I had the opportunity to talk to a well-respected relationship coach. Grace coaches everyone from married couples to single individuals. In fact, receiving coaching when single is the ideal place to start. It allows people to set themselves up for success right from the beginning.
I decided to chat with Grace about the signs of potential cheating. I’ve been cheated on, and was luckily very aware of the signs that something was…off. Grace provided some advice to help you qualm any fears and tackle the problem at hand.
PS: One of the most well-known signs of potential cheating is if your partner starts acting secretive or possessive with their cell phone. Is this really a red flag to be concerned about, or is it an overreaction? Should partners bring it up or stay silent if they notice this type of change in behavior?
Grace: “A sudden change in behavior, regardless of what it is, is worthy of a discussion. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are cheating, but it does mean something. People don’t act randomly; so behavior that appears out of the blue is worth bringing up. The best way to handle it is to come at it from a point of curiosity, not suspicion. Comment on what you’ve noticed, with specific examples, and ask about what it means. Be prepared to really listen and also to hear some things you might not want to hear. Many people will hide things to avoid unpleasant confrontations with their partners. It usually doesn’t work in the long run, but they will still try. If you want your partner to be honest and share things, you need to be aware of your reactions. If you react poorly, you decrease the chance of openness and honesty. Staying silent can be fine while you’re trying to figure out what’s going on; but if something is bothering you, staying silent won’t help.”
Is a change in bedroom or sexual behavior considered to be a sign of cheating? Could a sudden interest in porn be to blame?
“A change in sexual or bedroom behavior can be a sign of cheating or pornography use. It could be locker room talk or something read online or in a magazine. It could be a lot of things. So the first step should be looking at the relationship overall. What do you know about your partner as a person? How has the relationship been going overall? Do you argue? Do you communicate productively? Do either of you ‘walk on eggshells’? Do you agree on what kind of relationship you are having?”
Is an increase in sexual curiosity something to be worried about?
“Increase in sexual curiosity may be a sign that you are getting closer and more intimate. Sharing one’s sexual fantasies and desires usually requires a certain level of safety with another person that is only achieved by time spent together.”
How should one handle the strong sense of curiosity that comes along with suspicions that your partner is cheating? Is this curiosity healthy?
“One should handle one’s suspicions of cheating by examining whether there are facts to support the concern. If you have been cheated on before, you may be hypersensitive to signs that it’s happening again. But don’t judge your current partner on the behavior of a past one. Be willing to take as objective of a look at your partner’s behavior as you can. If they provide a reasonable explanation for their behavior, believe them until you have something concrete that proves otherwise. Again, your suspicions can become the lens you view their behavior through, and they will never be able to prove they didn’t do something. Your suspicions say a lot about you and your readiness to be in a relationship, so be willing to do some self exploration on this topic.”
Is porn ever considered cheating? How should one handle feeling betrayed by their partner watching porn?
“Yes, porn use can be considered cheating, especially if your partner is using porn to the exclusion of being with his real life partner. Getting clear on your views of pornography is the first step in identifying how you want to deal with it. Is it harmful to the relationship or to how you feel in the relationship? Is your partner open to talking about it? Anything that makes either of you feel shut down or shut out should raise flags. As in anything, you should be able to have a calm, mature conversation about your feelings and what you want/expect from a partner. You then can decide if a behavior or belief is a deal breaker for the relationship.”
Is it true that an increase in nice behavior can also be a sign of potential cheating? If so, why? What are some examples of this that one should be concerned about? What about examples where it’s probably an overreaction, and isn’t anything to worry about?
“Nice behavior — uncharacteristically bringing you flowers, agreeing to attend a hated event, or planning a romantic vacation — may be signs of potential cheating. They may do this because they don’t want to end the relationship with you outright, but want to allay your fears. It’s sort of like people who have had too much to drink driving overly cautiously on the highway, so as not to draw the attention of the police. If the behavior shift is too sudden or too dramatic, it will again raise alarms. Sometimes this ‘nice’ behavior may be a recognition that they haven’t been being a good partner and have finally heard your request for the relationship to be different. They might also have had a scare that you will end the relationship, and that it really does matter to them. Context is key, as is durability. Is the change continued over time, or just until you calm down and the status quo regained?”
If you suspect your partner of cheating, should you talk to them about it? How does one going about starting (and carrying out) that sort of conversation, in order to receive an honest answer?
“If you suspect your partner of cheating, get clear on what’s happening to lead you to that conclusion. Also be clear about what your options are — whether you will leave or stay. What would have to happen for you to make either choice? Have you guys had previous discussions about monogamy, fidelity, etc., so that you both are in agreement about what cheating is? The best way to start the conversation is to let your partner know you have a serious issue to discuss with them, and ask when a good time would be. Springing it on them out of the blue increases the chance of a defensive response. Then use ‘I’ statements and present what you know — I’ve noticed that you are spending a lot of time with your friends, at work, on the computer; I’ve noticed we aren’t spending as much time together, having sex, going out as we used to, and I’m curious about what might be causing this; I’m worried about where our relationship is going. Avoid the word ‘you’ and any sense of accusation. Now comes the hard part — listen to what is said. Don’t interrupt or plan the response in your head. Rephrase back to them what you heard them say; first, to make sure you heard it properly, and second, to give yourself time to process any emotions. Don’t start this conversation unless you are really open to the truth. You don’t have to make a decision about what to do immediately.”