Sex & Relationships

Redditors Have A+ Advice If You're Afraid A Partner Is Cheating

“Communicate, communicate, communicate.”

How to stop worrying about cheating, according to Reddit users.
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Anyone else hooked on the true-crime series Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story? Currently available on Netflix, the show follows a real-life California couple, whose volatile divorce ends with one of them dead. But don’t watch it before bed. Their story starts to unravel with the husband’s affair — and no matter how great your partner is, you’ll have nightmares about them cheating.

While it’s difficult to quantify exactly how many people cheat, anxiety around affairs is very common. Last year, Dating.com polled 2,000 U.S. users, 55% of whom suspected their partner of cheating since the beginning of pandemic lockdowns. And of course, cheating does happen. In a survey from Bustle Trends Group last year, 53% of readers reported having been cheated on. But even the strongest bonds can suffer from just worrying about infidelity.

You don’t want to get screwed over by a cheating partner, yes, but you also don’t want to spend time worrying about cheating. In an AskReddit thread, women talked about how to stop worrying about cheating, plus tools to confront and squash their fears, from journaling to therapy — it's fascinating.

1

Recognize The Toll It’s Taking On You

If cheating is going to happen, there's probably nothing you can do to stop it. And if a partner cheats, it says more about them than it does about you. So get in front of worry and paranoia. Develop coping mechanisms and self-soothing techniques for these moments. “Our imagination is a third party in our relationships all the time,” says relationship and sexuality educator Dr. Logan Levkoff. “Wondering what someone else is thinking and what someone else is doing takes on a life of its own.”

2

Give Them The Benefit Of The Doubt

Trust is powerful, both when given and received. Show your partner you trust them, and hold them to that standard. “There's a difference between secrecy and privacy,” says Dr. Nan Wise, a cognitive neuroscientist, licensed sex therapist, and author of Why Good Sex Matters. If they are being secretive about something, “maybe they have a good reason,” she says. “It might be that they're worried about your reaction. They might need permission to open up about something that they're anxious or upset about.”

“Trust needs to be earned, but at the same time, keep in mind your partner is innocent until proven guilty,” adds Julie Krafchick, co-host and co-creator of the Date/able podcast. Would you air your insecurities to a person who always assumes you’re cheating? Probably not. Work on practicing transparency and trust in both directions.

3

Realize Your Worth

In the words of this wise Redditor, being alone is better than being in the wrong relationship. “If you find that someone isn’t trustworthy about little things, it’s probably not a shock that they're not so trustworthy about the big things,” Levkoff says. “We might need a wake-up call to see that this partnership isn’t great for us.”

4

Try Journaling Or Therapy

“Talk it through with a friend who's not going to infuse it,” Wise says. “And focus on therapy.” Developing coping skills is a sign of self-care and self-prioritization. Journaling, as one example, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and can create a practice of putting complex, conflicting emotions into words. And in the past year, the number of people seeking licensed therapists has skyrocketed, as anxiety and mental health challenges have increased with the coronavirus pandemic. In turn, there are now plenty of online therapy apps, from Therapy for QPOC to Talkspace.

5

Trust Your Gut

“Emotions are information,” Wise says. If you can stay in control of your emotions, trust your instincts as much as possible. Yue Xu, who co-hosts and co-created Date/able with Krafchick, agrees. “Know that you have to do a gut check. We’ve got to go with our own intuition most of the time,” Xu says. “The minute you want to go into your partner's phone to look for evidence, the minute you should stop yourself and know that something's probably going down.”

6

Acknowledge Your Insecurities

Knowing the difference between insecurities and real threats to the relationship can be a huge help. In fact, Levkoff says, when there are fears of cheating, there’s usually “some deep insecurity there, too.” Focus on yourself and communicate your feelings to your partner. “Tell them you don’t know what's going on, [or] that you’re just insecure,” Levkoff says. “Tell them they don’t need to validate you, but if you’re freaking out, to remind you that they’re there for you.” Sometimes all we’re looking for is someone to stand next to us when the ground feels shaky.

7

Accept Adultery As A Possibility

It’s likely controversial, but if you start to accept adultery as a possibility, it won't take up as much space in your mind.

With that being said, consider asking your partner if it’s happened to them. Xu advises to be straightforward, saying something like, “I’d love to hear your thoughts on infidelity. Have you ever experienced that? How would you feel if your partner cheated on you?” Krafchick agrees: “Ask them how they’d feel if roles were reversed.”

8

Know Your Boundaries

"Boundaries are the limits you place on how much others can ask of you, verbally or otherwise. If you don't discuss boundaries in advance, resentment builds up, and that can cause arguments and fighting,” Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and co-author of How to Be Happy Partners: Working it out Together, told Bustle back in 2018. Boundaries are important in any relationship, be it familial, platonic, or romantic. They make relationships stronger based on mutual respect.

9

Communicate

“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” says Xu, echoing this Redditor’s message. “Our brains are evidence seekers. They're not truth seekers. So whatever you have planted in your head, your brain is going to constantly look for evidence to support that.” Wise agrees. “Create space to have a conversation with your partner and really ask them to listen to you, and then really listen to them,” Wise says. “Look your partner in their eyes. You’ll drop into a space of more connection with them.”

And never underestimate the power of body language during tough conversations. If either of you are feeling uncomfortable, perhaps touch them lightly on the arm, sustain eye contact, like Wise mentions, and make sure your faces are level.

10

Be With Someone You Trust

“It's best that when we begin any kind of relationship, we lay out what our expectations are and what's important to us,” Levkoff says. If trust is important to you, be upfront about that on day one. And understand that as any relationship progresses, you’ll have to nurture that trust as diligently as you water houseplants. “One of the biggest challenges for people in long-term relationships is [learning to] grow the relationship bigger and deeper,” Wise says. No one gets there by lack of communication.

Experts:

Dr. Logan Levkoff, sexuality and relationship educator

Dr. Nan Wise, cognitive neuroscientist and licensed sex therapist

Julie Krafchick, co-host and co-creator of the Date/able podcast

Yue Xu, co-host and co-creator of the Date/able podcast

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., marriage and family therapist