There is no romantic agony quite the same as discovering that your spouse or lover is cheating on you.
Few things are more universally painful than realizing the one you love broke his or her word — and your heart.
You may want to race directly to your spouse in a fit of rage and pain for a showdown.
But we advise some caution, forethought, and time before you do.
That’s why, hard as it may be, you need to pull yourself together, put together the facts, and confront the cheater the right way.
Before You Confront a Cheater
It’s important to have a planned approach for what to say to your cheating husband or wife to get the clarifying answers you need.
Confrontation will be painful as you hear some candid revelations, so to make the conversation proceed as smoothly as possible, think about the following:
Here are few more valuable steps to consider before you have the painful conversation.
1. Clear your head.
You need to maintain a clear head and calmly review the cold hard facts before you. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
The mere notion that the person to whom you have given your heart is throwing it away and betraying your trust is enough to move anyone to floods of tears or fits of rage.
Momentarily cathartic as they may be, however, neither crying in a corner nor screaming in your lover’s face is likely to obtain your desired outcome.
2. Know what you want.
But what outcome is that, exactly? Are you looking to salvage this marriage? Is your relationship with them worth it – are they worth it?
You may not know precisely what you want until after you have the conversation about the adultery.
In fact, you may not know for weeks or months, as your emotions will run the gamut from rage to despair to hope.
3. Maintain your self-esteem.
The one rabbit hole you don’t want to go down is wondering whether you’re worth it. Too often, we internalize the shame and pain that comes from being cheated on and think the fault must lie in ourselves.
What’s worse, far too many cheaters count on that insecurity and vulnerability, taking advantage of it to shift blame to the wronged party and gaslighting him or her to get away with infidelity.
4. Prepare yourself emotionally.
You need to be ready for the possibility that the relationship with Mr. or Ms. Nice Guy is anything but nice.
Realize that the person you love is possibly a manipulative snake.
It may be better to separate yourself from this toxic relationship than to allow this person to further poison your happiness.
Get your Gloria Gaynor on and remember that as ugly and unfortunate as this cheating situation is, you will survive.
5. Decide what this person means to you.
If this person is the love of your life, you’ve been happy together for years, and he or she shows genuine remorse, things may be worth salvaging.
On the other hand, if this is a new partner or someone with a history of dishonest behavior, really ask yourself if he or she is right for you or even deserves you.
6. Collect your proof.
Is he cheating? Maybe. Will she admit it or continue to lie? Who knows.
You don’t want to incorrectly and unfairly accuse someone.
What’s more, even if you do have reason to suspect that the allegations are true, facts are essential if you’re going to catch the cheater in a lie.
As the online saying goes, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” Gossip and innuendo alone may be troubling, but you shouldn’t accuse someone of cheating with nothing to back that up.
Seek out calls, texts, testimony and, yes, pictures and screenshots. Then make sure they are valid and haven’t been digitally doctored.
You can’t put the genie back in the bottle, so before you accuse someone of cheating, make sure that you have stone-cold facts and evidence on your side.
7. Stay safe.
The threat of cornered cheaters turning violent is all too real.
Women especially face an elevated risk of being assaulted after confronting or outing former partners.
If you fear that confronting the other party may provoke them to violence, have the conversation in front of a couple’s counselor or a trusted family member in a public location.
And have a plan for where you will go after the confrontation if you suspect being alone with your spouse or partner might get ugly.
8. Talk it over with people you trust.
When it comes to evaluating a cheating allegation, you are naturally biased. See what others who you trust think about the situation.
Do they think that the evidence you have gathered is valid?
If so, do they believe this cheating is a horrendous but isolated mistake, or do they think you’re better off without your beloved?
9. Should You Confront the Other Woman or Man?
In addition to confronting a suspected cheating husband or cheating wife, the question arises – what about the other man or woman involved?
It’s a question that is hotly debated among those going through the pain of adultery, with different people coming to different conclusions.
Points in favor of confronting the other party include:
On the other hand, points against confronting them may be:
If you know the name of the other woman or man, you may be able to do some online research before a confrontation to get some of the information you need.
There is no clear-cut answer here. It is up to you to evaluate the details ahead of time and make an informed decision.
And you can only do so with confidence and clarity if you have proof.
