If you are confronted with this frightening suspicion you should approach your partner directly but not in an attacking, accusatory way. You want to focus on your feelings, your fear, on where your suspicion comes from, and on your desire for the truth.
How you talk to your partner, especially in an emotionally charged situation like this is important. We recommend that you calm yourself, ask your partner for a good time to talk and sit down with him/her and say what you have noticed and what you suspect rather than accusing, yelling, or blaming. It is important that you be honest with yourself that you are ready for the truth; otherwise we invite our partner to not tell us the truth. When we accuse and blame we are on one level giving our partner the message that we cannot or do not want to handle the truth. Thus, once you are certain that while you may not want to risk the answer, you cannot live with the uncertainty, give your partner your observations, share your suspicions and ask the question. It might sound like this: “Mary/John, I have noticed that something about you and your actions is different. I have noticed this for more than a month. At first I thought nothing of it, but my intuition tells me that something has changed. I believe or fear that you are involved with another man/woman. Is this true?”
While you have practiced being calm and asking the question openly, this is no guarantee that your partner will tell the truth. In fact, the chances are that s/he will lie and say no. Not because s/he mainly wants to lie to you, but because s/he wants to lie to him/herself. It is hard for any of us to face our own weaknesses especially when these involve hurting and devastating our partner. We predict that you will have to have the conversation with your partner more than once and in each case remain calm even when the answer is yes. Crying in response to the truth as well as feeling numb, scared and angry are normal, but try to listen because it is important to know that your instincts were correct.
If your worst fear is realized, if your partner did in fact have an infidelity, your pain, your fear and your rage can overwhelm you. It’s an awful situation for anyone to be in. But you can overcome it. And sometimes your relationship can overcome it. That’s what we wrote Intimacy After Infidelity. We hope it will be helpful to you.
The author of Intimacy after Infidelity: How to Rebuild and Affair-Proof Your Marriage (2007, New Harbinger Publications), Dr. Solomon received his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology (Los Angeles). He has been in private practice in San Diego and La Jolla, California for more than 20 years.