First off if you have to ask this question, he probably is. Sorry, but let’s be frank. I’m not the kind of therapist to run up someone’s tab just to keep them coming back to delve into whether or not he’s cheating, if you suspect it I bet there’s good reason. If you’re just the random, jealous type and have self-esteem issues (and you thought all of your past boyfriends were cheating) then this blog post is not for you but the rest of you, listen up.
The thing is, cheating is a lot different now than it used to be. Time was, you got a room at a Motel Six for a few hours, burned up the sheets (not literally of course) and the affair was full steam ahead. Now, however, cheating can show up in all sorts of ways. Like frequent texting, or Facebook messages. Cheating, often, doesn’t even have to include sex but it’s just as harmful. In fact in many cases, it’s even more so.
If you are sitting here, reading this, wondering if this is you then you need to take a step back and look at the reality of this. Not what you want it to be. Is he hiding texts from you? Does he keep his phone on him all the time? Has your partner recently changed the password on their Facebook account or whatever other social media site he or she is on?
As women (and often men, too) we shove our fears deep down because it’s easier to bury them than it is to deal with them. I see this all the time. Truth is, you can either deal with them now or wait for the big, massive explosion because trust me, it’s going to come.
We also (more often than not) negate our feelings or disregard them. We must be dreaming, right? Such-and-such would never do that, would he? The reality is that people never cease to shock the living hell out of me. Now this doesn’t mean that your partner is, in fact cheating, but if you sense it, you need to address it.
An easy way to do this is just to sit him or her down and tell them that (insert behavior) is making you uncomfortable and see how they respond. Let me give you an example. I had a patient, we’ll call her Sally, she caught her husband on frequent late night texting-frenzy sessions with one of his female co-workers. She also caught him on the phone with her (after he thought she went to bed). Now you may read this thinking: Well, of course he’s cheating! Though when you’re in it, it’s a lot harder to discern because a part of us wants to believe that we’re wrong. In fact we’re often desperate for it. That desperation then morphs into denial and we learn to live with it.
In case you’re wondering, Sally’s husband told her they were working on a project together which they were but it was growing into more than that. Finally after numerous sessions with me, she sat him down and told him that communicating after hours was not acceptable. Finish your business at work and leave home time for being at home. It turned out that this work-friend was giving him something he felt he lacked (God, isn’t that always the way?) and when Sally confronted him on it she told him to either clean up his act or go find someone who could fill in the void she clearly left for him. Let me tell you, not an easy conversation to have but a necessary one. And you know what, after it was out in the open and they talked, Sally realized there were things she could do different too – women often get wrapped up in their feelings to the extent that they forget their husbands have feelings and emotional needs too.
Cheating, even in a non-sexual form is still disrespectful to a relationship. And more often than note it’s not about the sex. It’s emotional. Which is much more complicated. As women we need to demand better, from ourselves and from our lovers. And in the end, if it feels bad, it probably is.