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How to Handle a Cheating Spouse

How to Handle a Cheating Spouse

When a person gets married, they hope to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. That’s how all the Disney movies and romantic comedies portray marriage, right?

But unfortunately, for many people, it doesn’t work out that way.

Most couples start out crazy in love, and they think that feeling will last forever.

Even if they know that feeling of infatuation may wear off, they at least expect to have a loyal partner by their side for the rest of our lives.

Sure, some couples do live happily ever after. There are little old couples walking around hand-in-hand just as in love as the day they met.

But for many, that is not their story.

If a marriage goes downhill over the years, there can be many reasons.

It could simply be because they have grown apart, or because they focused too much on raising children and forgot to nurture each other.

Or, it could be the reason many people dread the most – cheating.

What is Cheating?

This may seem like an obvious question, but in today’s world, it is not as clear-cut.

Usually, people think of physical indiscretions when they think of cheating. This could be anything from hand-holding to kissing to full-out sex.

That’s the easy way to describe cheating.

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But there’s another kind of cheating where there is a little more gray area, and that is emotional cheating.

The problem with emotional cheating is that many people have different standards for it, which we will discuss in a moment.

Regardless, most people expect their partner to remain emotionally loyal to them, and to not get too close to another person.

The Gray Area

Here are some examples of behaviors that might fall into the “gray area” for some people. In other words, some people might consider these cheating, while others may not.

  1. Flirting or romantically teasing another person
  2. Talking to or meeting with your ex(es)
  3. Texting other people too much
  4. Touching or grabbing other people
  5. Buying presents for other people
  6. Going out with others too often
  7. Talking to a person (or people) online too often
  8. Engaging in pornography
  9. Going out on a “date” (or date-like activity) with someone else
  10. Going to clubs and dancing/grinding with other people
  11. Asking other people for their phone numbers

As you can see, some of these are worse than others.

Some people might not care about the above behaviors (or even notice), while others might see them as all-out cheating.

It’s all a matter of perspective.

Even if these don’t involve any sort of physical contact, many people do consider these things a betrayal to their relationships, and thus, “cheating.”

Signs of Cheating

If you suspect that you have a cheating spouse, how can you catch them? How can you know for sure that it’s not just “all in your head?”

That’s a huge issue for many people. They go back and forth about it.

Sometimes they think their mind is playing tricks on them, but other times, they are totally convinced that their spouse is cheating.

The best thing to do is to keep a record of their behaviors. Record the dates, times, and any other relevant information.

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This serves two purposes: first, it helps you put it into perspective and realize that it’s not all in your head.

Second, when you finally confront your cheating spouse, you have “evidence” to present them with.

If you don’t have that, they might try to play mind games with you and deny their behaviors, making you think that you’re just making it all up.

Here are some pretty common signs that you might have a cheating spouse:

  1. They are hiding their phone from you or guarding it particularly well (especially if this is a change from past behavior)
  2. They start dressing better or losing weight (the assumption is that they are trying to impress someone else)
  3. There are frequent times when they are “unavailable” and you can’t reach them
  4. There’s no more intimacy in your relationship, or it has decreased suddenly
  5. If you question if they’re cheating, they get emotional and accuse you of being crazy
  6. They “overshare” and give an abnormal amount of details about their whereabouts or what they are doing (liars tend to give too much information)
  7. They’re going out with “friends” more than usual
  8. They’re “working late” more than normal

These are just a few of the countless signs that someone is cheating.

Each person is different, so if you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, but it’s not on the list above, then pay attention to that. Our gut feelings are usually right.

Can cheating be prevented? It can be possible: 10 Ways to Prevent Cheating in a Relationship

Can a Marriage Survive Cheating?

So, let’s say that you catch your spouse cheating. Maybe she or he admitted to the cheating, or maybe not.

Regardless, most people wonder if a marriage can ever survive cheating.

This is not an easy question to answer, because each individual and couple has their own limits and standards.

For example, I know some people who would not tolerate even the smallest indiscretion and would be asking for a divorce right away.

But then, there are others who will tolerate way more than they should.

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It all comes down to your own standards and boundaries.

The Social Exchange Theory

There is a theory of interpersonal communication called the Social Exchange Theory.

In essence, is says that we weigh rewards against the costs of being in a relationship. We will stay in a relationship as long as the rewards outweigh the costs.

However, once the costs outweigh the rewards, then we will leave the relationship.

The problem is, what qualifies as a “reward” and what qualifies as a “cost?” It’s different for everyone.

Reclaiming Happiness

Sure, a couple can stay married after one (or both) of them cheats.

However, does that mean they will be happy and that it won’t happen again? No, of course not.

I think when most people ask the question of whether or not a marriage can survive cheating, what they are really asking is:

Can the couple go back to how they were in the beginning and be happy again?

It can happen, but it’s relatively rare. In order for the couple to get back to a truly happy, loving, and healthy relationship, several things need to happen:

First, the cheating spouse needs to really, really, really understand the pain that s/he caused their spouse.

And the other spouse needs to know that the cheating spouse is very, very remorseful – so much so that they will never do it again!

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Second, the cheating spouse needs to be patient with their partner.

Getting over a betrayal such as cheating does not happen overnight. It takes a long time.

Third, the cheating spouse needs to prove themselves again.

They have to have consistent, trustworthy behavior over a long period of time in order for their partner to trust them again.

Finally, going to therapy will certainly help the couple move forward. Many couples simply can’t do it by themselves, and that’s okay.

Read more about understanding your partner’s actions: Why Your Partner May Be Cheating

Rebuilding Trust After Cheating

As I just mentioned, finding a good therapist will definitely help when you are in the trust-rebuilding process.

In addition to that, here are some other steps that can be taken in order to try to restore the bond you once had with your partner:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open at all times.
  2. Share passwords to phones, computers, and email and social media accounts.
  3. Always be available when your partner calls or texts.
  4. Spend quality time together going on dates and getting to know each other again.
  5. The cheating spouse needs to continually acknowledge their indiscretion and take responsibility.
  6. The cheating spouse also needs to stay true to their word and keep promises.
  7. Put your partner’s needs before your own.
  8. Both people need to be able to openly share their emotions and thoughts with one another.

Final Thoughts

Finding out that you have a cheating spouse is not something that anyone ever wants to deal with.

However, it does happen, and it is worth it to know how to move forward if it happens to you.

The bottom line is this: do you want to try to work it out or not? Sometimes it’s best to step away, separate, and move on with your life.

But in other circumstances, the relationship can recover, and you may be able to build it into something even stronger down the road.

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More Relationship Advice

Featured photo credit: Scott Broome via unsplash.com

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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