Who hasn’t read statistics on the prevalence of infidelity at one time or another? Who among us, if ever suspicious of our spouse, hasn’t found himself on the thousands of “Signs of a Cheated Spouse” list that are so prevalent on the Internet these days?
It has nothing to do with statistics – they are based on other people’s numbers. And “Signs of a cheating spouse”, by themselves, do not prove anything. What we don’t find, read or listen to is – “What should I do if I suspect my husband is cheating on me?”
As a private detective who has worked with thousands of people over the years, and many have suspected infidelity, I would like to offer just a few suggestions:
Keep an open mind. Most of the signs of a spouse cheating on the Internet today can probably be explained by factors that have nothing to do with the affair. Even seemingly harmful evidence can sometimes be convincingly explained. In one case of mine, my husband found another man’s underwear in a drawer and was stunned by this alleged evidence of his infidelity. In the end, it was determined that the underwear belonged to my client’s mother-in-law, who spent the previous weekend in the couple’s house.
In my own practice, I have found that at least 25% of my clients make mistakes because of their doubts. These were clients who were relatively confident in the affair before hiring me. What I discover from time to time is that the “other woman” is actually a bar stool in a local tavern, a friend with whom the wife no longer wants her husband to hang out, or even a place in a local casino. On other occasions, the “cheating spouse” has not cheated, but rather prepares to leave the marriage.
While you may need to follow your doubts to calm your mind, it is essential that you do so with an open mind.
Don’t clash with your wife. Conflict, without evidence, serves no purpose. Think for a moment – a person who is willing to cheat on their spouse is probably the one who is willing to lie about it when asked. At the same time, no one will admit to an affair they don’t have. In both scenarios, the answer will be the same: “No honey, I have no affair.” The conflict only serves to inform the spouse that you are suspicious. If your spouse cheats on you, your conflict will only harm your ability to conduct any meaningful future investigation.
Save the confrontation when you know what is true.
Behave normally. None of us care about fools, and our ego often demands that we stand up and declare, “I’m not an idiot – I know what you’re doing.” But, just like the conflict above, a statement like this only serves to warn cheaters that you have become suspicious. This, in turn, will make it more difficult to obtain evidence of an affair because your spouse finds it harder to conceal their activities. Best for you, as long as you are interested to get to the bottom of doubt, play the role of a fool. Smile – be charming (unless it’s normal for you) – be your normal self. You want your spouse to think you expect nothing.
If, like many people, you just can’t hide your despair through this emotional trial time – consider offering a compelling explanation for your behavior (e.g., “Oh, I’m just stressed about work, that’s all.”
Be selective in whom you share your doubts. During such an emotionally stressful time, you may find the need to talk to someone sympathetic to your concerns; This is a normal and natural need and can be a healthy place for your stress. But keep in mind that people are prone to dealing with people they meet in everyday life – i.e. colleagues at work, a neighbor by the door, your best friend’s spouse, your best friend, your same-sex sister, etc. For that reason, it is absolutely imperative not to share their doubts with anyone who might be part of the problem. I address all of my clients, “Tell the whole world you hired PI when I’m done, but calm him down by then.” I ruined too many cases because of clients who trusted the wrong person.
If you absolutely have to share your concerns with others – do it with a friend who lives in another country, a trained counselor or another person so distant (geographically, preferably) that they could never get involved. But remember – this person will probably find the need to tell someone they trust. And that person will find the need to tell someone they have confidence and so on. Be extremely careful who you trust in the end.
Assess your relationship. You will probably be asked some rather difficult questions during this discovery process; I would suggest you include, “What do I really want from this relationship?” on your list of questions.
Too often people become so overwhelmed with looks that they are “victims” of infidelity that they don’t stop wondering if they actually care about the marriage or relationship perhaps ending. It’s no more obvious to me than when I get a call from an angry wife who spends time on the phone with me lamenting that her husband is “… a liar, cheating, unsuccessfully, a sociopathic loser – she was always too much” instead of discussing her suspicions of infidelity. Another time I am asked to supervise my fiancé just before the wedding. My question is always, “If you have to hire a PI to find out if your fiancé is cheating on you, then why are you getting married at all?”
You base your decisions on what you want to happen in your relationship – not on the fact that you may be a victim of infidelity. Ask yourself, “Whether my husband cheated on me or not – do I still want to be with this person?”
Prepare for what may happen. You may be 100% committed in a marriage, even if you eventually find out that your spouse is in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean the spouse is equally committed. It takes two to get married, and if your spouse has some connection, you can be sure that it will probably be due to some unmet needs from the marriage that your spouse may not be interested in dealing with with you.
