Relationships grow on trust. Living without trust is like living on a shaky ground not knowing when the house will come down. At the same time, our imagination can get the best of us and make an elephant out of a little ant. Suspecting that your partner is up to something can be a challenging and trying experience.
That’s exactly what someone was struggling with today when he asked what to do. He suspected his girlfriend of several years cheated on him in the recent past. His evidence included that for a couple of months they had almost no sex during which she claimed to not be into it, and yet she got pregnant. His evidence included her Google searches of what interracial babies looked like (they are both white), and a few other suspicious topics. He decided to ask her straight up what’s up. She denied any wrongdoing and explained that she was looking things up for a friend. His suspicions remained. He wondered if he should press the issue further.
We live in a world where the cheating options have become countless. Anyone can access porn at any time even from their phones. Apps like Snapchat and Kik ease the swap of naked pictures and videos, one-on-one encounters virtually or in the flesh. We work crazy hours and often have no idea what our partner is doing while we are apart. Sex is sold online not just by professionals, but by college girls trying to make their tuition and rent looking for a sugar daddy, or by young hunks looking for an easy life with a sugar mama. Some just want the variety and excitement they get by opening a dick pic from a stranger or having his package evaluated by the person on the other side of the chat line. The internet satisfies every fetish and every secret imagination at a keystroke.
It used to be that an affair meant sleeping with your boss or neighbor’s wife on somewhat of an on-going basis until you get caught or you fess up. Now we talk about emotional affairs, “girlfriend experiences” online for a fee, snapchating nudes with someone you may have never met. Are these actual transgressions if you happen to be in a committed relationship? What about sexting?
The answer depends on who you are asking. Each couple must have the conversation of what is OK. I’ve met couples with rules such as she can only play with other girls, or texting sexy pictures with another is fine as long as you don’t ever meet, or no messing around with the locals but when traveling without your partner bagging a stranger far away is totally OK. Whatever a couple decides must be honored by each partner. Everything outside of these parameters constitutes cheating and a betrayal of trust.
When there’s a betrayal of trust, there is pain, confusion, and usually drama. It’s bad enough on its own but when you add your vivid imagination to what you don’t know, you drive yourself crazy. Which is why the best strategy for handling a situation where you suspect something funny going on is to have a conversation with your partner about your feelings and see what happens. This conversation should not be an accusation and a confrontation unless you have solid proof. You should also consider what is at stake – family, kids, house, the dog and decide based on the strength of your proof if it is even worth discussing the situation. Your jealousy does not constitute proof.
In the case above, the person had a conversation, the girlfriend denied any suspicions, and at this point, he needs to decide if he wants to be happy or if he wants to be right. It looks like whatever there was or there wasn’t was in the past. It’s not unusual for people to do something stupid and regret it. If they don’t get caught, they may or may not want to admit it. They will have to live with it, not you, especially if you don’t know about it. They may be super nice to you because of feeling guilty about it or take extra good care to never end up in that situation again. All of it benefits you and your relationship.
They may decide to fess up and unburden themselves to you, which burdens you with having to decide if you can live with the new information and your partner after that. Contrary to what most people think, most affairs do not end marriages. It might be hard work ahead, but those that chose to stay together do often get stronger as a couple, perhaps redefining the rules of engagement too.
So, in the absence of solid proof, you may consider happily not knowing what you don’t know. Instead of spending your time trying to unravel a mystery, which may be just in your head, spend the time paying attention to your partner, be good to them, make time for fun and adventure, play more together, work less apart, and nurture the relationship. Most people are not serial cheaters. They do something once and learn their lesson fast. If your partner is, their game will be up eventually, but you don’t have a problem until you have a problem. No need to make stocking your partner a full-time job just to be sure they are not doing something you do not agree with. Consider instead talking about your sex life as a couple and if there are things your partner wants to try or is curious about and see if you, as a couple, can get there. If you attend to your partner’s needs, communicate, and stay on the same page, you diminish the chance and the need for them to go looking for things in other places. If you pay good attention to your partner, sooner or later, you will know if they are stepping outside the designated boundaries. You will have your proof, or you’ll realize your partner is just as wonderful as they always have been.
If you can’t get over your jealousy, you may lose your partner. No one likes a nagging drama queen, even a male one. Don’t force your partner to go cry on someone’s shoulder about you being a nagging drama queen, because whoever’s shoulder he or she cries on can easily take advantage of the situation and help your partner feel heard, cared for, understood, and loved….all of which is your job to do. Whoever is doing your job can easily become the new favorite.
So, step back. Take a deep breath. Decide wisely.