Jessica had noticed a change in Eric’s behavior lately. He was pensive, distant, disconnected. He seemed to be hiding something.

She had seen him act this way before, and it made her sick to her stomach to see it again.

The last time he was like this, he was having an affair.

Her mind reeled at the terrifying possibilities.

What if he had gone back to his old lover? What if he found a new one? She had already been through the nightmare once. She didn’t think she could handle it again.

When Jessica asked Eric about it, he said, “I know I’ve been a little off recently. And I know what you’re thinking. You have every right to your suspicions, but it isn’t like that. Not this time. I’d like to tell you about this sweetie. But I can’t. Not right now. Give me time, and I will share everything with you.

I promise.

She wanted to believe her husband. She desperately hoped he was telling her the truth. But even though she wanted to give them the space he had requested, she wasn’t sure she should or could do it.

Eric had made a lot of changes. She was starting to trust him again. But could she really trust this man? Could she turn her heart over to him one more time, and believe in him when he had lied to her and turned her world upside down before?

Have you been in Jessica’s shoes? Are you plagued by the idea that your spouse is having an affair right under your nose? Do your suspicions haunt you day and night, whether you have evidence for them or not?

If so, you are dealing with one of the most complex and challenging parts of healing from an affair.

For one thing, suspicious feelings can bring all your doubts and fears bubbling back to the surface again. You might experience a renewed sense of terror over the possibility your spouse is cheating on you again.

The problem is further complicated if you feel you don’t have a right to your suspicious feelings. This often happens when an injured partner notices positive changes in his or her spouse, yet is confronted with a situation that makes him or her feel that something is wrong.

As a result you can end up in the very dilemma Jessica was stuck in. You have all these awful feelings coming up again, but you aren’t sure whether to trust your suspicions (which could be wrong), or trust your spouse (who could be lying to you).

To help you handle this dilemma, in this article I am going to teach you how to start developing a “suspicion filter.” This filter will make it a little bit easier to determine which suspicious feelings you should act on and which you should let go of.

This can give you the power to take advantage of those suspicious feelings and use them as a means to draw you and your spouse closer together again, instead of letting them plague you and drive you apart.

You should know, though, that most professionals are not any better at determining lies than you are.

Creating a Suspicion Filter

One evening not too long after the encounter described above, Jessica decided to stop by Eric’s office just after closing time. She had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and she thought it would be nice to surprise him and invite him to dinner.

When she got there, the office was closed. Which was a bit weird, because Eric usually stayed at the office for about an hour after closing to finish things up.
Then she noticed that there were only two cars in the parking lot-Eric’s and his friend Bill’s.

What could this mean?

Suddenly another awful possibility hit Jessica.

“Bill and Eric are out carousing,” she thought. “Those $#$%#%$! And Bill–he’s married, too. But then I’ve heard he has a bit of a reputation as a player .”

Jessica’s mind took over, and the wild scenarios it created began to make her feel sicker and angrier by the moment.

What would you do if you were in Jessica’s shoes? Would you act on your suspicions, confront Eric with this issue, and discuss it with him, or would you let it go, give your spouse the benefit of the doubt, and assume he was telling you the truth?

If you haven’t been through an affair, you might let an incident like this go without another thought. Or you might casually mention you stopped by the office, expecting to get a rational explanation from your spouse about his or her whereabouts.

But when you have experienced an affair, situations like the one above can raise a lot of questions for you about how honest your spouse is.

Every time you are in a situation where suspicious feelings like these come up, the question you ultimately face is this:

Should I confront my spouse about this or not?

This is where a suspicion filter comes into play.

When you develop a suspicion filter, you make a series of choices about whether or not a given situation or a particular suspicion is worth addressing.

In some cases it is very important to address suspicions. Dealing with areas where your suspicions are a serious issue will help you learn to trust your spouse again, assuming your spouse is acting with integrity and is willing to discuss these issues honestly and openly with you.

On the other hand, there are some areas where acting on your suspicious feelings will probably do more harm than good.

If you have seen legitimate change in your spouse and you don’t have a logical reason to be suspicious, it may be better to let the situation pass. After all, at some point you are going to have choose to trust your spouse again even though doing so makes you potentially vulnerable to more hurt feelings.

The question is how to know which suspicions to confront your spouse about and which ones to let go of.

Start by adopting your most adult, analytical frame of mind to assess the situation at hand. Decide within yourself whether or not you have a logical reason to be suspicious about what’s going on.

