If you begin to suspect that you’re being cheated on, you probably know to pay attention. This is your gut talking to you — and it’s an important one to pay attention to, especially if you’re starting to doubt the trust you’ve built with your long-term girlfriend within your committed relationship. If you start to suspect or worry that your partner is cheating — whether at work, online or with a guy friend you never trusted — it’s important to pay attention to your intuition, while also being realistic, too.
Real infidelity that you can prove can have a hugely detrimental impact to your couplehood, and can often make it difficult to come back from — but so can accusing someone of being unfaithful with no proof. Why’s that? The foundation of every loving relationship is based on a genuine respect, admiration and steadfast trust in your partner, and anything that aims to threaten that connection is not only tricky, but can cause many hurt feelings, too.
Luckily for you, we spoke with therapists, relationship experts and dating coaches to identify the big indicators that your girlfriend is cheating, how to identify different types of unfaithfulness and how to deal with paranoia, if your significant other actually hasn’t done anything wrong.
Remember, any time your heart is tied to something, these uncomfortable and could-be painful situations can be incredibly difficult to sort through, so be patient with yourself (and your partner), listen to your instincts and get to know the facts before doing anything you might regret.
Here’s what you need to know about her cheating possibilities:
1. What’s The Difference Between Physical And Emotional Cheating?
If you’ve been tempted to cheat before (and hey, we’ve all been attracted to someone who wasn’t our mate, even if we didn’t act on it), it was probably because you wanted to sleep with them, right?
That might not be the case for your girlfriend: while men are more likely to get physical with another woman, women are more likely to be swayed to the darker side by an emotional connection. And though it might not feel as earth-shattering, falling in love instead of falling into bed is often a deeper, long-lasting type of infidelity.
“The main difference between emotional and physical cheating is the modality or how the person cheats. Emotional cheating does not always include physical touch and physical cheating does not always include emotions. For instance, physical cheating means some form of physical touch occurs whether it is intercourse, oral sex, kissing, touching, etc.,” explains sex and relationship therapist, Courtney Geter, LMFT.
“Emotional cheating may be deep, intimate conversation either in person or through messaging. Emotional cheating is subjective to the person or couple. For instance, what one person may consider crossing the line may not bother another person. It’s important for couples to discuss what is allowed to leave the relationship and to whom early on. Keep in mind that both forms of cheating and merge where there is both emotional and physical cheating together.”
So what might constitute as emotional cheating? Licensed clinical psychologist, Sarah Schewitz, Psy.D. gives some examples that may cross boundaries:
Texting each other phrases like “thinking of you” or “wish you were here”
- Texting all day everyday…except when around your partner
- Getting butterflies when thinking of this friend
- Fantasizing about what it would be like to date this friend
- Comparing this friend to your significant other
- Fantasizing about this friend sexually
- Hiding conversations with this friend from your significant other
- Sharing intimate details about the problems in your relationship with this friend
2. Signs That She’s Cheating
Ready for the signs that she might actually be cheating? Here, the experts lay it out.
She Keeps To Herself
She could be busy with juggling work schedules, making it to yoga class and seeing her girlfriends — but if she’s not telling you about her day, there’s a chance she’s telling someone else. While distance can, at times, make the heart grow fonder, if she no longer thinks to call you when something good, bad, funny, ridiculous or awful happens — it might be scary for you to think who she could be talking to. A way to bring it up to her is to let her know how much you miss her, dammit.
“She might be overly stressed about something unrelated to your relationship, she might be upset about something you did, or she might feel like you are pulling away and she doesn’t know how to talk to you about it,” Schewitz says. “The best thing to do is ask her what’s going on. Say something like ‘Hey babe, I’ve noticed you seem a little distant lately. I miss feeling close to you. Is there something you want to talk about or something I could do to bring us closer together again?’”
She’s Not As Open
Let’s be real: women are typically more open about their feelings than men are. It’s when you’re able to open up to a special girl that you feel connected to her, and when she opens up in return, your relationship really starts to grow. However, if she’s quiet and hardly ever upset, she might be emotionally cheating with someone else. Why? When she’s not as candid with you, she might be emotionally fulfilled by someone else.
“This is a sign she is shutting down. While it could indicate she’s cheating, infidelity rarely happens in a vacuum. If she’s shutting down, it’s because she is hurt or has lost trust in you as someone that will care about what she has to say,” Schewitz says.
“She might be tired of having the same conversation over and over again with no change. She might be giving up on getting through to you but that doesn’t mean she’s being unfaithful. If she is not being as open as before, ask her why. Tell her you want to be there for her and support her through whatever she is going through.”
She’s Hiding Her Phone
When she’s doing something she knows she shouldn’t, it’s likely she’ll feel guilty about it. You might notice that instead of spending time scrolling through Instagram on the couch with you, she put her phone in the other room. She probably doesn’t want to risk you looking over and catching her in the act. “Women may hide text messages, email exchanges, and phone calls with a ‘good friend,’” dating expert Laurel House says. “He could start off as just a friend, but it could also be progressing into more.”
