If you’re in a long distance relationship, chances are you’ve wondered at least once whether your partner might cheat on you. Well, I’ve got good news and bad news for you.
Let’s start with the good news: I wouldn’t take this as gospel, but several research studies suggest that cheating does not occur more often in long distance relationships. The researchers concluded that the risk of cheating in a relationship was much more strongly associated with the quality of the relationship and the personalities involved.
Now, ready for the bad news? No one wants to think that the person they love (or are growing to love) might be lying to them or cheating on them. However, lying and cheating can happen, and distance makes deceit easier to hide, for longer. But before we dive into signs of cheating, let’s talk about what cheating actually is.
What is cheating?
I’m not going to waste your time debating whether it should definitely be considered cheating if your boyfriend or girlfriend kisses someone else. Or if they sleep with someone else. Or if they write a lot of personal emails to someone other than you.
Here is my opinion on the matter: Cheating is more about secrecy, intimacy, and violating expectations than it is about specific actions. What matters is what matters to you. You will call it cheating if you feel like your partner is sharing things (thoughts, feelings, or bodily fluids) with someone else that they should be primarily or exclusively sharing with you.
Something is clearly cheating if both partners acknowledge a behavior (whether that behavior is related to emails, sex, or anything in between) as “out of bounds” for your relationship.
But here is where things get tricky. What if you think something constitutes “cheating,” but your partner doesn’t? Or what if something he or she is doing doesn’t seem like cheating, exactly, but it doesn’t sit quite right with you either?
If you think something constitutes cheating but your partner doesn’t, then you have an extra challenge to deal with—a significant mismatch in what you and your partner think are the “ground rules” of your relationship. For example, your partner might think that exchanging suggestive texts with someone who is “just a friend” is “all in good fun.” You might view it as a hurtful betrayal.
After you identify a mismatch like this, things actually get simpler. One or both of you needs to adjust your expectations about acceptable behavior in your relationship or you part ways. Essentially:
- They stop what they’re doing;
- You decide you can live with it; or
- The relationship ends.
What if something doesn’t seem like cheating, exactly, but it doesn’t sit quite right either? Maybe the texts your partner is sending or the weekly “working lunch dates” with the same colleague doesn’t exactly seem like cheating, but something just seems a bit “off.”
In this case, your internal alarm bells are likely going off for one of two reasons. Either your partner is not exactly cheating but they are heading in that direction, or your alarm bells are ringing primarily because of your own insecurity and jealousy.
In both of these situations, you and your relationship will usually end up stronger and better if you acknowledge these internal alarm bells, and then work with your partner to try to figure out why they are ringing and what to do about the situation.
Now, let’s take a look at some things that might set those internal alarm bells off…
10 Signs That Your Partner May Be Cheating
So you’re wondering if something is going on with your partner. Maybe there has been a noticeable change in his or her behavior or words. Maybe they’re talking about a new “friend” in a way that makes you nervous. Maybe you can’t even put your finger on what it is, but something just seems “off.”
Below are some signs that your partner may not be being completely honest with you. If you spot some of these signs in your long distance relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your partner is cheating on you or misleading you, but be cautious! They do suggest that your partner may not be being completely open with you.
It is possible that your partner is just going through a very busy season and is more tired and distracted than normal. Maybe nothing sinister is going on, they’re just not prioritizing you the way that you want. However, it is also possible that your partner is cheating on you, considering ending the relationship, or may even already be married to someone else.
Whatever is really going on, if you spot these signs in your long distance relationship, they should give you pause…
1. There is a sudden and persistent change in his or her behavior or communication patterns
Have you seen any of this?
- Has your partner stopped saying “I love you,” or started saying it much more often?
- Have they stopped talking about the future?
- Did they used to call or see you every day without fail, and then suddenly began to call only every couple of days?
- Have they stopped talking to you about all the tiny details of their day, their thoughts, or their feelings?
- Have they stopped initiating sexy time together?
- Do they usually call you in the evening, but have suddenly switched to calling you primarily in the morning and/or during working hours?
- Have they started travelling for work much more often (and/or staying away over the weekend?)
2. They seem to be perpetually busy
Especially if your partner is an extroverted social-butterfly, having many evening, weekend, or holiday commitments may not be out of character for them. However, if your partner always seems to be squeezing you in around the margins of a packed-full life (especially if many of those plans don’t involve you), then that should give you pause.
3. He or she is often unreachable
It’s unreasonable (and insecure) to expect someone you are dating to immediately return every text or to answer every phone call. However if your partner is often unreachable without a decent reason (and their phone battery dying every second day is not a decent reason) you might legitimately wonder what’s up.
