Yes, cheating happens. Actually, it happens more often than we’d all like to think. The Institute for Family Studies reports that 20 percent of married men and 13 percent of married women admit to having sex with someone besides their spouse. Obviously, you know the telltale signals that your lover is less than loyal. But you’d be surprised what subtle behaviors might start to spell out the writing on the wall in scarlet letters… if you know to look for them, that is. From increased generosity to new hobbies, we’ve rounded up some habits and behaviors that could indicate that your significant other might stray, according to relationship experts.
Have you noticed that your partner has recently stopped filling you in on their day-to-day? It’s tempting to brush such behavior off as absentmindedness—or, simply, as someone needing their space. But if it’s suddenly become regular, that could be a sign your partner is being intentionally evasive as a way to carve out time in their day that you won’t know to question them about later on. Now, that time slot is free for whatever (or whomever) they want.
Maybe your partner does take the time to explain where they are at certain hours of the day—but those explanations don’t seem to hold any water. Licensed psychotherapist Soula Hareas, who works for McNulty Counseling and Wellness in St. Petersburg, Florida, says you should evaluate whether your partner’s schedule is “erratic and unpredictable” if you’re concerned about their fidelity. “For instance, do you know any mechanics or teachers that work the late night shift?” she poses.
According to Hareas, your partner’s refusal to make future plans is “a red flag flying in the wind.” If events (and subsequently, you) truly mattered, your partner wouldn’t be hemming and hawing their way out of booking a big trip together.
If your partner is constantly taking a raincheck on outings you’ve planned together, that’s a telltale sign of waning interest.
If your partner is suddenly finding it very difficult to concentrate on your face anytime the two of you try to engage in a meaningful conversation, you might want to investigate. Not being able to look you in the eyes “is a highly likely sign someone is lying,” Patti Wood, an Atlanta-based body language relationship expert, told Insider.
Of course, it’s a big red flag if your partner has completely avoided introducing you to any of the other people they care about—friends, close co-workers, et cetera. But even leaving you out more than usual could be a sign that their eye is wandering.
“To a large extent, your partner’s family and friends make up a large part of who they are, so choosing to hold that back from you shows a lack of commitment,” says Adina Mahalli, a mental health consultant at Maple Holistics.
On the other hand, if your partner had previously enjoyed a close—or at the very least, amiable—relationship with your family, you should see it as a little odd if they’ve inexplicably started trying to avoid spending time with them. Is there a deeper reason they can’t look your parents and siblings in the eyes?
You should pay attention to whether your partner seems to be listless or disgruntled with life—especially if they actively voice their boredom to you. “Needing constant stimulation or excitement in your life is a sign of instability,” Mahalli says. “Life and relationships come with peaks and lulls, which means that, when your relationship hits a lull, your partner might look around for a different peak.”
Don’t get us wrong, a lot of good can come out of taking a step back from the negative aspects of spending hours scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. But if your partner claims to completely lack a social media presence altogether, that could be a signal that they have something to hide. Hareas says the key is whether your partner has a “legitimate reason” for not having social media (say, their career prohibits it), or if, when questioned, they tend to “gloss over” any rationale.
If your significant other is relatively active on social media, and you aren’t making many appearances in their feed, it might be time to reassess the situation. Dating and relationship expert Chris Vitale, communications manager for PeopleLooker.com, warns that “quite often, partners who cheat aim to maintain a single life on their social media accounts.”
This is a huge warning sign. If you discover a “secret” email account, then, according to Gregory Canillas, PhD, an associate professor the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, you have cause for concern. The same goes for discovering any “secret” social media profiles that your partner appears to have updated recently, yet has failed to follow or “friend” you from that account.
“Some people believe that the more details they give, the less likely their lie will be discovered,” says Vitale. “Your [significant other] may babble on and on about who he or she was with, what they did, and infinite details that normally wouldn’t matter in the conversation, such as gossip about people you don’t know or what shoes a friend was wearing.”
This is probably a worse sign than having too much of an explanation for their whereabouts. If your partner can’t even be bothered to come up with a flimsy excuse about where they were, then their mind was on something (or someone) else.
It’s nowhere near Valentine’s Day, or your wedding anniversary, or even the anniversary of your first kiss—but your significant other continues to shower you with gifts “just because.” Don’t be so dazzled by that new wallet or fragrance that you miss the potential sign that could be hidden behind all of those shiny things. Vitale explains that “not only is gift-giving a release for pent-up guilt, but also it’s a tactic to prevent you from suspecting anything bad of your partner.”
