When/whether to use a private investigator?
by Peggy Vaughan

If you've reached the point of resorting to a private investigator (or other outside source) to "catch" your partner in an affair, you've probably gotten so desperate that you're primarily interested in "capture and punishment" and no longer have much hope for saving the relationship.

However, you need to consider that even if you're still interested in trying to save the relationship, using a private investigator may cause such anger and embarrassment to the person who is "caught" that it leads them to be unwilling to try to work things out—regardless of what you want.

When someone is caught this way, they may feel like a "victim" themselves—which can overwhelm any feelings of guilt they might have had about their behavior. This leaves them with little sympathy for the problems they have caused—and leads them to pull away completely. So if you want to keep all your options open, it's better to avoid a private investigator.

This, of course, still leaves the issue of how to resolve your questions and suspicions—which requires you to become much more effective in your efforts to get your partner to talk honestly about whether they're having an affair. For suggestions about how to give yourself the best chance of getting honest answers to your questions, read an earlier posting, "Confronting an Affair."

Additional perspective:
While most of the feedback I have received through the years about the ramifications of using a private investigator have been negative, I recognize that a lot depends on the particular professional involved. I should point out that (as with counselors, the media, etc.), there are always going to be people who are much more caring and committed than others.

So in all fairness to private investigators, I want to acknowledge Bill Mitchell, a private investigator who contacted me and convinced me that he is one of the "good guys" in this business. He has even written a book dealing specifically with extramarital affairs titled The More You Know.

I also want to recognize another private investigator who recently contacted me, Thomas M. Goodpaster. While he only operates in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, he has written articles from the perspective of a private investigator, offering some ideas about suspicion and confrontation titled Infidelity: From Suspicion To Proof.

Finally, I want to mention another of those special private investigators, Alex M. Salazar who practices in Orange County, California. It turns out he's on my mailing list and wrote in response to one of my mailings about the importance of honesty in dealing with affairs. He went on to describe the effort he is making to change the secrecy and shame attached to affairs. It turns out that he provides his clients with lots of information and support, going far beyond what might be expected when seeking his services. And he's making a major effort to help people who are trying to deal with a spouse's affair to avoid feeling "crazy" or like there's something wrong with them.

This kind of caring and consideration is precisely what is needed when people are so vulnerable. And it's heartwarming to hear that rather than being opportunistic in taking advantage of them, he actively seeks to build them up and support them in gaining more understanding of the whole situation. He even personally gives them written material that might be helpful, including my own book.

So I want to amend my earlier comments about using a private investigator to say that IF you are fortunate enough to find one like Alex, who is concerned about "the future of the family," then my concerns about seeking this kind of help would be much different.

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