“He seems to be doing all the right things, but he pulled the wool over my eyes before. Are there any signs that tell me whether or not he will cheat on me again?”
Are you haunted by thoughts like this? Do you wake up at night worried that your spouse will cheat again? Do you watch every one of his actions, like a hawk, trying to detect even the smallest sign that he or she is cheating again?
If so, you’re not alone.
You probably want to forgive your spouse. You probably want to “go back to the way things were.” You may even be committed to making your relationship better than it has ever been.
But how can you do that when you aren’t certain your spouse won’t betray you again? How can you move forward when the possibility exists that another affair could happen right under your
This is a very difficult dilemma, and many people who are trying to recover from affairs struggle with it.
That’s why I’ve been dedicating so much time to this topic over these last couple of weeks.
This article is the second in a 2-part mini-series on how to increase the probability that your spouse won’t cheat again, and how to tell if he or she is having another affair.
You will remember that last week, I shared a truth that you already know in your heart: There’s no way to be absolutely certain that your spouse won’t cheat again.
Nonetheless there are some ways to make it less likely that your spouse will betray you again. And I gave you some tips on how to do that in last week’s article.
The real solution comes when your spouse changes his character. This means he recognizes he had a character problem, and decides he never wants to be the kind of person who lies or cheats from this point forward. In addition, you should see that he is truly embarrassed and remorseful about having been the kind of person who did something like that in the past.
As promised, this week I will help you recognize some signs that may indicate your spouse is cheating again or is likely to cheat once more.
I must tell you, these signs ARE NOT a guarantee one way or the other. As I said last week, I don’t vouch for anyone, and I can’t tell you whether or not your spouse is cheating again or is likely to do so.
However, these signs can give you some indication of how safe you are in your marriage.
Use these, along with your natural intuition and the tips I gave you in the last article.
Indicators of How Safe You Might Be
#1: Listening to Your Pain and Actively Engaging in Conversation
Perhaps the best indicator you have for how serious your partner is about remaining loyal to you is his or her willingness to listen to your pain and openly and actively engage in conversations about the affair.
That means your partner should be willing to listen to you even repeatedly express how hurt you were by the affair, especially in the early stages of healing.
It also means that he or she should actively listen to what you have to say about your relationship, and should actively communicate his or her feelings about the marriage as well.
Some people (especially men), don’t have a lot of experience talking or listening this way. That’s why I have outlined communication programs in both of my books: Surviving an Affair and Saving Your Marriage.
If your partner doesn’t have much experience with communication, his willingness to learn how to communicate, put up with his own frustration during the learning process, and his attempts to openly listen to you are a good indicator of how serious he is about repairing the marriage.
If your partner won’t listen to you, or you are having problems communicating it doesn’t necessarily mean another affair will occur.
However, problems communicating are not a good sign for your marriage.
#2: Fully and Completely Apologizing
Another sign that your partner is serious about remaining loyal is the quality of his or her apology.
If there’s been no apology at all, that’s a bad sign.
Things don’t get much better if your cheating spouse only apologizes once and then says something like, “Look, I already said I’m sorry-all right? Let’s drop it.”
A word to the spouse who cheated: Saying something like that is no apology at all! You can’t expect to simply say, “I’m sorry,” once or twice and make the problem go away. It doesn’t work that way.
After the damage you have caused, it’s going to take quite a bit more than that to achieve a full and complete apology.
A full apology has a number of aspects to it including:
. An understanding and identification with the injured spouse’s pain
. A frank statement about the fact that what you did was wrong-taking the hit for the wrong acts you committed
. Agreement from the injured partner that he or she feels that you really understand how much he or she was hurt
. Searching inside yourself to repair the parts of your character that allowed the lying and cheating
. An unequivocal statement about your commitment to the marriage
. An unequivocal promise that you will remain faithful from here on out
A complete, step-by-step treatment for how to accomplish this kind of apology in Surviving an Affair. You may want to look at that book for more details.
In the meantime you should be aware that a cheating spouse who isn’t ready to give this kind of apology may not be ready for a fully committed relationship either.
That doesn’t mean he or she will cheat again, but you might be wary of this spouse.