While you may not be interested in preparing for a divorce or divorce at this time, that doesn’t mean your spouse isn’t. I watched more than a few “subjects” actively preparing for life after marriage (e.g., opening separate bank accounts, looking for an apartment, etc.). Now may be a good time to take some basic steps to prepare for an outcome that is not your choice.
Consider taking some time to copy your address book, make copies of important documents, photograph property in the house, open a credit card in your own name, open a check or savings account in your own name, change passwords to access your voicemail or Internet accounts, copy precious negatives and photographs, etc. Most of this documentation, including photographs, can fit on a single CD and should be stored outside the residence you share with your spouse. If you think about it – many of these steps should have been taken a long time ago to prepare for a house fire that could happen to any of us.
A word of warning here – don’t bother. Courts generally disrespect those who go so far as to empty utility checks and savings accounts, change door locks, or otherwise deprive the other spouse of access to marital assets and property. Plus, you’re not actually planning a divorce – you’re just trying to be prepared if your spouse suddenly and unilaterally breaks off the relationship for the two of you.
Investigate the laws. Most people who seek my supervisory services do so out of a “need for knowledge”. They already know (or believe they know), because of the no-fault divorce law in my state, that the courts will not award them a big-screen TV and a nice couch / love seat combination only if they can prove that their spouse is having an affair. However, this does not always negate their need for legal advice.
If you are deciding whether to divorce (as opposed to working on your marriage) or just want to know how you would fare if your spouse makes such a decision, perhaps you should take this opportunity to research divorce laws in the state where you reside. How will the assets be divided? Will it help you at all if you could show that your spouse is in a relationship? Who is likely to get custody of the children? What about marital or child support?
You can do some of these rudimentary studies for free without leaving your home. There is a wealth of information available to you over the Internet by simply typing in your state name and “divorce” or “child custody” in your favorite search engine (e.g., “Minnesota Divorce” or “Minnesota Child Custody”). Of course, this research should be considered only “preliminary”. Sit down to talk to a lawyer if you think you will finally decide (or your spouse may decide) to move forward with the termination of the marriage.
Gather evidence. Now is the time to start documenting your evidence of a possible affair and recording your suspicions. Consider either writing things down or entering details into a password-protected document on your computer. Don’t rely on your memory.
I do not recommend that anyone actually go out and try to conduct an investigation or surveillance on their own – these are things that are very well left to your professional investigator for very good reasons. But now is the time to record the times and dates of suspicious activity to notice patterns, strange phone numbers appearing on caller ID units or cell phone call history, discrepancies between actual odometer readings and mileage readings at the employee and spouse location, etc. As strange as it may seem, you should also keep notes of times and events that are not suspicious to you. For example, while you can trust a spouse to travel to another state for a business meeting next Wednesday, they don’t necessarily have to. Only after the affair is fully revealed will some of those other details be seen in a different light.
Now is the time to gather other details that may become useful to the detective if they decide that an investigation becomes necessary. This information may include your spouse’s place of employment, employer’s address, your spouse’s car license plate, names and addresses of spouses’ friends and family members, photos or jpgs of your spouse, names and details of someone you think your spouse may see (ie. address, vehicle data, etc.). Don’t wait until the last possible moment to start gathering those facts; you want to start assembling them now to be ready if the need to move forward arrives.
Consider hiring a licensed private investigator. Whether you choose to hire a private detective should be based on a number of different factors – not least your psychological “need to know,” your ability to afford an investigator, and the need for a licensed professional to document evidence of affair for legal purposes.
Avoid the temptation to try to follow your spouse on your own. Even with 20 years of supervision experience, I would be the last person to try to follow my own wife if I thought she was having an affair; I would have to hire another PI to do the work for me. This is partly due to the fact that none of us are invisible. When you follow someone in the car, you will inevitably find yourself right behind him or her when they stop at a traffic light. Get ready to wave to your spouse when he looks in the mirror and sees who’s in the car behind them! A private detective can get away with it – being in the vehicle right behind him or at a traffic light, and even sitting in a boat next to the spouse if necessary, because he sees the cheated spouse as “just another” Joe. “
It’s also a big mistake to have a friend play the role of a PI. Contrary to what some think, there is much more to exercising discreet surveillance than simply sitting in a car for a few hours and then following your spouse around town. Spouses who cheat are wary of being caught and many take steps to confirm they are not following them. Your friend is unlikely to have the necessary skills to maintain contact with his or her spouse, while reassuring him or her not to follow him or her. Get caught, and you will jeopardize any future surveillance efforts (even by professionals), reveal to your spouse that you suspect, and potentially create some legal issues for yourself and a friend, depending on the laws in your state.
