Q. What do you do if you sense your spouse is starting to become interested in another person?
We recently received a question from someone in our community about how their spouse was texting/calling another person quite regularly and if they should be as worried as they were.
This seems to be a topic that a lot of marriage coaches we are connected with have been talking about lately. It's a topic you'll hear about a lot. Why? Because it happens all the time.
It is always interesting to hear people say, "We never would have thought this [strong couple or amazing individual] would cheat on their spouse."
Don't be shocked.
It can happen to anyone.
It seems even more prevalent in our day of instant communication and social media, along with new apps and opportunities to connect with others with the tap or swipe of our fingers.
The good news is that it doesn't have to.
Cheating/infidelity/affairs are choices.
You can choose to cheat on your spouse.
Or you can choose to be loyal to your spouse.
Now, it is a slippery slope from A to Z, so let's chat about some of the warning signs in the beginning (going from A to B or C) and what you can do if you feel like you or your spouse are becoming interested in another person or hiding a secret relationship from each other.
First off, to the worried spouse.
Is my insecurity wrong? Am I a control freak? Is looking at my spouse's phone wrong?
Your insecurities are normal and being in a committed relationship and feeling 100% secure in that relationship all of the time is hard to do.
If your spouse is the type that just seems to attract the attention and friendship of other men or women to her or him, you can take that one of two ways - you can be extremely upset and jealous or you can take it as a boost to your confidence - YOU WON HIS/HER HEART. He or she chose you.
Don't forget that.
Now, your insecurities may stem from a few different places, like being cheated on in the past by girlfriends or boyfriends, or seeing a close family member cheat on their spouse.
Perhaps you don't like yourself very much and so you doubt that you can compete with the outside competition and you wonder if your spouse is as loyal to you as you feel you are to him/her.
Now, you can worry all day long. You can worry for your whole life. You can sit around and worry and live in fear that your spouse is going to cheat on you or is cheating on you, but that will do you no good.
The truth is your spouse may cheat on you.
At any given point in your married life, that is an option.
However, the likelihood of that happening if you are constantly worried about, fearful about, and talking about it is higher than if you lived a joyful life and didn't worry about the what if's of the future.
You have to be in control of you.
Easier said than done, especially for those who have some level of anxiety about themselves, their bodies, their personalities, their weaknesses, or who feel they married "way up."
A few words of encouragement to you, dear reader.
Believe in yourself.
Have confidence in yourself.
And take care of yourself.
Okay, so why do I have this gut feeling that my spouse is cheating on me?
Now, your feelings and discernment about how he/she acts around other women/men is important. If you have watched his/her relationship with another seem to develop into a close friendship, or if you have found texts/phone calls/emails/video chats with another person, you may be on to something.
Even if it may seem relatively harmless, it sounds like these two may have some level of interest in each other (even if they both deny it, because neither of them may even want to admit to himself or herself that feelings may be growing) or that ongoing conversation wouldn't be happening as it is.
Usually what people are longing for when they have emotional affairs - which often lead to physical affairs - is connection and conversation. So the fact that the conversation has already begun means that some level of emotional intimacy is beginning to grow, even if it is simply a friendship.
It is natural to have a hard heart and to want to avoid your spouse if you find these things, but that will only make the situation worse. If he/she is still expressing love for you and pursuing you, even a little, then we would encourage you to reciprocate in full measure. If you withdraw, his/her needs will go unmet, and it will be easier for him/her to look elsewhere because he/she will feel like you have put up a wall.
Now, you aren't responsible for his/her choices but it is important that you are giving 100% too, if you want the relationship to work.
So, is your spouse cheating on you? Maybe, and maybe not. But you need to talk about it with him/her.
Now, you are right, having a conversation and confronting her/him about it could turn ugly really quickly, but at the same time, you need to have that conversation.
Start by not assuming your spouse is cheating. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Help him/her recognize how you feel about their interactions and why those interactions scare you. Help them realize that yes, they may not be "cheating" on you, but what they are doing is crossing a line and you aren't comfortable with it at all.
She/he needs to know why you have been withdrawn. It's okay that you share your insecurities with your spouse. Let him/her know you feel threatened and jealous. He/she may be upset, but at least he/she will know. Then, anytime he/she feels to text/call this woman/man he or she will look at it in a different light.
He/she may be rationalizing right now to himself/herself that it is an innocent relationship, and it may be, but he/she probably knows better.
We are so confident that God can help you navigate that conversation. He can help you know what specific steps to take to feel more confident and to not feel as jealous.
So, what should I do?
THE VERY BEST THING YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT AGAINST INFIDELITY IN YOUR MARRIAGE IS TO NURTURE YOUR MARRIAGE, STAY CONNECTED, KEEP TALKING, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, AND INVITE GOD TO PLAY A BIGGER PART IN YOUR LIFE.
Taking responsibility - what you can do.
These are some of the things you can start focusing on instead of worrying if your spouse is cheating on you or not.
Start by becoming the most attractive person you can be.
You can do this by beginning today to take responsibility for what is in your court -
Take full control of:
1. Your thoughts - Are you controlling your thoughts and praying to think no evil of anyone, and to be filled with love? Do you need to meet with a counselor to sort through your thoughts and feelings?
2. Your health - Are you taking care of you and feeling confident in your body?
3. Your work + hobbies & interests - Are you too engrossed in your work? Are you too busy? Are you making time to learn new things and to be a more interesting person? Are you pursuing things that bring you joy?
4. Your spirituality - Are you drawing nearer to God? Are you listening to the truths He needs you to know - about yourself, your spouse, and the help that is available through His Son, Jesus Christ? Are you striving to become a more Christlike individual, because the more Christlike you become and the more you receive the fruits of the Spirit, the more attractive you will be to your spouse.
