4. New bills pop up
Maybe they’re taking up some new hobbies, or maybe they’re trying to cover their tracks. But Dr. Tessina says that unidentifiable charges on a credit card are often one of the easiest ways to catch a cheater.
5. Work becomes secret
Remember those super-adorable conversations you used to have about what you were doing all day long, constant chats, emails and texts? While the flirty passion of the early days is likely to fizzle in a relationship over time, it can be a bad sign if your partner clams up completely about their time spent at work. “This may be a sign that they’re keeping a secret,” Dr. Tessina says.
6. The denial games begin
If getting your partner to even acknowledge your suspicions of cheating could be described as “slippery” at best, that may be another compounded warning sign of infidelity. To move past inappropriate contact or a full-blown affair, trust needs to be rebuilt, Kelley Kitley, LCSW, owner of Serendipitous Psychotherapy, says. “There needs to be full access to schedules, communication, email, texts, ‘after-work dinners’ and guaranteed time of arrival home. Because the person who was cheated on will be fearful of the infidelity happening again. They will be triggered and paranoid if there is any suspicion of subsequent cheating behaviors.”
A partner who remains defensive or is unwilling to help rebuild the trust that was lost may have “serial cheater” written all over them.
7. Your sex life starts to suffer
Though this may be the last thing you want to hear if you think your partner is cheating, it could be the reality check you need to make some changes in your relationship. Dr. Tessina points out that a partner who is suddenly not interested in sex, barring depression and other medical issues, may be getting their needs met somewhere else.
How to know when a cheater deserves a second chance
This is the million-dollar question, though we’ve all seen couples who survived an affair and were made stronger for it. But even after a relationship has imploded, the outlook may not be as bad as you think — a 2016 study out of Binghamton University suggested that women who are dumped by their partner for the “other” woman may recover and bounce back better than ever.
As Kitley explained, you should be able to tell the difference between a partner who is still in denial about their cheating and a partner who is willing to work on the damage that has been done. A partner who goes to any length to rebuild trust, setting new boundaries to stay committed, may be able to make a relationship work post-cheating. But, Kitley says, “It is a process, and patience is a must!”
And whether a partner has already cheated or seems to be heading down that fork in the road, honesty is always the best policy, Dr. Tessina says. “The best protection against cheating is to have open and frank sexual talks. Allow them to tell you when they’re attracted to someone else. Don’t freak out or get upset — they’ll just hide it from you.” In time, a small, normal and fleeting sexual attraction may be something that the two of you can laugh about together and even incorporate into your own sexual fantasies. Outside attraction becomes a lot less threatening when it’s not kept a secret.
Originally published January 2010. Updated August 2016.