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19 Key Questions to Ask an Unfaithful Spouse

You recently learned that your partner cheated on you.

There are few things as devastating as learning that your partner cheated on you.

You might not know what to do because your mind is reeling. Right now, you’re probably SO upset that you can’t think clearly.

Along with confusion, you might be feeling shocked, enraged, hurt, or humiliated.

It’s completely normal to feel a mixture of intense emotions during such a difficult time. You probably have many questions, but you’re terrified to hear the answers.

What can you do?

Do you want to hear the answers?

Can you trust that your partner will answer your questions truthfully, since they’ve been deceiving you?

This article will help you decide what questions to ask to think clearly and make decisions regarding the future of your relationship.

Words of Caution

Your partner might be afraid to answer your questions, so try to remain as calm as possible.

Easier said than done, right?

Here are a few tips to help you stay level-headed:

  • Avoid making permanent or long-term decisions within the first few weeks after finding out that your partner cheated.
  • Don’t “get even” by engaging in an affair of your own.
  • Try not to make threats or offer ultimatums.
  • Ask the right questions – even if it means hearing information you don’t want to know.
  • Schedule time to sit down and talk – hopefully when you’re both calm and open to communicating with each other.
  • Write down a list of questions you want to ask your partner.
  • Reflect on how you’ll feel and what you’ll do when you receive the answers to your questions.

What Are Some Questions You Might Want to Ask?

It’s important to game plan and take notes ahead of time, when you’re by yourself. Peaceful planning will facilitate peaceful conversations.

The list of questions that follows is not exhaustive, but it’s a good starting place.

As mentioned above, you might want to write down your questions, along with your thoughts and follow-up comments, once you receive answers.

1. Can You Honestly Answer All My Questions?

If your partner isn’t willing to answer your questions truthfully, then the likelihood of rebuilding the relationship based on trust is low.

Explain that you require honesty because you want to know the truth – and you deserve the truth.

Why ask this question?

If your partner is unwilling to be honest with you about the affair, it won’t be easy to rebuild the relationship if you decide to stay together.
 
If your partner is willing to be honest with you, express your appreciation for their willingness to work with you.

If they’re not ready to be honest, you may want to explore other options – like couples therapy or separation.

Key Point: Just because they’re honest doesn’t mean that their reasoning or justification is acceptable to you.

2. Why Did You Get Involved With This Person?

There were reasons they decided to cheat. Infidelity is a choice, and you deserve to know why your partner made that choice.

Why ask this question?

Your partner’s answer will offer you clues about what might be missing in your relationship, possibly helping you identify what led to the affair.

Key Point: You’ll be better able to establish boundaries to prevent future indiscretions.

3. Do You Have Feelings for Them?

If there are lingering feelings, neither you nor your partner can move forward in rebuilding your relationship.

Why ask this question?

If your partner has feelings for the other person, it might be time to end your relationship.

Key Point: If your partner tells you it’s over and there are no lingering feelings (and you believe them!), perhaps you’ll consider giving them a second chance.

4. How Did You Justify Your Choice and Permit Yourself to Cheat?

The conversation surrounding these questions won’t be easy or comfortable for anyone. Both you and your partner need to dig deep and think about where to go from here.

This question offers your partner the opportunity to explain their choices – what was going on in their head?

Why ask this question?

This question helps you explore your partner’s motivation and reasoning to gain deeper insights into why they cheated.

Follow-up questions might examine whether or not they thought what they did was wrong, whether or not they value monogamy and fidelity, and how much they value you and your relationship.

Key Point: Try not to judge your partner’s answer to this question. Even if the justifications seem lame or the response is weak, hear them out and really listen.

5. Did/Do You Feel Guilty?

How your partner responds will illuminate whether or not they have regrets and if they’re now aware of your feelings, and how their choices impacted you.

Is your partner sincere?

You will probably know if they are genuinely sorry about what they did.

If they didn’t or don’t currently experience guilt, it doesn’t mean they are wrong or a bad person. Some people grew up in families where infidelity was normalized, and that influences their attitude towards monogamy.

