Dr. Young,

How do you know when your partner is losing interest in you, even if they tell you that they are not?  And if they get defensive when you ask them, does that mean that they are cheating?

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There are many reasons that a person might stop showing interest in another person.  Sometimes people lose interest in their spouse because they think that they have another option.  There are many other reasons that are more likely than cheating, unless you have a good reason to suspect that he is.  Unless you see other signs that he is cheating on you, I would start with more obvious (and less catastrophic) possibilities.  Consider if he is experiencing a lot of stress or if he has other things on his mind.  

Maybe he needs a little bit of space.  For most people, interest in their partner fluctuates.  Being joined at the hip can often cause boredom or a sense of being overwhelmed by the other partner.  On the other hand, being too distant (physically or emotionally) can lead to couples drifting apart.

If he is not making sexual advances toward you like he used to, perhaps you should ask him why.  But be sure not to ask in an accusatory way, like “does this mean that you are cheating on me?”  If he doesn’t know why, counseling might be an option.  But the most important thing to remember is that interpretations can be self-fulfilling (in other words, self-fulfilling prophesies).  When we over-interpret someone else’s behaviors as rejecting or as a sign of hidden bad behaviors, it can often lead to us doing things that ultimately push them away or cause them to resent us.  And it can also distract us from the real cause of the problem so that we are less able to solve it.

So my advice to you, based on very little information, is to not jump to conclusions about cheating unless you have some other reason to believe that it might be happening.     Ask him what’s wrong.  If neither of you can figure it out or he won’t tell you, that is what I’m here for. 

I am assuming that you are either married or in a serious adult relationship.  If you are casually dating someone or you are a teen, please respond with a comment (don’t tell us who you are) and I will reply in the comment section.