#3: The Cheater Becomes Open and Transparent
Another sign that indicates how likely it is your spouse will cheat again is if he or she acts defensive and self-protective instead of being open and transparent.
To put it simply, the more open and transparent your spouse is, the more he or she is demonstrating a change in behavior and attitude.
After an affair, it is the cheater’s responsibility to work on opening up and becoming transparent. If you don’t see that happening, it may be a warning sign.
If the cheater is being defensive, secretive, lying, withholding information, or otherwise being less than open, there may be something going on behind the scenes.
This is a bit of a tricky area for a couple of reasons.
First of all, some of you will be guarded with your spouse. You might not want to share information because you feel like you are “reporting to your spouse” or “checking in” like with a parent.
This attitude reflects a misunderstanding of what intimacy is all about.
Fully intimate marriages consistent of a free and open exchange of information.
That means if you are going out with friends you tell your spouse about it. It means if you have a lunch meeting with your boss when you would usually call your husband or wife, you tell him or her about that, too.
Doing this isn’t “checking in.” It’s a way to show you care for and respect your spouse. It is the behavior of a responsible and caring adult.
If your spouse is honestly working to become more transparent, it’s a good sign for your relationship.
Secondly, it’s sometimes difficult for an injured person to know how “transparent” his or her spouse is being.
The reason for this is pretty clear. You’ve been lied to and deceived before. What’s to stop it from happening again?
In some cases, partial transparency can be used to deceive you or lull you into complacency. Situations like this occur when the cheater tells part of what is happening, but only the acceptable part in order to distract you from the rest of the story.
The fear that you will be deceived again is legitimate. However, For love to work, there’s always a risk element. If you want your relationship to work, at some point you have to start to trust that your spouse is telling you the truth-making yourself vulnerable again.
Suspicion is natural after an affair. But some suspicions are reasonable and others aren’t. Try to distinguish between the two.
For example, if your spouse has been relatively transparent and one day tells you he has a lunch meeting with his boss, you should probably believe him.
After all, what are the alternatives?
Calling during the meeting or showing up at the restaurant to check and “make sure he isn’t lying” will only serve to further damage your relationship.
Similarly accusing him of lying to you when you have no evidence probably won’t help much either.
So in a case like this, if your spouse has made good efforts at transparency, it’s in your best interests to believe him until you have a reason not to.
On the other hand, there are some cases where suspicions are justified. For example, if your are sitting with your spouse in a restaurant and he starts flirting with the waitress you have every reason to be concerned. And you should tell him as much.
A similar situation is if you know your spouse is having lunch with an attractive coworker of the opposite sex.
The idea here is to make a distinction between the kinds of suspicions that could help your relationship, and those that will do it more damage.
As the injured person, try to tune into your reasonable suspicions.
Put the others out of your mind.
If your spouse is committed to being transparent he or she will help you with this. Talk to your spouse about your feelings. Let her know that you are concerned. If he or she is responsive, you can even set up some kind of system for alleviating these concerns, such as sending a telephone picture of the lunch site and people attending.
In this way you can tune into the worst suspicions that are telling you something may be going wrong in your relationship, and perhaps put aside your worries about the more reasonable situations.
#4: Consider the Nature of the Offense
Finally, I suggest you consider the nature of the offense. This is one of the best signs you have for the likelihood of another affair.
If your spouse is a serial cheater, it’s much more likely he or she will have another affair in the future.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you should end your relationship. No one can decide that but you.
However, you should know that a person who has cheated multiple times in the past is much more likely to cheat again in the future.
On the other hand, if your spouse has only cheated once, and he or she seems truly sorry for what happened, then your spouse is much more likely to repair his or her character.
You can’t prevent someone from cheating. We don’t have control over other people’s actions.
But by reading the signs outlined above, and taking the steps in last week’s article you improve your chances that your marriage will not suffer from infidelity again.
I have seen relationships truly thrive after an affair. I have seen people recover from the pain and create a marriage that is better than ever, making the risk they took in working through the recovery well worth it.
I hope these steps help you achieve your dream.
Let me know how it goes with you. I’d love to hear about your marriage. Post a comment to this blog by clicking the comment link below.
As always I wish you all the best on your road to a wonderful marriage.
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