7 Body Language Signs That Mean Your Partner Is Cheating, According to Therapists
There could be more behind that awkward hug than you think.
If you suspect your partner is cheating, you might resort to snooping through their phone or jacket pockets. But all that exhausting detective work may not be necessary. In many cases, relationship experts say all you have to do is observe some subtle physical cues from your significant other to figure out if they're being unfaithful. Read on to learn from therapists about seven body language signs that mean your partner is cheating.
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They avoid eye contact.
You might be thinking that this is the most obvious give in the book, but that doesn't make it any less true. (After all, that shifty-eye emoji was created for a reason.)
"Often, when someone has something to hide, a change in the amount and frequency of eye contact can be the first thing to change," notes Jason Drake, LCSW-S, BCN, the lead clinician and owner of Katy Counseling for Men. "Eye contact can become uncomfortable for a partner who is cheating. When they make eye contact with their partner, it often reminds them of the secret that they are hiding and uncomfortable emotions can surface."
As Drake explains, oftentimes the partner who is cheating feels immense shame, and by avoiding eye contact, they can feel that their significant other is less focused on them.
They make too much eye contact.
On the other hand, some people are well aware that eye contact is the first thing to go when keeping a secret, so they'll overcompensate by increasing it. "This person believes that they are simply maintaining the same level of eye contact as before. However, even subtle changes in the increase in eye contact can be a sign of their attempt to conceal a secret," says Drake. Looking like the deer-in-headlights emoji is not a great sign either.
They cover their mouths.
This is a truly metaphorical response if we ever heard one. "When a cheater doesn't want to deal with a problem or respond to your question about them being faithful, they will automatically place their hands over their lips, which is a telltale sign of lying," explains Tiffany Homan, a relationship expert at Texas Divorce Laws.
This could come in the form of their whole hand, just a finger, or a closed fist (which also indicates tension) coming up to their mouth.
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They face their body away from you.
Much like avoiding eye contact, shifting one's body away from their partner when talking, even subtly, can be a major red flag. "When being truthful and open, we have an open posture; turning away means they are hiding something from you," advises Kiara Ivory, LMFT, a women's therapist and founder of Empower You Solutions.
According to Dr. Tara, professor of sexual communication at California State University Fullerton and relationship expert at Luvbites, shifting one's body is a result of them being disengaged. "This is because they've been getting sexual and emotional intimacy somewhere else and don't have the energy to cultivate more of it at home."
Dr. Tara says to also look for this body language sign when your partner is using their devices. "For example, they turn away when they're texting or when they're on social media so that you're out of sight. If there is nothing to hide or to seek there is no need to turn away to make sure the partner can't see the screen."
In more overt cases, "one's body might point to the door, indicating an urge to leave the room," notes Callisto Adams, PhD, a certified dating and relationship expert at HeTexted.
They cross their arms.
In addition to shifting one's body, a guilty party may make other gestures that signal they're closed off to you. "Defensive body language is displayed by one's unwillingness to open their body," explains Adams. "They're subconsciously protecting themselves, shielding by crossing their hands, or practicing self-soothing movements such as their right arm lightly touching their left arm, especially when confronted about a topic such as infidelity."
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They don't respond to physical affection.
Maybe you go to hug your partner and they respond with a one-armed, sideways embrace. Or they give you their cheek when you kiss them. A person who's cheating may avoid physical affection because they feel guilty and undeserving, they're no longer interested in you (harsh, we know), or both.
Drake also points out that it may not be their physical reaction to affection that's worrisome, but how often they're engaging in it. "A change in how often they hold your hand or give you a hug. A change in how often they kiss you goodbye. And a change in the bedroom and the frequency of sex can all be signs that your partner may be cheating."
They're overly affectionate.
Just like a guilty person may make an uncomfortable amount of eye contact to overcompensate for their indiscretions, so too might they start showering you with affection. Ivory says that a cheating partner may, out of the blue, start "offering extra hugs, kisses, and cuddles." She explains that they are trying to make up "for the subconscious guilt they feel for cheating."
Perhaps more troubling, they may also extend this to more intimate settings. "If your partner is suddenly doing something new in the bedroom, you may wonder where they've learned these tricks from," says Carissa Coulston, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert at The Eternity Rose.
All in all, if you notice any sudden shift in behavior or body language, it could be time to take the possibility of infidelity more seriously. Of course, no body language sign is a fail-proof way to detect cheating, so it's always best to communicate with your partner and consider seeing a couples counselor.