6 Red Flags That Spell Cheating, Therapists Warn
These seemingly harmless behaviors can be signs of infidelity.
Nothing can make you feel crazier in a relationship than if you suspect your partner is cheating. You suddenly wonder if they're actually going where they say they're going, texting who they say they're texting, and if those flowers they brought you are a sign of affection or guilt. To help you parse through these subtle suspicions, we asked therapists for the top red flags they notice when one partner is cheating. Read on to find out what they say to look out for.
They're showering more often than usual.
A mid-life change in hygiene habits could be benign, but it also could be a sign your partner is hiding something. "When someone is trying to hide sex with another partner, they are often careful to wash off the new scent," says Bat Sheva Marcus, PhD, licensed clinical social worker.
While this red flag doesn't automatically mean your S.O. is cheating—it's possible they've simply picked up their intensity at the gym or decided to take cleanliness more seriously—it's one to take note of, especially in combination with other unusual behavior modifications.
They have a friend who's going through a crisis.
If your partner, who isn't typically the empathetic, shoulder-to-cry-on type, is frequently disappearing to "help a friend" who's going through something, it could be a red flag of infidelity. "Most likely what their friend is going through is having to cover for your partner's cheating," says Paul DePompo, PsyD, ABPP, director of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Institute of Southern California.
This behavior could also be combined with your partner telling you it'd be unfair for them not to console their friend. "They want to gaslight you to not be 'selfish' for wanting their time," says DePompo.
They accuse you of cheating.
Alena Scigliano, licensed psychotherapist and clinical expert in narcissistic abuse, says one of the most common signs of cheating she's noticed when working with survivor-victims of narcissistic abuse is when the person cheating accuses their partner of cheating.
"For narcissists, this is both a form of projection and distraction, which is what makes it less obvious of a sign," she says. "The non-cheating partner spends so much energy focusing on defending themselves and trying to convince the other person that they aren't cheating, that they don't even consider that the accusations are likely a sign that their narcissistic partner is the one who is actually cheating." Seeking professional help may be your best move forward in this situation.
They heavily guard their cellphone.
This sign of cheating is a cliche because it's so often true. "People with secret affairs will change their passwords frequently or become agitated about setting their phone down," says Ashera DeRosa, licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of a private practice in Buffalo, New York. "They might change their settings so they don't have any notifications or not let their partner use their phone to change the music or even use navigation while driving."
Their fear, of course, is that their partner will find digital evidence of their affair on their device.
For more relationship advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
They have a new hobby.
Sure, it's totally possible that your partner has joined a bowling league or started a book club. But if something seems sketchy about it, it could be a red flag. Usually, a questionable hobby requires a lot of time and is done alone, says John P. Carnesecchi, licensed clinical social worker, and founder and clinical director of Gateway to Solutions.
"Most common is going to the gym, running, or intensive physical training," says Carnesecchi. "When you want to talk about their newfound hobby, they will be vague about their progress and what they do." On the other hand, Carnesecchi notes that people who are genuinely devoted to a hobby will be willing and able to share all the details.
When people lie, they have a tendency to over-explain themselves, adding details where they otherwise wouldn't if they were telling the truth. The same is true of cheaters, Carnesecchi.
"When someone asks, 'How was your night out with your friends?' the cheater will rattle off details, names, and specific things that may or may not have happened—almost telling a whole story," Carnesecchi says. "In their mind, they've covered all bases as an alibi."