No one wants to think the person they love will betray them, but infidelity is one of the most common reasons for breakups. Polls suggest that between 20 and 30 percent of Americans have cheated on their partners.
Even those who aren’t having sex on the side might be straying emotionally or virtually. In one 2018 study, 78.6 percent of men and 91.6 percent of women confessed to an “emotional affair,” while Ashley Madison—a dating site for people who are married or attached—gained roughly 20,000 new members a day during the pandemic.
The root causes of infidelity are complex, but that’s no consolation if you’re the person being cheated on. Before you resort to a loyalty test or throw their possessions out of the window, here are some subtle—and not-so-subtle—signs that your partner is having an affair:
- Their routine has changed
- You can’t reach them
- They treat you differently
- You’ve noticed a change in their libido
- They’re paying more attention to their appearance
- They’re spending more money
- You keep catching them in lies.
Their Routine Has Changed
It’s a scenario you see in the movies: a spouse is suddenly working unreasonable hours or disappearing for long stretches of time without explanation—then it’s revealed that they are cheating.
Bolu Oladini, founder of life and relationship coaching service Confluence, said taking up a new activity that seems out of character is suspicious, especially if it’s time-consuming. “The real key is the sudden nature,” he told Newsweek. “They were never into tennis—and now they’re playing two to three times a week.”
If your partner seems overly interested in where you’re going to be and when, they could be trying to suss out when you’ll be busy so they can see their lover.
You Can’t Reach Them
Missing a call occasionally is no big deal, but becoming virtually unreachable could mean your significant other is being unfaithful—especially if they’re not responding at times they usually would. Changing the technology they use to communicate is also a bad sign. Whether they’ve bought a second phone, changed their passwords or stopped using shared devices, they may be trying to hide something.
Paul Keable, chief strategy officer at Ashley Madison, told Newsweek: “Cyber affairs saw a rise at the start of the pandemic which has continued to increase in 2022. A quarter of members [are] carrying out their infidelity this way.”
He explained that “secretive phone calls or more frequent computer use” and “always clearing their internet browser history” could be signs of an affair, whether it’s only happening online or has turned physical.
They Treat You Differently
A change in how they treat you is a red flag. They might shower you with affection because they feel guilty, or become overly critical.
Oladini said: “If they suddenly start criticizing you more than usual, [they] might be comparing you to this other person.”
The comparison isn’t always with their lover. “It could be a random person on the street. ‘Why can’t you do this and this more? Why can’t you do that?’,” he added.
Other attitude changes to look out for include picking fights regularly or seeming indifferent to you. This can also mean they are dissatisfied with life or your relationship more generally.
A Change in Their Libido
Gone from having sex once a week to once a day? Or perhaps you’ve stopped having sex altogether?
Keable said: “[The] most obvious hints would be incorporating new moves in the bedroom, or perhaps losing interest in sex altogether.”
If your spouse’s sex drive has decreased, it could be because they’re doing it elsewhere, but it’s also common for unfaithful partners to want more sex. If their libido has suddenly increased, they may be trying to throw you off the scent.
Oladini added that people having affairs often seem distracted during sex with their partner. “They may emotionally not be there or just going through the motions.”
They’re Paying More Attention to Their Appearance
A snazzy haircut or new devotion to the gym could mean your partner has someone new to impress.
“Increased confidence and putting more effort into their physical appearance like working out more, dressing better or enhanced grooming habits” might all raise your suspicions, according to Keable.
“Nearly 80 percent of [Ashley Madison users] consider their affairs to be a form of self-care,” he said.
If you suspect your partner’s glow-up isn’t for your benefit—or their own—ask yourself if there are any other signs that they’re seeing someone else.
They’re Spending More Money
Nicole Reid, a private investigator based in the U.K., told Newsweek that financial inconsistencies are often the first clue that something is amiss.
“Clients will call us when they have seen a booking for a hotel for two people or restaurant bookings, or [have] even found a receipt [when] they have said they are going on a work trip,” she said.
If there are unexpected charges on your joint account or you’ve found a credit card statement that doesn’t make sense, your partner could be splashing out on their side piece.
You Keep Catching Them in Lies
You have good reason to be suspicious if your partner is telling you stories that don’t add up, isn’t where they say they’re going to be, or gets defensive when you ask about their day.
“If they’re making up excuses or their story changes, that’s a big sign,” said Oladini.
Unfaithful people often attempt to gaslight their partner to cover their tracks, according to Reid, managing director of Corporate Investigations UK. If your partner is calling you jealous or unstable, or accusing you of having an affair, they could be trying to shift the focus from their own activities. They “blame their partner and accuse them of cheating, when in fact it’s them,” she said.
Gaslighting makes it difficult to trust your gut, but Reid recommends doing so. More often than not, her clients’ intuition is spot on, she said. “Most occasions, our clients are right and we catch [their partner] cheating.”