How Do I Know If He’s Cheating?

Love, Heartbreak

Is he really just working late?

So what exactly is cheating? Is it infidelity? Is it desiring or spending time with someone else? Is it flirting? Is it simply talking to another person?  What may seem like a simple, "no-brainer" answer can actually be very complex. Cheating can take on many forms, physical and emotional. And there are few absolute answers!

While most of us would consider some behaviors a definite "yes" when it comes to the question of cheating, other behaviors are not so clear cut. A recent question posed to YourTango experts comes from a woman whose husband is texting his co-worker first thing in the morning. She asks if he is cheating.

To understand cheating, we have to look at the behaviors themselves. But more importantly, we have to look at what might be going on behind those behaviors. Cheating is often a sign of an unhealthy relationship. So assessing the health of the relationship is an important first step.   

To determine whether your relationship is healthy or not, consider these questions:

  • How much time do we spend together on a day-to-day basis (in hours/minutes)?
  • How safe do we feel sharing our thoughts and feelings? How much do we actually share what's going on in our day-to-day lives?
  • How much do we encourage and support each other — to be our best, to try new things, to go for our goals? How much do we feel encouragement from our partner?
  • How much do we listen to each other — rather than focus on making ourselves heard?
  • How much do we place the needs and wants of the relationship and each other above our own?

If your answers to these questions fall in the "most of the time" range, texting a co-worker each morning is less likely to be considered a sign of cheating. His behavior could be explained in any number of reasonable ways. If, on the other hand, your answers fall in the "rarely" range, his behavior may indeed show signs of cheating — or indicate a movement in that direction.

The next step is to assess your expectations for your relationship, especially when it comes to what constitutes cheating and what doesn't. Ask yourselves what specific behaviors are okay from your partner and what might not be okay.

  • How comfortable are each of you when your partner talks to others, spends time alone with others, calls or texts others regularly?
  • Does the setting matter — work, social, other?
  • How restricted do you feel by your partner in these areas?

With these questions, are you both generally on the same page? Are you reading from two completely different books? Vastly different expectations can signal trouble.

Finally, once you have considered these questions, the next step is to have a real discussion about your differences, concerns and fears. Are any based on past cheating behaviors with your partner? Are they based on past experiences with other relationships? Understanding the perspective each of you brings to the table will also help determine if a behavior indicates cheating.

So what's the bottom line answer? Is he cheating? Not enough information to decide. They need to do a little work before a clear answer can emerge.

Kelly P Crossing, LPC, MEd, MS is the founder and owner of Link Learning Center, specializing in providing online continuing education courses to other counselors and therapists. She also offers help to individuals, couples, and families with many of the same courses. In addition, Kelly is an experienced counselor and therapist in the Dallas/Ft Worth area helping clients with divorce, depression, anger, anxiety, and many other of life’s difficulties.