Most affairs happen privately, and an unfaithful partner usually tries to cover up their tracks. But the truth is, even the most careful cheater will leave a trail. There are always signs—and not just obvious ones, like spending tons of time on Facebook messenger or coming home late from the office night after night.
So when your gut tells you something is going on, don’t brush off your concerns. The signals your partner is sending that your intuition is picking up on are more subtle than you’d think. What should you watch out for? We asked relationship experts to share.
Your partner’s sex drive changes drastically
If your spouse has a new sexual interest, libido may plummet—but that’s not always the case, Chamin Ajjan, a psychotherapist and couples counselor in Brooklyn, New York, tells Health. Their sex drive may spike, actually, because it’s been reinvigorated by a new love. “If there is a dramatic change in the sexual activity between you and your partner, for better or worse, you may want to explore the cause,” Ajjan suggests.
Her phone is a little less accessible
So you innocently saw a Facebook message from your mutual friend pop up on his phone about your ETA to an event, were going to answer it, and she jumped to stop you. “This may be a sign she is trying to cover up a side piece,” warns Aijan.
Look for other subtle changes in phone behavior, too. “Perhaps they’re phone is no longer as accessible as it used to be, or perhaps they’ve suddenly changed the settings so you cannot see text previews,” Ajjan says. “Or maybe there’s now a passcode that wasn’t there before.” Anything small that strikes you as odd could be a warning sign.
He’s picked up a time-consuming new hobby
Maybe it’s playing the guitar, maybe it’s CrossFit. But pay attention if your significant other suddenly spends all of his time pursuing a new interest—assuming you’re already sensing distance or conflict in the relationship, says Marisa T. Cohen, a psychologist at St. Francis College in New York and co-founder of the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab.
The hobby is not the problem—it’s that he has created “a separate life that you are not a part of,” and it can be a slippery slope, says Cohen. “This is putting your partner in closer proximity with others who now share that interest,” she says. “Basically, if there is a breakdown of communication, increase in conflict, and less intimacy, coupled with solo exploration of new activities, hobbies, groups, this may be a warning sign” that your partner is looking for—or has found—someone new.
Your partner accuses you of cheating
It may seem counterintuitive that someone who is worried about your two-timing would be two-timing themselves. But if your partner is hung up on who you’re texting, who you chatted with at a bar, or whether or not you’re still in touch with an ex, he could be straying.
“If your partner regularly accuses you of cheating, and you are not, that’s a sign,” says Ajjan. “Sometimes, the guilty party projects their offenses onto others, as well. But in doing so, they can also implicate themselves.”
He’s become careless
After the cheating has gone on a while, the threads a philanderer needs to cover up may become too many to remember. “Your partner may even leave a clear sign, like receipts from gifts or flowers, where you will find it,” Cohen says. “Essentially the partner becomes careless.”
That’s because constantly lying is subconsciously stressful. “The ‘misplaced item’ may be for you to discover the infidelity, and ultimately provoke you to end things,” says Cohen. “The cheating partner is essentially taking the responsibility of ending things off of themselves,” because they don’t know how to tell you. So they force you to learn about the affair and then hope you’ll pull the plug.
Your partner is less of a nag
Maybe your SO typically can’t stand the way you squeeze the toothpaste from the top of the roll, or that you never take out the trash when it’s full. “If they’re having an affair, they may care less about the things that used bother them, or they’re on extra good behavior,” says Ajjan. “You may think, Hallelujah and rejoice—but if there has not be an actual resolution to these problems, then he or she could be covering up a secret lover.” They also see no reason to argue or resolve the issue, since they’ve checked out of the relationship.
What to do if you suspect cheating
As daunting as it may seem, you have to communicate your concerns clearly and call out what you see, says Ajjan. “This may be difficult to do in the short-term, but it is best to be up front for your overall, longer-term well-being,” she says. “Keeping these worries to yourself can lead to bigger problems like resentment, unwarranted distrust in others, and remaining in a relationship that is unhealthy for you.