Is it your instinct telling you he’s cheating, or are you just anxious?

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"Dear Mum, thank you for 'kidnapping' us....

There’s a niggle in your gut that you just can’t shake. He’s come home late again, too tired for eye contact, let alone sex. Or your baby seems really sick, even though the doctor says it’s just a high temperature.

Sometimes it’s hard to know whether that feeling is your intuition whispering the truth, or you’re just being anxious and a bit paranoid.

Rachel Voysey is a psychologist and ‘cheating expert’ from the Relationship Room in Balmain. She says there’s new research that shows that there are neural networks in our brain, heart and gut.

“It suggest there is real intelligence in ‘just knowing’ or feeling something. That the intuitive heart and gut actually do communicate with the subconscious parts of the brain. It may be more scientific than we thought,” she says.

Mia Freedman talks about her experience with anxiety. Post continues after video. 

Voysey believes that where infidelity is concerned, most of the time a woman’s intuition is right.

“Basically you would say that there’s definitely a level of intuition you have around cheating. There’s a certain level of disconnect that needs to happen before an affair begins. Having a single liaison maybe you won’t pick it up, but if it’s an affair there has to be a certain level of turning away from you and turning towards someone else. There needs to be a certain level of resentment, and they might start hiding their phone, or coming home late, or avoiding the children. There’s a series of events that have led to that disconnect.”

One of the things that’s hard for any wife to ignore, says Voysey, is that he’ll talk about her a lot. “If he’s having affair with the receptionist he will talk about her. They will talk about the person, they will mention that person and how great they are. Women will come in (to the clinic) and say I don’t know why but he talks about her to me – he over idealises her,” she says.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising then, that our inner voice is screaming at us. But Voysey does caution that past experiences can muddy the waters.

Research that shows that there are neural networks in our brain, heart and gut. (Image via HBO.)

“You need to ask, is this something that’s happened in the past? Is someone hyper vigilant for cheating or around kids’ heath, and self-sabotaging based on past experiences? In this case it could be your fears, more than intuition,’’ she says.

When it comes to our children, it’s sometimes almost impossible to put aside the fear to see things objectively. But for mother of one Kirstie Ryan, listening to her intuition saved her son’s life.

“Four nights in a row we took our son to the Emergency Department at the nearby hospital only to be sent home. On the fourth night the registrar actually said to me that he would x–ray my baby even though this would be subjecting him to dangerous radiation, but obviously this was the only way to stop me from being such an over-anxious mother,’’ she says.

“I felt so guilty, but I knew I had to be strong. I knew there was something that wasn't quite right.

The staff was rude to me, and I cried as I held my son during the x-ray. Then I noticed the phone was picked up, the pace was picked up. All of a sudden they were more professional and I was being introduced to the Head of Paediatrics, who apologised. Oxygen was being brought - my son actually had pneumonia in both his lungs and they were drowning in fluid. He spent the next three weeks in intensive care.’’

“I felt so guilty, but I knew I had to be strong. I knew there was something that wasn't quite right." (Image via iStock.) 

Dr Sallee McLaren is a clinical psychologist, author of anxiety book Don’t Panic and creator of the SmarTherapy anxiety app. She says that having children can actually prompt the body to produce a hormone that makes women more prone to anxiety, therefore interfering with their ability to think rationally.

“After women have children they have incredible physical demands on them and they can go into a stress response and have more anxious thoughts,’’ she says.

She believes the key to sorting intuition from anxiety has to do with tapping into a more logical, rather than a reactive, response.

“If a mother is anxious and practising a habit of over-worrying about a child’s heath she may be becoming catastrophic. In this case a woman would need to engage in thinking something through logically.’’

Ryan, who intuited her son’s pneumonia, says anxiety feels different to intuition. “Anxiety is a feeling of fear. Intuition is a feeling of calm and strength and knowing,” she says.

Voysey says that taking a step back is the key to separating the two.

“Anxiety is a feeling of fear. Intuition is a feeling of calm and strength and knowing,” (Image via Netflix.) 

“Try to look at the situation as though you were a journalist, or a friend. And don’t try to assess it in the middle of the night. Look at it in the light of day. Write it down. Try to get some space between your emotions and thoughts.”

The key is also reducing the amount of anxiety in your life, so you’re not coming from a reactive place. McLaren believes for mothers, this can sometimes be best be done by going back to work.

“It’s central to anxiety. If women can get back to work in some capacity, in a timely manner, they do so much better. Their identity becomes strong again and they are still building skills. They are focused on other things and less focused on anxiety. Work can be essential to a woman’s sense of self.’’

This overflows into the realm of infidelity too, says McLaren.

“That’s when you do see infidelity. When one partner has a lot less power. Usually it’s the woman. Woman can increasingly lose their power the longer they’re at home. They can become worried, anxious and needy and meanwhile the other partner is getting more confident, building more skills, meeting more people. The world is shrinking for one person and expanding for the other.’’

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