In hindsight, the signs of cheating are often pretty easy to spot. Looking back, it was probably a bit weird that your significant other was suddenly super vague about their weekend whereabouts. And what screams “cheater” louder than a partner quickly switching tabs whenever you walk by their laptop? But there’s a reason so many of us fall for flimsy excuses and look past suspicious behavior, Rachel Sussman, LCSW, a New York City-based therapist and the author of The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing from a Breakup or Divorce, tells SELF. (And, no, it’s not because you’re a sucker.)
“The status quo feels very safe, and most people don’t want to acknowledge that the person they’ve trusted, loved, and spent so much time with is betraying them,” Sussman says. Facing the fact that you may have an unfaithful partner can be difficult for a variety of reasons. For example, many people turn a blind eye out of fear that cheating signals the end of their love and sex life as they knew it. Others ignore common signs because they’ve convinced themselves it was just a “one-time thing” or that “it’s all in their head.”
Listening to your gut isn’t so simple, especially if you’re madly in love (or firmly in denial). However, if something feels off, it’s important to explore that uneasiness, since it could be a sign of infidelity and save you time (and heartbreak) in the long run. “Your instincts can help you recognize the signs of cheating, but instincts are usually refined by life experience,” Nikquan Lewis, MS, LMFT, sex therapist at Intimate Connections in Katy, Texas, tells SELF. That’s why “it’s important to pay attention to those physical, mental, and emotional cues that your body gives when you’re uncomfortable,” Lewis says. “That’s how you learn to trust yourself: By being mindful and aware of what you’re experiencing.”
And don’t just take that advice from the relationship experts, but also from nine people who lived—and learned—from being betrayed by a cheating partner. Here, they share with SELF some of the subtle signs (and dead giveaways) of infidelity they wish they’d heeded.
He stopped wanting to have sex with me out of nowhere.
It was our senior year on spring break. I went on a friends’ trip to Punta Cana, and he went to Spain with his buddies. We hadn’t seen each other in almost two weeks and I was really excited to spend time with him. When we finally returned to school, we hung out every night, but he weirdly kept going to bed unusually early—which is fine, but he would typically be all over me after being apart for so long. I didn’t want to be reading into it, but as it turns out, one of the times he cheated was while he was away in Spain, which probably explains the sudden change in behavior. —S
She was weirdly overprotective of her phone.
My ex, who cheated, was constantly changing her passcodes (which I found a bit odd) and would frequently make excuses for why we couldn’t use her cell phone to play music or pull up directions when we were driving in the car. I also noticed that her phone was always facing down on the table, and her facial expression and body language changed, as if she was panicked, whenever I held or used it on the few occasions she allowed it. —J
He always accused me of cheating.
We dated for almost three years, and he was constantly paranoid about the possibility of me cheating on him, even though I never did anything to make him distrust me. For example, he made me unfollow all of my exes on Instagram and he hated it when I hung out with my male friends—a major red flag. He would constantly gaslight me until I believed that I should cut out all other men from my life out of respect for him. Well, he ended up cheating on me for six months.