7 Ways to Know If He’s Cheating and What You Can Do About It

Unfortunately, women often come to me after they have found out their boyfriend or husband is cheating on them.  By the time they come to me, they feel fragile, lost, broken, confused, self-critical, and unsure of whether they will ever be able to trust again. They beat themselves up that they didn’t see this coming, and wonder how they could have missed this.  As we work together, we find that there is usually a pattern of them overlooking issues in the relationship. 

So, I will answer some of the common questions clients have, including some warning signs to look out for and the reasons behind why people cheat. 

How to tell if your boyfriend (or husband) is cheating: 

This one is tricky because the signs look different for different people. However, most of my clients who have been cheated on report that they “let a lot of things go”  in the relationship that didn’t “feel right.” These “things” were actually red flags or warning signs that didn’t seem like warning signs at the time. For example, they attribute their partner being forgetful about things that are important to them to their partner just having an “off day” or they rationalize that their partner has other strengths so it’s not important to address this with him. The person being cheated on may generally be distracted in the relationship by their own concerns, look the other way, or be very tolerant even when things feel “off” with their (potentially cheating) partner. 

However, here are some signs you can pay attention to that may indicate your partner is cheating:

1. Generally feeling anxious

Often, women discount anxiety and assume that having anxiety is a problem they have to “work on.” Anxiety is actually a messenger from your body telling you that one of your needs isn’t getting met or that something is “up.” Trust your anxiety as a sign that something is amiss. Explore with a friend or a therapist what that could be. It is likely telling you something important. 

2. New or secretive behavior from your partner

Observe any changes in your partner’s behavior with genuine curiosity and interest in them. This will feel good to him if he is not doing anything wrong. Perhaps he is on his phone more often, texting or using social media. Perhaps he is taking calls in another room because of some new project at work. Perhaps he close his tabs, laptop, etc, and seems a little more anxious about you asking questions. Perhaps he gets irritated more quickly or acts overly nice. These can be reactions to internal guilt. If they are new behaviors, they are worth approaching with keen observation and curiosity. Maybe he starts dressing up and doing his hair or shaving and showering more frequently. There are generally reasons for these kinds of behavioral changes, so be curious. 

3. Strange Behavior/ Feeling that things he does don’t “make sense”

In addition to secretive behaviors or behavioral changes, take note of behaviors that seem strange or illogical. i.e. your partner may be adamant about not going to a particular place for no good reason. He may change plans unpredictably and say he doesn’t want to go somewhere or that you shouldn’t go there. This may be because he received new information or go there with someone else. Another instance of strange behavior is disappearing and being unreachable for several hours and you feel strangely anxious. When he returns, your anxiety may be alleviated but somehow the story doesn’t totally make sense. Pay attention to these kinds of instances.  

4. Gaslighting

He paints you in a negative light or discounts any concerns you express. This is a way that he may rationalize his behavior to himself and give himself permission to keep doing it, while making you feel crazy and like the “bad guy” for bringing up reasonable concerns. 

5. You don’t talk or communicate as much or aren’t as intimate

A decrease in communication about feelings and a lack of intimacy, when combined with some of the other signs above, can be telling. Often cheating happens because needs are unmet within the relationship. Communication and physical intimacy are two important needs, and if they aren’t getting met or talked about in the relationship, they may be getting met elsewhere. 

So, why do guys cheat even if they love you? 

As I mentioned, generally people cheat because needs aren’t being met in the relationship. Perhaps the man doesn’t have the tools to communicate and ask for what he wants. Or, he has tried and you have not been able to meet those needs. You can think of it oftentimes as a cry for help and attention.  For example, someone may need sex or physical touch or affection and feel these things have become too hard or absent in the relationship. Rather than addressing this through discussion, they simply act out and get the need met elsewhere. These men don’t have the tools to identify what they are feeling or needing and ask for it. 

Other times, there may be a mental health issue at play - sex addiction, mania as part of a condition like bipolar disorder, or general compulsive or addictive behavior. In the case of a mental health issue, the man may feel out of control and there may be a compulsive nature to the cheating. This does not mean that you need to adjust your boundaries to tolerate this. You must examine what feels supportive to you in a relationship, what is tolerable, and what is a dealbreaker, and act accordingly. 

Other times, cheating may be a sign of extremely low or unusually high self-esteem. Men with low selfesteem may be trying to make themselves feel better, while those with a sense of grandiose self-esteem, arrogance, and entitlement may feel they are “above” the agreements you two have made with each other and they “deserve” to do what they want. 

How to confront a cheating boyfriend

  1. Be direct and state your boundaries. Let them know what you have noticed, and state what you need. Remember, you cannot control their behavior, only how you respond to it, so your boundary should not be about what they can and cannot do, but rather about what you need. For example, I noticed inappropriate texts between you and a woman named Lisa. I need clarity and honesty in this relationship so I can make a decision about how to move forward. Can you honestly tell me what is going on? 
  2. Try to be as non-blaming as possible in order to find out the source of the issue for your own clarity and peace of mind. The reason they are cheating may not be personal and this is the way to find out. Seek support from friends and familly. 

What to do when boyfriend cheats on you. 

Generally, I recommend being direct and confronting the situation, and setting healthy boundaries for yourself. These may be leaving the relationship or going to couples therapy, depending on the situation. 

Don’t linger or delay too long as the problems will continue to snowball on the relationship the longer they are left unaddressed and impact both partners and the relationship. 

Hopefully, this post helped to clarify a little bit about the psychology of cheating and the reasons why it is less personal than it feels, and gives you some idea of how to identify your boundaries and respond. Our coaches and therapists are great guides that can offer personalized therapy and coaching if you need further support implementing these tools. 

Lovewell is a relationship wellness center offering wellness workshops, personalized therapy, dating coaching, and health and wellness coaching.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How do cheaters act?
A. Cheaters are impulsive and unable to stop themselves from taking risks, no matter what it may cost them. Bullies and cheaters both thrive on power and are driven to danger. However, their actions reflect something ingrained in them that is quite strong.

Q2. How do cheaters react when accused?
A. When you encounter a cheater, one of their most frequent responses is to appear guilty and ask for forgiveness. This response may occur if you have concrete evidence of your partner's infidelity that they are powerless to refute and believe their only course of action is to come clean.

Q3. Should you stay with a man who cheats?
A. While every relationship is different, in general, you shouldn't stay with a cheating man. Tolerating adultery might encourage other poor behavior in addition to being a breach of trust in the relationship.

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