Common Signs Your Partner is Having an Affair
During my years of working with intimacy disorders and infidelity, I have been able to collect several, common “signs of an affair”. Granted these signs don’t match up 100%, as every person and relationship is different (and manifests symptoms of problems in different ways). However, the presence of several of these signs often indicate that one of the partner’s has been getting his/her intimate needs met outside the relationship. To quote a family law attorney that I spoke to recently: “I’ve found that nearly every time an affair is suspected, it turns out to be true.” So bottom line: Trust your instincts. And if you’re instincts are out of whack because you've been gaslighted or you're overwhelmed by fears of losing your partner, then trust the observations and instincts of your trusted friends and family.
YOUR GUT SAYS SO
First and foremost, if your intuition is saying something is off, something is probably off. Nearly 100% of my clients who suspected their partner was having an affair ended up finding out they were right. However, if you still need more “proof” keep reading.
CRITICISM OUT OF NOWHERE
There has been an inexplicable and rampant escalation of marital issues between you and your partner. One minute you feel like your marriage is “good” with typical marital woes, the next minute your partner is expressing loss of feelings for you, verbalizing that s/he’s been considering divorce or separation, and that s/he doesn’t find hope in the ability to fix the marital problems. S/he also has a long list of criticisms and gripes about your marriage and how you treat her/him—most of the marital problems have been diagnosed by your partner as “unfixable”, despite your desire to fix them and change.
RE-WRITING YOUR ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP’S HISTORY
When I was seeing a client who was in the thick of his affair, he reported he was pressured into getting married, he questioned whether he ever loved his wife in the first place, denied ever having good sex with her, and claimed the courtship was lackluster and never had “that spark”. However, once the affair went bust (for many different reasons), he realized he’d rather reconcile with his wife (again, for various reasons), and they spent several months in couples counseling working toward healing and reconciling, suddenly his story of their marriage changed: He and his wife were soulmates, they were once “hot and heavy”, and their courtship was quite romantic. Same wife, same relationship but very different versions of history due to different circumstances, perspective, and willingness.
When people are in the middle of an affair, they have to rationalize their behavior and choices so that their guilt from the lying, gaslighting, and sneaking around doesn’t overwhelm their conscience or drown out their desire to engage in the affair. One cannot actively “love” or think fondly of their partner, feel hopeful about his/her marriage, while lying to the partner’s face about the affair WHILE experiencing intimate passion with an affair partner. In order for someone to engage in an affair s/he has to justify it by regularly pointing out all of her/his partner’s flaws, rationalize why s/he is entitled to go outside the marriage, and then often times the guilt from the affair becomes so overwhelming that s/he lashes out at the partner regularly.
A STRONG EMPHASIS ON “PASSION”, OR LACK THEREOF
“We just don’t have enough passion”
“Our sex isn’t passionate enough”
“We’ve just never had that ‘special something’”
“You’re just really boring”
These have been common things expressed to partners of someone who’s cheating. Its not rocket science to understand why their partner is suddenly so focused on this concept called “passion”, or intensity, or excitement. Most obviously, they’re pointing out the “lack of passion” in their marriage because they’re experiencing it outside the marriage, so its absence with their primary partner is even more obvious. What they may not realize is that often times that “passion” and intensity during an affair is experienced in a vacuum—outside of the monotony of everyday life and stressors. Its also temporary, no matter who you’re with, soulmate or not.
That passion/intensity/excitement that people talk about and yearn for is essentially dopamine running through your body trying to reinforce our reproductive urge to connect. When we meet someone new (romantically) our dopamine levels are off the charts. It’s that “twitter-pation” feeling we experience in the early courtship phase. The dopamine rushing through our bodies as we get to know this new person effects how we eat, sleep, think, and feel. However, our body knows that if we keep operating in this way (ruminating thoughts about our loved one, constant sexual urges, lack of desire to eat or sleep, difficulty focusing on other things) we will not be able to survive. So, fortunately or unfortunately, the dopamine receptors go away and the twitter-pation fades. That process takes anywhere between 6-18 mos. That’s not to say that passion cannot come and go in a long term relationship as you work on ways to keep it "new and interesting", its just difficult and takes a lot of work and willingness by both partners.
Bottomline: Dopamine loves novelty. So, no duh, you’re gonna feel “passionate” when someone new intrigues you and engages with you. It doesn’t always mean that’s a sign you should pursue that relationship and forsake your current one. For more information on that topic, read this.
CHANGES IN SEXUAL PATTERNS
Partners engaged in an affair can become less sexual with you or more sexual depending on how they handle their guilt from the affair. They may try to engage in more affection or sex with you in order to further hinder your suspicion or the guilt from the affair or it may cause them to want to abstain. Either way, there tends to be some change in their sexual patterns. Sex or no sex, you’ll probably feel like you’re hugging a statue or have a partner who's unwilling to make eye contact with you because he/she may just be "going through the motions" (while engaged elsewhere). He/she’s not genuinely “present” in the marriage. His/Her heart and head are outside the marriage already.
Partners who are engaged in an affair will respond defensively and angrily when you ask questions or check up on his/her behaviors (Where s/he’s been, who’s s/he’s been calling, why s/he won't have sex with you or return your calls, why s/he’s not emotionally present in the marriage). This is where the majority of the gaslighting takes place. The partner's defensive response may also accompany veiled or direct threats of leaving the marriage. Usually the threat is followed by a gaslighting comment like, "How can we fix our issues with you being so suspicious and crazy all the time? This is why I go out/don't return your calls/work late/don't have sex with you."
REMOVING HIM/HERSELF FROM YOU AND FAMILY
There may be an increase in “confusing” late nights at work, blocked phone calls, trying to get a hold of him/her but s/he “couldn’t get to his/her phone” or “s/he didn’t have reception”. The cheating partner may make up regular excuses to avoid being around family or other couples due to his/her guilt. They may often make excuses up to leave the home (ex. I need to go for a drive to clear my head). They may also hide his/her phone or computer.
OTHER SIGNS YOUR PARTNER IS CHEATING
You have “feelings” that your partner is untrustworthy but try to reason it away or hesitate when trying to talk things out with your partner and make sense of the unexplainable absences or strange behaviors. You find yourself "not wanting to know".
You find yourself apologizing to your partner when you feel like he/she was actually the one who did the shady or harmful thing.
You pick up that something’s “not right” with someone your partner is “friends” with, or works with, or has communicated with through phone, social media, or email. Sometimes your partner may go as far as to criticize that same “suspected affair partner” in an effort to make you think he/she’s not into him or her (i.e. "Oh, that woman? She's not even attractive to me").
Your partner places a lot of blame on you about the marital stress and issues while maintaining minimal accountability or blame on his/her part. There is also a lack of willingness to address the issues in the marriage. Your partner may express his/her indifference to or confusion about monogamy, marriage, and what he/she is supposed to do in life.
You feel like your partner has “become a different person” almost overnight. One minute you thought s/he was your teammate, you were both on the same page, and suddenly, s/he’s a contrarian to everything you thought existed between the two of you (common love, history, goals, etc.).
For more information on infidelity please read these two articles: