References “NOT ‘Just Friends’” by Shirley P. Glass, Ph.D with Jean Coppock Staeheli
By Benjamin Deu, MA, LMHC, Seattle Christian Counseling
People lie. It’s in our natures to conceal. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. Parents tell their kids their 15-year-old golden retriever went to “live with a nice family on a farm.” But few things ratchet up deception like adultery. But how do you tell the difference between a dishonest spouse and your own jealousy?
The answer is– you can’t. Unless you see something with your own eyes or find physical proof, you cannot be sure if your spouse is cheating on you. But that doesn’t make your intuition any less valid. Most spouses live together and see each other every day. After years of this, you know when something in their life is out of the ordinary. They may start spending hours away from home and do not have a good reason why. They may get touchy when you ask about their relationship with an opposite sex “work buddy.” It is hard to know whether you are being jealous or being deceived.
Am I too Jealous?
Some people are more prone to be suspicious of their spouses than others. Some people rarely get jealous. One way to judge whether your jealousy is valid is to measure it against your previous feelings. Did your green-eyed hackles instantly rise the moment you met this potential rival, or are you just now getting an irksome feeling every time you hear about them? (74) If you have always been jealous, you might want to step back and evaluate whether you are naturally insecure about your partner’s commitment to you. If you have only recently become suspicious of your partner, ask yourself why.
Glass provides a list of activities worth questioning (74-75):
Privacy: Does your spouse conceal their phone calls, email, text messages, etc.? Do they wait until everyone is in bed to use the computer?
Schedules: Have they started spending long periods away from home, going out of town more, or working later or during weekends? Explanations for these changes may be brief (“the new project” or “my yoga class”) or excessively detailed.
Interests: Have they gotten into a new hobby and failed to include you?
Personal habits: Are they more worried about their appearance than they used to be? Have they started wearing much younger clothes, put more effort into improving their body, or bought sexier underwear?
Children: Has their relationship with your kids changed? They may oscillate between indifference, frustration, and increased attention.
Money: Have they changed the way you handle the finances so they have more control? They may be less forthcoming about expenditures. Have you noticed any checks missing or questionable credit card charges such as restaurants, hotels, or gifts?
Personal interaction with spouse: Are you wary of approaching them because you don’t know how they will react? Do they seesaw between criticism/rejection and solicitude? Do they act as if they’d rather be alone and resist talking or touching? They may instigate arguments then leave for several hours.
Sex and affection: They might act more interested in sex than before, or suggest new techniques. Or, they might avoid sexual contact. They might fluctuate between the two.
Social life: Do they avoid including you in familiar social settings, such as work or neighborhood events? Have they started spending more time out with others or avoid being alone with you?
How your spouse reacts to your questions about their behavior can be a helpful indicator of what kind of relationship they have with the person in question. You may or may not have heard of the term “gaslighting.” It comes from the play Gaslight. It refers to psychological manipulation that ruins the victim’s ability to trust their own judgment. For example– someone might have done something that hurt you. But when you go to them to talk about it, they dismiss your feelings and say they do not understand why you are making such a big deal about it. That’s gaslighting.
An example related to infidelity might involve a wife asking her husband about his relationship with a woman at work (“You sure do talk about her a lot”). He might “gaslight” her by responding defensively. He will insist he does not understand why she is being so suspicious. After all, they are “just friends.” His wife is paranoid. This woman’s intuition is telling her something is not right about this relationship, but her husband’s vociferous denial causes her to doubt herself. So, she assumes she is the one at fault. She must be too “clingy” or “possessive.” (80)
Jealousy related to Marriage Problems
If you are suspicious your spouse is hiding something from your, talk to someone. Make an appointment with a professional Christian counselor who can help you evaluate whether you struggle with insecurity or you are right to suspect your spouse. Unlike friends and family, Professional Christian counselors do not have a bias that keeps them from accepting that your spouse could actually cheat on you.
They also have more experience telling the difference between jealousy and infidelity. Your jealousy is not always sinful covetousness. Sometimes it is your gut telling you something is wrong. A professional Christian marriage counselor will use Biblical principles to help you figure out what is going on in your relationship.
Professional-Christian-counseling Flickr user Joe Houghton
Signs-my-spouse-is-cheating Flickr user Jhaymesisviphotography