QUESTION: I'm beginning to suspect that my husband is having an affair. How should I approach the situation?
ANSWER: Very carefully. Since you write that you are "beginning to suspect infidelity," we can assume that you don't have any proof. We suggest that you proceed cautiously. Obviously, you want to make sure that your suspicions are justified before you confront your husband ... a false accusation could open up a whole new set of problems.
Unfortunately, there is no good way for you to obtain proof. Clearly, you can follow in the footsteps of suspicious spouses the world over, and hire a private detective, or snoop yourself. There are e-mails to be read, receipts to be foraged through, and cell phones to be checked. We are not condoning this, by the way, but you would hardly be the first jealous person to go fishing for these kinds of devastating clues. And remember, aside from the humiliating blow to your morale that can come from going through someone's pockets, what you find may not be what it seems.
We hope that you discover you were incorrect, and that your husband is, in fact, faithful. If so, we suggest you play detective on yourself, and try to understand what made you suspicious in the first place -- his actions, or your insecurities?
Now let's look at the worst case scenario. You have the evidence that your husband is having an affair. At this point, you have to confront him. When you do, in spite of incontrovertible proof, he still may lie about his behavior. After all, he's used to lying -- it's called cheating for a reason. If he feigns anger, won't discuss it with you or hides behind half truths, you'll have to make a serious decision about whether or not you want to remain in this relationship. He's betraying you twice -- the chances of him ever changing, or you ever trusting him again, seem slim.
However, (and we know this seems impossible to believe right now) if he admits that he was unfaithful, then expresses remorse and a desire to change, you both have an extraordinary opportunity to build a stronger marriage. Your marriage will never be the same, but (and this isn't just sententious psychobabble) infidelity can be effectively used as a catalyst for a new beginning. The worst has happened, now you have the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about why it did, as well as about many other things. We warn you that your marriage won't be rebuilt overnight.
First, you'll need to deal with all of your conflicting feelings, and balance the love you feel for him and your desire to make your marriage whole again, with your justifiable anger, resentment and pain. Many people who have survived infidelity in a marriage say the most difficult part is trying to understand what, if anything, in the past was real -- their married life suddenly doesn't seem to make sense anymore. Obsessing over the past can become a new and debilitating way of life. That's because the shock of infidelity is traumatic, and trauma does not go away quickly. It can take a year or more to feel on steady ground again, and for the pain to subside. Of course, this may not happen to you. Everyone's reaction is different. But you will need someone to talk to, preferably a therapist or religious leader.
Without in any way justifying his behavior, realize that this will be a very difficult situation for him too. He will be forced to confront parts of himself that he has possibly never looked at before. He probably doesn't want to lose you, and may be terrified he will. He will be ashamed, embarrassed, and silently berate himself for the terrible pain he caused. Hopefully, he will turn this crisis into an opportunity. He has a chance to understand his behavior, and face up to not only the way he operates within your marriage, but perhaps in the world. He has a chance to grow up. If he wants to not only stay married, but have it be a real marriage this time -- one based on love, respect, trust and fidelity, he has to commit to change 100 percent. And this may seem obvious, but he has to cut off any contact with the person he was involved with immediately.
You also have to learn what responsibility you have, if any, in all this, and explore your own behavior. We would suggest a couple's therapist to help you both speak honestly, clarify whenever necessary and really listen to one another.
Assuming he wants to reconcile and work to regain your trust, and you agree, you'll have to find a place in your heart to forgive him. It won't be today and it won't be tomorrow, but if you want to stay in your marriage, you'll need to re-connect with him in a deeply profound and loving way. If you don't think you can ever forgive him, it's time to move on.
Source: Relationships & Love