Sleeping with someone else when you’re in a relationship is unjustifiably horrible, but how does an emotional affair compare to its physical counterpart?
One of the trickiest things about this kind of affair is its definition: on what terms can you accuse your partner of cheating (or not cheating)?
While it may be harder to identify, there are still tell-tale signs from your partner that should be buzzing alarms in your head.
Below are the top 14 signs your partner could be exhibiting if he or she has strayed from your relationship.
But first, what is cheating?
Infidelity has a broad spectrum. Right now, there are many terms or kinds of cheating our there—micro-cheating, emotional affair, etc.
So how do you define something that is so amorphous?
According to marriage and family counselor Dr. Gary Brown:
“Is there a gray area? That depends upon how on whether or not you and your partner are OK with various levels of micro-cheating, which can include an innocent (or not so innocent flirtation) with someone other than our partner.
“Overall, cheating is dependent upon the agreements you have with your partner. A good rule of thumb that many have found helpful is this: Assume that your partner will not be happy if you have cheated and if you violate their trust, you may be setting yourself up for the potential loss of a relationship.”
In a nutshell, cheating is betraying what you and your partner have agreed upon, and the boundaries you’ve clearly set for your relationship.
14 signs your partner might be cheating
Now that you’ve established what makes for cheating when it comes to your relationship, here are 14 signs that point to it,
1. You Can Feel That Something Is Up
Every time you see your partner and person A together, you just feel wrong. Like something is up but you just can’t point out what.
According to love experts, this uncertainty is usually caused by a subconscious acknowledgment of an affair, and the only reason stopping you from confronting your spouse might be a lack of evidence.
Even science has proven that humans are innately intuitive beings and that we should always trust our instincts.
One study from the Brigham Young University supports the idea that you always have an inkling when you’re being cheated on.
The study states:
“The data indicate that this ability to predict outcomes from brief observations is more intuitive than deliberatively cognitive, leading scholars to believe that the ability to accurately predict is ‘hard-wired and occur[s] relatively automatically'”
Remember, you’re not crazy or wrong when your intuition says something is up. There usually is a basis for that.
2. They Become Inseparable With Their Computer/Mobile Phones
Have you noticed that your partner has become a little too attached to his or her computer or phone recently?
Facebook and other social media can be pretty addicting, sure, but if you often catch a sight of your partner laughing at the screen and quickly hiding it, you best believe something is up.
A bigger red flag is when you see your partner becoming more closed off with his or her devices.
According to counselor and therapist Dr. Tracey Phillips:
“They could be trying to avoid receiving any questionable calls or texts in your presence. And, if you call them and they say that they didn’t answer because their phone was in the car.”
Have there been moments where you jokingly peeped at their laptop screen and that resulted to a big fight? Those defensive, aggressive moments are the only sign you’ll need.
3. You Keep Hearing About This “Friend”
Affairs can be like high school crushes. No matter how hard your spouse tries to conceive this relationship, he or she is bound to talk about the other person just because it’s new.
Like teenage infatuations, affairs can incite excitement and a great sense of thrill in those participating in it.
If your partner keeps talking about that new guy from work or this girl he met at the library, then it means they’re getting closer.
Relationship experts note that this is often a sign of confession to you and is the guilty party’s way of validating the “emotional relationship”.
4. You’re Suddenly Alone
Cuddle moments, mid-week lunches, weekend escapades, binge-watch sessions… all gone.
Body language expert Patti Wood, says:
“What you’re generally looking for is a shift from normal behavior. So, if they used to kiss you all the time and suddenly that behavior disappears it’s a shift from the baseline.”
Suddenly you find yourself with a partner who wants more time alone, which means a lot less time with you. Your partner talks about finding new hobbies alone or taking trips alone.
Relationship and betrayal trauma life coach Karina Wallace adds:
“If they do not hold your hand when they usually do or would usually invite you out but no longer do, they may be pulling away emotionally and physically.”
Either they’re feeling guilty about the emotional affair and want to find ways to avoid you or they’re planning a trip themselves.
5. You Are Either More Or Less Attractive To Them
Out of all the many things that have changed, one stands out the most: your sexual relationship.
Either you’ve been having too much sex or too little. Either way, these sudden changes in your love-making can often point out to affairs, physical or emotional.
Sex expert Robert Weiss explains why:
“Both decreased and increased levels of sexual activity in your relationship can be a sign of infidelity. Less sex occurs because your partner is focused on someone else; more sex occurs because they are trying to cover that up.”
A sudden spike in sexual activity is a huge sign for overcompensation.
“People don’t always see this, but a big body language tell of cheating is also an overcompensation in lustful direction. If your partner is suddenly acting more lustful towards you, you may think they’re more into you but try to notice the context.”
6. You’ve Become Disposable
You can’t even remember the last time you felt important. Heck, you don’t remember the last time you heard the words “I love you”.
There seem to be more fights than usual and it almost always leads to a breakup, even though you’ve had a pretty good track record.
Psychologists often point out that a cheater’s tendency to break up with their partners is a sign of negativity in their relationship.
According to Weiss:
“Cheaters tend to rationalize their behavior (in their own minds). One way they do this is to push the blame onto you.
“Often, their internal justifications for cheating leak out, and they behave judgmentally toward you and your relationship. If it suddenly seems like nothing you do is right, or that things that used to not bother your partner suddenly do, or as if you’re getting pushed away, that could be a strong indication of cheating.”
Because they’ve found someone else, they no longer feel the need to repair their real relationships.
These affairs appear to them as a safety net, motivating them to push you away when convenient.
