Trust is a crucial foundation for any marriage or committed relationship. You might say it’s the most important factor. Once broken, it takes a long time to restore.
Infidelity—or even a hint of it—is a betrayal of trust.
We rightfully see cheating as a potential deal breaker, a relationship terminator. Some couples are able to recover and rebuild. Others are unable to rebound and the marriage ends.
A better scenario can be awareness of the signs of infidelity. It is hard for any spouse or partner to believe they are being betrayed. When couples seek therapy after an affair, the betrayed spouse frequently states that he or she had suspicions, but ignored them.
5 Warning Signs of Infidelity
1. New Habits That Improve Physical Appearance
This may include:
- More time at the gym (but not in the long-term health kind of way)
- New hairstyles, etc.
- Overhaul of one’s wardrobe
- Becoming savvy in new trends and slang
The list goes on but it warrants attention if your spouse goes on a “self-improvement” kick without talking about it with you first.
2. New Social and/or Work Habits
Is your partner working late more often or on weekends? Perhaps he or she is socializing without you more and taking interest in new activities. On their own, these can be innocent and even healthy. Depending on context, however, they can be red flags.
You have every right to notice changes in how your partner shares on Instagram or who he or she meets for a drink or dinner. It’s not about control. On the contrary, it’s about being comfortable with each other’s individuality and honoring boundaries in friendship relationships.
3. Secretive Phone and Computer Behavior
You walk into the room and your spouse immediately puts down his phone or closes a browser window. As discussed above, we’ve hit a new frontier when it comes to being honest. Partners need space and personal lives. But when you commit to a relationship, you also commit to a certain amount of transparency.
Affairs are most frequently discovered through phone records or texts, usually inadvertently rather than snooping. We live in a brave new world of sexting and ubiquitous porn, which is easy to fall into with no initial intent to harm the relationship.
4. Loss of Intimacy
Intimacy is another essential foundation of your connection. You cannot ignore a decrease of this kind of attention and care. It could mean many things, but none of them are healthy for the long-term future of your relationship.
Along with the loss of physical intimacy comes the loss of emotional intimacy. Secrets rob you of that essential friendship that serves as the foundation of the marriage.
5. Decreased Communication
A decrease in open communication leads to a dead end. Relationships are fueled by healthy, frequent communication. If you experience a decline in your interactions, you have every right to feel concerned. The last thing to do is further decrease communication.
Not all couples define infidelity the same way. It is important to have an open conversation early in your relationship about what you consider healthy interactions with co-workers and friends of the opposite sex.
What to Do About Any Signs of Infidelity
Communicate. It’s daunting, yes, but making assumptions or feeling resentment can’t lead to a resolution. Consider issues like timing, tone, and word choice—but communicate, face to face. This is not a time for text messages or social media reactions. Fears of infidelity can threaten your trust. Communication can reinforce it.
What Happens When Your Trust Starts to Waver?
Short answer: Ask for help. To elaborate, this often means therapy—individual or couples counseling. As mentioned more than once above, trust is foundational. If lost, trust can take a long time to earn back, if ever.
With the myriad emotions already swirling around a situation that may involve betrayal, it is crucial to seek guidance. Your therapist will serve as a dedicated but unbiased sounding board. He or she can also provide a "safe space" for you to explore your concerns without defensiveness and escalation.
Not all infidelity allows for recovery. But the best way to find out what’s possible is to explore your feelings and options with an experienced professional.