Proof can be Weaker Than Truth

Proof of an Affair

Infidelity TestIt’s standard advice on many infidelity support sites: Don’t confront without proof.

It makes sense - why would you accuse your spouse of an affair without strong evidence that it’s actually happening? Why would you show your hand prematurely, risking that your cheater goes into clean-up mode, erasing as much as they can, making them super cautious and taking the affair further underground?

Having proof of an affair might be relevant to a divorce case, and financial records can help identify any dissipation of marital assets. Proving an affair has other benefits too - it confirms your suspicions, validates any sense that something was wrong, and it helps you face reality.

Conclusive and verifiable evidence can be an antidote to denial and inaction, but finding such proof can be difficult, especially if a cheater is careful to avoid an evidence trail.

Capitalizing on Misery

It’s inevitable that someone will find a way to capitalize on the pain and confusion of infidelity - after all, therapists, life coaches, and counselors have been doing it for years, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Television shows like Cheaters, or Unfaithful are popular ‘entertainment’. The myriad of chat shows that sensationalize affairs have all cashed in on the misery that infidelity can bring to a family. The bookshelves are filled with self-help books, some useful, some heinous. Dodgy marital recovery programs are plentiful.

The infidelity proof business itself though has historically been the domain of private investigators and companies selling personal information, keyloggers, voice recorders, and stealth GPS systems. Nowadays, there’s also a new kid on the money-making block: DNA testing services targeting men who suspect their wife or girlfriend of an affair. It is as simple as sending a form and sample to a testing laboratory and paying the fee.

Materials accepted as ‘evidence’ include panties, panty liners, condoms, and sheets which have been exposed to body fluids. These DNA samples are shipped in the mail men who suspect their partners of having an affair.

She Cheated

Our initial reaction when we learned of specific panty-testing for infidelity a couple of years ago was, “WTF?!” It raised all kinds of questions about privacy, our basic rights over our own DNA, crossing the line, and grossness. It prompted discussion about a future male equivalent, the potential dangers of false positives or laboratory errors, and why anyone would want to go so far. But mostly, the reaction was, “What. The. Fuck.”

Proof and Gaslighting

Infidelity & Affair Help: GasligtingIt’s wholly reasonable and understandable that someone would want to gather evidence to establish if their partner is having an affair. The advice to get proof before you accuse your spouse of an affair is sound if you’re trying to avoid compromising your ability to gather evidence for your own financial and legal protection.

However, advice to do nothing without proof can encourage inaction in someone who is in denial, burying their head in the sand, or who is fearful of change. We often encounter terribly unhappy spouses defending their long-term inaction by citing advice to not act without proof.

Unfortunately they don’t factor in that:

  1. cheaters are prone to making the most outrageous denials in the face of even strong evidence
  2. the cheater could respond by simply escalating harmful gaslighting
  3. this delay can encourage lengthy/enduring inaction

Blanket advice to delay confrontation until you have ‘sufficient’ evidence can be a relief to a faithful spouse who does not want to face the reality of an affair. What they see as sanctioned inaction is enough to give themselves permission to stay mired in dysfunction and be exposed to further abuse. Fear, codependency, and denial have remarkable talents in finding new reasons why evidence is insufficient to act.

“…and when is enough proof enough?”
~ Jonathan Safran Foer

Don’t assume that evidence will ever be agreed upon by a cheater as undeniable proof of their affair. So often, accusations of an affair even with evidence are met with denials and counter-allegations. We’ve heard cheaters deny hotel room bills, used condoms, getting too ‘friendly’ at the office Christmas party, and even hickies. (No, no, they’re bruises on my neck from my secret karate classes - I wanted to surprise you. Surprise!)

Not all cheaters will cave in and admit the affair when confronted with a strange cufflink on the bedroom floor. Many are so invested in keeping their spouse in place and wrong-footed that they will turn evidence around into an attack on the faithful spouse’s sanity, distrust, snooping, lack of love, and control freakery. They can wield the faithful spouse’s discovery of evidence as ‘the final straw’, making dramatic threats to leave the marriage or even as a reason to go out and have an affair since they’ve already been accused of one.

Rats, when cornered, will fight with an almost crazed ferocity - cheaters are often no different. Evidence can prompt further gaslighting and abuse.

Acting Without Proof

Before you start rummaging through dirty laundry for ‘a sample’ to put into that discreet envelope you’re clutching, consider this: Financial records aside, if you’re this sure that they are having an affair, obtaining proof seems almost redundant.

If you already believe -firmly enough that you’re prepared to engage the services of a PI or DNA testing lab- that your spouse will (or already does):

  • willingly harm to you in order to get their jollies elsewhere
  • take risks with your health
  • trash your marriage and your trust
  • behave disrespectfully and unethically towards you

then it’s already time to act, affair or not.

If you consider using extraordinary discovery methods like DNA testing, this tells you that you already have serious concerns about your spouse’s ethical framework, integrity, commitment, and honesty.

Distrust is founded in something and that’s worth exploring in itself.

Delaying action until you’re sure that you have undeniable proof could easily turn into stagnation and enduring inaction. Doing nothing in the face of a dysfunctional marriage can be a recipe for living in escalating dysfunction. Doing nothing in the face of an affair is the worst thing you can do for your security, stability, and well-being - it’s reasonable and sensible to take steps to protect yourself.

The advice to wait until you have proof is not intended to encourage you to remain silently in an unhealthy and damaging situation.

There’s a point where the only meaningful truth is your view of your spouse and the quality of your relationship -affair and proof aside. You don’t need to have those feelings validated by proof before you can legitimately act to address those issues.

Proof of an affair can be so much weaker than truth of an unhealthy relationship.


“I'm not a teacher, only a fellow traveler of whom you asked the way. I pointed ahead - ahead of myself as well as you.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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