How to Find Out if Your Partner is Cheating

You've noticed some telltale and very disturbing signs, yet you can't put the full picture together. Your spouse seems to have a lot of late-night meetings, he seems disinterested in you, and he's distracted much of the time. On occasion, you've caught him furtively texting from his cell phone.

It's normal to feel hurt, angry, sick, scared, or some combination of these. But the first thing to do is to buy yourself some time by pausing, stepping back and taking some long, deep breaths, advises Cheryl Pappas, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist.

"Whenever we are hit with traumatic, really important emotional news that shocks us, we go into a fight or flight response and our minds do what I call lockdown so that we're not able to think clearly," Pappas says. "Your behavior, when you suspect cheating, must be impeccable, and you must stay calm."

Focus on the fact that you want to achieve two things, she says: to get at the truth, and to set the tone for the kind of behavior you want to model as you move forward in the relationship. If you are wrong in your suspicions and you've gone off the deep end, shouting accusations, you may have harmed a relationship that could take years to rebuild. "You don't want to do and say something irrational if you are wrong, so the best thing is to be as calm as possible," Pappas says. "Before you confront your mate, sit down and write out all the evidence you have so you can calmly present it."

When you confront him, simply outline the reasons for your unease, but resist the urge to get emotional since this will serve as a welcome distraction for your partner and give him an excuse to go off on you. "You want to have an honest and almost scientific conversation," Pappas says. "Don't pounce. Don't yell. This is a pivotal moment so you want to listen to what he has to say."

Schedule some time to spend together to talk over the issues that are bothering you, suggests Daniela Schreier, licensed clinical psychologist at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.  Schedule a quiet dinner together as a time to bring up your concerns. Tell him that you are worried and concerned about your relationship, and that it's important for the two of you to talk it out.

"Be open but not accusatory," says Marty Babits, licensed clinical social worker and author of "The Power of the Middle Ground: A Couple's Guide to Renewing Your Relationship." "The way that you approach this situation says a lot not only about the quality of your connection but what it will probably be like to explore the problem. You want the person to explain their actions. You also want to know if the person would like to work things out."  

If it turns out that your suspicions are founded, you will need to determine if your partner has really moved on and away from you, or if this is just a quick fling, Schreier says. "If the couple is friends with each other, can communicate, and has physicality or a sexual attraction to each other, chances are that you can work it out. But if these are not in sync, the relationship might be shaky or could be ending."

When one partner is cheating, there's an obvious communication problem, and one that both people must be willing to work on, Babits says. Cheating may have a different significance depending upon your relationship, and sometimes, but not always, the relationship is irreparable. "But if this is someone you want to continue to build a long-term relationship with," Babits says. "Then you need to work on communication, and on the distance that has developed between the two of you."