“Pay attention to how much or often your partner is smiling or laughing at their phone,” Vitale explains. “If you’re not included in whatever funny thing is happening, watch out.”
If your partner always seems to find something wrong with your digs, that indicates that not only do they not value your individuality and sense of style, they might also not value you. As certified relationship coach Joyce Oladipo gently reminds, “You don’t want to change your style because of your partner. You want to buy things because it makes you feel good.” (For the record, the occasional gentle reminder that you dress according to an event’s requested attire is a different story.)
If a person is bent on changing something fundamental and unique to you, then you should take that as a sign that they don’t truly care about you as an individual. In the context of relationship with a partner, if they insist that you start wearing a certain brand of jeans or only purchase a certain kind of cologne, then that could be a sign that they’re trying to get you to fit into the mold of someone that you’re not.
If your partner seems to be growing more and more distracted with each day that passes, there may be cause for concern about what’s occupying their thoughts. “If you see him suddenly smiling, ask him what’s making him smile,” Oladipo advises. Get right to the heart of the matter and ask your partner to explain what’s going on in his or her thoughts.
It’s a bad idea to constantly police your partner’s actions when they’re speaking to someone of their preferred gender(s), but if you’re suspicious, watch their eyes. Are they consistently maintaining friendly or professional eye contact? Or do their pupils stray across another person’s body in a suggestive way? Following the path of your partner’s eyes can help point to where their mind is.
Of course, it’s fun to grab a drink together, but the arrangement can start to be problematic if all you ever seem to do together is go to bars. Chris Pleines, a dating and relationship expert for DatingScout.com, says it’s important to recognize that bars are the ideal place for “window-shopping eye candies.” He warns that “if your partner always wants to have your dates in a bar, then it can be because he or she wants to scout for other people.”
It’s essential to recognize that, especially for those who are more introverted, alone time is imperative for recharging and being the fullest version of yourself. But if your partner is taking the kind of “alone time” where your time apart can start to stretch into days or even weeks, with hardly any contact in between, that’s definitely not a great sign. “Any person in love will want their significant other to feel included; a simple update or message does the trick,” Pleines says.
Some people are inherently people-pleasers. We get it. But if your partner’s “putting everyone first” mentality translates into putting others before you time and time again, then you should be on guard. As Pleines says, there is such a thing as being “too accommodating”—and that’s not something you want in a serious relationship where you’re expecting your partner to prioritize his or her commitment to you.
If the opinions everyone else has of your partner are more important than yours, you should be wary. They might be obsessed with what author and relationship coach Laney Zukerman calls “impression management.” “These are the individuals who put social status and opportunity above love,” she says.
If you’ve just started a new relationship with someone who seems to have this sort of indescribable charm that you just can’t put your finger on, beware. Pleines warns that these sorts of people can use a “sweet smile, inviting words, or mysterious personality” to “enter a new relationship.” And if it worked with you, it can work with someone else.
It’s never healthy for your significant other to try to control you, which is why Zukerman suggests you steer clear of anyone who exhibits a sense of entitlement. “They may be highly sensitive, selfish, and demanding, even covertly, of having their way,” says Zukerman. Obviously, those are traits none of us are looking for in a supportive partner—especially since they can be indicative of a tendency to stray in order to get what that person feels entitled to have.
Instead of referring to you by any terms of endearment the two of you have always used for each other, if your partner starts to use your actual name—in place of, say, “honey” or “babe” or “sweetheart”—that’s a bad sign. Therapist and author April Kirkwood, LPC, writes on her blog that when your partner ceases to call you pet names, it can be a means of detachment. In a sense, it’s their “desire to forget the wonderful times because they are getting the courage to give you the boot.”
If you experience an unexpected cooling in your previously healthy sex life, then there might be something going on that you don’t know about. Kirkwood notes that an especially telltale sign can be that your partner seems to always “come home totally exhausted from wherever they told you they were.”
Zukerman says a sudden distance or coldness from your partner is especially problematic if you notice it immediately after being intimate. This could be a sign, she says, that such people “abhor vulnerability” and view people as “interchangeable.”
Just like with all aspects of a relationship, there should be give and take in the realm of intimacy, too. “Fantasies are good for relationships, but when the practice of it becomes an obligation, then there’s an issue,” Oladipo cautions.
