All couples go through emotional ups and downs, but when your spouse is cheating on you, you often have an intuition or inner-knowing that informs you that there is trouble ahead. Nothing happens in a vacuum and infidelity may be a symptom of something else going on at home. On the other hand, your spouse may just be a cheater. It may be that part of his behavior pattern that you either didn’t notice, or want to know.

Cheating is particularly damaging to a relationship and is the cause of most divorces. That’s because it targets your very sense of self, your feelings of value, self-worth, and self-esteem. And, when cheating is discovered, you go through the same symptoms of grief that you would, if you experienced the death of someone close to you. Betrayal tears at the very fabric of your being. I had one friend tell me that she felt as if her best friend had died. The one person in the world who could give her comfort and solace, at this time of pain and suffering.

Cheating is a conscious choice.

So why do people cheat, when they know they leave so much destruction in their path? Sadly, people choose infidelity; no one sees another person across a crowded room and falls into her arms. Cheating is a conscious choice. Also, in the throes of an affair, the cheater feels both omnipotent and invisible, caught in the charge of emotion, and disregarding the possibility of discovery…at least at first.

Why people cheat on their spouses.

So why take the risk…why cheat? We call infidelity cheating, because it takes something away from a mate. It takes away intimacy, time, activities and experiences. An affair often signals that something is wrong in your relationship. For example, a spouse may choose someone less attractive, less sexually well-matched and less interesting than her partner, in an effort to remedy or compensate for what she perceives as lacking.

I remember a story long ago, of a man who both loved his wife and was happy in his relationship. But, each day at noon, he had lunch with a co-worker, who supported him in his job and made him feel secure. As the focus of her attention, this fellow unconsciously slipped into his comfort zone…that of mother. It was in the maternal that he felt both protected and comforted.

Ultimately, he left his wife for this woman, never really knowing why. And, of course, that new marriage failed in the end, as it was really based on the projection of his early childhood patterns of with mother.

When your spouse cheats, he chooses to take away some of himself from you. But before that happens there are already signs of discontent in the relationship, of which cheating is a symptom. And because you may feel that something is amiss, that you can’t put your finger on, you may find yourself agitated with a feeling of free-floating anxiety. These discordant feelings can lead to fighting. And, when you are fighting, you can’t build intimacy. Now feelings of being under-valued, invisible, and unimportant lead to a vicious cycle of space and distance from one another. This may cause your mate to feel lonely, angry revengeful, and disconnected from you. And, influenced by these feelings, he can become vulnerable to another person’s attention, focus, and charm.

12 signs that your spouse is cheating include:

1. An obvious emotional withdrawal from you… and a lack of emotional intimacy. When you are fighting, it is difficult to find emotional intimacy and often a cheater may create a fight, because he needs space and distance from the relationship. Therefore, he may subvert intimacy to regain control.

2. Extra time spent away from home, i.e. late nights at the office, work on the weekends, trips away from home and without you.

3. The tell-tale lipstick on his collar, marks on his body, unfamiliar scents in the air and clothing, all pointing to intimacy with someone else.

4. Lack of physical intimacy with you.

5. Stirring the pot, starting fights at home.

6. Acting vacant and detached from you.

7. Sudden interest in his appearance: losing weight, working out at a gym, buying new clothes.

8. Often exhibiting a younger look.

9. Unusual showering patterns, when he returns home.

10. Possessiveness. Accusing you of flirting or being interested in others. Remember: the best offense is a good defense.

11. Picking on you, and undermining everything you do. Or, on the other hand, being excessively flattering and polite, bringing home the occasional flowers or gifts.

12. Telling you that he needs time alone to think about your relationship. You can be sure, if goes away to think about your relationship…he’s not going alone.

What you can do if you think your spouse is cheating

So what can you do about it? If you’ve never been behind the closet door, you don’t look there. Partners that don’t cheat, can miss the subtleties and nuances of their spouse’s altered and sometimes guilty behavior. Listen to your intuition or to the subtle innuendos of friends and colleagues. Be proactive, paying attention to the ripple or changes in your day-to-day experience, with your spouse.

Look online. Here’s where many relationships begin. And no: an online relationship is not the same as physical adultery…remember Jimmy Carter’s famous line that he only lusted in his heart.

Now you must choose: do you want to save your marriage? Is it worth saving?

If the answer is yes, then use my Empathic Process to confront your mate. Talk about your feelings without defense and listen to his. Professional help can guide you into the realm of your feelings, so that you can decide if you still love this person.

If the answer is yes, and if he loves you as well, then together you can re-build your relationship. Use a ritual such as reconfirming your vows, with the promise of creating, not the same relationship, but something new. Because now through the approach of counseling and my Empathic Process, you can get to know each other, perhaps for the first time…the good, the bad and the ugly and decide how you want to live your lives together. It’s easy to get a divorce, but if through authentic and open conversation, you find that you love each other, then you may also decide that this relationship is worth saving.

In the final analysis, these choices are yours. Deep wounding, such as adultery, never truly go away. They form an outer scar covering your inner wound…and, a grieving process, a transcendent experience into a new relationship identity for you and your mate.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.