Oftentimes, the signs of someone being unfaithful can be pretty easy to spot, especially if you know your partner’s habits and personality traits inside and out—but the signs of cheating are not always that obvious. According to the Institute for Family Studies, nearly 20% of men have admitted to being unfaithful in a relationship, but only 40% of those who cheated on their spouse ended up getting a divorce. That means either the cheater was never found out, or the couple made the choice to work past the infidelity.
Spotting the signs of a cheating spouse can be a tumultuous series of events, especially if you’ve been together for several years. But it’s much better to know and decide what to do to move forward, rather than continue to live with the uncertainty and worry. If you’re genuinely concerned by your partner’s behavior and think they could be cheating on you, watch for these tell-tale signs.
Signs of a cheating partner in a relationship
According to New York-based psychotherapist Dr. Kathryn Smerling, changes in behavior is one of the most tell-tale signs that your partner may be cheating—which may include being absent from events without an explanation, overcompensating for odd (but otherwise minor) behaviors or acting cold. Some other subtle signs:
- Your partner is closed off. Your partner may become emotionally detached and indifferent toward you.
- You notice shifty or wandering eyes. Watch their eyes when you’re with them in public. If they seem preoccupied with others, they may be more likely to cheat.
- They keep their phone locked down like it’s Fort Knox. According to relationship expert Susan Trombetti, hiding a phone could be a strong sign of cheating, especially if they keep it with them at odd times (such as in the bathroom or the shower). If it seems like they don’t want you to see a push message or a text, it may be because they have something to hide.
- You feel jealous and irrational. A partner who’s trying to hide their infidelity may push back on your suspicions or call you crazy. If you do start feeling crazy or completely unlike yourself, that’s not necessarily a sign that you are. Your own eyes and intuition are telling you something’s amiss, while the partner you love and (used to) trust tells you otherwise. That internal conflict may be a sign that your partner is trying to obscure the truth.
- They change their appearance and habits. Maybe they start working out, change their style of underwear, or wear nicer clothes and start smelling great. Maybe they go out more with their friends and adopt new tastes in music and restaurants. One or two likely mean nothing, but more could certainly mean something.
What to do if you think your partner is cheating
So, you think you’re partner’s cheating. Should you confront them immediately, wait for more signs or proactively search for more evidence? According to Dr. Smerling, if you are not comfortable confronting your partner, your best bet is to see a therapist to determine if the suspicion is paranoia. It is best to go to a neutral third party with an unbiased position (as opposed to a friend or family member). When speaking to a therapist, instead of just confronting your partner, it allows for more time to think about how to address the person and the situation.
Trombetti suggested looking on your partner’s social media accounts under a friend’s account. A cheating partner may block you and your group of friends from seeing certain posts. But remember, if things get to this point, you’ve likely decided that your partner is cheating—all you’re doing now is looking for one last damning piece of evidence. If you’ve reached this conclusion, Trombetti said, it would and should be over.
Whatever you choose to do, the most important thing is to consider what you want to do. What does it mean for the relationship? Is it automatically doomed? Not according to Dr. Smerling.
“While it’s not necessarily doomed, it may be a wake-up call for both people in the partnership,” she said.
There will most likely be changes to the relationship, as you have to rebuild the trust. If both people still want to continue the relationship, the person who had the affair has to do substantial work to regain trust, and the other person has to understand what their role was in the situation. There might have been something deeper that was going on between the two that contributed to the affair.
According to Kevin Darné, author of “My Cat Won’t Bark! (A Relationship Epiphany),” many people are willing to put up with toxic relationships, but if they learn their partner is cheating, then they will walk away. For them, the fact-finding mission is really about looking for a final straw.
There are only two reasons, Darné said, why your partner would not give you the fidelity you have asked for. One is that they don’t have fidelity to give—in other words, being monogamous is simply not who they are. The other possibility is that while they may believe in monogamy, they don’t believe your relationship is worth the effort.
Life is too short to spend it trying to change a person. Whether you’re able to prove your mate is cheating or not really doesn’t matter if you are unhappy. Remember, there are more than 7 billion other people on the planet—try finding someone who already is the kind of person you want to be with.