Q: My daughter is engaged to a man that I think is dishonest — at least I’m suspicious of his activities and what he may be doing behind my daughter’s back. Everything she tells me about their relationship leads me to believe he is possibly cheating on her. Whenever she talks to me about him, or expresses her insecurities, I get scared to think she could be making the biggest mistake of her life if she marries him. I wonder how she could find out what he’s really up to, maybe by questioning some of his work and personal friends. I just don’t know how to protect her, because she is planning her wedding and doesn’t seem to think there’s any reason to put that on hold. Honestly, I haven’t even suggested to her that he could be cheating, and she hasn’t voiced that either. It’s just a strong feeling I have that I can’t seem to shake, based on his behavior and what she tells me. Maybe you could write about cheating, and dishonesty in relationships, in general, and what people can do to uncover the truth, so it helps lots of people. Thank you.

A: This is a compelling topic to address. I’ll do this in general terms, as you requested: “dishonesty in relationships,” and how “to uncover the truth,” hopefully to broaden readership interest.

Accurately reading others with whom we’re in a relationship requires that we feel safe, comfortable and present when we’re with them. Trusting our gut provides us with the capacity to process what we observe in ways that are well beyond words. We must listen intuitively to the behavior rather than to what we’re being told. Women have come a long way in learning to listen to their inner voices, as we are not socialized to do that from an early age. Rather, we learn to be accommodating in relationships, to “caretake” and comply with what others want and expect of us. That hopefully changes as we transition into adulthood, although many women still second guess their emotional reactions, especially when told they’re “imagining” something in the man’s behavior.

There’s little a parent or friend can do to uncover the “truth” about another’s relationship. I’ve heard of several people actually hiring a private “detective,” whether professional or personal, to closely monitor another’s activities, while trying to determine infidelity. However, in doing that, there is little promise of restoring intimacy in that relationship, or of having much self-worth, once that level of secrecy is introduced into the partnership. Consider that if this is how you respond to mistrust, you are becoming deceptive and untrustworthy yourself. Would you want to remain in a relationship with a partner who has violated your privacy by checking your phone, following you, or looking through your personal belongings? That level of mistrust signals a serious problem! If someone truly believes she/he needs to “hire” a detective to discover the truth, convinced that’s necessary to learn who this person really is, there is a strong case for not marrying him/her.

Several important considerations for a relationship before proceeding with a lifelong commitment: “How well do you know his/her family and friends? What do you know about his/her past relationships? What is his/her history on fidelity, trust, integrity? How does he/she handle difficult emotional issues — is he/she open, engaging or avoidant? Are you an overly jealous person, with unresolved insecurities, perhaps with a track record of overreaction and/or reading too much into situations? Women, in particular, traditionally compromise their needs in relationships, which can lead to second guessing themselves. It’s important for them to always give voice to their concerns, especially if these are being dismissed by their respective partners. Taking the conversation to a deeper level is important, voicing the concern strongly, without doing so accusingly, which is always difficult in intimate relationships.

I’m aware that this kind of advice is often problematic. Suggestions regarding personal choices in relationships are indeed sensitive. Everyone needs to take as much time as needed to gain clarity before making the decision to marry, following her/his intuition. Whether a parent, sibling, or friend has sufficient concern about your future partner, suggesting covert ways to uncover the truth, the decision must always rest with the partners involved. Many of us never apply enough importance or time to discover what fuels our choices, actions and relationships. We might assume that’s simply who we are, possibly blaming others for how things are or for mistakes being made. Instead, what if we realized our behavior, attitude and communication are driven by our deep-rooted emotional messages: “I’ve never believed I’m good enough,” or “I can’t succeed,” or “I’m too frightened to make changes,” and so on. These messages clog our filter, creating unhealthy agendas and inhibiting our ability to authentically connect in our relationships.

In closing, a very appropriate quote I like by C. S. Lewis: “Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”

Please send me your questions.