If you’re in a happy monogamous relationship, the thought of your partner being unfaithful probably makes your stomach turn over. But if you notice them acting a little differently than normal, how do you know if there’s cause for concern, or if you’re just being overly paranoid?
According to experts, there are a number of common, subtle warning signs that could be an indication of cheating in a relationship. Since each person can interpret warning signs differently, it’s important to approach these signs with careful consideration before jumping to conclusions.
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And remember: If you do suspect your partner of straying, don’t blow our lid or turn a blind eye. Getting them to understand why you feel that way — without having them shut down — is important for maintaining an honest dialogue between the two of you.
“Everything starts with having ground rules, open communication, and strategies for how to proceed,” says Janice Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist in Lexington, Massachusetts, and the author of Why Do Fools Fall in Love?.
Sign of Cheating: Unusual, Exaggerated Affection
A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that when a person’s partner is cheating, that partner will start to make obvious attempts to increase your satisfaction in the relationship, as well as say derogatory things about the person you suspect them of seeing on the side. It’s essentially a misdirection ploy to lessen your suspicions of their guilt.
Sign of Cheating: Still Talking to Their Ex
This is only of concern when they talk to their ex frequently and secretly — but if that’s the case, it could be a red flag. Calmly say, “I have a problem with the relationship, because I don’t understand it. Can you tell me what it does for you?” suggests Jackie Jaye Brandt, M.F.T., a psychotherapist in Universal City, California. You’re not being invasive, you’re just gathering information. An ultimatum leads to resentment — or abandonment.
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Sign of Cheating: Longer Hours At Work
When your partner’s typically-standard work schedule becomes suddenly longer, running deep into the night, there might be some cause for suspicion — especially if it’s combined with other factors like defensiveness and vagueness, according to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Once you notice your partner is increasingly canceling plans for ‘work’-related things consistently, this is cause for concern.
Sign of Cheating: Checking Other People Out
According to another study, a partner who disengages or devalues — basically, ignores — a passing attractive person is more likely to avoid infidelity than a partner who consistently checks out other people whenever the two of you are together. Sometimes, the impulse to check someone out is instinctual, but an obvious display of admiration for someone else’s appearance could be a sign of commitment issues.
Sign of Cheating: Social Media Red Flags
It can be easy to feel paranoid over every single digital interaction your partner has with someone attractive. But if someone is particularly all over your partner’s feed and timeline, and appears to display a level of intimacy and flirtation with him that hasn’t been shared with you, it could be time to bring that up with them, especially if they’re intent on hiding it from you. If you discover they have secret accounts (or finstas on Instagram), you might also want to discuss that.
Sign of Cheating: They’re Always on Their Phone
Unusual phone behavior — leaving the room when they get a call, speaking in hushed tones, hiding their screen from you, etc. — is a prime indicator of possible infidelity.
Sign of Cheating: Turning The Tables Toward You
“Often, when a person accuses you of having romantic feelings or involvement with others, they’re projecting their own feelings onto you,” says Susan Heitler, Ph.D. If your partner lacks trust in you, their may not trust themselves.
Sign of Cheating: Unusual Spending Behavior
While people are generally better at covering their tracks financially, sometimes things get slipped by unknowingly. If you have a joint account, signs like increased ATM withdrawals could be a red flag, since cash can help erase an affair’s paper trail. If your partner does other secretive things like restrict credit card account access or hides all mail/bank statements from you, that kind of behavior could be a sign of cheating.
Sign of Cheating: History Of Infidelity
Studies have shown that people with a history of infidelity are three times more likely to cheat in their next relationship. While you shouldn’t be on high alert day in and day out because you know your partner has a cheating past, you shouldn’t ignore your gut if you sense any of the above signs of cheating.