6 warning signs a man is thinking about cheating, according to psychology

Earlier this month, all six glorious seasons of Sex and the City launched on Netflix. For long-time fans, this had been a long-time coming!

But it also made us revisit some major parts of the series.

There’s this particular episode I love called The Cheating Curve.

Carrie says: “I just don’t think that you can define cheating in absolute terms”. Miranda replies: “You think it’s okay to cheat?”

To this, Carrie surmises: “Well, I think maybe there’s a cheating curve. Someone’s definition of what constitutes cheating is in direct proportion to how much they themselves want to cheat.”

But what does this mean? Well, she’s basically saying that people tend to define cheating in a way that suits them.

If someone has a burning desire to cheat, they might stretch the definition to make their actions seem a little less like cheating. 

But if they’re not into cheating, they’ll probably have a much stricter view of what counts as cheating. 

That’s the curve: where your position on cheating depends on your own willingness to do it.

While I don’t totally agree with Carrie on this—or on most things, to be perfectly on it—she raises an interesting point. I’ve got to hand it to her!

So, let’s go a little deeper. Here are six psychology-backed warning signs a man is thinking about cheating.

1) They have conflicting, differing views on what cheating actually is

So, you and your SO are discussing cheating. I commend your bravery.

You tell him that any emotional connection outside the relationship is a no-go, while they believe cheating only involves physical intimacy. 

I don’t mean to freak you out, but that’s a bit of a red flag. Here’s why.

A 2023 study into the definitions of cheating found that men had many differing understandings of what cheating was.

These varied from not counting “Having an intimate emotional phone conversation with someone other than your partner” to “Masturbating while in computer contact with someone other than your partner” as not technically cheating. Sorry to be graphic with you, but it’s the facts!

Remember, trust and boundaries are key in a relationship. When you can’t agree on what cheating is, and how it’s defined, it’s a shaky foundation to the romance.

You might not trust your partner to respect your limits, and communication becomes tough. If you’re in this situation, it’s time for a serious chat.

Because all in all, a strong relationship needs trust, respect, and a shared understanding of keeping loyal.

2) They are excessively greedy

When someone is overly greedy, cheating starts to look like a pretty attractive option to them.

A 2020 study found that “the higher the reward, the more attractive the decision to cheat.” Let’s break this down.

For some people, the temptation of a bigger reward is just too much to resist, even if it means being unfaithful.

Researchers expanded on this, saying: “Behavioral research has demonstrated that greedy people find a variety of moral transgressions more acceptable and engage in such transgressions more often as compared to less greedy people.”

So, when you see your partner constantly chasing after glory, and getting it through shortcuts, pay close attention.

If they’re willing to cheat for money, who’s to say they won’t cheat in other parts of their life, like relationships?

3) They first accuse you of cheating

Has your partner ever accused you of cheating? If so, I’ve got some advice for ya: it might not be about you. Nope, not at all.

If your partner starts accusing you for no reason, it might be because they’re actually the ones up to no good.

In her piece about cheaters, Kaytee Gillis, psychotherapist and author, lists this accusatory behavior as a major warning sign.

Gillis said: “One of the traits of narcissists is that they often project their negative traits onto their partner: If they are unfaithful, they will claim that you are cheating on them.”

Think about it: he might just be suspicious because he’s feeling guilty himself

He’s been the one sneaking around, and now he’s projecting his guilt onto you instead of facing up to it.

Plus accusing without proof ruins trust. So, when your partner starts playing the blame game, ask yourself: exactly what are they hiding?

4) They resort to gaslighting

You’re talking to your SO about something bothering you, like how much they’ve been texting someone you don’t even know.

Rather than listening, they make you feel like you’re imagining things or overreacting. 

Has that ever happened to you?

Well, Gillis listed gaslighting as another major sign of a cheater in her article. Gaslighting puts one person in control, leaving the other feeling powerless and unsure. 

She said: “They will tell you you’re crazy, making things up, or must be mistaken. This will often leave victims second-guessing themselves and wondering if they really are crazy.”

Often, this will be a pattern—long before any cheating surfaces.

If this person can easily make you doubt yourself over small stuff, what’s to stop them from doing it when they’re doing something wrong, such as cheating? 

And when it comes to cheating, it makes it easier for the cheater to keep lying without getting caught.

5) They’ve done it in the past

Of course this isnt always the case, but more often than not, knowing someone’s past behavior helps you predict their future actions.

Research backs it up—suggesting that if someone has cheated before, they’re more likely to do it again.

Specifically, a recent study in the Evolutionary Psychology journal found that “those who had a history of cheating as more likely to cheat.”

Cheating can become a habit for some people, like biting your nails or carb-loading.

I know people can change and all that, but it usually takes more than just saying sorry to erase past actions.

Remember, it’s not about judging someone for what they’ve done before, but understanding how it might affect your relationship in the future.

6) They are wealthy or educated

I’m gonna put this one forward with a pinch of salt—as they say, correlation does not imply causation.

A 2023 study on the causes of romantic infidelity looked into this phenomenon, stating that “individuals who are most likely to commit infidelity are more educated, wealthier and less tied to a religious faith.”

Of course, success often brings power and opportunity. And if someone isn’t tied to religious beliefs, they might not feel as guilty about straying.

But like I said, a pinch of salt.

Final thoughts

In relationships, trust and honesty are always the cornerstones of a strong romantic foundation. 

When faced with signs of potential infidelity such as accusatory behavior, gaslighting, a history of cheating, and greed, it’s crucial to address these red flags head-on. 

Remember, your intuition often knows more than you realize—listen to it, and don’t hesitate to seek clarity and resolution in your relationship.

Picture of Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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