Signs of Cheating (a Cheating Spouse/an Affair)

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on November 12, 2022
4 min read

Is your spouse being unfaithful? Cheating is generally seen as when someone in a committed relationship has a secret sexual or emotional relationship with someone else. But some people in relationships may define it differently. Some think watching porn or masturbating is cheating. Others believe that simply being alone with a member of the opposite sex may constitute cheating. 

Some people in relationships have agreements that allow them to sleep with or date others. Such situations are not cheating. However, even non-monogamous or polyamorous people can cheat, if they break a relationship agreement and keep it a secret.

People who cheat on their partners usually show one or more of these signs:

Sudden Changes in Availability

Some people’s demanding jobs don't allow them to text or call their partners very often. But if your partner used to be available throughout the day and now they’re not, they may be trying to hide something. 

A cheater needs time for an affair. When dating someone else, a cheater doesn’t want constant interruptions. Texting you would detract from the time together with a new partner. So, it’s common for cheaters to suddenly become unavailable. It isn’t always a sign of cheating, but if unavailability is a change in behavior it may be. 

Sudden Changes in Libido (Sex Drive)

A cheating partner may be less sexual toward you because they are satisfying their needs elsewhere. However, they may compensate for their lowered libido (sex drive), making it appear that they have an increased desire for you. Any significant change in sex drive can be a sign of cheating. 

Changing Phone and Computer Passwords and Being More Secretive About Electronics

Some partners share everything, including computer and phone passwords. Suddenly changing those codes and not notifying the other partner could indicate cheating. 

A change in behavior around electronics may also be a sign. For example, your partner used to be open about who they were texting, but now they always angle their screen away from you. Or, your partner used to leave their phone lying around but now brings it everywhere with them, even the bathroom. 

Another sign is more frequent phone and computer use. It may seem like your partner is always texting someone or sending emails in secret. 

Sudden Change of Appearance

Someone who takes a sudden interest in how they look may be cheating. This may go from wearing sweats all the time to buying a new wardrobe. They may start going to the gym. Get a new haircut. Use a new scent.

There are always other possible explanations for such behavior. But several of these signs around the same time may signal an affair.

Unexplained Charges on Shared Credit Cards or Bank Accounts

Dating is expensive. Date nights and gifts cost money. With cheating, there may also be the added expense of a hotel room or a vacation rental. This can result in unexplained charges on credit card or bank statements. Look out for mysterious cash withdrawals, or lower retirement and investment account balances. 

They Accuse You of Cheating

Some cheaters accuse their partners of cheating to deflect suspicion. This is called projecting — they project their situation onto you because they can’t deal with the stress of getting caught. Or they may simply be trying to distract you from reality. 

They Blame You When You Try to Confront Them

A cheating partner may become defensive when you confront them. They may even blame you for the problems in your relationship.

They may say things similar to the following when confronted about changes in behavior due to suspected cheating:

  • “Why is that information important or relevant?”
  • “If you trusted me more, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”
  • “You’re invading my privacy by asking me about this”
  • “You’re just jealous.”
  • “You’re not remembering that situation correctly.” 

You Started Dating While They Were in Another Relationship

Partners with a history of cheating may do it again. The behavior can be repetitive. If you got together via cheating, you may also be more prone to worry that your partner is cheating. Relationship troubles can cause a partner to seek someone new. So, the pattern may repeat itself — only now you’re the one being cheated on.

You have discovered your partner has cheated. Now what?

Get Tested for STIs

Protect yourself and your physical health. Get tested as soon as you can for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Having multiple partners increases the risk of STI spread. Don’t have unprotected sex with your partner again until you have rebuilt trust. 

Get Therapy

If you want to work on things with your partner, you should seek couples therapy. Your therapist will work with you to address the underlying issues in the relationship and move forward in a healthy way. Therapy may create a structured and safe space for your partner to tell you about their infidelity.

Even if you don’t wish to work things out with your partner, solo therapy can help you heal and prepare you for your next relationship.

Allow Time for Thinking and Healing

Don’t make any decisions or commitments immediately after discovering a partner has cheated. Take all the time and space needed to explore your feelings and desires. This includes commitments to stay together or separate, or ultimatums about what will happen next time your partner cheats. Some experts recommend making no decisions for six months after a cheating incident — as long as you’re committed to working on things — and seeing how you feel after that.