How do you actually know if your partner is cheating, assuming he or she—or anyone else for that matter—hasn’t yet disclosed this to you?
I still remember one of my first experiences with a client who didn’t yet know. This older woman’s presenting complaints involved her long-term spouse’s new-ish behaviors of continually belittling her in various ways, getting unfairly angry with her, and accusing her of doing all kinds of things she wasn’t actually doing.
Little did she know before coming to therapy that his behavior could be a sign—a cheating red flag.
Therapist Sheri Meyers, author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love and Affair-Proof Your Relationship (2012), presents a list of cheating red flags for partners (HuffPost). The one relevant to the above situation is the following:
Red Flag #3 They get easily annoyed, defensive or argumentative. When an affair (be it cyber, emotional or physical) has begun, the cheater may want to sugar-coat their guilt and justify the affair. Making you the bad guy helps them feel better. That’s why a cheating partner may try to find ways to blame you for their indiscretions. They start fights, pick on you, push every button you’ve got and may even accuse you of cheating. Cheaters are good at transferring the guilt onto you — don’t buy into it.
There are six others, offered below in shortened versions. Click on the article link above for more details.
Red Flag #1 They’re suddenly more aloof, withdrawn or want more “space…”
Red Flag #2 They’ve lost interest in you, your problems and sex…
Red Flag #4 They’re not immediately available when you call, text or email them…
Red Flag #5 They’re spending more time online or on their cell phone than with you…
Red Flag #6 They’re acting secretive all of a sudden, especially around the computer or cell phone…
Red Flag #7 They look, smell, and dress better, but not necessarily around you. They’ve suddenly started working out…
How do you consider confronting a partner about suspected cheating? Meyers’s formula involves a strategy using the 4 P’s:
- Proof. Without proof, says Meyers, confrontation is much less likely to work well for you.
- Preparation. This involves being ready for defensive reactions and accusations.
- Purpose. What would you like to achieve from confrontation?
- Plan. Figure out the details of when, where, and how to present your info and how to have a conversation as calmly as possible.
Another resource for partners who either suspect or know betrayal has occurred is Janis A. Spring‘s After the Affair (see previous post).
New research seems to confirm popular wisdom, by the way, that cheaters are more likely to cheat again than non-cheaters are likely to do it ever. Not only that, the already-betrayed are more likely to re-experience being cheated on than the never-have-been-betrayed.
Thus, if cheating has happened to you at least once, all the more reason to study up now on what it’s all about and how to deal with it.
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