Subtle Signs of Cheating

“I don’t know why they call it adultery, there is nothing adult about it…”

Patrick Scheidegger, 2023

These indicators aren’t meant to be alarmist but if your gut is trying to tell you something, they could prove useful.

By Suzannah Weiss

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Most of us tend to give our partners the benefit of the doubt as far as fidelity goes. But the truth is, signs of cheating do exist. In fact, according to a 2016 survey, one in four married and cohabiting young adults admitted to cheating, while only half confess.

You probably know the obvious signs of cheating, like lurking on dating sites long after getting into a relationship or always coming home late without a solid excuse. But in order to really ID a cheater, it pays to watch for subtle signs that aren’t as overt.

The following indicators aren’t meant to be alarmist—almost all of them can have alternate explanations—but if your gut is really trying to tell you something, they could prove useful.

Your relationship started as an affair

For some people, there is some truth to the saying “once a cheater, always a cheater.”  John, 44, says he should’ve seen it coming when he got into a relationship with a married woman. “We were good in bed together, but she enjoyed being good in bed with others, too, apparently.”

They regularly accuse you of cheating

Beyond being classic projection, this tactic serves two purposes, says Healing Infidelity Coach Caroline Madden, LMFT. It puts you on the defensive so you don’t have the chance to consider the opposite possibility, and it makes them look so anti-cheating that they couldn’t possibly do it to you. It could also be a genuine reaction to them realizing that since they got away with cheating, you probably could too.

They’re taking out a lot of cash

Cheaters often use cash when they take their secret partners out so that their S.O.’s can’t track where they’ve been, says Rhonda Milrad, founder and chief relationship advisor of Relationup. But if you share a financial account, what you can track is a spike in ATM withdrawals.

They’ve suddenly got new sex moves

Of course, it’s possible they’ve just been doing their research—in which case, great if you’re into it—but other signs of cheating combined with a very noticeable change in sex routine could mean they’re picking up those new techniques from someone else and discovering new things they like, says Milrad.

They’re suddenly hyper-critical of you

Cheaters will sometimes try to justify their actions by making their relationship out to be so bad that they had no choice, explains Madden. She typically sees this happen in situations where the cheater feels they’re in love with their cheating partner, since they have a sense that their affair is happier than their relationship. 

Your typical relationship issues seem to  disappear

Madden’s clients are often surprised to find their partners are cheating because they thought everything was going well around the time the infidelity started. But sometimes, the reason things are looking up is that the needs that weren’t met in the relationship are being met elsewhere.

They’re paying more attention to their looks

If your S.O. is once again hitting the gym, buying new underwear, or taking a newfound interest in shopping, they could be in an early stage with someone else, says Madden.

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They forget what stories they’ve told you

If your partner frequently starts stories with, “Did I tell you this already?” it could mean they’re having trouble keeping track of multiple confidants, says psychologist Colleen Long, PsyD.

They’re confiding in you less

Becoming less inclined to discuss problems with you could be a sign that your partner’s been venting to someone else, says Long. Even if they’re not sleeping with anyone else, this could point toward emotional cheating.

They keep strict tabs on your schedule

Lauren, 33, says her ex started to ask when she was coming home from work more often when he was cheating. Now, she sees he was trying to figure out when he and his cheating partner would have the place to themselves.

They have random new interests

“My ex had been content to listen to about eight songs, total, during our entire time together,” Julie remembers. “A bunch of new CDs without any writing to identify their contents—and a sudden interest in a whole host of new music—was due to the influence of this new partner.” Attachment to a particular place can especially be a giveaway: Julie’s ex insisted on joining a gym because of a climbing wall when he didn’t even climb. It turned out his secret girlfriend was a member.

Cheating was accepted in their family

Looking back, John thinks his ex’s parents should’ve been a clue. “She came from a family where her mother and father both cheated on each other and she told me that,” he says. “But her parents were still married. So they set an example for their daughter to follow.”

