At Seeking Integrity and on our affiliated website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com, we are often hear statements like, “My relationship is just a bit off and my partner seems distant. I think he (or she) is probably cheating, but how can I know for sure?”
First and foremost, we’ll tell you that if your gut tells you that something is wrong in your relationship, it’s likely that you’re right. If you need confirmation before you confront your partner with your suspicions of cheating, we suggest that you look for the following common signs of infidelity.
- Secretive use of digital devices. The primary venue for finding and communicating with extracurricular sex/affair partners is through digital devices (phones, tablets, laptops). If your partner’s devices suddenly require a password, your partner is suddenly deleting old texts and browser histories, or your partner guards his/her phone like the royal jewels, that’s not a good sign.
- Your partner is often unreachable. If your partner is engaged in cheating, he or she is unlikely to answer your calls and respond to your texts. You may hear legitimate-sounding excuses later, like he or she was in a meeting, he or she was driving, and he or she was in a ‘dead zone’ and didn’t know you were trying to get in touch. If your partner is unreachable while working late or on a business trip, that’s an especially bad sign.
- Significantly less, or more, or different sex in your relationship. Both decreased and increased levels of sexual activity in your relationship can be a sign of infidelity. Less sex occurs because your partner is focused on someone else; more sex occurs because your partner is trying to cover that up. Another possible sign of cheating is that the sex that you and your partner are having feels less emotionally connected. Yet another possible sign is that your partner is introducing new techniques and activities into your sex life.
- 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. If you ask your partner about these expenses and the answers you get seem untrue, they probably are untrue.
- Friends seem uncomfortable around you. With infidelity, betrayed partners are nearly always the last person to know. The cheater’s friends often know about the infidelity right from the start, and your own friends are likely to find out long before you do. This knowledge typically causes these individuals to feel uncomfortable around you. The cheater’s friends will either avoid you or be overly nice to you. Your own friends may try to avoid conversations about your relationship, and they too might overcompensate by being extra nice.
- An altered schedule. When your partner—who has never once worked late or gone on a business trip—suddenly needs to work late and go on business trips, that’s a possible sign of cheating. Flat tires, dead batteries, traffic jams, spending extra time at the gym, and similar excuses for being late or absent altogether can also signal infidelity.
- Emotional intimacy has faded. After a few years, no relationship is as intense as it was in the first few months. That said, couples do tend to bond and attach over time, learning to trust one another with their secrets, desires, and other important aspects of life. If your partner suddenly seems less emotionally vulnerable and intimate with you and does not seem to want you to be emotionally vulnerable and intimate, that’s a strong indication that the relationship focus has shifted—possibly to an affair partner.
- Hostility toward you and your relationship. Cheaters tend to rationalize their behavior (in their own minds). One way they do this is to push the blame onto their betrayed partner. Because of this, cheating partners tend to behave judgmentally toward their betrayed partner and their relationship. So, if it suddenly seems like nothing you do is right, or that things that used to not bother your partner suddenly do, or as if you’re getting pushed away, that could be a strong indication of cheating.
- When you ask about cheating, your partner deflects and avoids. If your partner is cheating on you, the absolute last thing in the world that he or she wants to do is talk about it with you. So when you introduce this topic in conversation, he or she may try to deflect and avoid. If you’ve confronted your partner about infidelity and been rebuffed, maybe with a message like, “If you trusted me a little more, maybe things would be better between us,” you should not let that override your gut sense that something is wrong in your relationship.
Now, before you run off and tell your partner that you know that he or she is cheating because you spotted all nine of these signs in his or her behavior, you need to understand that it’s possible that he or she is not cheating. That said, if you see these problems in your relationship, you still need to have a conversation about what’s going on.
Either way, the good news here is that cheating is not an automatic death-knell for your relationship. It simply means that you and your partner have a lot of work to do if you want to stay together and move forward in a healthier relationship. For in-depth information about healing after infidelity, we suggest reading The State of Affairs by Esther Perel and Out of the Doghouse by Robert Weiss. You might also want to attend a few of the free webinars and drop-in discussion groups on our affiliated website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com, and to consider a Weekend Couples Workshop.