” doesn’t change your situation and can actually cause you to feel more helpless. 

If you have kids with your partner, keep them out of it. The situation is between you and your partner. Don’t involve your children or ask them to choose sides. 

Squad up! You need your best support system around you while mending a broken heart. But be cautious of who you involve, as many people may have strong opinions about how you should proceed in your relationship. 

Seek support/ counseling. You don’t have to go through this alone! Before deciding whether or not to end your relationship, try couples counseling or find an individual therapist that is right for you. 

Take it one day and one step at a time. Your emotions will change over time; give yourself grace and invest in self-care

Truth for moving forward:

Staying in or ending the relationship after infidelity is totally YOUR call! If your partner is open and willing to have an honest conversation and take responsibility, it is possible to move past it and, with time, even strengthen your bond. If you decide to end the relationship, here is an article on how to tell your spouse you want a divorce.

There is no wrong decision, only what feels right for you.