Q: I suspect that my spouse is not being faithful. What should I do?
A: This is a question that we’ve received hundreds of times in the counseling room. We have looked in the faces of people in this situation, a man or a woman suspecting that something is occurring, and it is heartbreaking.
The first thing we do is pray and ask God to intercede. As we begin to stir up this issue, taking a suspicion to what will ultimately be a confrontation, we know that we’re going to need God’s wisdom and discernment.
Second, we try to ascertain if the person asking this question is healthy emotionally and mentally. Suspicions could be aroused because of high levels of distrust or past wounds. Sometimes a person will suspect a spouse because he or she is filtering actions or words through some experience or assumption from the past. The suspicion could be a projection and nothing more. It’s very important to see where the suspicions come from. Third, we attempt to help that person realize that our ultimate goal is to seek truth, to seek an honest understanding of what has occurred. We need to assess the state of the marriage. We don’t assume that the spouse is guilty. We don’t blame or accuse. Neither do we say that the suspicions are groundless. Instead, we truly seek God’s guidance in order to find the truth.
Sometimes it’s true that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If you feel very strongly—and you can’t place those feelings anywhere else (for example, your dad cheated on your mom, so assume that when your husband is late for dinner he’s cheating on you), then you need to take your feelings seriously.
First, however, go to God. You’re probably terrified. You probably can’t separate logic from emotions. You need to ask God to calm your heart, to make you reasonable, to help you think carefully.
Then, after you’re calm and more rational, you go tenderly to your spouse for a heart-to-heart talk. No accusations, no blaming. After all, there may very well be an explanation. Think about how you would feel if your spouse suspected you, had what seemed like evidence, and you knew you were innocent. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
If something is going on, however, there may be denial, lying, covering up. If you truly sense that your spouse is not being honest, then you need more conversation. Get someone behind you praying hard. A trusted friend, counselor, or pastor who will be there for you. Then, as you approach your mate, expect that your emotions will be raging with fear, anxiety, anger, hurt, and betrayal. And all of those emotions are valid. However, don’t go into that discussion with the intent of leaving your marriage. Instead, go with the intent of seeking the truth, resolving the issue, and reconciling.
If the spouse who has been suspected of something owns up to it, and if he or she truly desires to save the marriage, then you need to work out the parameters (for example, zero connection time with that other person—whatever it takes. Change your job if you have to.) All of this needs to be done with the help of that trusted pastor or counselor, for you will need accountability.
When faced with this situation, your marriage is officially at war with the forces of darkness that want to destroy it. Roll of your sleeves, grab your ammunition, and start fighting.
For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!