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6 Subtle Clues That a Partner Could Be Cheating

6. They express understanding about others' infidelity.

Key points

  • Researchers identified 47 acts of detecting infidelity, classified into six broad strategies.
  • Many people are unwilling to invade a partner's privacy when searching for clues.
  • A sudden change in demeanor or habits may deserve discussion.
Image by Ralf Seemann from Pixabay
Image by Ralf Seemann from Pixabay

Trust is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of any romantic relationship. If that gets called into question, your time might be better spent investing in someone else. Yet, how do you validate your suspicions if a relationship is immensely rewarding in other areas? Research provides some answers.

Detecting Infidelity

Menelaos Apostolou and Maria Ioannidou (2021) examined people's strategies to detect infidelity.i They identified 47 acts, which they classified into six broader strategies. Study participants indicated the strategy they were more likely to employ was “Observe changes in her/his behavior,” followed by “Ask and observe her/his reactions,” and “Check where she/he is.” Apostolou and Ioannidou reported that nearly 58 percent of participants indicated using three or more strategies to detect straying partners.

Interestingly, Apostolou and Ioannidou noted that although more clues would be uncovered through a more invasive strategy, such as searching through a partner’s belongings, phone, or social media accounts, fewer participants indicated a willingness to employ that type of boundary violation. As a practical matter, there are a variety of clues one can detect without resorting to an invasion of privacy. Here are a few.

  1. Desiring disengagement. A partner suddenly requesting more “personal time” may not be spending it solo. This might particularly be true if a desire for space coincides with an inability to be reached or an unwillingness to account for time off the relational grid.
  2. Seeking to socialize without you. Some partners, either gradually or suddenly, desire to broaden their social circle. Whether you are included in this newfound extraversion excursion might reveal whether the socialization quest is focused on professional development or personal desire.
  3. From credit to cash. You may notice (without going through their wallet) that your partner suddenly seems to have wads of cash. Unless they just had a great week of winning in their Fantasy Football league, consider that some cheaters pay in cash to avoid a paper trail.
  4. New hobbies. Newfound interests spark curiosity and suspicion. A partner who comes home with a bag full of mountain climbing gear might have suddenly become interested in the sport because they saw an advertisement or heard about it from a co-worker. Or perhaps they met someone they find attractive who climbs mountains.
  5. Distracted and disorganized. When your partner misplaces keys or glasses more often than usual, the absentmindedness could be due to emotional or physical fatigue. Distraction is different. Infidelity requires strategy, and cheating is hard to juggle, along with legitimate responsibilities, especially for someone with a family.
  6. Defending infidelity. Some partners express understanding or tolerance regarding the infidelity of others. Whether discussing stories they saw on the news or gossiping around the water cooler, they express understanding, sympathy, and sometimes even approval of extra-relational affairs.

Trust, Then Verify

Even when a partner exhibits one or more of these behaviors, it doesn’t mean they are straying. There are various reasons someone might be distracted or seeking personal time that has nothing to do with infidelity. So too, with a sudden desire for socialization or sporting activities. Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. But if several behaviors are present in combination with behavioral changes and an inability to account for their whereabouts, you may want to reconsider your relationship.

Trust is precious. Spend your time wisely when deciding who to spend it with.

Facebook image: chainarong06/Shutterstock


[i] Apostolou, Menelaos, and Maria Ioannidou,. 2021. “Strategies for Detecting Infidelity: An Explorative Analysis.” Evolutionary Psychological Science 7 (4): 380–89. doi:10.1007/s40806-021-00287-9.

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