I think my husband is cheating on me. Is it OK to read his texts?

woman holding cell phone
A woman wrestles with whether to spy on her husband.iclipart

Q: My husband and I have been together for a few years, but things aren’t the same between us lately. We don’t talk as much as we used to, and he’s constantly looking at his phone. He tells me it’s for work and his job has been demanding lately, but I swear, sometimes I see him smiling before he types back to whoever is contacting him. I’d feel so much better if I just scrolled through his cell and read what he’s reading and writing. Can I?

A: First, I’m sorry you have these suspicions! Second, I know you’re hoping I’ll say, sure, betray his trust as you suspect he’s betrayed yours, but I can’t. That would put you on a slippery slope of sneaking around more and more, and isn’t that the exact thing you don’t want him doing to you? Dear Candy is and forever will be a hypocrite-free zone. But I’m going to help you put your mind at ease anyway—and get you the answer you desperately seek.

Start by thinking of all the reasons you fear he’s been unfaithful. Checking his phone more often and not being as chatty as he once was could mean he’s cheating. Then again, they could also be a harmless result of what he told you: work has been crazy.

So put your detective hat on and be on the lookout for other changes in behavior. Is he coming home from work later than he used to? Is he stashing his phone somewhere he doesn’t think you’d find it when he used to leave it out on the counter? Does he suddenly smell like a hot, young woman? THEN, we might have a two-timer.

Home in on what’s different, and approach him about it—at a time when he’s not stressed or needing to decompress—in a non-accusatory fashion, citing facts and asking for answers. “You used to come home at 7 each night, and now you’re walking through the door closer to 9. What’s going on?” or “I’ve noticed that you’re looking at your phone more than usual. What exactly are you reading?” or “We used to have long conversations before bed, and now I don’t know what’s going on in your life. Why do you think that is?” Give him a chance to explain.

Satisfied with his responses? Work together to keep your relationship solid. With professional and family obligations, date nights become rare, but they’re important for reconnecting when so much else in the world is taking your attention off each other. If you can’t get away for a few hours a month, come up with fun ways to stay in contact while you’re apart (sexting isn’t just for teens, you know).

Dissatisfied? Time to come clean. Stick to those psychologist-favorite “I” statements. “I’m worried someone else is on your mind because” and state your reason. A straight-up accusation (“I think you’re cheating!”) might make him shut down—and if he’s not, could make him wonder if you are (she who smelt it dealt it, right?).

Reading his texts without permission isn’t cheating (unless you’re doing some freaky things with his phone), but it means you don’t trust him and he can’t trust you. That kind of defeats the whole point of marriage, don’t you think? Having an open, honest conversation, on the other hand, sets you both up for continued happiness—and hopefully, it’ll be together.

If he has nothing to hide, your questions shouldn’t bug him, as long as you don’t belabor the issue or bring up the subject of cheating every time he walks in 5 minutes later than expected. If he’s hiding something, though, and he automatically gets defensive, then he’s not deserving of privacy or trust. And he definitely doesn’t deserve you.