I probably won’t be able to help you with your investigative needs unless they include surveillance in Minnesota. However, you are likely to look for a qualified and competent local investigator in your area if you take the time to review. Finding it is as simple as opening a directory of yellow pages or conducting an Internet search of private investigators through a favorite search engine (e.g., “Private Detective Minnesota,” “Private Investigator Minneapolis,” etc.).
I would recommend that you choose an investigator from your area – not a national outfit that declares “investigators in your area”. Make sure the detective agency has local mail. You will also make sure they are licensed, required and insured. And finally – make sure they specialize in conducting supervision.
Discuss it. If, because of all your worries, you find that your spouse is not having an affair (and I hope you will), you will spend the equivalent of most of the day reading some online remedies, talking to an investigator. or two, and making copies of those important documents and photos that you should have copied a long time ago for unrelated reasons. So far, you have re-examined your relationship and desire to do things (or not) and you have had – at worst, trust a friend or relative regarding your unfounded suspicions. Now it’s time to get rid of those notes about the spouse, scatter the PI business card and invoice (if you’ve gone that far) and tell your trustee to keep it to yourself. It’s also a time to think about what made you believe it was an affair in the first place.
For others, it’s time to “face” the problem after there’s incredible evidence of an affair. But you do so until there is a possibility that additional investigation or oversight will be needed.
Keep in mind that when we face people, we often put them in defense – “What ?! You hired a PI to follow me ?! How dare you!” This is usually because the spouse is caught “off guard” and doesn’t know how to react to a fact you know about the affair. After all, you didn’t give any prior indication that you knew what was going right?
Some of my clients reported success in ordering their spouse to confess to the affair, discussing infidelity in a “real way” after they first gave a cheating spouse that they warned that the issue would be resolved in the near future.
On the day you decide to talk about things with your spouse, tell him or her, “I know about your relationship. I want to talk to you about it after work.” Then leave it and walk or lower it. This gives the spouse time to think about how they will handle things. In many cases, they will return home and admit an affair to which they would not admit that he was otherwise pushed against the wall. Some cheating spouses are actually relieved if they are caught.
Don’t reveal everything you know. For some of my clients, it is tempting to reveal my investigative reports to my spouse, along with photos taken from a videotape, as they shout, “Look at this!” However, this is the last thing you should do.
The investigation report is prepared so that you have the evidence needed to make informed decisions. He is not ready to prove to his spouse that he has an affair. After all – your spouse already knows what the facts are.
When we tell someone what we know, we inadvertently tell him or her as much as we don’t know. For example, let’s say you confront your wife with videotapes as she enters a hotel with another man, and an investigative report (no video or photos) detailing her dinner with the same man two weeks before. What you’re actually telling your wife by revealing that evidence is that you don’t know how she traveled with a man to Bermuda when she said she was on a business trip to Minneapolis. You just told her you had no evidence of that affair before dinner two weeks ago. You told her you had no evidence that she kissed her lover in the car after dinner. You told her you had no idea how she spent the day with that man the day before the hotel meeting. You told her, laying your cards on the table, how much you don’t know. After all, if you knew the other facts – why not face them too? Where are the reports detailing these facts?
Armed with an investigative report in the above hypothetical situation, the wife is likely to admit to having dinner with her Platonic “friend” and the fact that she walked into the hotel with him two weeks later. She could explain very well, “But he’s just a friend. We didn’t do anything but talk. He’s going through a hard time and he wanted to get my advice. I knew you wouldn’t understand and that it would have looked bad, so I didn’t tell you. You don’t believe it. we – you always accuse me of the worst. What about you? And besides – how dare you hire a PI to violate my privacy anyway! “
Keep your evidence to yourself. That is your proof – not your spouse ‘. Your knowledge is your strength. Your spouse not knowing how much you know is your power. Consider instead (using the hypothetical situation above) telling your spouse something like, “Cindy, I know you’re having an affair with Dan. I’m not interested in talking about how I know or how much I know. What I need to know is if you’re willing to end the relationship and work on to this marriage – which will require you to reveal everything to me or will you rather hide the details and make excuses, in which case is this marriage Do you want to tell me about it? “
How you decide to deal with your own particular doubts will ultimately depend on you. While you may feel completely alone as you struggle to find answers, realize that the above advice comes not so much from me, but from countless others – people like you, who have come before you.
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