4. They are often unavailable to take your call on a moment’s notice
It is understandable if your partner cannot generally take your calls during business hours, from their office, or while they are with clients. However, if your partner hardly ever picks up when you ring—no matter what time of day—something else might be going on.
5. They seem rushed and harried whenever you contact them–they are only relaxed when they contact you, at a time that suits them
It is possible that your partner just doesn’t “change channels” that well—that they struggle to break their focus on what they are doing when you surprise them with a phone call. It’s also possible that something (or someone) else is at play.
6. They rarely talk to you from home
If your partner usually calls you on the way to or from work, during business hours, or from the car while they’re driving, that may mean that there are tangible reasons he or she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you from home—namely, someone else is there most of the time.
7. They always want to come visit you rather than having you visit them
Again, this may make perfect sense. Maybe you have a nice apartment and no roommates, while they’re sharing an old house with three single friends. Maybe it’s easier and much more pleasant to spend time in your neck of the woods. Or maybe there’s another reason they don’t want you at their place.
8. They won’t acknowledge your relationship on Facebook or in other public ways
Perhaps they are simply wary of putting personal information on the internet. However, if they use this excuse with you but are active and open on social media channels in other ways, I would question whether they’re telling you the truth.
9. You know they have a history of cheating in past relationships
The fact that he or she has cheated in the past does not mean that they will cheat on you. However, do bear in mind that past behavior is one of the best predictors of future behavior.
10. They frequently talk of someone in particular, and of time spent alone with that person
If your partner talks a lot about someone in particular and of spending time or communicating with that person, it’s understandable that this might make you a little edgy, especially if this is someone you haven’t yet met.
11. They talk about a whole new group of friends they’ve suddenly started hanging out with
If your partner is seeing someone else, this person may bring him or her into contact with entirely new social circles. If this is what is going on, your partner may also be spending time with this new group and avoiding their own friends because they feel ashamed or uncomfortable about their behavior.
12. They don’t seem eager to introduce you to these new friends or to other people in their lives
If your partner isn’t eager (or at least willing) to introduce you to his or her friends and family after you’ve been seeing each other for a while, then something is up. They could be scared of what you may think of their friends (or vice versa) or something even more problematic might be going on.
13. You spot inconsistencies in their stories
Does he or she ever tell you about going somewhere for work, or out somewhere with friends, and then seem to have forgotten all about that outing when you bring it up later? Do they stumble over the details of their stories when it comes to where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with? These slip-ups could be innocent mistakes, or they could indicate that he or she is having a hard time keeping all their lies straight.
14. They over-react when you ask them whether something is wrong
If you sincerely and calmly approach your partner about something that you’re worried about or that makes you uncomfortable, and he or she over-reacts with criticism, accusations, or questions of their own (e.g., “you’re so paranoid” or “you’re crazy for thinking like that”) then something is wrong.
That “something” might just be that they’re a bad communicator and handle conflict poorly, or they could be feeling guilty and deflecting. Either way, you have a serious problem on your hands. A good relationship involves caring about one another’s thoughts and feelings and trying to talk things out and resolve issues together.
What should you do next?
Relationships are complicated, especially if they’re long distance! If you see one or more of the signs listed above do not freak out and assume your partner is cheating.
What you should do is take a deep breath, assess the evidence, and figure out what you want to do next.
Too many people ignore red flags and warning signs in their relationship. When they start to sense that something might be going seriously wrong they try to wait it out. They hope that things will just go back to normal. This strategy almost never works. It usually just creates extra distance in your relationship by feeding a lingering mistrust and resentment. It makes things worse.
So don’t ignore the situation. Be proactive.
Hey! you might be thinking. It’s all well and good for you to say “be proactive” but what does that actually mean? WHAT SHOULD I DO AND SAY???
Well, that is such a complicated question (and I’ve had so many people ask me that now) that I’ve written a book to answer it. It’s called 21 Important Things To Do If You Suspect Your Partner May Be Cheating. It will:
- Give you a logical, step-by-step guide to help you sort through your uncertainty and pain.
- Go in-depth to help you assess the evidence and figure out what’s going on.
- Coach you on when and how to take that difficult next step and talk with your partner about this stuff.
- Give you concrete, practical examples of things you can do and say. (And things you should not do and say!)
- Help you figure out what you want for yourself and the relationship, and craft an action plan that is right for you.
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And, hey, I’m wishing you all the very best in your long distance relationship journey and cheering you on. Hang in there,