“My wife is suddenly becoming more protective of her electronics. She has a passcode on her phone, which she’s never had before, and is constantly moving the screen closer to her chest when I enter a room. She’s even taking her personal computer with her to work, or leaving it in the car. My mind goes straight to cheating, but am I overreacting?”
Of course there are other explanations as to why she’s recently become more secretive. Maybe she’s planning a surprise party in Aruba for you. Maybe she’s advising a friend on a highly sensitive medical situation. Or maybe she’s just upping her privacy in general. (A passcode is always a good idea, people!) But I agree fully: When you notice your spouse is suddenly treating their phone like a CIA case file, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.
So many relationship problems can be solved by appropriate communication. But instead, it’s tempting to avoid confrontation. So, here’s my quick list of dos and don’ts.
What Not to Do
First and foremost, don’t snoop until you’re dead sure your partner is cheating and you need black-and-white evidence to substantiate your accusation. Often, one partner will snoop based on limited evidence and regret it. After all, even if she did cheat, you can’t confront her with admitting how you got the information—and two wrongs don’t make a right, even if yours is less severe. On the flip side, if she didn’t cheat, you end up looking like a crazy person.
Secondly, do not internalize the maybe-cheating and begin to overanalyze everything she does from here on out. (“Oh my God, she just bought new underwear…that must mean cheating.”) It’s simply not fair to your relationship and will, quite frankly, make you go insane. My advice? Confront this right away by going straight to the source.
What to Do
Don’t wait. The next time you have alone time with your wife, I want you to lay out what you’ve witnessed very calmly. “Gina, I’ve noticed you are more protective of your phone lately. There’s a passcode that’s never been there before, and you seem to hide your screen whenever I come into a room. My mind is going to dark places, and I just need to know what’s up.” If you have other evidence, now is the time to state it.
Her response will be super important, so I want you to watch her behavior. If she values your relationship, she’s going to want you to feel as secure as possible—whether that’s telling you why she’s changed her habits or offering a nugget that will qualm your fears. (“I can’t give you exact details, but your sisters and I are planning something exciting for your birthday next month.) I don’t know the exact response. But I do know that if you approach it calmly and directly, her goal should be to make you feel better.
But what if she is cheating? Well, she may fess up right then and there if she wants to salvage the relationship, in which case you can deal with your feelings and how you want to respond. If she lashes out, says you’re completely crazy, or accuses you of cheating, be very wary. By creating a scene or going on the offensive, she’s trying to buy herself more time, and it’s also very common for cheaters to accuse their partners of cheating as a means of deflecting blame and spurring (false) guilt. Don’t fall for it.
While not a direct confirmation of adultery or misbehavior, finger-pointing means she’s not being transparent, and isn’t taking your concerns seriously. And if that’s the case, you need to decide if that’s the type of person you want to be with.
I hope it doesn’t come to that, though. I’m crossing all fingers that you can deal with whatever is happening honestly, openly and with love and compassion.
Jenna Birch is author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a dating and relationship-building guide for modern women. To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at email@example.com.