QUESTION: Something in my gut tells me that my husband may be cheating, but I have no proof. I thought about hiring a private investigator to find out. My two best friends are divided on this; one says it is wrong, and the other tells me that I should. Please share any advice that will help me make the best decision.
ANSWER: I certainly understand how upsetting it must be to worry that your husband may be unfaithful. Though devastating to know for sure, at least you would no longer live in the limbo of doubt and fear. Therefore, I understand you considering a private investigator. Either your mind finds peace, or you confront the problem. Seems simple enough, and one of your friends thinks you should.
From my experience working with thousands of marriages, I side with the other friend; the one who says you should not.
Earlier in my career helping marriages, I thought differently. However, repeatedly witnessing strong negative consequences when one spouse secretly spied on the other changed my mind. If space permitted, I could give a multitude of horror stories describing how suspicious spouses caused even greater problems in their marriages through things such as employing private investigators, hiding GPS devices in cars, tracking cell phones, surreptitiously following, bugging telephones, sneaking into emails or Facebook accounts, and more. All felt what you likely feel, “I have to know for sure. I can’t take the fear and worry!”
As I said, understandable.
Nevertheless, highly dangerous to your future.
Think about the possible results of secretly investigating your husband.
He Is Innocent and Never Discovers You Checked On Him
The best you can hope for is that your private investigator discovers your husband is not involved with someone else or involved in some inappropriate behavior. You pay the investigator’s fee, go on with your life, and your husband never knows.
You still have to live with the awareness that you failed to trust him. You also have the fear that if he ever discovers what you did, he will be hurt. Maybe angry. Maybe very angry.
He Is Innocent and Discovers That You Checked on Him
There is always a risk in bugging phones, using GPS devices, digging into emails, hiring investigators, and all the other things you might do to determine if your spouse has secrets. While he may never know, the possibility exists that he may catch you. No matter how smart, how careful, or how wily you are – or how long you have done it without being discovered – eventually you will make a mistake or some simple unexpected thing will go awry. (That also happens to experienced private investigators.) No secret method of spying is flawless.
I have witnessed the intense anger, humiliation, and resentment a person feels when she discovers her spouse has been secretly spying on her. It makes no difference how he tries to explain or justify his actions, the message is loud and clear, “You don’t trust me! You think I’m doing something!”
Accusing a spouse causes problems but those problems pale in comparison to the earthquake that follows discovering the other secretly spied on you. It can take months…I have seen it take years…to get over the sense of betrayal.
Unfortunately, some marriages never get over that rift in their relationship.
He is Guilty and You Confront Him
If you wish to divorce him if you find proof of infidelity, then it makes little difference how you discover his adultery.
If you wish to save your marriage if you learn he has strayed, there is a great deal of difference in how he will react to how you found out.
Typically, no one reacts well to being caught. Often they focus their own hurt, frustration, and anger on something other than their own behavior. If, for example, someone told you about your husband’s affair, he may well become angry with that person. If you accidentally learned of it because you found a slip of paper in his pocket or happened to see a text come in on his cell, he will be angry with you for emptying his pocket or seeing his phone. However, because he knows that you were only preparing his pants for the cleaner or that he left his phone where you could easily see, that anger soon heads toward something else. BUT…if he realizes that you spied on him, all his anger will be directed toward you.
It happens because of all the emotions tumbling through him. He knows that he may lose his reputation. He may lose his children. He may be humiliated before all his friends and family. He may even be emotionally involved with the other woman and suffering an intense conflict between wanting to be with her and knowing he should do the right thing. Each of these causes pain. That kind of pain inevitably leads to anger. That anger needs a target. If you hired an investigator, my experience over many years tells me that you will become that target.
Of course, he should direct his anger at his own actions and straighten himself up. In time, he may. However, if after he has been caught he can focus on your having an investigator follow him (or that you hid a GPS in his car, or whatever) then he will concentrate all those torrential emotions within him into a laser beam of fury onto you.
If he already considered leaving, that will give him impetus to do so. If the other woman tries to coax him to abandon you for her, it will give her leverage. If he wishes to stay, it will give him ammunition to hurt you as badly as he feels hurt, despite the fact that his adultery hurt you to your core.
As already indicated, if you intend to divorce him if you find he is unfaithful, hire the investigator because you will not care how angry he becomes.
If you love your husband and want your marriage to survive even if he strayed, I strongly suggest that you do not hire the investigator.
So What Do You Do?
Because you feel that he is cheating, you must do something.
Tell him of your worries. Make sure you do not accuse as you do. The idea is, “Honey, I’m feeling insecure” rather than, “ARE YOU CHEATING ON ME?!” Rather than demanding he prove his faithfulness, ask him to demonstrate his love. Reference specific things that worry you, “I worry when you come home late and I don’t know where you’ve been. I’m not accusing you of being with another woman, but can’t you see how it could make me wonder why you aren’t with me, especially when I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing?” Then ask him to give you the assurance that you need, “I want to be able to know where you are…not because I don’t trust you…but because I need to feel that I’m important enough to you that you want me to know.”
If your fears continue, increase your requests. Over time, if his actions do not reassure you, ask for more things.
SPECIAL NOTE: Before you get to the point of demanding passwords, phone records, and the like, it would be a GREAT idea to consult a counselor to assess whether it is his lack of transparent accountability or your own personal insecurities that are not healthy for you or your relationship.
If he loves you – and you do not make him feel untrustworthy – you can find a way to create a level of transparency between the two of you that makes your marriage wonderful. If you cannot, then seek counseling before hiring an investigator. If you marriage comes to an impasse, call us.
If your marriage is in trouble, there are many who will help. If you wish my organization to assist you in getting the help you need, please call us toll free at 866-903-0990. We will listen and we will help if we can.