Any client suspecting their partner of infidelity is going through a difficult time in their life. The mental health impacts of a marital affair are not well documented, but getting through such a destabilising and stressful situation unscathed is unlikely. As investigators, we sometimes have the difficult job of breaking awful news. Clients come to us to confirm their suspicions or find out the truth when their partners aren’t being honest, but hearing the truth can be a shock. If we are to be supportive of our clients while we investigate marital affairs, mental health must be something we consider.
When clients bring matrimonial cases, private investigators work hard to find whatever evidence will give them surety of their situation. Throughout the investigation, it is important to be aware of the emotional impact on the client. We need to offer support where clients need it, whatever the stage of the case.
In this article, we discuss the impacts of a marital affair on mental health, and how we can support clients accessing our matrimonial investigations services.
How Do Marital Affairs Affect Mental Health?
Being the victim of infidelity has been linked to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Some experts even suggest a connection with post-traumatic stress disorder. People in this situation might develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as disordered eating or substance misuse.
Infidelity in a marriage can have a huge impact on the victim’s self-esteem. They may feel they aren’t enough for their partner, that they should have seen the signs or that it is somehow their own fault. These thoughts are normal in this situation but unhelpful and detrimental to a person’s mental health. A 2017 study found that those who hold themselves responsible for their partner’s behaviour were more likely to develop unhealthy coping strategies, such as self-harm, disordered eating or alcohol abuse.
Sometimes, clients know their partner isn’t being honest about something, but aren’t certain about the details. This can produce feelings of anxiety and fear, as the client doesn’t know where they stand with the person to whom they hold closest. Finding the truth with a private investigation service can give clients the grounding they need to make healthy decisions.
Being Unable to Trust a Partner Affects Mental Health
When a client comes to us to find proof of their partner’s affair, it may be the first time they’ve been able to speak openly about what is going on. Explaining the situation in full is often distressing. It is a time when intrusive or unhealthy thought patterns can become evident. Investigators may pick up on signs of how the client’s mental health has been affected by the situation, in the way they present the information.
For example, phrases like ‘If I’d been better at…’ or ‘Because I did X, they did Y’ seek to justify the partner’s behaviour. This shows a mindset of self-blame, which can lead to feelings of worthlessness and depression if left to fester.
Other underlying problems, such as paranoid thoughts or trust issues, can be picked up on at this stage. Sometimes, a client presents their suspicions without a clear explanation of why they think it likely. In such cases, we need to ask more questions to assess the basis of the case. It may be that the client needs mental health support more than they need an investigation. Alternatively, an investigation for peace of mind might provide no evidence of infidelity and set their mind at ease. Private Investigators need to decide as professionals what is the best course of action when investigating unlikely beliefs.
Throughout matrimonial investigations, if we notice poor mental health in our clients we have a duty of care to uphold. It is always best to offer clients mental health support early on. This is particularly important in situations which have a high emotional impact.
Presenting the Evidence Sensitively
Thinking your spouse is cheating and finding out you are right can be two very different experiences. This moment is a move from uncertainty into certainty, which could produce a range of emotional responses. Sometimes clients are simply waiting for evidence before taking action, such as filing for divorce. Even in these cases, the end of a stage of life can be difficult to process.
For many, this moment is a flashpoint. Receiving this news marks a change in the clients’ emotional situation; where previously the betrayal was only possible, it becomes real. Some clients may experience feelings of bereavement or grief for their relationship or the life they thought they had. Some may blame themselves for not seeing it sooner or feel rage towards their partner for having deceived them. All of these are normal and understandable feelings, but should not be ignored.
How To Present Evidence to Clients
Investigators need to take a sensitive approach when presenting evidence. We might prepare a client for bad news before giving any details. Simply getting them to sit down before you start can signal that what you say will be difficult to hear. This can lessen the impact of shocking news, as the client has had a chance to regulate their emotions beforehand.
After talking through the evidence, we allow the client time to process and react. During this moment, we feel it’s important to empathise without validating unhealthy thought patterns. This might involve:
- Reminding the client that it’s not their fault
- Explaining the possible next steps, such as confronting their spouse, couple’s therapy and separation
- Showing the client that they are in control of what happens next in the relationship
The evidence we collect for our clients is intended to empower them to make their own decisions. Whatever a client feels in the moment, they are likely to experience some lasting distress in their lives, which may make these decisions difficult.
Supporting Mental Health After the Investigation
Once a client has evidence of their spouse’s affair, their lives change. Whatever they decide, the consequences of an affair can be wide-reaching. Knock-on effects such as separation, divorce, moving home or arranging child custody can cause stress. This can be exacerbated by becoming a single parent and having less time to look after themselves.
Studies show that recovering from an affair is a difficult process, and doing this without support can trigger or exacerbate mental illness. It is key that clients are signposted towards relevant mental healthcare services. Accessible long after their investigation is finished, NHS services or dedicated charities such as Samaritans can provide much needed, long-term support.
Mental Health Support Throughout Matrimonial Investigations
At whatever stage of the investigation, signposting can be a useful tool to inform clients of where they can find mental health information and services, in case they want support later on. Because we are not mental health professionals, we are not in a position to offer people mental health advice or counselling ourselves.
Instead, signposting relevant services lets the client know that these distressing life events might harm their mental health, beyond the usual emotional upheaval. Providing details of available services is a non-judgemental way to encourage positive choices for clients to look after their mental health, free of obligation.
RevealPI and BHSF Partner to Provide Mental Health Support for Clients
Because of the links between affairs and mental health, we offer all clients free, confidential mental health support via our partner, BHSF. Through this partnership, we can give clients a number to call if they ever decide they want more support with their mental health. Our service users are entitled to free mental health services, from telephone counselling to psychological evaluation.
Whatever the situation within a marriage, mistrust and discovering infidelity can have huge repercussions. The subsequent loss of confidence, motivation or trust in oneself can trigger or exacerbate a range of mental health issues and have lasting effects long after the relationship is over. Investigators who work with matrimonial cases regularly should foster an awareness of mental health and have details of relevant services to hand so that they can support their clients.