7. They Stopped Liking You As A Person
Whether it’s the way you dress, the way you look, the way you hold yourself in social occasions, or even the way you eat, your partner now dislikes every single thing about you.
What used to be endearing to your partner is now downright obnoxious to them, and you just can’t figure out why.
Sometimes you look at your partner and wonder, “Who are you?” With their insistence about everything you do, we’re sure you feel the same way.
8. They Get Defensive
In normal relationships, it’s common courtesy to ask about friends and other people they’re seeing outside the relationship.
When they start sounding annoyed or impatient with your questions, it’s often a sign that they’re feeling uncomfortable about the conversation.
Lengthy, rehearsed responses and incredibly vague answers are equally doubtful as signs.
Psychologist Paul Coleman explains:
“If there is an innocent explanation for why some things have changed there is no need for defensiveness.”
But once you see a flicker of panic and annoyance in your partner’s eyes, you can be sure he or she is trying to hide something.
Sometimes, they may even point fingers at you and accuse you of cheating.
According to licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Caroline Madden:
“This is a favorite tactic of cheaters. This is usually met with additional statements of how important fidelity is so that they look like someone beyond reproach.”
9. You’re Suddenly More Attracted To Them
Seeing your girlfriend in a dress for the first time or smelling expensive cologne on your husband might be signs of a good relationship, but relationship experts say not to be completely content, especially when you think they’re doing it for someone else.
Finding new romance is often an exciting journey that may inspire your significant other to make the best impression. The only problem is, it’s no longer for you.
“If your significant other suddenly starts exercising and eating healthier, that could be a sign that they are trying to appear more attractive to someone (possibly you, but possibly an affair partner).”
Before you confront your partner about these signs, it’s always best to gather enough evidence before you accuse someone.
Cheating, whether physical or emotional, is still an incredibly heavy accusation and could prove detrimental to your relationship. As always, proceed with care and extreme caution.
10. They’re Paying More Attention to You Than Usual
If your partner has been less than attentive toward you as of late but has suddenly shifted their focus back toward you, it might be out of guilt.
Guilt can be very powerful and it can make people do strange things, so if your partner is acting out of order, even if the order is not what you’d hoped it would be, it might be a sign that things are wrong.
According to Wallace, this is also a strong indicator of infidelity:
“This is due to guilt and regret even if they don’t choose to stop the behavior.”
They might be more attentive in the bedroom after being cold for some time; they might be trying to make up for sins committed in other rooms.
11. They Have Mood Swings That Are Unwarranted
If your partner has been nothing but a dream and suddenly you feel like they’re a nightmare, you might not be wrong to worry.
The hardest part about wondering if your partner is cheating on you or not is trying to decipher all of the messages that they’re sending you.
If you confront them about these things, they may even attribute it to stress.
“If you notice constant stress and there is not other outlying factors, that could be a big indicator,”
If they’re sending you mixed messages or if they are going up one side of you and down the other every time you ask questions or make a suggestion, it’s because they are trying to maintain their charade and that’s upsetting them.
They’ll take that out on you instead of being honest about what’s going on.
(Not only does Buddhism provide a spiritual outlet for many people, it can also improve the quality of our relationships. Check out our new no-nonsense guide to using Buddhism for a better life here).
12. They Want Different Things
You might be right to suspect your partner is cheating on you if they decide they are into other things.
If they have always liked a certain kind of food but now they say they don’t like it, or vice versa, it might be because more than their food interests have changed.
If they’re saying no more often or arguing about things that used to be true, they might be on the defense about their own decisions.
It could also be because they’re now interested in the things the “other person” likes.
Dr. Madden says:
“Part of falling in love with someone is learning what they like. A new romantic partner also opens up different parts of someone’s personality.”
It’s not easy to even think that your partner is trying to pull one over on you, but if you are having any doubts, paying attention to the things they want can be a sign that something’s not right.
13. They’re Hiding Their Phone From You
A dead ringer giveaway that your partner is sleeping around is if they are hiding their phone from you.
Weiss explains the possible scenarios:
“Cheaters tend to use their phones and computers more frequently than before and to guard them as if their lives depend on it.
If your partner’s phone and laptop never required a password before, and now they do, that’s not a good sign. Your partner suddenly starts deleting texts and clearing their browser history on a daily basis, that’s not a good sign.
If your partner never relinquishes possession of their phone, even taking it into the bathroom when they shower, that’s not a good sign. “
14. They Want to Avoid Certain Places
If your favorite restaurant is suddenly off limits, you might be right to think something is amiss.
It might seem unlikely that they would take their new lover to your favorite place, but since you only go there together, the likelihood of you showing up without them is slim to none.
It’s the perfect way to duck under the radar.
There may even be some rooms or spaces in his apartment or personal space that he deliberately makes you avoid.
According to certified coach Shirley Arteaga:
“When you walk into an area of the room, do they consistently bring on the charm only to lead you out of the room, away from access to certain information or clues to their activities? Is there a pile of paperwork they absolutely don’t want you to get close to?”
One or two of these signs might not mean they are having their head turned by someone else, but if all of them are in place, it’s a safe bet to assume that you two need to at least have a conversation about what is going on and why you feel that way.
Relationships are a wonderful part of life, but they can also take their toll on a person when doubt is looming about the status and stability of the relationship.
Wondering if someone you love is cheating on you can also take its toll on you, so it’s better to find out now than let the doubt go on even longer.
If you find yourself filled with fear and doubt that your partner might be cheating on you, you can find out once and for all by simply asking them.
But if you’re not ready for that just yet, have a look out for the above 14 signs before approaching them about it.