This could also mean a shift in her behavior and be a combination of the signs above. It could also be in response to something you did that made her question you, or that she’s pulling away, even if she’s not leaning closer to someone else.
“These signs also indicate a possible change in her feelings in the relationship. For instance, if there are prior or recent violations of privacy, it’s common for one to become more distant and protective of personal belongings. The trust and security of respect has been altered though it can be repaired,” Geter says.
Or she could be protective of her phone for a whole slew of reasons, that have nothing to do with another man at all. As Schewitz explains, “She could be talking to her girlfriend about problems in your relationship and not want you to see it. Or she could be planning a surprise for the two of you that she doesn’t want you to know about.”
Though you might be tempted to snoop (and yep, we’ve all done that before and regretted it afterwards, right?) — consider just asking her what she has up her sleeve.
She’s Light On Details
She’s always had that monthly wine and supper club with her girls, and a few times a month when they hit the town, but now there’s a book club? And they’re taking boxing classes, too? She could be needing more friendship time in her life, or she’s seeing someone on the side. The key here, according to House, is to pay attention to what she says when she sees you after those nights.
“Instead of coming home and filling you in on all the details and gossip she learned while out with the girls, she is cagey and not forthcoming about what they did or talked about,” she says.
Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC. agrees, noting that for many relationships, less communication is a red flag, especially if she was forthcoming before. “If this is a change, this is a red flag as well. Did she stop giving details because she feels like you don’t want or care about them, or did she stop giving them even though you ask and show interest? If it is the latter, you should wonder why she is being so brief when this was not always the case,” she explains.
One way to rectify this and see what’s happening is to explain how much you enjoyed talking to her about what’s going on in her life, what was inspiring her and how her friends were. This is a better solution than accusing her of leaving you out of the loop or lying about where she is. Plus, it gives her the opportunity to dish on what might actually be bothering her.
She’s Never In The Mood
Even if you’ve always been the initiator of sex in your relationship, if you can’t remember the last time you had sex — and she doesn’t seem too concerned to change it — than you might have validation to be suspect. But then again, it could be less about getting naked and more about how you’re connecting outside of your coital love life.
“For women, sex is emotional. If they are unhappy in their relationship or even just annoyed with their partner for the night, the last thing on their mind is sex. Some women feel insecure about their aging and changing bodies which leads to them feeling less sexy and less in the mood,” Schewitz says.
The best solution? Talk about it, even if it makes you uncomfortable. “Most men will approach this topic in an accusatory way. Don’t be that guy. Tell her you miss the sex you used to have and ask her if she knows why she hasn’t been in the mood lately,” Schewitz says.
One way to see if she’s getting intimately fulfilled elsewhere is to propose a trip to get that fire back, and see how she responds, says sex expert and commentator, Coleen Singer says. “This is one of the few clues that you can safely discuss with her. Offer to take her on a weekend getaway to a local hotel for some room service and sexy time. She may well take you up on that, and if she doesn’t, you may well have a partner who is cheating on you,” she says.
She’s Had A Drastic Makeover
Did she recently drop 15 pounds and become obsessed with making it to a morning workout (instead of cuddling with you)? Or did she buy all new clothes, dye her hair or adopt a new viewpoint on makeup? While these might be big warning signs that the girl you decided to date years ago isn’t the same one, a change in appearance could truly, and simply mean less about your relationship and more about her self-confidence.
Especially after a stressful period, overcoming a tough challenge or having children, “Sometimes a girl just needs a change to feel good about herself again. This may be more a sign of boredom with her current look, wanting to feel more confident,” Schewitz says.
Or she could actually be focusing more on how she looks to reconnect with you again: “It’s common for couples to neglect self care and stop dressing up for each other though it can impact the relationship. Maybe she realized this and is making a change — though not communicating it to you,” Geter says.
However, if paired with many of the other signs above, Geter says it is possible that’s she changing how she looks to satisfy the taste and preferences of a new partner. Or maybe, that person compliments her and makes her feel sexy by commenting on certain clothes or looks, so she’s trying to replicate that feeling as often as possible. If you suspect anything, make an effort to compliment her and ask her what inspired her to make a change.
She Thinks You’re Insecure
If you’re typically supportive and loving girlfriend suddenly has a million complaints about you and dishes out some not-so-nice disses in your direction — like calling you insecure — you might wonder is it’s because she’s fallen out of love with someone and in love with someone else. But before you go there and talk to her about it, Geter suggests taking a glance inwards instead.
“Maybe you don’t realize it though your nonverbal or verbal behaviors are telling others how you’re feeling. There is nothing wrong with feeling insecure, though we need to find out the source to prevent conflict in all relationships,” she explains.
Her name-calling word choice could also be an indicator of how she’s feeling about herself. As Geter explains, “If you’re 100 percent sure you’re not feeling insecure, there is a change she may feel insecure and project that onto you. Feeling insecure does not mean she is cheating or insecure about the relationship. Insecurity stems from various areas of life including aging, weight, work and more.”
