4 Subtle, Lesser-Known Signs Your Significant Other Is Cheating On You

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signs of cheating

Watch out carefully for these.

Long gone are the obvious tale-tell signs of a cheater: lipstick on the collar, reports from private investigators and rumors passed around by blabbing friends and neighbors. If really tuned in, partners can do their own scrutinizing to tap into whether his/her significant other may be an adulterer.

Certain behaviors can be very telling: Even just one of the “Four Ds” below can give the cheater away. Though these behaviors are often subtle, they emanate powerful neon signals — ones that may light up one’s awareness and serve as a confirmation that he/she is being betrayed.

I often counsel my clients who are on the verge of leaving their significant other to take their time as they keep a log or journal to see if their suspicions add up. If so, they must decide whether to confront their significant other to see if the relationship can be repaired or simply forego that step and just walk away.

Here are four signs of cheating, all part of the checklist for your exploration of the “Four Ds.” 

1. They act distant.

If your mate appears distant during sex, when he or she was always very “present,” you can surmise that something is up. If he or she seems to veer off topic when you are trying to talk to him/her about your concerns over what appears to be a recent strained dynamic between you two, you’re probably onto something.

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For instance, ask yourself if there is a marked distance between back then and now when it comes to any kind of acts of intimacy other than sex. Examples could be his/her resistance to hand-holding, a non-response to your peck on his/her cheek; that pat on the behind or your usual seductive gaze. If all that is suddenly gone, you’ve got to know (on an intuitive level) something is up.

Test your partner. Are his/her hugs less warm and lingering as they used to be? Is he/she literally turning his/her back on you when you hit the sack night after night? Is your mate making a habit of falling asleep in front of the TV and staying on the couch all night, not showing up in the bedroom at bedtime or at all?

Anything that indicates a cold and chilly demeanor relative to your partner’s behavior is likely to be caused by his/her hook up with somebody else. I rate “distant behavior” at the top of the list for subtle signs of cheating and being intimate with a new lover.

2. They seem distracted.

When he or she was once very engaged in discussing everything, from household matters to sex positions, and can’t seem to focus on much of what you are saying now, you have to ask: Why is that? For instance, if he/she asks that you repeat what you just said, or she/he doesn’t respond to a just-asked question, the distraction is not likely work-related, but likely other-person related.

Watch your partner’s eyes as he/she suddenly jolts out of deep thought. That could be an attempt to desperately keep up with your conversation.

Here’s another telling behavior: Do her/his eyes reflect a lost or dreamy look? One of guilt? If your partner suddenly announces he/she must cook dinner or round up the kids for baths as you are right in the middle of a sentence, this could indicate he/she is not part of the conversation anymore and is instead likely thinking about someone else.

I think signs of total distraction (unless your partner displays legitimate signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s) is a dead-on clue that his/her head obsessing over someone else. Don’t forget, affairs are intoxicating and people can become consumed with thoughts of that other person.

3. They are disagreeable.

The cowardly cheater often tries to pick a fight with his/her significant other. It’s the Rolls Royce of passive-aggressive behavior. If you say the sky is often blue and she says it’s often gray, she is trying to amplify your irreconcilable differences to force a throw-your-hands-up-in-the air approach to call it quits; to get on with the new lover (without any guilt). And, of course, to find an end to your relationship.

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Note: Most often, she doesn’t want to be the person to end it; she wants you to so she won’t come off as the bad partner. Keep track of how many fights your mate picks and over what. If these fights seem fabricated — like she says, “What are you talking about? I never said I would go on that business trip with you,” though you two planned it together more than a year ago — she’s not being forgetful, she’s trying to spark a quarrel, to find a reasonable way to get out of going.

Once arguments become chronic, constant and/or petty, you should start checking for other clues. They are likely there.

4. They are incredibly disrespectful.

If your mate suddenly puts you down in front of your children, family or friends, it may be another clue that she/he sees you as not-as-good-as his/her new item on the side.

Was he once always on time and now constantly late? Is he suddenly making excuses as to why he forgot your anniversary? Does she squeeze the toothpaste from the top now, welching on her promise to always squeeze it from the bottom? Does she needlessly criticize you (e.g., the mashed potatoes too lumpy, the barbecued steak too well done)? Does he claim the laundry has too much fabric softener in it? Does he say you need to do something about your sagging jowls)? Does she say snide things about your parents — people whom she once revered and reminded you of that constantly?

Those criticisms are disrespectful in the most obvious way; they can be ever so hurtful. Remember that disrespectful and hurtful are cruel twins that can buddy-up and demonstrate blatant behavior that he/she is seeing someone else. 

When you are done checking off one or more of these “Four D” signs of cheating, don’t forget to check out the guilt-o-meter as well. Most of these behaviors have some measure of guilt attached to them.

For instance, your mate distancing him/herself from you may be a result of knowing he/she is committing the crime of betrayal and doesn’t want to have to confront it with you.

When someone is distracted, watch the immediate behavior that follows him/her having been tuned out. Is it a number of “I’m sorry’s"? Is it an attempt to do thoughtful things he or she never did before — like clean up the kitchen, send flowers, candy, and gifts?

When your mate is disagreeable, he or she may be riddled with guilt, but knows no other way to get rid of it. Picking fights tends to allow the betrayer to justify his/her adulterous actions.

Lastly, disrespect can indicate passive-aggressive behavior — a means to make you pull the breakup shute. It also could be an indicator that he or she is mentally glorifying his/her perfect new lover and contrasting what he or she perceives to be the much better attributes of his that person. As a consequence, he/she begins to treat you less-than.


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David J. Glass, a former therapist and now a family law attorney, is best known for his work on the Kelly Rutherford divorce and he has been quoted in major news publications and written for others including Divorce Magazine and Hitched.com. Glass has also been a frequent guest on various radio programs including KABC in L.A. and Starcom Radio.