Humans already have an innate tendency to compare ourselves to others—the last thing we need is for the person who is supposed to support us most in life to verbalize all the ways we don’t measure up to other people. Besides being degrading, drawing these types of comparisons is also devaluing, clearly signaling that your partner doesn’t have your best interest at heart.
If your partner has a series of cold responses lined up every time you ask to spend more time together as a couple, you should start to pay attention. What tone does he or she use when speaking to you? If your partner’s voice is consistently tinged with annoyance or derision, then it’s pretty clear that he or she isn’t giving you the respect you deserve. That lack of respect could later translate to your partner not respecting the bounds of your relationship by having an affair.
Has your partner suddenly stopped playing on the community league softball team with you? Or maybe they’ve been less than enthusiastic about attending the couples’ cooking class you had both been so excited to sign up for a month ago? Withdrawal from activities you used to share together is what Kirkwood labels “the sail away.” It can be an indication that your significant other is no longer as invested in your shared interests—or you.
Say that the two of you had always made a big deal about (or even just made a point to acknowledge, in some way) your anniversary. But then, suddenly, the celebrated date goes by without so much as a mention from your partner. This inability to remember a date that carries so much weight for the two of you might be cause for concern.
If you keep trying to bring up your plans to build a house together, and your partner resolutely changes the subject every time (or worse, doesn’t engage in conversation at all), then there might be something going on with them. “Silence is golden,” Kirkwood writes in her blog post. “There is more being said here than you may want to recognize.” She chalks a partner’s silence up to them no longer being able to see a future with you, but not knowing how to put that into words… or being too scared to do so.
Whether your partner is failing to help plan for the tangible things, like officially moving in together, or they just haven’t been emotionally open with you in a long time, you should be on alert if your relationship seems to have become stagnant (or is even taking steps backward).
As Robert Weiss, PhD, MSW, explained in an article for Psychology Today, your friends might know what’s going on, and just not know how to tell you. “With infidelity, you, the betrayed partner, are nearly always the last person to find out,” Weiss writes. “Your own friends may try to avoid conversations about your relationship, and they might overcompensate by being extra nice.”
If you’re seeing charges on your partner’s account at restaurants or stores you never visited together (or that they’ve never frequented before), you might want to sit them down and ask about these unexplained expenses.
“If there are odd charges on your partner’s credit cards, or there is suddenly less money in your or your partner’s bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc., that’s a possible sign of infidelity,” Weiss notes. “If you see large cash withdrawals or evidence of purchases from places you rarely or never frequent, that’s not a good sign.”
For as long as you can remember, you’ve always had to beg your spouse to go see the barber—then, all of a sudden, they come home one day with their hair neatly trimmed, without you even asking. Is this a sign of maturity, or, as Kirkwood warns, a sign that someone else—specifically, impressing that someone else—might be on their mind?
Though this sort of habit shouldn’t be alarming if your partner has always made a habit of powering down their devices in the evening, there might be cause for concern if they suddenly take a vested interest in insuring that everything is switched off before crawling into bed. Is there something (texts, photos, or social media messages) they want to be sure you don’t stumble across when they’re conked out?
Lately, your partner seems to make a beeline straight for the shower whenever they get home, bypassing you with hardly a second glance or explanation. This should only be a cause for concern if it was not previously part of your partner’s daily routine. If there’s no reasonable explanation (like starting a new, messier job or a new workout schedule), then you might need to do some investigating.
Sure, all people make mistakes, and it’s good to give second chances. But it should probably be a red flag if your partner constantly tries to defend a friend who cheated.
“We’ve all heard the saying, ‘You are the people you hang around.’ And to a large extent, it’s true,” Adele Alligood, a relationship expert and couples therapist, told Bustle. “Plus, a cheating buddy can be influential in showing your partner how to hide their infidelity.”
Remember: If they cheated with you, they will cheat on you. Even if your partner didn’t cheat on someone else immediately prior to beginning a relationship with you, but you know that cheating was a part of their past, you should be wary.
“The tendency to unexpectedly stray from another is based on an unconscious template for relationships that we usually establish early in life,” clinical psychologist Daniel Sher explains. “This is why these patterns repeat—because they’re unconscious.”
It’s totally fair for people to set limits on how much affection they’re willing to openly display in public. But if you begin to notice a marked difference in how your partner behaves with you while the two of you are out and about together, that’s not a great sign.