If monogamy is important to you, you’ll need to decide if you can live with someone who may not feel guilty about cheating.

Why ask this question?

The answer will tell you whether or not your partner genuinely had a weak moment and if they regret their choices.

Key Point: Assuming your partner feels guilt, let them know whether or not you think you can work on the relationship.

6. How Long Did the Affair Last?

How long was your partner involved with another person behind your back? How often was it right in front of your face, but you had no idea?

This question relates to question #5 – if your partner experienced guilt, they wouldn’t prolong that guilt by cheating over the long term. They end it as soon as possible.

If the infidelity was a one-time encounter, you might feel more inclined to work on the relationship.

Why ask this question?

If the affair lasted a long time, you might want to consider whether or not you can rebuild the relationship.

Key Point: Even if the affair was more than a one-time fling, it might be worth rebuilding if it’s now truly over.

7. Have You Ever Had the Opportunity to Cheat Before This Affair?

This question will help you understand if your partner is always looking for opportunities to cheat or if this was an isolated occurrence.

Maybe your partner has had multiple affairs, or perhaps they will cheat again if given a chance.

Why ask this question?

Really listen to your partner’s answers. Whatever the new partner offered them might point to deficits or weaknesses in your relationship.

Key Point: It might be challenging to talk about the problems in your relationship that contributed to the affair, but if you want to save your relationship, take note of what needs were filled by the affair.

8. Are You Sorry for Cheating, or Are You Upset You Got Caught?

If your partner tells you they’re sorry for cheating, that’s a positive sign. If they only seem upset they got caught, perhaps they will cheat again in the future.

Why ask this question?

You want to see if your partner is genuinely sorry.

Key Point: Even if your partner doesn’t seem particularly sorry for cheating, if you believe the relationship is worth saving, see a couples therapist.

9. If You Knew It Was Wrong, Why Did You Continue the Affair?

Give your partner time to think about their actions and their reasons.

Your partner will most likely admit to some guilt, and this question addresses whether or not that guilt made a difference in ending the affair.

People react differently to guilt and shame; some will suppress those feelings, while others will stop cheating because the guilt and shame are eating them up inside.

Why ask this question?

This question allows for your partner to further explain their choices.

Key Point: Even if your partner doesn’t seem ashamed or guilt-ridden, you might want to seek the support of a couples therapist or relationship coach if you hope to rebuild your relationship.

10. Did You Think About How This Affair Would Affect Me (and Our Children, if Applicable)?

Did your partner consider the consequences of their choices?

If your partner successfully suppressed guilt and shame, and the attraction to the other person was heightened because of the romance or secrecy, they might not have considered the long-term consequences on you and other loved ones.

Why ask this question?

Your partner should have the opportunity to reflect on the consequences of their choices.

Maybe they need to say it aloud to you and process the affair’s impact to recognize the damage they caused – not only to you, but to your children, too.

Key Point: This is a complex question, and it might be best to process the answers with a couples therapist.

11. Did You Ever Talk About Us?

This question helps you understand how close your partner was to the other person.

Did your partner talk about problems in your relationship with the other person?

What was the level of intimacy?

Why ask this question?

This question helps break down the distance that developed between you and your partner.

One key to rebuilding your relationship is to increase intimacy and vulnerability while placing the other person firmly outside of your relationship.

Key Point: If your partner complained about you to the other person, explore why they were dissatisfied.

You did nothing wrong, and you didn’t make choices for your partner, but this is an excellent opportunity to understand what might be missing in your relationship.

12. How Did the Person Make You Feel?

If the other person made your partner more excited, like fireworks in their mind and body, it’s important to evaluate whether you can bring that feeling back in your relationship.

It might be painful to hear the answers to this question, but it’s essential to know if they made your spouse feel better, confident, sexy, attractive, or more relaxed.

Why ask this question?

This question gives you an inside view of your partner’s needs and the gaps or holes they were trying to fill outside your relationship.

Key Point: If your partner provides you with details and specific needs you can not or will not fulfill, you can decide if you’re willing to make changes – or if the situation is unworkable.