How to Confront a Cheater
There are a couple of scenarios you’ll want to consider as you have the talk with your philandering spouse.
Do you have proof ready and available, or do you just have a nagging suspicion that your lover is straying?
Let’s look at both situations and how to handle them.
How to Confront a Cheater with Proof
Painful as the proof of a cheater’s actions may be, it is always better to have it than not. As we’ll see below, confronting a cheater without proof is far more difficult.
Whether or not you are able to get your partner to admit to an affair, at least with proof you (and any divorce lawyers or judges, if it gets that far) have an objective record of what happened.
Having the facts in hand can also help you determine what to do next based on your partner’s response.
10. Don’t present proof immediately.
Just tell your partner you suspect he or she is cheating and leave it at that. Allow your spouse or partner to admit or deny the affair before you reveal your proof.
If he or she admits the behavior, let your spouse keep talking and reveal as much as possible before offering your evidence. You might get more information than you possess.
11. Present proof after denial.
If your partner denies the affair, ask a few more questions to see if he or she continues to lie. If so, lay out all of your evidence which should elicit some amount of honesty and shame.
If they still lie even after being confronted with the facts, then leave them behind and never look back (at least not until the divorce proceedings).
Anyone who would still lie when faced with facts is too out of touch with reality, too narcissistic, too inconsiderate, or some unsavory combination thereof for you to waste your time on any further.
12. Dig deeper.
Just hearing that your spouse has cheated may be all you can handle in the moment. But there are other pieces of information you may want to get while he or she is fessing up. If you can deal with the details, ask more questions. We have a list of good questions to ask your partner at the end of this article.
13. Decide next steps.
If he or she admits to the behavior, offers an explanation, and apologizes, the ball is in your court. It is up to you to decide whether or not to accept the apology and, if so, whether you’re willing to trust and try again.
Taking responsibility may be a positive step, especially if your husband or wife agrees to back it up with concrete measures such as counseling and accountability. That said, there is a big difference between accepting an apology once and being asked to do so over and over.
If your partner is still hiding aspects of the affair or is waffling about what he or she wants to do (end the affair or not), then it may be time for you to get some counseling (with a therapist and/or a lawyer) to determine your next steps.
14. Be ready with consequences and accountability if you stay.
Since you had evidence before the confrontation that you partner has been cheating, you can prepare in advance the things you’ll require if you and your partner decide to work things out.
You may want to consider outlining the following with your partner:
- The relationship must end immediately with absolutely no contact.
- He or she must completely own up to the betrayal without blaming you.
- He or she must show you all forms of contact and delete or block them in front of you.
- He or she must give you full access to your phone(s) and computer to look at any time.
- He or she must tell you where they are going and what they are doing and check in with you until you feel more trusting.
- You must both go to marriage or couples’ counseling regularly until you resolve the issues that led to the affair.
- If your spouse works with the affair partner, he or she must change jobs or move to a department where there will be no interaction.
How to Confront a Cheater Without Proof
With proof, you know where you stand, and it becomes about what they say and do in response.
Without proof, there is nothing to rein in the lies, assuming that they are lies and you aren’t actually mistaken. But if you feel you must say something, even without real proof, here are some thoughts:
15. Trust your instincts.
You know your partner better than anyone, and if you have the feeling he or she is being unfaithful, your instincts are likely right. You are seeing or feeling that something is way off, and you can’t find any explanation other than infidelity.
Sure, you could be wrong, but if you and your spouse have communicated honestly in the past, it’s possible that when you share your suspicions, you’ll get an honest answer. Possible — but not probable. But it may be worth having the conversation if the anxiety and uncertainty are making you crazy.
16. Present the behaviors you’ve noticed.
Has your spouse been keeping his or her cellphone away from you? Has he been more secretive? Has she suddenly upgraded her appearance, wardrobe, or fitness routine? Is your partner away from home more often or keeping an unusual schedule? Has there been a change in how your partner treats you or in your sex life?
Present these new behaviors to your partner before you ask about infidelity, and ask him or her why they are occurring. Does the explanation seem reasonable or ridiculous? Does your partner seem to be lying or getting defensive?
17. State your suspicions.
If your partner doesn’t own up to an affair, state your suspicions directly. “All of these behaviors lead me to believe you’re having an affair. Are you?” Ask your partner to look you directly in the eyes when he or she answers.