It could also be a way she’s expressing her own frustrations with your relationship, and yes, possibly that she’s recently become attracted to someone who she finds to be self-confident and assertive. “This indicates a lack of empathy on her part which could happen for a few reasons. She might be getting defensive depending on how you bring the topic up or she might just lack the ability to communicate calmly and effectively. If this is the case, a few sessions with a couples therapist can help that out,” Schewitz suggests.
She’s Spending A Lot Of Time At Work
Most people these days either meet online, at school, through friends or at the office. If you’ve noticed she’s logging more hours than she normally does, you might start to wonder if she’s doing more than putting in overtime.
“Work and home are the two places that we spend the bulk of our time, so it is the most common way that we meet people. When we are working closely with others, we can really get to know them, we might struggle and bond through some difficult times and environments,” Martinez explains. “The frequency with which we see them, and the easy proximity make it very easy to develop feelings for someone you work with.”
If you’re concerned with how much more she is working compared to how she used to — or she’s mentioning the same male co-worker’s name time and time again, approach the topic carefully. Being vulnerable and explaining how it’s been making you uncomfortable is a positive tactic to utilize, because it doesn’t blame her, but instead, expresses how you’re feeling.
Long-Distance Feels Even Longer Than Usual
If physical miles separate you, there are merely a few resources you have available to keep that connection. If you start to feel her drift further away than she already is by her zip code, you might wonder if a local has gained her attention instead. And though we hate to break it to you, long distance relationships are often more prone to cheating than ones in the same city.
“Although not all long-distance relationships result in cheating, there could be a higher risk since one important component of creating intimacy is closeness. By closeness, I mean both physical proximity and emotional closeness or becoming vulnerable with your partner. When you are not physically near your partner, you both miss out on shared time together and you’re both enjoying time with others. Sharing this time with others could lead to unintentional romantic feelings for a friend or coworker,” Geter says.
One way to help make your multi-town love affair stronger is to commitment to dependable communication and frequent visits. “When working with couples in long distance relationships, I encourage them to plan phone or video dates on a regular basis. This does not replace in-person dates though it does help create time for the relationship distraction free as if you were on a face-to-face date,” Geter says.
“I also encourage regular times to travel to see each other and treat each trip as real life instead of a vacation. When couples treat weekend trips as vacation, they don’t experience the other person in his/her daily routine. Therefore, when they begin to live in the same city, there is no sense of how the other lives and it’s similar to culture shock.”
If all else fails and you still feel like she’s not as invested as she once was — try to wait until you’re in person to have an open chat. Not only does it get rid of the temptation to read between those often confusing blue iPhone lines, but it gives you a chance to understand the ways in which your relationship might not be fulfilling her — and what you can do about it.
“We all have physical and emotional needs, and when we are in a long distance relationship, these needs may not be able to be met in the frequency and manner that we need. When the basic emotional and connective needs are not being met, people can be more vulnerable to the attention and affection of others,” Martinez says.
There might not be a clearer sign that she’s trying to bark up another tree than if you spot her with a dating app. After all, if you’re in a relationship already, why do you need an iPhone to connect to singles? If you’re not totally sure that you saw her browsing, keep a close look on her thumb movement for extra inspection.
“If you notice your partner swiping left and swiping right on her phone screen, it could be a sign she is looking at a dating app. There aren’t many apps that require that type of movement. If she suddenly closes out what she was doing when you walk by or hides her phone from your sight, you might have something to worry about,” Schewitz says.
The way to work this out is again, to talk to her. Though she might not be upfront at first, by expressing how much it’s hurt you, she might be more willing to express her dissatisfaction in the relationship, and either leave your couplehood or delete the app for good.
3. How To Deal With The Paranoia
Maybe it was a Facebook message you happened to see from an old flame that set your mind into overdrive. Or she’s been pulling away from advances that usually get her in the mood to be intimate with you. Maybe she’s spending more time at the office or you simply don’t feel as connected as you were when you first start dating.
Relationships go through many ebbs and flows, but it’s important to manage your paranoia before it threatens to end a relationship that might be just going through a rough patch, not speeding to the end. One way to approach your worries is to remember that it’s out of your hands and release your hold on the situation by talking to your partner.
“Paranoia is a difficult emotion to deal with. One thing that can help is to remind yourself ‘this is out of my control. If she wants to cheat, she is going to cheat and there is nothing I can do to stop it,’” Schewitz says. “Be open and honest with your partner about your fears and let her know how you feel. Come from a more vulnerable place of telling her your fears versus attacking and accusing.”
If after having a heart-to-heart and your girlfriend squashing your suspicions with cold-hard facts and being honest about what’s going on in your relationship, or she confessed to cheating, but you’ve decided to stay together — you have to commit to your course of action, as a couple.
“If the paranoia is not based in reality and experience, they need to find a way to let it go, as it will break down and destroy a relationship. If it is based in reality, and there was a history of indiscretion, but you have decided you want to stay and work things out, you need to mean it. If you make that choice, you can not keep punishing the person, looking through their phone and emails,” Martinez says.
“This constant reminder and lack of trust will only break down the relationship further. If you want a clean slate, have it and mean it. However, set a firm line that did it ever happens again, that you will leave them.”