As you were learning about human relationships, you may have heard at least one person say, “human beings weren’t meant to be monogamous.” It appears they’re not hard-wired to cheat, either. Both psychologists and marital therapists agree that infidelity can be detected. Just as someone who is being untruthful often exhibits certain verbal and behavioral tendencies, someone who is being unfaithful sends similar cues. Look for changes in how your significant other talks or behaves as if you’re dealing with a suspected liar. And keep an eye open for new and/or suspicious activity, which may stand out to you more than anything else. Still, remember that no one sign provides conclusive evidence that your partner is cheating. Your heart may be breaking, but fortify your gut instinct with certain telltale signs before you sit down to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your loved one.
Listen for Verbal Tics
Bent on argument: An unfaithful person may make derogatory comments. He or she may concoct a “federal case” out of something the two of you had once joked about. Or, he or she may erupt in irrational anger. The intent is the same: to start an argument, which may be either a way to release guilt and tension or “justify” inappropriate behavior (the upshot: “See? The two of us don’t get along anyway”).
Shifting responsibility or blame: Unnerving under normal circumstances, people who are unfaithful are even more intent on casting a spotlight on their partner’s words or behavior rather than their own. He or she may even try to con you into thinking you have “a problem.”
Watch for Behavioral Tics
Eye dodging: People who cheat may have difficulty looking their loved one in the eye. They may avoid eye contact entirely (and look up, down or to the side while speaking), make eye contact but then shift their eyes quickly away or act transfixed by an object in the room (such as a phone) and study it intently while speaking.
Physical reactions: A cheating partner may show physical signs of discomfort. They may blink frequently, turn red in the face or wring their hands. Foot movements are another telltale sign of a cheater. Under stress, they may tap, shuffle, fidget or try to wrap their feet around the legs of a chair while speaking.
Watch for New or Suspicious Activity
Set a baseline. What you consider suspicious may seem perfectly normal to friends you’re confiding in. Try not to listen to these well-intentioned friends. Nobody knows your partner like you do, so identify those behaviors in your partner that represent a marked change from the norm. Maybe he or she has taken a sudden and intense interest in exercising or creating a new wardrobe. Maybe he or she is preoccupied with solitary computer time. Or, maybe he or she is “working” long or unusual hours without any plausible explanation. Some or all of these changes may be tinged by a noticeable disinterest in or withdrawal from you.
Technology tipoffs: People who have something to hide often resort to cover-up activities. Think in terms of activities that allow them to communicate with their alleged paramour. For example, they may change passwords on their computer or phone. They may delete emails or their internet browsing history. They may establish new (and private) email accounts. Or, they may buy a new cellphone and put it under a separate account.
Try Not to React Hastily
If your partner confesses to an infidelity, it may help to remember that couples can – and do – recover. Marriage counselors say that infidelity occurs in about 40 percent of marriages. And, out of this group, half the couples stay together. But put first things first. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by fear, anger or jealousy, then you already know, deep down, that now is no time to make any rash decisions about your future. Your thoughts and emotions should be as clear and focused as possible. Consider seeing a marriage counselor, alone or together, and work through your feelings – and your options.