What is the likelihood that your spouse is acting with integrity and not betraying you again? What is the likelihood that he or she is telling the truth?

As you consider this, take your spouse’s recent behavior into account.

Considering the following might help you make your assessment:

. Have you noticed a favorable character change in your spouse?
. Has he or she been transparent recently? That is, has your spouse been open and forthcoming with personal information, including readily sharing his or her whereabouts, email accounts, activities, and plans?
. Has your spouse been actively engaged in working out the problems in your marriage?
. Have you received an appropriate and complete apology from your spouse? Is your spouse readily willing to reassure you and repeat the apology if you ask?

Answers to these questions should speak to the integrity of your spouse and help you determine how likely it is that he or she is telling you the truth in this particular circumstance.

However, whenever you are dealing with someone with a history or lying and cheating, there is always the chance that even noticeable changes do not reflect internal character change.

In any situation where you are trying to predict human behavior you can’t know what is going to happen-you can only make an educated guess about the probability of a particular response.

The bottom line is that you have to work with the information you can see and hear, and not with the information you wish you had. Look and listen with some objectivity. If you have to stretch your mind to make suspicious reasons or behavior credible, then you might have a problem.

However, if your spouse has been acting above board in all the ways I mentioned above, and has very plausible reasons for any suspicious behavior, you might decide not to act on your suspicious feeling. These suspicions are caught in your filter and you don’t address them.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t justified. They could be. Either way, you always have a right to feel what you feel. It isn’t worth being ashamed of your feelings. If your spouse wants you to feel differently, not ever questioning his or her honesty, then he or she should go back and not have the affair. Wait a minute; that can’t be undone…

You have legitimate reasons to question your spouse if you are in the aftermath of an affair. But if you’re trying to get past the pain, and learn how to move on with your relationship, at some point you will have to make a choice to trust your spouse again.

It’s very likely that fears of being duped again will come up for you. That’s natural in your situation.

The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not this is a reasonable risk for you to take.

Part of this will depend on the situation you are confronted with. Part of it will depend on how much change you see in your spouse. Part of it will simply depend on how much risk you are willing to take, and that is something nobody but you can decide.

If the current infraction is serious enough to raise real problems for you even when you look at it from an adult, analytical point of view, then you should at least discuss the issue with your spouse.

This does not mean you should attack or accuse your spouse. It means you should sit down and describe the situation as you experienced it, but without blaming or accusing.

Let your spouse describe the situation as he or she experienced it as well. If you are still disturbed, explain what about the situation concerned you.

If your spouse is cooperative, he or she should work at making sense of how this situation upset you. After your spouse understands logically how it concerned you, then your spouse should explain back to you the logical progression of how you became concerned.

Your spouse’s reaction to this conversation will be a good indicator of how serious he or she is about your relationship, and another indicator of honesty and commitment.

Jessica passed the situation above through her suspicion filter, and decided it was time she and Eric talked seriously about what was going on with him. Here’s what happened.

When Eric got home that night, Jessica confronted him about where he had gone after work.

She said, “Eric, I want to trust you. But today I stopped by your work just to invite you for dinner, and you weren’t there. All I saw was your car and Bill’s, and that made me feel worried that maybe you two were out flirting with the girls at the bar.”

Eric heaved a deep sigh, and said, “I can finally tell you what’s been going on these last few weeks. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you sooner, but I didn’t feel it was appropriate.

I found out that Bill had been sleeping with his secretary Jill. Because I know what it’s like to make that kind of mistake, I wanted to talk with Bill and let him know that his actions were going to cause him misery.

I didn’t want to tell you until I had talked with Bill about it. It didn’t seem right. I’m sorry if that worried you. I want you to trust me too.”

Jessica was so relieved tears came to her eyes. She gave Eric a big hug. But she also wanted to work out a way that she and Eric could keep such problems from coming up in the future.

So they agreed that Eric would call and leave Jessica a message on her voicemail anytime he was going to be late from work for any reason.

Eric immediately agreed and apologized for not thinking about that on his own. He also told Jessica that he would try to remain as open with her as possible so they could continue to work on their trust issues.

Jessica and Eric are a success story. They continued to work on the problems in their relationship and eventually created a marriage that was better than ever. You can do that too. And you can use your suspicion filter to help make that happen.

When your internal alarm goes off and tells you there’s a reason to be suspicious, analyze your feelings. If they are worth addressing talk to your spouse about it openly and rationally. If they are not, let them pass by.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson


Marriage Sherpa

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