Cheating can take many forms—from inappropriate messaging to years-long physical affairs—but it’s not uncommon. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy says that 15 percent of married women and 25 percent of married men have had extramarital affairs, with the figure climbing another 20 percent for both genders if the scope is widened to include emotional cheating. Many of us will suspect infidelity at one time or another, often alerted by subtle red flags. But what’s the biggest tell-tale sign that your partner is cheating? When you notice a change in several of their habits.
Private investigator and former federal agent Tom Martin told The Independent that the most common cheating giveaways that he observed over 40 years of investigative work all related to a disruption of usual patterns: longer hours at work, unusual business trips, a new commitment to the gym, radically altered personal style, etc. While Martin stressed that just one or two changes weren’t cause for suspicion in their own right, a handful of shifts are reason enough to be concerned.
Along with the cheating red flags Martin notes, Robert Weiss, PhD, LCSW, an expert in intimacy and relationships in the digital age, says to look for sudden periods when your significant other is unreachable or less reliable at staying in contact. “You may hear legitimate-sounding excuses like they were in a meeting, they were driving, they were in a ‘dead zone’ and didn’t know you were trying to get in touch,” he writes for Psychology Today. “If your partner is unreachable while working late or on a business trip, that’s a bad sign.”
In fact, technology is often a key factor when it comes to sniffing out a partner’s potential infidelity. Not only have technological advances given people more opportunity to cheat, they’ve also raised the likelihood of cheaters giving themselves away. “The game has changed drastically,” Martin says. “And technology is 100 percent the reason why.”
Similarly, Cosmopolitan’s list of cheating warning signs includes shifts in your partner’s digital habits. “For all of you living with your partner … it’s likely you use the same internet router—which would also mean you share the same IP address across multiple devices in the household. What this means: Brands may retarget your phone based on prior Google searches or site visits,” the experts at Cosmo explain. “So if an ad for Ashley Madison pops up, or a product that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary for both of you is suddenly a targeted ad on Instagam,” it’s likely that your partner’s been searching on their device for related objects.
Even if your worst suspicions are eventually confirmed, it’s important to remember that a split is not set in stone. Michele Weiner-Davis, LCSW, a psychotherapist in Boulder, Colorado, says an affair can sometimes be the catalyst to repair a relationship that’s broken. “Many clients have shared that had it not been for their partner’s affair, they’d never have looked at, discussed, and healed some of the underlying issues that were broken at the foundation of their relationship,” she writes in her book Healing From Infidelity. While acknowledging that it takes time and hard work, she sees a way forward for both parties. “If they expect setbacks and are willing to work through them, the odds are good that they’ll end up with a healed marriage.” And for more on this, hear from Real Women Who Forgave Their Partners for Cheating.