5. Your priorities + effort - What is getting your best time? Where are you giving all of your energy? Are you giving your all to your marriage, trying to speak your spouse's love language, being affectionate and intimate, serving your spouse, and using words of affirmation to confirm to your spouse that you love him/her?
Now, there is only so much you can do.
However, you can feel confident that when you focus your efforts and energy on becoming a better you and nurturing your marriage, the chances of an emotional or physical affair wreaking havoc in your marriage lessen.
Now, in conclusion - you can't control your spouse. You never will be able to. You can simply do your best to be the very best person you can be, and to be the kind of spouse you would want to be married to. If you can do that, your confidence will soar and your spouse will realize what they would be losing if they chased what appears to be "greener grass."
It's true that the grass isn't greener on the other side, it's green where you water it.
If you have been connecting with someone other than your spouse...
Now, you may be searching your heart right now and thinking about one or more of your personal relationships that you feel may be starting to become something more than just friendship. What can you do if you feel or recognize that your friendship with another person is crossing the boundaries of what is appropriate, normal, and safe?
First off, please remember that it just isn't worth it.
Over time your new love will become old love and you will never be satisfied.
Cheating on your spouse will never be okay and it will never make you happier. Ever.
You can't have the best of both worlds. It's impossible.
So, instead of trying to be happily married and have a fling on the side, decide to be all-in when it comes to your marriage.
YOU NEED TO BE ALL-IN WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR MARRIAGE.
We love this quote from Thomas S. Monson,
"Choose your love; love your choice."
You can't just keep changing your mind every time an attractive person comes along and catches your attention or gives you the time of day.
You have to be focused on more than that.
You have to be all in if you want your marriage to work.
If your marriage isn't working, ask yourself what is getting your time and attention? If it isn't your marriage, what is it? What is getting in the way? If it's another person, we would encourage you to cut off communication with that person and be ALL IN. That is the only way you will know if your marriage can work - if you are giving it 100% first.
Since the beginning of time adultery has a been a temptation, because we all have to learn loyalty, true love, commitment, sacrifice, and overcoming selfish and worldly desires. The truth is that there will always be other people who are attractive, fun, or interested in you or your spouse, so your choice always has to be to keep choosing each other and to stay away from those who would pull you apart.
Instead of looking to another person to meet your unmet needs, the real key is to turn heavenward and to let God meet those needs or lead you to healthy alternatives. (We talk about this in our new devotional book, which you two may want to try together!)
Now all of this is easy to say and hard to implement, but even baby steps in the right direction can make a huge difference.
Being married to someone and sharing all of life with them presents struggle and challenges and invites miscommunication and hurt from time to time.
However, we are 100% confident that you can be loyal if you choose to be.
Pray every day for strength against temptation, for eyes to discern where you are getting distracted, and for strength and courage to give 100% to your marriage.
Pray for specific ideas on how to become a better person and more happy and healthy and Christlike person.
Pray for specific ideas about how to serve your spouse - what can you do for him or her this day to help them feel your love and commitment and loyalty to them.
Pray for ideas about how to nurture your marriage, what steps to take, and how to improve your specific situation.
God will answer your prayers, we are sure of it.
READ: ARE YOU HAVING AN EMOTIONAL AFFAIR?
So, what can you do to protect against emotional affairs?
Nurture your marriage.
And take care of yourself.
And pray for strength against temptation.
Oh, and set boundaries. Together, as husband and wife. And talk about these boundaries as often as you feel you need to.
What kind of boundaries can/should you set?
So, what can you do? What boundaries can you set?
READ: NOT JUST FRIENDS - RECOVERING FROM AN EMOTIONAL AFFAIR
Well, you can talk about when it is okay to text people and when it isn't. We both text men and women we aren't married to regularly. Now, our purposes are usually to ask a question about something or to confirm something. We don't text just to check in and see how a man or woman we know is doing, or to share something funny.
Yes, technology makes it so much easier to connect with others and makes the boundaries seem more blurry, but you can be confident that you will know what is appropriate and what isn't if you are seeking to listen to your heart and to the still, small voice of God's Spirit.
The very best boundary you can set is to check your heart and to ask yourself a few questions like,
How would I feel if my spouse read this?
How would my spouse feel reading this?
What would my spouse think if they saw this picture?
Would I feel comfortable if my spouse watched my interactions with this person?
How do I feel about this "other" person?
Who are my thoughts focused on?
Is this what I really want to pursue? Is it worth it?
If you have found yourself in a situation where you are going from A to B with someone other than your spouse, please consider taking the high road and cutting off communication with that person to the extent possible. Please give your marriage a chance first, and put all your time and energy and focus into YOUR marriage - into the spouse you chose and committed to be loyal to so long ago.
It will be worth it.
We have confidence that no matter where you or your spouse may be, you can overcome this very real and very difficult struggle and come out better for it.
If trust has been broken, it can be rebuilt.
Forgiveness is real.
Things can get better.
And you can choose a vibrant, loyal, happy, and healthy marriage.
Now, we have only skimmed the surface here and there is so much more we could talk about - like rebuilding trust after trust has been broken - but it's a start.
Let us know in the comments below what boundaries you have set, how you protect yourself from snooping/jealousy, and what has helped you and your spouse remain loyal to each other.
Resources we recommend:
(Some of these may include affiliate links, which means we would get a tiny bit of $$$ if you happened to purchase something. Thanks for helping to support Nurturing Marriage!)
Bloom for Women
Ashlynn & Coby, The Betrayed, The Addicted, The Expert
Love is Patient, Love is Kind: A Christian Marriage Devotional
His Needs, Her Needs: Affair Proofing Your Marriage
“Love is the greatest gift when given. It is the highest honor when received.”
- Fawn Weaver
You Know You Want to Read
Everybody Loves These