13. Did You Plan for a Future Together?

If the affair was emotional, they might have planned a future together. This will be painful for you to explore, but don’t make it significant.

Why ask this question?

You need to know how serious the affair was and how emotionally involved your partner became with the person. The answer will help you decide if you want to rebuild your relationship.

Key Point: Maybe your partner fantasized about a different life with the other person, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they wanted to escape from you.

It might be based on immaturity or a desire to escape and avoid reality.

14. What Did You See in Them?

Maybe it was the newness, the initial spark and excitement, the romance – all of the things your partner hasn’t felt with you for some time.

Why ask this question?

Dig deeper to identify what traits or characteristics your partner found appealing in the other person.

Key Point: Whatever reasons your partner offers, the focus should be on whether or not that romance can be rekindled with you.

15. Did You Have Unprotected Sex?

It’s a good idea for all three parties to get themselves tested for sexually-transmitted infections after an affair.

For your health, insist on testing to rule out sexually transmitted infections.

Why ask this question?

It is essential to understand if your partner practiced safe sex when he cheated on you because you might be at risk of contracting a disease.

Key Point: Insist on your partner getting tested, but also schedule an appointment for yourself to ensure you’re in the clear.

16. Is It Over?

If your partner has any contact with this person in the future, it will probably be impossible to reestablish trust and rebuild your relationship.

Why ask this question?

Ensure your partner is willing to give up ALL forms of contact with this person to reestablish trust.

Key Point: If your partner hesitates or tells you they won’t give up contact, it’s time for you to move on.

17. Do You Think You Deserve Forgiveness?

This question reminds your partner that their infidelity hurt you.

In order to rebuild trust, there’s work to be done. If your partner thinks they deserve forgiveness, ask what they are willing to do to achieve that.

Why ask this question?

This question gives your partner a chance to reflect on their choices.

Key Point: You might forgive your partner, but you may still decide to split up depending on their answers to the other questions.

18. Are You Willing to Get Professional Help?

If your partner says they’re eager to seek help from a couples therapist or relationship coach, let them know you appreciate that they are taking this situation seriously.

Why ask this question?

Your partner’s response helps you understand the future of your relationship.

Key Point: If they’re not willing to get professional help, it’s time for you to move on.

19. Is There Anything Else You Need to Tell Me?

Finally, allow your partner to fill in any gaps or offer additional explanations.

Think about anything else you want to know (and the details you’re not comfortable hearing).

Something to Consider…

Keep an eye out for signs of uneasiness or discomfort. If your partner excessively touches their face or chews their nails, they may be lying.

If you’re worried your partner will lie to you, consider the following to determine if they’re honest (or not). Behavior can be telling!

Your partner might be lying if they:

  • stumble over words, have prolonged silence, frequently pause, or respond in half-sentences. There might be more to say, but they don’t dare say it.
  • deny, get defensive, invalidate, or minimalize what you’re saying. 
  • avoid eye contact, or maintain overly intense eye contact.
  • fidget, shuffle their feet, or touch their face.
  • excessively swallow or gulp.

These behaviors don’t necessarily mean your partner is lying, but go with your gut – if something feels off with their answers to your questions, they might not be offering you the whole truth.

Having this discussion will not be easy, but if you can calmly communicate with your partner and receive answers to these questions, you will have a better idea about what to do next.

If nothing else, this discussion will highlight the issues and problems to address within your relationship if you decide to rebuild trust.

When you first learned of the affair, you might have assumed your partner cheated because they wanted to have sex with someone else. But sex isn’t always the primary reason for infidelity.

Key Point: Affairs often begin to meet emotional needs or cope with psychological pain.

And as hard as it might be to accept, these questions can also help you see what you might have done to support the breakdown of your relationship.

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Angela Doel

Angela M. Doel has researched and written about mental health problems that impact relationships, such as navigating divorce, rebuilding relationships, enhancing communication, and overcoming sex addiction. She published The Couples Communication Workbook: Therapeutic Homework Assignments to Foster Supportive Relationships (2020, Between Sessions Resources, Inc.).

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