“If they do not hold your hand when they usually do … they may be pulling away emotionally and physically,” Karina Wallace, a Washington-based life coach who focuses on relationships and betrayal trauma, told Bustle.
It might start with small lies (“No, of course I didn’t watch that episode without you!”), but fibs are just building blocks for lies on a larger and grander scale.
“If they avoid telling the truth because they have challenges communicating effectively or because they want to avoid a negative reaction, be aware that this is likely to play out in your own relationship,” warns Dr. Hersha Diaz, a licensed clinical psychologist in Long Island City, New York. “These people may have a tendency to reach out to others for support, which can increase the odds of having an emotional or romantic affair with someone else, instead of leaning in towards their partner.”
Suddenly, your partner can’t seem to stop sneaking not-so-furtive glances at their phone, firing responses back at lightning speed (for “work,” of course). “If your partner suddenly takes their phone with them everywhere, if they put a passcode on it after not having one for years, or if they are leaving social gatherings to go text privately, you might have a partner who is cheating or who is having an emotional affair,” says Christine Scott-Hudson, a licensed psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family therapist, in Santa Barbara, California.
To be clear, it is healthy and important for people (including people in relationships) to try new things! But if your partner, who has always complained to you about her deplorable lack of hand-eye coordination, suddenly exhibits a fervent passion for tennis—yet tells you it’s better for her to hit the courts alone—you might have reason to investigate her newfound interest further.
“Getting into a new activity can become a cause for concern when the new hobby becomes an obsession, or develops into an overwhelming interest in something specific,” Scott-Hudson says. “There may be more going on than the hook of the activity itself … Trust your gut and check out your intuition directly and clearly.”
If your partner has uncomfortable reactions to any sort of physical interaction with you—from cringing after you lightly touch them on the arm to sharply pulling away when you try to plant a kiss on their cheek—it’s likely cause for concern.
Even if they’re not explicitly pulling away from you, if you start observing that your partner has a number of small, yet noticeable reactions every time you try to touch them, be on alert. Psychology Today says these negative body language cues include: feet pointed away from you, closed hands, rubbing the back of their neck, or scratching their eyes.
As a general rule, unless there were extenuating circumstances that caused the previous relationship to end, the fact that your significant other can’t seem to stop talking about how terrible their ex is can be a problem. Relationship and lifestyle blogger Mary J. Gibson, a senior content strategist at DatingXP.co, says that even if disguised as just “general talk,” this tendency to gossip about exes is a red flag that your partner might not always treat or view the people he or she is in a relationship with with respect.
“Anyone who is depressed or unfulfilled in other areas in their life, such as with their career, may cheat to boost their ego,” says Kevin Darné, author of My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany).
Of course, this is only problematic if a) You have always been the one to do the laundry at your house, or b) The two of you did not just have a conversation about your partner shouldering more of the household responsibilities.
If neither of those situations applies to you and your significant other, Darné says to be wary. “If you’re living with someone who has never done a load of laundry, and come home to find them washing the sheets, that’s not a good sign,” he notes.
“Commitments like buying a house or car indicate that the other person is in the relationship for the long run,” licensed family therapist David Klow told Oprah Magazine. A sudden tendency to squirm when you talk about large upcoming expenses could signify that they’re hesitant to sign on the dotted line—literally and metaphorically.
Eventually, you might start to notice that there’s an area of the house they always seems to artfully steer you away from. “When you walk into an area of the room, do they consistently bring on the charm only to lead you out of the room, away from access to certain information or clues to their activities? Is there a pile of paperwork they absolutely don’t want you to get close to?”certified success coach Shirley Arteaga posed to Bustle. If the answer is yes to either of those questions, your suspicions may be warranted.
Strange as it might seem, a partner who’s about to cheat might try to turn the tables on you in order to cover their own tracks. “This is a favorite tactic of cheaters,” Dr. Caroline Madden, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told Bustle. “This is usually met with additional statements of how important fidelity is so that they look like someone beyond reproach.”
Gaslighting, defined by Psychology Today as “a manipulation tactic used to gain power,” is obviously never a behavior you want to see in your significant other. “This is when you know that your intuition is telling [you] the right thing, but you doubt yourself when they make you second-guess your thoughts,” says Gibson. If your partner is accusing you of being crazy for bringing up their very obvious signs of infidelity, they’re likely hiding something. And for more telltale signals of cheating, here are 30 Subtle Signs Your Wife Is Cheating and 30 Subtle Signs Your Husband Is Cheating.
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