Some people may, truly, be paranoid, but most likely, if something is nagging at you, it’s worth taking a closer look. Our intuition is powerful. If you’re feeling betrayed, hurt, insecure, lied to or abandoned, there may be a good reason.
Be what, exactly, counts as cheating? There is the obvious act that no amount of explaining can fix, but what about more subtle situations that may be less clear?
Simply suspecting that your spouse is giving his body or her heart to another is hurtful enough, but feeling guilty for being suspicious is a 2-edged sword. Have you two set any ground rules as to what, for you, constitutes infidelity? Is your loss of trust justified?
Here are some tips to help you sort things out.
1. He suddenly begins talking about a female co-worker. A lot.
For some reason, talking about a new love interest seems to be an irresistible impulse to some – even if it’s to their spouse (albeit couched in cloaked language).
While actually consummating an affair at the workplace can be daunting, very strong emotional ties can form there. Whether presenting a united front against a supervisor, or experiencing the rush of an especially successful project partnership, there’s a whole slice of his life you don’t get to share; and the confidences and intimacy that result can erode the foundation of your relationship.
Even if it never gets physical, that conflict and withdrawal of attention from you and your marriage is as damaging as a sexual affair.
2. She delights in putting a lot of time and effort into making a special gift for her special ‘friend’
She might focus joyfully on burning a CD of her favorite tunes for him, become consumed in painting a canvas with particular care, or take pains to buy just the right present.
Her focus and thrill may be more than just a sense of obligation. Your emotional radar is pretty good; if you find yourself feeling slighted or jealous, there’s probably more going on there that you need to find out about.
3. You go to a party with your spouse, only to have him ‘disappear’ at some point.
When you do manage to track him down, he is way too close to another woman.
OK, maybe you two had a fight on the drive over, or a few drinks, but that’s no reason to pardon his bad behavior. It may have just been innocent, but your gut is sending out all sorts of red flags. If he’s finding emotional comfort or a sexual thrill from being close to someone other than you, it’s time to have a talk.
4. “It’s just about the sex.”
This may be something he tells you, or even tells himself, and some couples don’t count actual intercourse as cheating (seeing emotional intimacy as more damaging.)
But don’t fool yourselves; physical and sexual intimacy does forge strong emotional ties. In this case, the cheater is likely hurting both you and the object of his desire, as no one is getting the result they really want – except him.
5. She feels a need to comfort an old friend – alone.
If she lets you come with her, fine. But if she has to go there alone, be careful. Long, late night phone conversations after you’ve gone to bed, frequent chats or long emails are red flags.
Remember that loss, pain, fear and shock can be powerful aphrodisiacs, and very strong bonds can be forged over hardships.
It may be innocent, but . . .
As hard as it may be, try to own your feelings and look beyond your reflexive sense of guilt for doubting your loved one. We’re smarter than we think we are, and we try repeatedly to talk ourselves out of what we already know.
Watch for these warning signs:
• Sense of betrayal
• Loss of intimacy
• Sense of abandonment
It comes down to two things then; the ground rules you two have set for your relationship when it comes to what it means to cheat, and your feelings in the relationship.
Anything that causes a loss of intimacy between you, makes you lose trust, or feel insecure or jealous, needs to be examined.
Don’t simply pass it off as overreacting or just being paranoid. Doing so just enables the cheater to continue, or even escalate, the behavior.
If possible try to seek professional counseling before things get too far.
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