If you’re partner is lying, there are tell-tale signs such as rapid breathing, avoiding eye contact, staring without blinking, over-explaining, repeating phrases, using a lot of filler words (um, ah), or having a high-pitched voice.
18. Know your risks.
There’s the big risk of confronting a cheater without proof – the fact that you may appear unreasonable, insecure, or paranoid.
If you attempt this at all, you’d better have:
That’s a near-impossible set of circumstances, so you may want to wait until you have facts in hand. You’ll need to do some snooping or hire a private investigator — both unsavory but perhaps necessary options.
19. Anticipate lies.
If you don’t have the facts, your partner can simply pile lie upon lie with impunity, knowing that you have no way to prove your case.
This is where the gaslighting comes in as he or she feigns outrage, asking how you could ever suspect such a thing and twisting it to make you feel like the guilty party.
With cold, hard facts such as calls, texts, pictures, and testimony, you can force your spouse to face the truth and own up to the betrayal.
Questions To Ask A Cheating Spouse
1. Why did you stray?
When considering what to say to your cheating husband or wife, the main thing you want to know is why the affair happened. What was the root cause and where did your marriage go wrong?
There must be a reason your spouse calculated that cheating was worth the risk. The truth is, there may be several factors behind the circumstances.
2. How did you justify your behavior?
Asking this question helps uncover your spouse’s vulnerabilities and values.
One of the most critical factors is whether your partner considered any potential consequences of becoming involved or only of getting exposed.
When a married person becomes involved with someone else, they’re often willing to take risks without considering the damage they could do to their marriage.
3. Do you still have feelings for this person?
When it comes to questions to ask a cheating spouse, this is critical one.
If your partner still has feelings for the person with whom they cheated, it’s probably time to call it quits. It will be hard to overcome infidelity for both of you if there are still feelings involved.
4. Will you still have contact with this person?
Asking this question allows you to see if your spouse will forego any form of contact with this person moving forward.
5. How did you feel differently with this person?
It will be painful knowing details of infidelity and knowing your spouse wasn’t getting something from this other person that he or she wasn’t getting from you.
6. Are you in love and planning a future together?
Just how deep did the emotions run in this relationship?
Did your spouse fantasize with this other person about leaving life behind and running away together? Did they have plans for what they would do once they were “finally” together?
Knowing the depths of the affair may help you figure out if you can move forward or not.
7. What did you reveal about our marriage?
Out of all of the questions to ask your spouse after infidelity, the answer to this one may be the most telling.
You probably want to know how your marriage was depicted when you weren’t around to give your side of the story or defend yourself.
Knowing what was revealed to the other person will give you a deeper understanding of the loyalty your spouse had (and has) to your marriage and how emotionally intimate he or she was with the other person.
8. When did the affair start?
Knowing the duration of the affair will reveal if your spouse felt guilty and how they responded to those feelings.
Guilt is not a feeling that people can comfortably live with on an everyday basis.
So if these feelings were unbearable enough for the affair to end, it can help assure you that another affair won’t happen in the future.
9. Did you have unprotected sex?
If you’ve been in a relationship for a long time, you may not consider the fact that your spouse’s lover could be a source of an STD.
If you both have gone years without having safe sex precautions on your minds, it might not be something your cheating partner considered in the heat of the moment.
10. What can we do now to protect of our relationship?
If you and your spouse want to continue with the relationship, you have to develop a new sense of security in it and rebuild trust.
Hopefully, both of you can find a way to revive the relationship you had before the affair started by drawing on the love that first brought you together.
Some other questions to ask include:
- How long has it been going on?
- Have you slept with others in addition to this person?
- Is the other person married?
- Do you want to end our marriage (or relationship)?
Being forced to confront the fact of infidelity is as painful as it gets relationship-wise.
When a lover breaks his or her word and casts you aside for someone else, it’s easy to believe there’s something wrong with you and that it’s your fault.
And it adds insult to injury if the cheating party attempts to capitalize on your pain and vulnerability by gaslighting you.
Once you have established the facts, questioning partners about cheating becomes less an inquiry and more a morality test to see if they’ll do the right thing or are utterly shameless.
In short, the confrontation is the beginning of deciding if he or she is worthy of you and your forgivingness.