We've all heard the story about the woman who has been married for decades and assumes her relationship is just fine. Then she discovers her spouse has been cheating for 15 of those years. She feels betrayed and questions how she could have been duped into thinking her relationship was strong when it had actually collapsed years ago.
Most cheaters are not wizards capable of hiding their misdeeds without ever letting so much as a hint drop. Relationship expert and author April Masini (known as Ask April) says cheating doesn't happen in a vacuum. "Many times women don't want to know, so they stick their heads in the sand, until it's so obvious, anyone can see what's going on," Masini said. "By that time, the pain of discovery and acknowledgement is even greater than if she'd just dealt with the signs early on."
We got the low-down from four experts: Masini, couples' therapist Luis Congdon, licensed marriage and family therapist David Silverman and investigator and infidelity expert Danine Manette. Consider this your ultimate cheat sheet (forgive me) to figuring out if your partner is being unfaithful.
You shouldn't jump to conclusions just because you notice one, or several, of these signs. And just because a spouse is hiding something, doesn't mean it's an affair. These signs could be harmless when isolated to only a few times so don't take a minor problem and assume the worst. Chances are, if your partner is cheating, you already have an inkling. Try not to be a relationship hypochondriac and don't turn something into nothing.
According to Masini, a cheater's cell phone is like Fort Knox. If you borrow it, everything is locked down. If you ask to use it, they may scramble to find an alternative rather than let you. If this is the case, there may be calls and texts of some kind your partner doesn’t want you to see.
Manette adds that a cheater may leave their phone in their car at nighttime to keep it out of the line of fire, so to speak. If there are often long periods when you can't get a response to calls or texts, don't shrug it off if it's out of the ordinary.
Congdon points out that social media can play a big role as well. Notice if your partner only checks social media when you're not around, or won't show you their social media accounts at all. This doesn't mean you need to check your partner's stuff, but if they're not checking it around you (and used to), you should wonder why.
Other things to watch:
Silverman points out that a change in sleep habits could mean more than insomnia and that a cheating spouse may appear more exhausted and restless. He adds that a cheating spouse may even be having dreams that wake him/her.
Additionally, according to Silverman, you may notice your partner startled when awakened due to uncertainty of which partner they went to bed with. They may also forget important dates or some intimate details of your relationship.
And don't let thoughtful gifts be a bandage. If you have a gut feeling, you need to follow it. Silverman describes this cheating red flag, "Even though he's [or she's] distant and emotionally elsewhere, he showers you with gifts, probably out of guilt. Along those lines, he may say nice things about you, or help out more around the house. If he does treat you this way, yet still appears mostly distant and is out of the house too much, this combination points to a possible affair."
Congdon also points out that when your spouse gets new friends and you have not met them after a significant amount of time, he/she could be hiding something. Same goes with a sudden change in hiding financial tidbits.
Other things to watch according to Manette:
Manette points out that a cheating spouse may pick petty fights with you, storm out of the house and remain out for long periods of time. Mansini adds that if they only see you on the same day of the week, that's a red flag. "Cheaters have to be organized, and they usually have their cheating schedule calendared," she says.
An even bigger red flag in this category is if your partner or spouse often disappears for family holidays. There's a chance you're not the only "honey".
A cheating spouse, we know, will often act emotionally distant. But Silverman adds a new twist to this saying if your partner is suddenly interested in a problem one of your friends or colleagues is having, it may be because they are closer to them than you realize.
Silverman also notes that a cheating spouse may not talk with you about the future of your relationship as much because they are distracted by an "exciting" affair that has no baggage (yet). He also says that someone having an affair may accuse you or others of cheating without real grounds to stand on. "His mind is more attuned to how a cheater thinks and behaves now that he's doing it. It's on his mind so much he may notice similar behaviors in you or others who are not cheating," he explains.
Language like, "If anything ever happened to us, I would always love you like a friend," could also be a red flag that your partner feels like they now have a relationship to fall back on and they don't need to be as assured about yours.
Congdon reminds us of the obvious: If he/she had a strong sexual desire before and all of a sudden it's not there, he/she could be getting it somewhere else. Silverman adds that if your partner seems distant or distracted during sex, you should address it.
Those close to you may sense when something is wrong in your relationship. You may not have noticed, or have been choosing to ignore it or write it off, but others can seen changes in you or your relationship, too. They might be crazy, but they also might be forcing you to notice something you've been trying to ignore. "Children are highly attuned when parents don't appear as emotionally healthy or secure as they once were. Your friends and relatives may be sensing the same things," says Silverman.
And the biggest sign of all: Deep down, you know something's wrong.
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