- Detecting infidelity is not about paranoia, but perceptiveness.
- Straying partners may employ counter-strategies designed to deflect suspicion.
- Behavioral change is worth noting, especially without obvious explanation.
Detecting infidelity is not about paranoia, but perceptiveness. Because whether actual or suspected, unfaithfulness remains one of the most insidious relational challenges a couple can face. Unfounded paranoia can be counterproductive, as many partners are as loyal and trustworthy as they appeared to be when you met them, and baseless suspicion fuels strife. You may worry, for example, due to an experience from your own past, about your partner spending time with attractive friends.[i]
But if the issue is warranted, as I have written about previously, there are plenty of ways to detect unfaithfulness.[ii] These include detecting behaviors your partner may display in an attempt to conceal their extra-relational behavior, including counter-strategies designed to deflect suspicion.
Detecting Cheater Counter-Strategies
Menelaos Apostolou and Maria Ioannidou (2021) explored strategies for detecting infidelity, focusing on acts suspicious partners perform to detect signs of straying, as well as counter-strategies performed by straying partners, suspicious of their innocent counterparts were on to them.[iii]
Guilty partners who worried their partners were attuned to detect changes in behavior intentionally maintained behavioral patterns that were similar to patterns that preceded the beginning of their extra-pair relationship. When asked about infidelity, presumably to gauge their reaction, they intentionally remained calm, some even feigning anger at being falsely accused. To counter the strategy of checking their location, guilty partners would avoid mentioning the names of places they were going (such as a café) to make it difficult to check up on them. Anticipating a snooping significant other, they would meticulously avoid leaving evidence of the affair, including electronic evidence such as emails or text messages. Many hide clandestine activities from friends and acquaintances, especially people who are also acquainted with their partner. And straying partners were careful when they traveled to meet their extra-pair partner, to make sure they were not followed.
Fortunately for innocent partners seeking the truth, cheater counter-strategies are not foolproof. There are ways to detect infidelity through emotion and behavior. Here are a few.
1. From walking on Cloud 9 to walking on eggshells. 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 or circumstances to avoid an argument, there might be a reason that has nothing to do with you. It might have to do with your partner’s guilty conscience.
2. Surprisingly content. When a previously needy partner suddenly seems content and undemanding, it might be because (some of) their needs are being met elsewhere.
3. Sudden interest in your schedule. Cheating partners may suddenly express interest in where you are going and when. Lest you wonder if they suspect your infidelity, they often do not ask who you are with. Keeping an eye on your schedule is not to make sure the two of you can have dinner together at home, but to make sure you are home when they are elsewhere.
4. Altered states. Your partner begins to exhibit a different demeanor or countenance, often appearing to have something on his or her mind. Either positive or negative, you notice the change—and it is not in response to your questioning.
5. Altered schedules. Suddenly your partner is leaving for work early or staying late. Notice whether he or she volunteers an explanation, or if you ask, is unable to articulate a logical rationale for the schedule switch-up.
Obviously, none of these behaviors in isolation, or even in combination, is solid evidence of an affair. However, because healthy relationships require trust and commitment, awareness of potential red flags can ensure innocent parties do not waste time with unfaithful partners. Time is precious, make sure to maximize the opportunity to spend it with the right person.
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[iii] 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.