 They get irate when you try to confront them

Someone who hasn’t cheated will likely have a good explanation for their suspicious behavior and do what it takes for you to feel confident. A cheater, however, may get defensive because you’ve blown their cover, says Milrad. “It is very common for cheaters to deflect responsibility and get irritated by your questions. They often try and shut you down and even criticize you for being too controlling or suspicious.”

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Ghosting: What It Is, Why It Hurts, and What You Can Do About It

What it Means to Ghost and Be Ghosted? What to Do If You’re Ghosted


ghosting - what it means to ghost and to be ghosted - and what to do if you have been ghosted

You’re in a relationship. Suddenly, and maybe without any warning at all, your partner seems to have disappeared. No calls, no text messages, no connection made on social media, no responses to any of your messages. Odds are, your partner hasn’t unexpectedly left town because of a family emergency, and isn’t lying dead in a ditch somewhere but, rather, has simply ended the relationship without bothering to explain or even let you know. You’ve been ghosted.

Who Ghosts and Who Gets Ghosted?

Why would someone choose to simply disappear from another person’s life, rather than plan, at minimum, a conversation to end a relationship? You may never know for sure why you were ghosted. While more studies need to be done specifically on the ghosting phenomenon, past research has looked at different types of attachment personalities and choice of breakup strategies; it’s possible that people with an avoidant type personality (those who hesitate to form or completely avoid attachments to others, often as result of parental rejection), who are reluctant to get very close to anyone else due to trust and dependency issues and often use indirect methods of ending relationships, are more likely to use ghosting to initiate a break-up.

Other research found that people who are believers in destiny, who think that relationships are either meant to be or not, are more likely to find ghosting acceptable than people who believe relationships take patience and work. One study also suggests that people who end relationships by ghosting have often been ghosted themselves. In that case, the ghoster knows what it feels like to have a relationship end abruptly, with no explanation, no room for discussion. Yet they seemingly show no empathy toward the other, and may or may not experience any feelings of guilt over their ghosting behavior. 

What it Means to Ghost and Be Ghosted

Ghosting is by no means limited to long-term romantic relationships. Informal dating relationships, friendships, even work relationships may end with a form of ghosting. For the person who does the ghosting, simply walking away from a relationship, or even a potential relationship, is a quick and easy way out. No drama, no hysterics, no questions asked, no need to provide answers or justify any of their behavior, no need to deal with someone else’s feelings. Certainly, while the ghoster may benefit from avoiding an uncomfortable situation and any potential drama, they’ve done nothing to improve their own conversation and relationships skills for the future.

For the person who is ghosted, there is no closure and often deep feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. Initially, you wonder “what’s going on?” When you realize the other person has ended the relationship, you’re left to wonder why, what went wrong in the relationship, what’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with them, how you didn’t see this coming.

What to Do If You’re Ghosted

Ghosting hurts; it’s a cruel rejection. It is particularly painful because you are left with no rationale, no guidelines for how to proceed, and often a heap of emotions to sort through on your own. If you suffer from any abandonment or self-esteem issues, being ghosted may bring them to the forefront.

In this age of ever-advancing technology, your ghoster is likely to appear on your various forms of social media and, if that’s the case, this person who is now physically gone from your life, is still quite visible. How do you move on? Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet or proven advice to quickly guide you into recovery from a ghosted heart, but there is common sense.

“Avoid reminders of your ex,” advises Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Psychology Department at Albright College in Pennsylvania. “They’re likely to cause painful emotions to resurface, and they won’t help you get emotional closure or insight into why they broke up with you.”

After you stop torturing yourself by going over old photos, saved old texts, new social media postings, and anything else you think might give you insight into the mind and current whereabouts of your ghoster (and let’s face it, you’re bound to be doing that even if you’re not normally an obsessive person), try to find a new distraction. Perhaps most importantly, know that this probably isn’t about you or anything you did wrong.

“You should realize that if your ex chose the strategy of ghosting to break up with you, it likely tells you something about them and their shortcomings, rather than indicating that the problem lies with you.” Dr. Seidman adds.

In other words, try to move on as quickly and completely as you can. Maintain your dignity and stay focused on your own health, happiness and future, leaving the ghoster to deal with the ultimate repercussions of their own immaturity and lack of courage in the context of a relationship.


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