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3 Ways Infidelity Changes a Relationship

1. Altered states of attention.

Key points

  • Behavioral changes might simply reflect situational changes as relationships develop.
  • Extra-relational affairs produce changes in attitude and attention.
  • Infidelity adversely impacts relational interest and investment.
Serhii Chernetskyi/Pixabay
Source: Serhii Chernetskyi/Pixabay

As I shared in a previous post regarding how to spot signs your partner is straying,1 within any relationship, regardless of length, there are clues. True, changes in behavior might not indicate infidelity; they may simply reflect situational changes as relationships develop. But, to explore the issue, three ways to analyze changes within your relational dynamic are gauging a partner’s level of interest, attention, and investment of time.

Altered States of Attention

Carrying on with an extra-relational paramour is difficult and disruptive to an existing relationship. Consequently, you may notice that your partner is exhibiting signs of distraction and absentmindedness. Whether the newly developed inattention is positive or negative, you notice the change.

Explaining this phenomenon, Menelaos Apostolou and Maria Ioannidou (2021)2 note that some cheating partners fall in love with “extra-pair” partners, resulting in emotional distance from legitimate partners. And they recognize what many couples have experienced as a practical matter, intimacy with extra-pair partners can reduce the frequency of intimacy with legitimate partners.

Altered Timetable

To some extent, everyone has a schedule. Creatures of habit, most people do things methodically, in terms of time, place, and manner. Some people tackle the day in an orderly fashion, operating like clockwork. Others are more laid back and avoid making commitments, preferring to go with the flow. Whichever category more accurately describes your partner, if you notice a change, it means something. Whether he or she begins leaving for work early or staying out late, there is a reason.

When this topic comes up in conversation, notice whether your partner is able to articulate a logical rationale for the schedule switch-up. This is no doubt why the subjects in the research by Apostolou and Ioannidou indicated the second-most widely used strategy to detect infidelity was “Ask and observe her/his reactions.” Questioners might glean information through both information and intonation, as other research has found that voice pitch can predict infidelity intention and relationship commitment in men, but not women.3

Also on the topic of timetables, a partner who is having an affair might begin to keep a closer eye on your schedule. This is not to make sure you have dinner ready when they get home but to make sure you are home when they are elsewhere.

Relational Investment

When it comes to relational maintenance, time is priceless. When your partner spends less time with you, consider other factors which might be in play. If you suddenly feel you have transitioned from walking on Cloud 9 to walking on eggshells, consider how your partner’s behavior has created this perception. One indication of infidelity is irritability. Cheating is stressful. If you feel like you are getting on your partner's nerves more frequently, or have to tiptoe around issues to avoid an argument, the reason might have nothing to do with you. It may be due to your partner’s guilty conscience.

Cheating partners also exhibit less relational investment because they are no longer relying exclusively on current partners to meet their needs, at least some of which are being met elsewhere.

Spotting the Signs Sooner Rather Than Later

Even when you spot all three of these signs, grant your partner the space to discuss the issues. But if you still suspect infidelity, it may be best to move on. Rather than continue to navigate a relationship of disappointment and discontent, you can invest that time into finding a loyal, loving, trustworthy partner that brings satisfaction and contentment.

Facebook image: KOTOIMAGES/Shutterstock



2. Apostolou, Menelaos, and Maria Ioannidou. 2021. “Strategies for Detecting Infidelity: An Explorative Analysis.” Evolutionary Psychological Science 7 (4): 380–389. doi:10.1007/s40806-021-00287-9.

3. Zhang, Jing, Lijun Zheng, Shuhao Zhang, Wenjian Xu, and Yong Zheng. 2021. “Vocal Characteristics Predict Infidelity Intention and Relationship Commitment in Men but Not in Women.” Personality and Individual Differences 168 (January). doi:10.1016/j.paid.2020.110389.

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