Despite your best efforts, cheating can still occur. You may have control over your part of the commitment, but you don’t control your partner. Your partner remains free to make his/her own choices, including choices that may violate your mutually agreed upon commitment. It happens.
If you suspect your partner of cheating, you’re probably right, even if you don’t have much objective proof. It’s certainly not uncommon, and when you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a while, you may intuitively or logically notice that something has shifted.
Quite often, however, even when clear signs of cheating are present, people go into denial. They don’t want to believe it’s happening. So in order to preserve the illusion of their monogamous relationship, they pretend everything is okay and try to avoid confrontation.
There are many telltale signs of cheating, some subtle and some not so subtle. No single sign may be a smoking gun, but what do you see when you look at the big picture?
These signs of cheating include:
- lipstick smudges or perfume odors that didn’t come from you
- your partner becomes unusually private about protecting his/her email
- higher than usual phone bills
- your partner is vague when telling you about travel, nights out, etc.
- you catch your partner lying to you
- your mutual friends start distancing themselves from you or acting strange around you
- people suddenly get quiet when you enter the room
- if your partner is on the computer, s/he quickly switches apps or hides windows when you walk in
- your partner shows sudden changes in sex patterns, such as wanting sex more/less often or wanting to experiment with new techniques
- you find unexplained condoms, birth control, underwear, Viagra, etc.
- your existing condom supply diminishes faster than you can account for
- your partner becomes more emotionally distant and communicates less often or less deeply with you
- your partner runs errands that seem to take much longer than they should
- if you confront your partner about possible cheating, s/he blows up at you
- when you ask your partner about certain discrepancies, the explanation doesn’t sound believable to you
- your partner hides credit card statements or other bills
- your partner seems to be withdrawing more cash from the ATM than usual, and you can’t discern where it’s going
- you find unexplained receipts for things like meals and entertainment
- your partner seems to be doing more business travel than usual, but there isn’t a good explanation for it like a promotion, transfer, or new work project.
- your partner seems to be eating less and/or you’re spending less on food, suggested there are meals that are unaccounted for
- your partner dresses nicer than usual when running errands
- your partner seems unusually interested in getting in shape
- you learn that your partner missed a day of work when s/he was supposedly working
- your partner supposedly puts in more hours “at the office,” but there’s no overtime pay or promotion forthcoming
- your partner is supposedly working late, but you can’t reach him/her when you call
- your partner has unexplained marks like hickeys or scratches
- your partner begins wearing his/her wedding ring less often than usual or seemingly forgets to put it on
- your partner stops taking the kids along on errands when s/he used to do that
- your partner says “I love you” less often, seems more distant when s/he says it, or seems more distant when you say it
- your partner seems to resist or delay making future plans with you, such as buying a new car or getting pregnant
- your partner spends less time with you or seems to be avoiding you
- your partner becomes unusually critical or hostile
- your partner seems to be spending a lot more time online or on the phone
- it’s more difficult than usual to get in touch with your partner when s/he’s out at work
- your partner takes extra showers, such as immediately after getting home from work or errands
- your partner does laundry at unusual times
- your partner takes longer than usual to reply to text messages or seems annoyed when you call
- your partner behaves strangely when the suspected target is nearby
- your partner orgasms less frequently than usual during sex
- your partner suggests that you go on trips without him/her, such as visiting your family for a few days
- your partner boosts your cell phone plan to add more minutes or text capabilities, but it’s a mystery where that extra capacity is going
- you catch your partner using their cell phone in odd locations like the backyard or garage
- your partner accuses you of cheating, but you aren’t
- your partner starts changing passwords on accounts you used to be able to access
- your partner seems to intentionally pick fights with you
- your partner changes or hides his/her relationship status on social networking sites
- your partner goes out with friends, but if you call the friends s/he is supposedly with, they obviously aren’t out with your partner
- your partner’s sex techniques change suddenly
- your partner buys new lingerie that she never seems to wear
- some of your partner’s clothing goes missing
- your partner guards/hides their cell phone and never leaves it lying around unattended
- your partner frequently nukes all saved text messages and/or emails
- your partner incorrectly remembers gifts s/he gave you but which you never received
- your partner shuts down and password protects their computer when they leave
Perhaps the #1 sign of cheating is the sinking feeling that your partner is cheating on you. If you get that feeling, you’re probably right.
Incidentally, when cheating does occur, quite often it’s with a co-worker. Most people have sex with a co-worker at some point in their lives, and sometimes they do it when they’re already in a relationship with someone else.
Dealing With Cheating
If cheating should occur, or if you’re suspicious of cheating, it’s entirely up to you how you wish to respond to it. There’s no single right or wrong solution.
Many people bury their heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. This usually doesn’t work so well. It may retain the frame of the relationship, but it kills your chances of lasting intimacy. It may successfully preserve your lifestyle and financial situation for a while though if that’s all you care about.
Some people confront and then forgive their partners. Much of the time the cheating pattern returns, often with the same person but sometimes with new partners.
Some people leave the relationship. Quite often, however, they enter into another relationship where the same cheating pattern surfaces again.
If you find yourself in this situation, take responsibility for it. You chose this particular partner. There were probably warning signs that you chose to disregard. You may have valued certain factors like security above happiness. You may have been excessively clingy and unwilling to accept the truth. You may be harboring the belief that it’s difficult to find good partners.
I’m not saying you should blame yourself or beat yourself up about it. Nor do you need to become hyper-vigilant and paranoid that it may happen again. Simply take responsibility for your role in the situation, consider what lessons you learned, forgive your partner, and move on from it.
My preference is to acknowledge that people always have other options for connection, and they may enjoy other partners besides me, even if we’re in a close relationship together. Rather than seeing this as a problem, I see it as an opportunity to expand my experience of love, shifting it from attachment to abundance. I understand that any woman I get involved with is going to have other options. I also know that change is the only constant. She may change. I may change. Both of us may change. There’s nothing wrong with that per se.
Everyone is unique. Monogamy works very well for some people, while others thrive in open relationships. The key is to figure out what forms of connection work best for you, and then be true to yourself and honor who you are. It may take some experimentation to discover what’s most important to you, but each new connection will teach you valuable lessons about yourself, even those that end in heartbreak.