Some betrayed spouses never suspect that their partner is cheating and get completely blindsided when the truth comes out. Oftentimes they are the proverbial “last to know.” But for a great many us, the knowledge that something is terribly wrong seeps in like an insidious odor that fouls the air.
You have a horrible sinking feeling in your stomach, and you can feel your anxiety rising. You’ve noticed changes in your spouse, but when you try to talk about it, they deny anything is wrong. In fact, they often accuse you of being jealous, crazy, or controlling if you suggest there is another person involved. Still, the belief that something is wrong persists – but you have no proof.
First, learn to trust your instincts. Intuition is a feeling that something is right or wrong, and it’s the brain’s way of drawing on past experiences and current external cues to make sense of information. If the relationship between your spouse and a co-worker doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. If your spouse seems more secretive than normal, they’re probably hiding something. There are many red flags signaling infidelity in a marriage. Some of them are obvious; others are small subtle changes that when added together can signal trouble.
Common Signs That Your Spouse Is Cheating
- Your own fears and suspicions should be your first clue. When we don’t want to believe something so devastating, it can be easy to dismiss the feeling that something is wrong – don’t. A cheating spouse will encourage you to question your own instincts and even damage your self esteem, keeping you confused, and creating as much self doubt as possible so you don’t investigate your feelings. Instinctual suspicions can be very subtle. For instance, your spouse doesn’t get angry with you about something that has always triggered anger. They let you “off the hook” because they want as little confrontation as possible. They will frequently hyper focus on you-asking more questions about how your day went, or how you’re feeling, etc, to shift the attention away from them and their guilt. If they’re the ones asking questions, then you don’t get as much opportunity to ask about their secret life.
- Money is disappearing. Financial records too. Credit card bills that used to come to the house are now going to the office. Unusual charges are showing up on the credit card bill, or cell phone bill. Affairs take money and almost always impact the primary relationship and family. Big red flag.
- Defensiveness: When you ask your spouse what’s wrong, rather than reassuring you and giving plausible explanations, they get angry and defensive. They might create controversy and pick fights, using these arguments to justify spending more time away from home. They accuse you of not trusting them when in reality, they know they are untrustworthy.
- Affair Language: “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” This phrase is so common that it’s considered a huge red flag. They may even say that they “don’t think they were ever in love with you.” You know this isn’t true, but under the influence of affair chemicals, wayward spouses often rewrite history and exhibit a kind of “amnesia” about the marriage.
- Unreasonable outbursts of anger over mundane things related to “space,” “privacy” or “time alone.” This usually happens when you inadvertently turn up at an unexpected time or enter a room while the telephone is being used. The rage does not fit the event and is often a sign that something was being discussed that the spouse wants to keep hidden from you.
- Space: Your spouse spends more time away from home or moves out of the house because they need “space” or to “figure out how they feel.” It’s common for a wayward spouse to move out of the home because it makes it easier to conceal an affair. Affairs need privacy, so changes in the amount of privacy a spouse needs is another big red flag.
- Grooming and appearance changes: Better clothes, sexier clothes, better underwear, a weight loss, change in hair style, shaving more often, new cologne or perfume, dressing well at unusual times can all signal the wayward spouse is dressing for someone else.
- Sudden changes in any long standing habits. Hobbies get pushed aside, or a new one starts that takes hours away from home and the spouse. They might suddenly seem to enjoy new foods or new music that never interested them before. Sudden trips to the office, the store, the gas station or to drop something off to a friend at strange hours. This is especially recognizable as a pattern when it follows closely on the heels of a cell phone call, text message or the checking of email.
- Change in work habits. They might leave for work 30 minutes earlier or change to a later bus or train for the trip home. Their work load suddenly increases. They start working overtime or scheduling meetings before or after work. They become less available at work when you call, and don’t answer the phone during lunch hour. They seem unusually friendly with their coworkers. They know more and more personal details about the lives of their coworkers.
- “We’re just friends.” Your spouse has new friend(s) or coworkers they don’t seem to want you to meet. If you do meet them, it’s easy to tell they spend lots of time together. There might be private jokes or glances. There is often a certain excited tension between them. These friends often remain nameless – dinner with the girls, guys or girls nights out on multiple nights of the week, and phrases like “Hanging out with the guys” or “Stopping off with some people from work for a drink before catching the train home” can indicate a secret set of friends with a desire to prevent accountability or investigation as to true whereabouts. The work or recreational activities you’re not invited to grow. Your small children start mentioning the names of people you don’t know.
- Phones: The cell phone becomes less of a tool and more of an appendage. It never leaves the cheater’s side. Call logs and text messages are religiously erased. If you walk into the room, conversations stop. They claim they can’t get a good signal in the house and have to walk around outside to talk. When they call to tell you they’ll be late, they complain about a weak signal again, and get off of the phone quickly. When you try to call back later, their phone goes straight to voice mail. The cell phone bill disappears. There is a marked increase in texting. In general the wayward needs much more privacy for all phone calls. Phone calls that require being in a separate room to be taken. They will sit right beside you to talk to Mom, Dad, brother or sister, the guy from the softball team or their boss, but suddenly they don’t want to disturb your television program, which might have been their favorite show before now. Wrong numbers that call more than once over a space of several days or weeks. This is usually combined with the caller ID list being wiped out sometimes after remaining as it was for many months at a time.
- Computer Use: Email and computer use becomes a hidden activity often with windows being suddenly closed or minimized the instant you walk into the room. An escalation of computer use at odd times, or only at times when you are not home. Chat logs, browsing history and other computer tracking stuff are routinely erased. Email accounts that once had 150 messages in the inbox suddenly only contain a handful of daily SPAM and other drivel unrelated to personal life.
- Sex is different in some way. Frequency might decrease or increase. The cheater will often be open to trying new things, some they had no interest in before. But sex can also change more subtly as well, such as wanting to have “just a quickie” tonight instead of more intimate love making that would last longer. When an affair initially begins, out of guilt and in an effort to avoid the newly formed affair being discovered, they may actually increase the amount of attention they pay their real partners in bed. After the affair has been going on a little while, the cheater may appear to have a loss of sex drive. They avoid being intimate with you as much as they used to. The way they kiss is different.
- Distancing: You sense them pulling away, becoming more formal. No vestiges of verbal intimacy. They speak of nothing personal. The “in jokes” you used to share disappear. They relate to you more like an acquaintance than a life partner. You get the idea that they’re “just not that into you.”
- Resistance to everything, especially talks of the future. If you suggest dinner at their favorite restaurant, they would rather order a pizza. They find fault with almost every thing you say and anything you suggest. They seem bored and anxious when they’re home.
- Encouragement for you to do things that they would not have been enthusiastic about in the past. They give you encouragement to go visit your family with the kids, but they have to stay behind for work. They encourage you to develop interests that don’t include them. They encourage you to take a vacation with your friends or siblings.
- False transparency: A cheater will often go to great lengths to establish an alibi for meeting the affair partner. An out of town business trip scheduled for early December might first be mentioned in September, even though travel for work occurs every couple of weeks routinely. Or they might go out of the way to explain to you why they were ten minutes late, what they did or who they bumped into at lunch, or expressing some long-hidden dream or goal for the future that does not directly concern you.
None of these signs alone is a definite signal of cheating, but several of them together, or a strong sense of intuition is worth investigating. If you feel convinced your spouse is cheating, check “Spying 201″ to find out how you can get the evidence you need to confront your spouse.